Upson Hall Renovation at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Renderings courtesy Perkins+Will.

Cornell University, Upson Hall Renovation



“A complete renovation comes with unique challenges, including an existing structure that may stand in the way of the lowest-cost energy solutions, but with Thornton Tomasetti’s assistance, we were able to achieve a superior performing wall system and design to LEED Platinum standard.”
– Robert Goodwin,
Principal, Perkins+Will

Thornton Tomasetti provided façade and structural engineering, LEED management, energy modeling and building physics consulting services for the gut renovation of a concrete-framed building constructed in the 1950s housing the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The scope of work involved complete replacement of the building envelope and HVAC systems, reconfiguration of the building interior, addition of new lab space and replacement of all building interior finishes. The project is a great example of Thornton Tomasetti’s sustainability, façade and structural practices working together to arrive at the optimal building performance while achieving a cost effective solution. The design targets LEED Platinum certification and is anticipating a 50 percent energy savings compared with ASHRAE 90.1-2007.

During pre-design, Thornton Tomasetti performed a detailed energy analysis for more than 40 ECMs and analyzed various architectural schemes for optimal daylight autonomy performance. The team set an exceptional daylight autonomy target of 75 percent for all spaces and worked continuously to modify window areas until the majority of spaces achieved this target.

The new HVAC systems and distribution in the interior of the building and the re-cladding of the building on the exterior required substantial structural modifications. The structural team worked very closely with the façade designers and MEP engineers to allow a seamless retrofit. Major structural rework and complex detailing was required for the large steel-framed
cantilevers extending from the existing concrete slabs and columns at the northwest and northeast entries as well as the complete removal of slab to allow a double-height grand stair entrance at the northwest wing.

The façade consists of a terracotta rainscreen cladding system with prefabricated punched windows, an aluminum rainscreen cladding system and a structurally glazed curtain wall system. By using a thick continuous layer of insulation and minimizing the anchor points of the rainscreen, the opaque walls achieved a R-value = 26 ft2*hr*F/BTU.

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