Location: Detroit, MI
Contract Value: $2,200,000
Size: 12,200 SF  | 3 Stories
Year Completed: 2006
Client: Southwest Housing Solutions
Financing: MSHDA
Architect: Quinn/Evans Architects

Awards: AGC Build Michigan Award 2007 | LEED® Green Building System Certification


Historic Lithuanian Hall is the first building in Detroit to achieve LEED® Green Building Rating System certification for Core and Shell Construction. 



O’Brien Construction has been a partnering general contractor for Southwest Housing Solutions since 2002, together renovating over 20 buildings in Southwest Detroit. Southwest Housing Solutions (SWHS) actively works to make a positive difference in Southwest Detroit neighborhoods by providing affordable housing opportunities and removing slum and blight in the community through the renovation of abandoned apartment buildings. When Southwest's staff outgrew their existing facility they decided to purchase and renovate Lithuanian Hall. Southwest provided the vision to save the building and turn it into their headquarters; O’Brien Construction provided the know-how and fortitude to bring this vision to reality.

Lithuanian Hall, located on Vernor Highway near I-75, was once a center of community for the Lithuanian neighborhood.  This 3-story, 12,200 square foot building once served as the social hall and ethnic hub of the neighborhood and stood as a symbol of community for over 50 years. During the 1980’s and 1990’s it had suffered severe neglect and become a candidate for demolition. The building was in need of extensive rehabilitation and updating of all systems. Inspection revealed severely damaged roof and floor joists, uneven floors throughout the main level, and loose plaster and lathe throughout. During the renovation it was determined that the entire auditorium ceiling plaster system needed to be removed and replaced with drywall due after suffering long-time roof leaks.

Financing for the project was difficult and took a number of funding sources.  When problems arose with predevelopment funding needed to purchase the building SWHS turned to O’Brien Construction to assist.  O’Brien joined the development group to insure the continuation of the project.  SWHS then undertook the task of forming a team of funders to complete the construction of the building. In addition to the intricacy of the funding for the development team, the project construction bore its own complexities due to the goals of the project team.

These goals included: 

  • Maintaining the historic significance of the building
  • Incorporation of Green Building Technology
  • Maintaining a very tight budget
  • Maximized use of City of Detroit Based and Minority Business Enterprises
  • Complete the project in a condensed schedule

For the rehabilitation of Lithuanian Hall, the owner desired to mix new architecture elements with the historic. This included retaining areas of peeled plaster exposing the brick structure. Historic restoration was applied to the building's windows, masonry, light fixtures, interior doors, hardware and trim.  O'Brien worked with the owner to achieve desired results within very limited budget of $46 per square foot Construction Budget. Other typical renovation budgets in Southwest Detroit were $95 per square foot. We also worked closely with the HVAC Subcontractor to develop a very cost effective, energy efficient heating and cooling system while saving 67% of the original design cost.   Relocations of Structural, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Systems due to unforeseen existing conditions were quickly resolved through use of owner-supplied CAD drawings for all trades versus normal RFI procedure. 

Many innovative construction techniques and materials were used the rehabilitation of Lithuanian Hall including:

Mechanical/HVAC: The Mechanical System for Lithuanian Hall was a collaborative design concept of O’Brien’s Project Superintendent and the mechanical contractor. A Radiant Floor Heat system/High Velocity Air Conditioning replaced the original heat pump system.  A fully modulating, dual tandem boiler system, with multiple zones separately controlled, provides highly efficient heat. In-the-floor radiant tubing with multiple zones provides even and quiet heat. Supplemental Forced Air Heat energizes only on the severest of cold winter days. Heating coils in four high-pressure air handlers can deliver supplemental heat to radiant areas as well as provide heating to common areas where radiant heating would be impractical. The air handlers have zoned ducting systems to deliver the heating and cooling where it is needed. The Owner could not be more delighted with the result. The original boiler design called for a 1.3 million BTU Boiler. The current system has two 265,000 BTU boilers the size of a two drawer filing cabinet. They have fully modulating burners to provide just the amount of flame necessary to meet the demand. The boilers work alternately, which will extend their life cycle. During the Owners grand opening the outside temperature was below 20 degrees. With several hundred people attending the doors were constantly open. Even under this condition the system needed only one boiler operating at 28 percent to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Flooring: Lightweight gypsum concrete floors serve as thermal mass for radiant heat while also resolving the problem of existing uneven floors.  Floors were originally scheduled to be removed and replaced.

Raceways: Low profile floor duct raceways were installed to deliver power, telephone and data cabling to the workstations.

LEED® Certification: Lithuanian Hall is the first building in Detroit to achieve LEED Green Building Rating System certification for Core and Shell construction. Leed certification of Lithuanian Hall was based on a number of green design and construction features that enhance the building, the experience of those who work and visit there, and the interests of the broader community. LEED is the national benchmark for the design, construction, and operations of high-performance green buildings. Core and shell construction covers key building elements such as structure, envelope (foundation, roof, walls, doors and windows) and systems such heating, cooling and ventilation. LEED recognized features include:

  • Regionally produced materials
  • Reuse of locally salvaged building materials
  • Urban development to help sustain the neighborhood
  • Preserving the historic character of the building
  • Natural lighting
  • Enhanced thermal envelope
  • Efficient ventilation and cooling system
  • Radiant- heat flooring
  • White reflective roofing
  • Native landscaping
  • Low VOC paint, carpet and furnishings

Schedule: The historic rehabilitation of Lithuanian Hall was completed two months earlier than Owner’s anticipated completion date with zero claims unresolved and zero litigation.

This project stretched the ability and imagination of the entire project team.  Meeting the goals of this project while maintaining the extremely tight budget created a building that an entire community is proud of. At the building's Grand Opening, a group of proud, elderly Lithuanians reminisced their memories in the building from years gone by, glad to see the building back in full use.  Since the renovation, the owners receive comments almost daily from visitors on how beautiful the building is and what a joy it is to have the building occupied and serving the neighborhood again.