Scales Hall

Location:  Oswego, NY

Completed:  Summer 2018

Program:  Residence Hall

Construction Type:  Renovation

Sustainability:  LEED Silver (standard)

Awards:  2019 AIA CNY Award of Merit

Scales Hall is one of a series of residence halls built about fifty years ago directly along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Like many higher education buildings built during that era, it placed little emphasis on occupant experience, and the architecture reflected no appreciation of the unique site. The challenge of renovating Scales Hall was how to adapt an outdated facility to the expectations of today’s college students, and the technological future of higher learning facilities. The result is a bright, welcoming, and technology dense space that provides students with a home on campus where they can be productive and feel safe.

The two underutilized existing lounges in the basement and first floors have been given new life with a warm material palate and reprogramed to help ensure their usage. There were no lounges for the upper two floors, so the design team was charged with creating a welcoming new face for the building that would not only provide a new main entrance, but also provide new lounges serving those upper two floors. These new lounges give students a place to gather and allow a view back across the campus. Kitchens, televisions, and a variety of furniture create a flexible environment that the students can use for individual or group study, as well as recreation. The floating built-in bookcase and corner window seat provide academically focused amenities.

The existing building did not meet current accessible design standards such that a person in a wheelchair could not even enter the front door, much less navigate the number of complicated level changes on the main floor. Through the addition of exterior and interior ramps, as well as the construction of a new elevator, the design team was able to provide students with disabilities access to all building spaces. A new communicating stair was also added next to the elevator, to help clarify circulation in the building. In addition, every existing door within the building was widened to allow wheelchair access. The old style gang bathrooms were replaced with new fully accessible private bathrooms, providing the University the opportunity to locate students of each gender by room, rather than consolidating room arrangements by wing or floor.

Connection to the outside world is provided with high speed internet in every room, and connection to Scales’ picturesque site is provided through extensive energy efficient glazing. The lakefront site is also leveraged with operable dampers located at the top of the elevator shaft and at the end of the corridors that automatically open when conditions allow.  In warm weather a stack effect is created by the height of the shaft within the elevator tower and the cool lake breeze is drawn through the building corridors, providing effective cooling and ventilation with near zero energy usage. This innovative strategy, along with many others such as extensive rain gardens and carefully studied solar shading, provide the necessary credits for the pursuit of a LEED Gold certification.