Northland Workforce Training Center

Architecture/Design: Watts Architecture & Engineering
Preservation Architect: Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture & Planning, PLLC
NWTC Project Management: R.E. Krug Corporation
Product: Wasco by VELUX Single Pitch, Double Pitch, and Horizon C-Series
Location: Buffalo, NY
Sales Rep: RISE Architectural Sales

A transformational retrofit that fill the center of the old factory with natural light.

The Northland Workforce Training Center is located in an old factory, formerly known as Niagara Machine & Tools Works, which was built and in use from 1910-1918 and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in Buffalo, New York. As part of an urban redevelopment project, the state of New York renovated the century-old, 235,000-square-foot industrial space to house the Northland Workforce Training Center, a program that aims to reduce workforce training barriers from affordability to transportation, as well as Buffalo Manufacturing Works and other tenants. The center welcomed its first students in September 2018 and graduated its first class in 2019.


The project posed budget, natural lighting and historic preservation challenges.

  • The project required a full renovation of the building for modern educational standards and practices, including better energy efficiency and climate control for the building.
  • As part of the transformational retrofit, the team was tasked with replacing the 22 original skylights that fill the center of the old factory with natural light. According to preservation architect Barbara Campagna, every window, monitor, skylight and clerestory contained caulking and glazing that had been classified as hazardous containing materials and had to be abated.
  • As a historic property, each skylight needed to provide the same appearance as the old skylights it replaced and be approved by the New York State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Services.
  • Because the project was publicly funded it had to meet the requirements within a tight budget.

Working with the architectural team, comprised of primary architects from Watts Architecture & Engineering as well as preservation architect Barbara A. Campagna Architecture & Planning, RISE Architectural Sales worked with the VELUX Wells engineering and project management teams to develop a custom plan to meet historic criteria, including a modified low-profile extrusion for phase one and dies to replicate the extrusions for phase two. The design was reviewed and approved by the National Park Services for historic compliance.

“After much review and negotiation with the New York State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Services, we agreed that all skylights, sawtooth monitors and clerestories could be replaced with aluminum to match the original steel as closely as possible in shape, profile and dimension to reactivate all of them, bringing natural daylight back into the factory,” Campagna said. “This project is one of the rare historic factories in the country which has been rehabilitated as its original use, light manufacturing, with the restoration of all the windows and skylights a key factor to its success.”

The extrusion for the interior rafters and exterior rafter caps for 23 Wasco by VELUX Single Pitch and Double Pitch skylights ranges in size from 3’x 12′ up to 238′ x 7′. The metal-framed skylight structures are thermalized and come in various glazing options for cost-effective designs.

To improve temperature control and future cost savings, the VELUX Wells team assisted with glazing recommendations. Southward facing skylights that receive the most direct sunlight are glazed with Solarban® 90 glass to reduce solar heat gain while boosting visible light transmittance. The northern-facing skylights, which receive less direct sunlight, are glazed with a more economical but still highly efficient Solarban® 60.

In one region of the project, the Horizon C-Series canopy system was installed in a drop ceiling to better climate control the room while still allowing abundant natural light in from the skylights above. A lightweight, high-impact resistant 20mm multiwall polycarbonate is installed on the trusses in a clear finish.

Product used and specifications
  • Twenty-one Wasco by VELUX Single Pitch skylights in Quaker Bronze with KYNAR finish from sizes 12’ x 3’10” up to 238’ x 7’
  • Two Wasco by VELUX Double Pitch skylights in Quaker Bronze with KYNAR finish in sizes 16’ x 11’ and 72’ x 13’
  • Three Wasco by VELUX Horizon C-Series in clear finish and in sizes 39’ x 17’, 42’ x 17’ and 74’ x 17’