In the fall of 2008, a renovated Shattuck Hall at Portland State University (PSU) in Portland, Ore., opened its doors to expose much more than hallways and classrooms. The 66,000-square-foot building houses the School of Fine & Performing Arts’ Department of Architecture, and the project peeled away the existing building fabric to unveil a blend of existing systems and passive technology for student instruction. Now, the concrete bones of the original 1915 structure, a network of concentric arcs of the original ductwork, and state-of-the-art radiant heat and cooling panels are easily visible. “Rather than slide in state-of-the-art sustainability behind the scenes, we wanted to reveal how a 100-year-old building could be reinvigorated into a contemporary school of architecture,” notes Clive Knights, chair of PSU’s Department of Architecture.

Shattuck Hall initially opened as an elementary school, but the three-story structure became part of the PSU campus in 1969. A $13 million deferred maintenance budget was approved in 2006 to retrofit the mechanical and electrical systems, improve seismic performance, and provide better ADA access by 2008. Architects at Portland’s SRG Partnership orchestrated the renovation and employed passive design strategies to capitalize on project elements and stretch the allotted funds further.

Two fan rooms serve every classroom with mechanical supply and return through a comprehensive series of metal ducts. Although the network was inadequate for heating and cooling, it was perfect for ventilation. “The system is a work of art that students can now see,” says SRG principal Kent Duffy. “We suspended radiant heating and cooling panels from the ceilings to take the load off the ducts and retained the system to bring fresh air into every classroom.”

The radiant panels provide additional benefits as acoustic treatments and reflectors of indirect light. The designers grouped the 3-foot-by-5-foot panels together, leaving gaps between the panels that allow lights and fans to hang down. The radiant panels operate from a closed-loop system. Water passes through a heat exchanger in the building that either heats or cools the water depending on the season and sends it to the ceiling system. In the student lounge, the panels are flipped upside down so students can view the copper tubing through which the water circulates.

With the new ceiling fans, the exposed thermal mass of the concrete and brick structure, and the building’s operable windows, the team was able to expand the occupants’ comfort range by 5 degrees. Most designs assume an average range of 68 F to 73 F. In Shattuck Hall, the upper limit of the comfort range has been increased to 78 F. Duffy attributes this success to the use of ceiling fans, as good air circulation has a huge effect on people’s comfort levels. The current operational efficiency has an Energy Use Index (EUI) of less than 46. EUI is calculated by dividing by the building’s gross square footage by the annual consumption of all fuels in Btu; a typical academic facility’s EUI is up to three times that of Shattuck Hall. Financially, the efficient system is saving the university $13,500 per year in operational costs.

Other efficiency measures in the LEED Goldcertified building include occupancy-sensor lighting, timed shut-offs, daylight sensors, a new telecommunications distribution network, and waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures. More than 95 percent of the building materials were reused or recycled during the renovation.

A previous renovation filled in one of two original light wells with an elevator shaft. This time, the design team relocated that elevator and uncovered the light well that had been filled, to bring more daylight into the building’s upper two levels as well as into a partially below-grade first floor.

Fundraising supported creative features to serve student needs. “We were constrained by the budget for existing system upgrades, but $500,000 of donor money helped us add items like skylight improvements, moveable tackboard walls, steel panels creating casework, and two large pivoting interior doors,” says Barbara Sestak, dean of fine and performing arts at PSU.

Each pivoting door of 1/2-inch-thick steel and glass can be moved at 90-, 45-, or 30-degree angles to easily join or divide space on the second floor, allowing flexible use of that area as a reading room, faculty meeting space, or room for large student gatherings. Custom-designed formed-steel panels that partition an office area from the flexible space display etched laser lines that show where each cut and fold was intended.

“They serve as a 3D set of working drawings for students,” says Duffy. “The exposure of the systems and materials throughout helps architecture and fine art students become informed about the aspects of design to plan and create with those in mind.”

KJ Fields writes about sustainability and architecture from Portland, Ore.


Architect, interior designer: SRG Partnership,

Client, owner: Portland State University,

Mechanical engineer, electrical engineer: PAE Consulting Engineers,

Structural engineer: Catena Consulting Engineers,

Geotechnical engineer: Geotechnical & Environmental Consultants

Construction manager, general contractor: Howard S. Wright Construction Co.,

Landscape architect: GreenWorks,

Lighting designer: Luma Lighting Design,


Acoustical system: Tectum,

Building management systems and services: Siemens,

Carpet: Interface,

Ceilings: Armstrong; TWA Panel Systems,

Flooring: Mannington Mills,; Nora Systems,

Interior walls: Bobrick,

Lighting control systems: Lighting Control & Design,

Roofing: Johns Manville,

Wallcoverings: Forbo,

Windows: EFCO,