University of Arizona Old Main Renovation

  • Location:

    Tucson, Arizona

  • Client:

    The University of Arizona

  • Construction Value:


  • Delivery Method:


  • Year Completed:


  • Specialties:

    Higher Education, Office, Sustainability

Features & Highlights

  • Oldest LEED Silver® certified building in the state and a model for sustainable historic preservation.
  • Deteriorated masonry was restored, instead of being replaced.
  • Oldest building on University of Arizona campus
  • Second oldest occupied building in Arizona
Project Overview

Old Main, constructed in 1891, was the original building on The University of Arizona campus. Designed in a style often referred to as ‘territorial hybrid’ the building was sunk 6 feet below the surface so the stable ground temperature would help minimize the effects of the warm Tucson summers. However, time and heavy use left the structure in dire need of historic preservation and restoration. Sundt was selected as the design-build contractor for the project, which began in late 2012 and was completed by spring 2014.

Since no original drawings existed for the historic structure, Sundt employed laser scanning technology to create a highly accurate 3D model of the building and used it to develop solutions that carefully merged the existing structure and building systems with new construction. Included in the work were life safety and ADA upgrades, structural bracing, replacement of the original terne metal roof, a new mechanical system, and replacement of plumbing, lighting and electrical systems as needed.

The approach to preserving Old Main included bringing the exterior appearance and features back to their original grandeur, while placing the functionality of a 21st century university into a 19th century shell, like a ship in a bottle. By merging contemporary construction with appropriate craftsmanship, the building’s life has been significantly extended, ensuring its continued appreciation as centerpiece of the UA campus.

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“Sundt’s integrity and predictability in persevering though difficult project issues is what sets it apart from its competition.”

Rodney Mackey, Senior Project Manager, University of Arizona


Awards & Accolades

2015 Arizona Forward Environmental Excellence Crescordia Award-State of Arizona

2015 Arizona Preservation Foundation Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Award & Grand Award-State of Arizona

2015 Common Ground Award-Metropolitan Pima Alliance

2015 DBIA Western Pacific Region, Merit Award-DBIA Western Pacific Region

2015 Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Award, State of Arizona

2015 National Award of Merit-Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA)

2015 Historic Preservation Award-The Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission