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The Renovation of Whittier Hall
BY Nate Benes

Just one block North of the intersection of N Antelope Valley

Above: Despite the remodel, Whittier still retains its historical look and feel.
Photo By:
Nate Benes

Parkway and Vine St., the once dormant Whittier Junior High School has seen new life after the completion of a $23.8 million dollar remodel. Since its construction in 1923, the building has seen several occupants.

Beginning as a Junior High School in the Lincoln Public Schools district, it was closed in March of 1977. The building lay dormant and unoccupied for several years, leaving Whittier alums nervous about the outcome of their beloved alma mater. Finally, the University of Nebraska Foundation purchased the building from the Lincoln school board in 1983, using it for storage and even using it to host roller hockey games.


Above: Among parts of Whittier Hall yet to be remodeled is the old auditorium.
Photo By:
Nate Benes

The Whittier Building re-opened during the summer of 2010. Students were surprised to find that beneath its historical façade, the building is an example of modern technology and best practices. In fact, the building is being hailed as an example of sustainable building practices and plays host to several UNL firsts. The remodel incorporated guidelines suggested by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Building heating and cooling is supplemented by a ground-coupled heat pump. This pump works by circulating water through a loop field behind the building. The ambient temperature of the earth doesn’t change much between seasons and provides a source of cooling during the summer months and heat throughout the winter months.

Whittier Hall is the first building on either

Above: LED lighting used to illuminate stairways.
Photo By:
Nate Benes

city or east campus to implement this energy-saving technology. Whittier Hall also attributes some of its electrical savings to the widespread use of LED lighting in place of the traditional incandescent fixtures. LEDs, or Light Emitting Diodes, are smaller, use less power, and dissipate less heat then their incandescent equivalents. Another innovation is the use of heated floors. The floors provide an easy way to discharge even heat throughout a space.

Another first at Whittier Hall is

Above: Whittier Hall after renovations.
Photo By: Michael McEniry

UNL Facilities’ deployment of an “Energy Dashboard”. The dashboard, a computer mounted in the hallway, allows passers-by to view the building’s historical energy use as well as the current status of the heat pump and other mechanical systems in real-time. It does so by interfacing with the campus Energy Management and Control System, which monitors buildings across both campuses. Historical preservation also won out with the remodel of Whittier. The now 88-year-old building still retains the appearance of the original despite the thorough gutting and redesign of its mechanical and electrical systems.

Several departments were relocated to the new space. Among them is the Mid-America Transportation Center, the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research – both formerly located in the Scott Engineering Center, and some offices of the Civil Engineering Department – formerly located in second floor Nebraska Hall.

The many design innovations at Whittier Hall have not gone unnoticed. The building earned the 2010 Environmental Leadership award for government buildings. The award is given out annually by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

If you’re the curious type, Whittier Hall is a five-minute walk from city campus. It’s located three blocks east along Vine St. at N 22nd.

A view of the energy dashboard. Photo By: Nate Benes