University of Georgia: Georgia center

Since opening in 1957, The University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel has become one of the largest and most successful university-based hotels and continuing education centers. As a significant example of mid-20th-century campus architecture, the University was challenged to update this facility to contemporary standards of hospitality experience and new technologies for efficiency and sustainability. This renovation project is comprised of three components: The Exterior Envelope Improvements; the Hotel Rooms Renovation (with Mechanical Improvements); and the Food Concepts Renovation (Bulldog Cafe).

Design Challenge

The design team quickly identified the challenge for this mid-20th-century renovation as the balance between 1) historic preservation, 2) increasing the efficiency/sustainability of the building, and 3) maximizing the flexibility of its hospitality functionality. For the exterior, it was critical to respect the mid-century modern façade, while upgrading the water-tightness of the building. Period appropriate details were utilized to maintain historic proportions, profiles, and fenestration. New insulated glazing replaced single-pane windows and historic sunshades were optimized and replaced. Relative to energy conservation and performance, the design team studied a range of HVAC replacement options and compared initial investment to lifecycle cost. The design implemented featured a dehumidifying system to improve both thermal performance and comfort. Automated Logic Controls (ALC) were incorporated into the rooftop units to connect to a building automation system (BAS) to provide a remote interface for performance adjustments. The Interior renovation consisted of a floor by floor replacement of all walls, ceilings, electrical, mechanical equipment, and plumbing fixtures. All lighting was converted to LED fixtures and electrical loads were re-distributed to provide a balanced demand. The new demising walls were detailed to improve noise transmission. The café modernization (Bulldog Bistro) redirected large ductwork serving the upper floors to dramatically open up the new space to the hotel lobby. This allowed natural light and views from the historic pecan-grove courtyard to permeate both the bistro and the lobby. The new cocktail/coffee bar element provided the focal interest and the necessary infrastructure to also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Physical Context

The UGA Center for Continuing Education is located at the center of campus. It has become a beloved institution and place of tradition for many alumni, students, and faculty. In 2014, one of buildings most iconic elements, the Thomas Church Courtyard, won a Heritage foundation preservation award for outstanding restoration. However, the adjacent café was buried behind a wall of HVAC ductwork which blocked the view of the courtyard from the main lobby. Praxis3’s team studied this condition extensively and determined that is was possible to re-route these massive trunk lines and liberate an unobstructed view and visual connection between these two important public spaces. Dr. Dawn Cartee (director of the Ga Center who oversaw the project), said “The renovations were like an archaeological dig”. The new “Bulldog Bistro” café was required to accommodate guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks. It was also asked to take design cues from the adjacent courtyard and historic references to the original mid-century aesthetic. An extreme additional challenge was that the design schedule was intensely expedited so that the hotel could be fully operational by September 2019 for the first home football game. To achieve this directive, the design team spent extensive time on site throughout design and construction. Once the renovation was complete, Dr. Cartee declared, “It’s the heart of campus, the heart of Athens – Staying at the Georgia Center is an experience like no other”.