St. John Vianney Theological Seminary Modernization

Archdiocese of Denver

Denver, Colorado

The first building on the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary campus was built in 1907, while many subsequent campus buildings were constructed during the Depression era. This historically significant campus has since grown to include a variety of primary and ancillary facilities to support the education of men training to become members of the Roman Catholic clergy. Although some of the buildings’ mechanical and electrical systems have been repaired or modified to meet evolving needs over the years, the bulk of these systems had not been updated or replaced since the buildings were originally constructed. The following solutions were implemented to address some of the project’s many challenges.

The updated lighting needed to preserve the historic character of the buildings, while satisfying other project requirements such as meeting current life safety and energy codes, increasing light levels, and standardizing light fixtures for ease of maintenance. In some instances, existing light fixtures were replaced with similar historic-looking fixtures (including some custom light fixtures) utilizing more energy-efficient, functional, and maintainable lamps.

To address installation of a large air handling unit in the chapel tower, the design team decided to have a custom-designed, vertical unit assembled on site and field erected using lightweight all-aluminum construction that would not exceed maximum allowable structural load. Air handling unit components were lowered into place from the top of the bell tower (directly above the unit).

The design team was unable to add new ductwork because it could adversely affect the interior appearance of the buildings. To address this issue, a hydronic system was designed in lieu of forced air in various buildings. The use of a hydronic system was effective because this approach requires small wall/ceiling openings and transfers higher amount of heating/cooling energy per pound than forced air using ductwork.

Maintaining proper temperature and humidification levels in the library (housing historic books) was complicated by the use of energy-efficient evaporative cooling, which directly adds moisture to the space. This challenge was solved by configuring the evaporative cooling equipment to pre-cool supply air with chilled water whenever temperature and relative humidity levels cannot be maintained with evaporative cooling alone.

To take advantage of Denver’s dry climate, energy-efficient evaporative cooling was selected as the primary cooling method for the library and refectory kitchen. To further improve energy efficiency, the chapel is now flushed at night in the summer months with cool outside air to allow for distribution of cooler temperatures throughout the day via the building’s high internal massing. Efficiencies in lighting systems were achieved by specifying low-energy-use fixtures and lamps (such as LEDs and fluorescents), installing occupancy sensors in various spaces to automatically turn lights off when a space has been vacated, and utilizing photocells to turn lights off when a sufficient amount of daylight has been detected.


ENR Mountain States, Best 2015 Projects, Cultural/Worship Category, 2015