Renovations for the 45-year-old building, commonly referred to as Monroe Hall, called for a new high-performance facade with a terra cotta exterior designed to blend with the brick exteriors of other university structures.
New Orleans mason contractor Randall Rush, president of Rush Masonry, offered a cost-saving solution for Monroe Hall.

When plans for the renovation of the J. Edgar Monroe Memorial Science Building on the campus of Loyola University New Orleans came in over budget while still on the drawing board, long-time New Orleans masonry contractor Randall Rush, president of Rush Masonry, was asked for a cost-saving solution.

Rush Masonry has been a fixture on the Loyola University New Orleans campus for 15 years, with a history that dates back to construction of the West Road parking garage.  Since that time, they have completed more than 30 projects on campus, including dormitories, classroom buildings and administrative facilities.  They have had a full-time presence on campus for more than 10 years, and have built a strong relationship with the university that includes a reputation for cost-effective solutions and reliable performance.

Renovations for the 45-year-old building, commonly referred to as Monroe Hall, called for a new high-performance facade with a terra cotta exterior designed to blend with the brick exteriors of other university structures. As the largest classroom facility on the campus, when Monroe Hall was built in 1969, it was seen as a symbol of the future and a showplace for forward-thinking science and technology.  In recent years, it has been more often described as the odd duck -- or odd boat -- on campus, with a fiberglass facade that more closely resembled a cruise ship than a campus queen.

When asked for an alternate plan to reduce costs for the renovation while retaining the performance features and visual appeal of the original design, Rush investigated several options.  He had recently discovered a European brick cladding system that, much like the terra cotta system originally specified, provided a lightweight alternative to traditional brick.  Rush arranged a meeting with Telling Architectural, the U.S. distributor of the new cladding system, and European representatives of the product manufacturer, to evaluate performance features and investigate how the product might be used as a cost-saving option.

Rush explains, "Traditional brick wasn't a possibility.  Monroe Hall wasn't designed for full masonry weight.  The Corium cladding system was less than half the weight of conventional masonry."

Rush then presented the Corium product to the university as a means to provide a high-performance exterior that would give Monroe Hall a more traditional appearance, similar to the many brick structures on campus, while reducing costs for the project. "This let us provide a brick veneer without the cost of terra cotta or the weight of conventional brick," says Rush, "that was the main reason that we ended up choosing this product."

Improving energy efficiency was also an objective of the renovation.  The original structure was built prior to the many changes in building codes that were put in place during the 70s to reduce energy consumption and enhance the overall performance of buildings.  The brick system, which includes a uniquely designed brick and tray fixed to a custom galvanized steel frame, provides the opportunity to enhance insulation values. By using the European brick cladding system, the university was able not only to reduce the cost of materials for the project, but also to achieve the necessary insulating values to improve the energy efficiency of the building, which can lead to savings in operating costs over time.

Rush's 25 years of experience in masonry contracting in the New Orleans area, which includes an array of projects from courthouses and shopping centers to historical renovations, gives him a unique perspective and insight for functional solutions.  The solution for the Monroe Hall project underscores the determination of the university to spend wisely and again shows the university to be forward-thinking, with the first installation of the Corium brick cladding system in the U.S.

Rush is a native of Jefferson Parish and the son of a mason, who apprenticed for four years before starting Rush Masonry in 1989.  The original staff of 10 has burgeoned over the decades to more than 100.  As part of the growth and history of the New Orleans area, Rush is pleased to have found a cost-saving solution for Monroe Hall that not only takes it into the 21st century, but honors the tradition of the Gothic Revival style entrenched throughout the campus.  With the installation of the Corium facade, Rush has heard many positive comments about the new appearance of Monroe Hall, "Everyone seems to be happy with the way it looks and the way it fits in with other buildings on the campus much better than the original 60s design."

About Corium and Telling Architectural:  Corium is a brick rainscreen system that combines the natural beauty of traditional clay brick with a cost-effective, fast track installation process. It is an innovative and versatile solution for new construction, recladding, field and unitized installations.  Corium is distributed in the U.S. by Telling Architectural, an international distributor of rainscreen facades (www.tellingarchitectural.com).