Denver's 107-year-old seminary campus modernized

The scope of the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary project included the seminary dorms, library, and chapel, all of which posed their own set of obstacles.

November 30, 2015 |
Denver's 107-year-old seminary campus modernized  St. John Vianney Theological Seminary

Photos: Terry Shapiro

The Building Team for the renovation of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, a 107-year-old seminary campus, took great pains to modernize the buildings’ MEP systems while preserving the historic aesthetic. The scope of the project included the seminary dorms (ca. 1930s), library (ca. 1950s), and chapel (ca. 1930s), all of which posed their own set of obstacles.


Building Team: Haselden Construction (submitting firm, GC); Archdiocese of Denver (owner); 
The Abo Group (architect); Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (SE); RMH Group (MEP)
General Information: Size: 110,000 sf. Construction cost: $8.7 million. Construction time: October 2013 to August 2014. Delivery method: CM at risk.


The chapel’s only source of cooling was a fan in the bell tower that pulled in outside air, which was less than adequate during the summer. The project called for a new chilled-water mechanical system, but, for aesthetic reasons, it could not be placed outside. To meet both requirements, the team shoehorned the 18-foot-tall, 24,000-pound unit inside the tower. The system was custom manufactured to fit in the bell tower (approximately 21 feet square), and to allow the individual pieces to fit through the bell tower’s arches (approximately 42 inches wide and 78 inches high).

Using a custom hoist, the pieces were lowered 70 feet and assembled inside the tower.

The team faced a similar problem on the library renovation. To fit a new cooling unit in the building, the 10x30-foot system was ordered as a set of unassembled pieces, which would be moved into the library basement and then assembled. But the manufacturer shipped the unit fully assembled. To keep on schedule, the team had to excavate and open the existing foundation to access the basement.


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