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Burrowes Building Renovation

Structural improvements fix decades-old floor misalignments and enhance interior circulation.
  • Historic beige college classroom building with an entrance flanked by columns, sidewalks, and plantings - Gannett Fleming.

    Originally constructed in 1938, the Burrowes Building is an iconic structure along the eastern side of the Pattee Library Mall.

  • Close up of new glass portion of the building that connects the historic structure and 1968 addition - Gannett Fleming.

    Reconstructed connectors provide proper floor alignment between the original building’s core and the 1968 addition.

  • Interior view of the connector showing two floors and a stairway on the right connecting them - Gannett Fleming.

    The newly reconstructed connectors provide stairwells and elevators for improved circulation and accessibility.

  • Large window at the top of a stairwell looks out onto trees and buildings - Gannett Fleming.

    The connector’s multi-story glass wall provides natural light and views of the campus.

  • Intersecting walkways with trees and buildings in the distance - Gannett Fleming.

    Site designers created new walkways behind Burrowes that provide connections to the neighboring Oswald Building.

The Pennsylvania State University

Bower, Lewis and Thrower Architects

University Park, Pennsylvania

Our Role
Structural, Civil/Site.

110,000 sq. feet
Construction Cost
$28.5 million
4 years
  • Reconstructed connectors on both ends of the building improve interior circulation to the north and south wings
  • Connectors provide stairwells with large glass walls offering occupants natural light and views of the campus
  • New utility connections minimize the impact on existing site features and historic trees
  • The building maintains its historic character while presenting a fresh face along Pattee Library Mall.

The historic Burrowes Building frames the eastern side of Penn State’s iconic Pattee Library Mall on its University Park campus. Designed by notable American architect Charles Z. Klauder, the four-story central portion of the building dates to 1938 and was originally home to the College of Education. In 1968, two flanking five-story T-shaped wings were constructed on the north and south sides of the building. While the project added instructional space, it resulted in a misalignment of floor levels between the wings and core, which led to inefficient vertical circulation.

Renovations began in 2014 with the goal of preserving the building’s historic character, while updating interior spaces to better serve the needs of its new occupants, the Department of English and the School of Languages and Literatures. The stem section of the T-shaped add-ons, which are adjacent to the original building, were demolished and reconstructed with steel framing to properly align the floors and improve passage from the central area to the outer section of each wing. The redesigned connectors improve Burrowes’ face on the mall and provide occupants with light-filled stairwells with views of the campus. The completely renovated facility houses the Digital English Studio, the Brain and Language Laboratory, the Hemingway Room, the Elm Room, and other signature spaces. The project achieved LEED® Silver certification.

What We Did

Gannett Fleming provided civil and structural engineering services for the Burrowes Building renovation, including a full structural analysis of the existing building. Our civil engineers designed new utility services through the Pattee Library Mall to provide the required steam, electric, telecommunication, water, and sanitary sewer connections in a way that minimized the impact to existing site features and historic trees. We lessened the overall impervious coverage of the site, reducing stormwater runoff and improving water quality. Site designers reconfigured walkways to improve pedestrian circulation and provided landscaping to accent the building. 

The reconstructed building connectors are made up of multiple levels consisting of structural steel framing with floors of concrete placed on metal decking. Additionally, the basement of the original building was reconstructed to accommodate new mechanical and electrical systems, which required the existing basement slab to be removed and a new slab to be constructed at an elevation 3 feet lower. The existing interior column footings were demolished and reconstructed at the lower elevation, requiring the existing upper level floor system to be braced during footing reconstruction. Modifications were made to the exterior basement walls to create outside access for air intake placement. Within the central area of the building, portions of the elevated slabs were modified to allow new mechanical duct shafts to rise vertically from the basement, and stair and elevator openings within the elevated slabs were filled in with new floor framing and concrete.

Key Features

  • New steel-framed building connectors create proper alignment of floor levels from the building’s core to the east and west wings
  • A renovated mechanical room on the basement level houses upgraded mechanical and electrical systems
  • Utility redesign provides new steam, electric, telecommunication, water, and sanitary sewer connections
  • New walkways behind Burrowes connect the building to the neighboring Oswald Building.

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