Back to School: Preserving from Here

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Kate Haws

Back to School: Preserving from Here

Written by
Kate Haws

Back to School: Preserving from Here

Written by
Kate Haws

Last November, a young, bright student from a local Salt Lake City middle school contacted us with some questions about architecture. Her assignment was to put together a mock proposal to upgrade and preserve the Rescue Mission building in downtown Salt Lake City.

It’s exciting to see young people show interest in architecture, especially an appreciation for the preservation of Salt Lake’s architectural heritage. And it’s a privilege to foster learning and hopefully inspire a new generation of architects. Here are our responses to this student’s thoughtful questions:  

Based on 6,000 square feet, how much would it cost to remodel the Salt Lake Rescue Mission building inside and out?

The range of construction costs for  building renovations may vary widely and could include seismic upgrades depending on the scope of the project. A rehabilitation project in that area for a building in that condition could cost $150-$300 per square foot. On average, that would mean 6,000sf x $225/sf = $1,350,000*

*Note: Local labor market increases and Inflation since 2020 have affected these square-foot cost estimates.

What would be a realistic estimate of the budget for a project like this?

With the construction cost numbers we shared with you above, you would also need to include ’soft costs’. An example of these costs are design fees, engineering, and geotechnical work which could add up to $500,000+ to the previous amount. Therefore the total project cost could possibly exceed $2,000,000.

What would be the ideal materials to use for this project?

The original building was probably mostly brick, which is a durable material, but brick doesn’t perform well in earthquakes. If you were to renovate the interior of the building, it would likely be framed with a combination of wood and steel, while the exterior could be finished with brick veneer, treated wood siding, aluminum siding, stucco and numerous other options. Just keep in mind that a decision on materials should take into consideration aspects of durability and sustainability. You need to ask yourself: how will the building perform over time and how much energy is required to produce, install and ultimately dispose of the building? The more the materials can be recycled, the more sustainable it is going to be.

What city codes would we have to comply with?

Since the building is located in Salt Lake City, it would need to comply with the Salt Lake City Zoning Ordinance.

We want to designate it as a historic site.  Is this possible?

The building is located in the Salt Lake City Warehouse-National  Historic District. A determination would need to be made to see if the existing structure is ‘contributing’ or even eligible as a historic building. More information about this listing could be found at the Utah State Historic Preservation Office here:

We were going to design the outside using the Greek Revival and Georgian Architectural styles found in Utah. Do you think this is cost efficient?

Building restoration within a historic style requires an in-depth understanding of the guiding principles of that style. It could potentially be cost effective to redesign within Greek Revival and Georgian Styles, particularly if the work meets the standards required by the Rehabilitation Tax Credit.

We are currently working through the historic preservation process with another building in downtown Salt Lake, the David Keith Building on Main Street. We are grateful to dedicated property owners who are willing to commit time and resources to preservation and adaptive reuse, the process of taking a historic building and adapting it for a new use. The current plan is for the David Keith Building to incorporate retail, office and food service spaces.

Preserving historic buildings not only adds to the value and fabric of a city’s cultural heritage, it’s also a great practice in sustainability. By choosing to upgrade and preserve a historic building, we are ultimately reducing the amount of waste and energy required to get the building back into use.

Embodied energy refers to all the energy and materials required to make a building. In the case of historic buildings, this embodied energy already exists within a building.  And by diverting potentially thousands of tons of building material from the waste stream, the sustainability balance tilts in favor of preservation.

For over twenty years we have endeavored to consider these benefits to our landscapes and air quality. Focusing on preservation and the harder-to-quantify historic and cultural relevance of our buildings enriches Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities.

See more of our preservation and adaptive reuse projects