The Robert H. Jackson Federal Courthouse in Buffalo, NY.
Weidlinger Associates, which merged with Thornton Tomasetti in September 2015, provided structural and blast engineering services for an award-winning, 10-story, 262,000-square-foot federal courthouse that occupies a one-block site on the northwest corner of historic Niagara Square in Buffalo. The building will house the U.S. Marshals Service; nine magistrate and district courtrooms will occupy the top five stories. Located in a designated Local Preservation District, facing the 1931 City Hall, the building will be eligible for the National Register.
The defining features of the structure are an elliptical drum, curved public galleries, an entry pavilion, and a vertical elevator tower crowned with a glass lantern. The entry pavilion, at the height of the City Hall portico, compensates visually for the 50-foot security setback and separates the public entry from the tower mass for optimal security. A veil of transparent and patterned fritted glass planes is suspended on the precast skin. Although the truncated oval shape reduced exterior wall surface while allowing for the requisite gross area, it complicated analysis of the resistance to progressive collapse of the steel-braced frame structure.
Protective Design staff engineered the façade and underlying steel structure to resist blast loads in accordance with GSA standards while maintaining the overall architectural intent of the project. The building’s two major façade systems were each designed to simultaneously consider aesthetics and structural efficiency. The elliptical precast façade was designed with exposed integral ribs to more efficiently resist loads, and the innovative curved curtainwall was designed with a unique decoupled steel “strongback” system that enabled atypically long vertical spans, while permitting slender mullion profiles. The steel-framed structural system was also designed to prevent progressive collapse.
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