Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute – Marion, VA


Built in 1887, the Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute is part of the Virginia National Register of Historic Buildings and was voted one of the most beautiful hospitals in the U.S.


The existing 28-foot skylight in this historic structure was well over 100 years old and badly in need of replacement. The old 1-inch lead glass was brittle, cracking and continuously leaking. Any renovation would have to maintain the historical aesthetics of the building and meet the strict requirements of the historical society. The facility was to remain open the entire time, and scaffolding had to be built three to four stories up to the dome over the large vestibule lobby. It posed many challenges to figure out how to attach the new skylight to the old structure and what elements to maintain for aesthetic reasons.

Wasco’s lightweight Horizon S-Series system bathes the vestibule in natural daylight.


Wasco by VELUX was chosen because of their extensive experience working on historically sensitive projects in the Richmond, Virginia, area.

“We specified Wasco by VELUX’s Horizon Translucent Polycarbonate System because it’s both lightweight and impact-resistant. Replacing the 1-inch leaded glass with Wasco by VELUX’s lightweight polycarbonate panels relieved a tremendous amount of weight off the 120-year-old walls,” said Ricky Lawrence, RA, chief information officer, OWPR Architects and Engineers.

Wasco by VELUX had to match the exact layout of the existing dimensions and structural members where no two walls were the same dimension.

OWPR worked hand in hand with Wasco by VELUX’s engineering department to design a skylight that replicated the old one, reusing old wood trim and designing metal tie rods whose only purpose now was to reproduce the historical aesthetics.

The design team also re-created an ornamental plaque in the middle of the skylight that housed a thermostatically controlled damper for venting excess heat, similar to the old skylight.

“Wasco by VELUX’s sales representative Tom Burke of Architectural Systems of Virginia Inc. and the Wasco by VELUX team visited the site numerous times to do field measurements and on-site assembly.

"They even made adjustments right on-site, so that the skylight fit the structure perfectly, since no two walls were the same dimension. In a project of this magnitude and importance, it’s all about the team effort — between Wasco by VELUX, the facility managers, the general contractor and the architects. It’s so rewarding when it turns out so well, especially with the many hurdles you face in renovating these historically sensitive structures,” Lawrence said.

The crane lifts the single-piece structure.


Horizon S-Series Pinnacle 600 Octagonal Pyramid, 27' 8" Diameter, 4:12 Pitch. Glazing: Clear 25 mm Multiwall Polycarbonate.