Bill & Melinda Gates Hall at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Courtesy Matthew Carbone, Photographer LLC.

Cornell University, Bill & Melinda Gates Hall



Thornton Tomasetti provided structural engineering and façade engineering services for a new 100,500-square-foot academic building. This four-story building houses research laboratories and teaching facilities for the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Information Science.

The structural system consists of steel framing and concentrically braced steel cores for the lateral system. Optimized steel framing allowed for large cantilevers and open spaces while maintaining a lightweight and stiff structural system that married well with the delicate façade. The curtain wall consists of sloped and vertical glazing with integrated brackets that support perforated, folded stainless steel shading panels. The entire façade system is supported by the cantilevered structural system. Other design elements include a multispan entry glazing system, stainless steel metal panel walls and doubly-curved metal panel soffit.

Performing the engineering of both the façade and its structural support allowed the project team to address any proposed design changes quickly and efficiently. When the decision to switch from a stick built system to a unitized curtain wall system was proposed, the project team was able to review options and implement solutions that worked within the established budget and schedule. As a result, the project came in below original budget estimates. The scope of work also included reviewing shop drawings, calculations and thermal analyses from the contractor, and waterproofing for the entire envelope during the construction administration phase of the project.

The project achieved LEED Gold certification. Contributing to this was the decision to use structural steel and composite steel framing, which, allowing for a lightweight building, minimized the foundation loads. By implementing Thornton Tomasetti’s custom embodied energy / carbon parametric analyzer, called GreenSpace, the team tracked the project’s overall embodied energy. Results estimated that a concrete-framed building with the same column grid would be at least 50% heavier given the complexity of the superstructure.

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