Thursday, July 26, 2018

Past Projects - University of Minnesota Mechanical Engineering Building - Minneapolis

Yesterday I posted about my trip, earlier this week, to the University of Minnesota school of architecture... that post is here: Lighting Design at the University of Minnesota. On that trip I brought Ben Sherman, Dunwoody architecture student and intern working with me at LHB, and we got there a little early so I could show him a project I worked on several years ago. I thought it would be fun to share a past project now and then on this blog, so here it is...

Project: UofM Mechanical Engineering Building Remodel and Addition

Year Completed: 2000


While working on this project I was at a firm called SJA Architects, which is now part of
TKDA. The project was an expansion of the Mechanical Engineering program at the UofM. In the photo above you can see a portion of the existing building to the left of the four-story curtain wall system. Some goals included paying respect to the original design and exposing internal mechanical systems as a sort of teaching opportunity. We documented all the original stone profiles and used cast stone which was manufactured by American Artstone.

The next two images show the curtain wall system in more detail. I thought I had a set of the drawings somewhere and wanted to include some of the pre-Revit (as in Revit did not exist when we were working on this project) isometric details I did in AutoCAD. We did a lot of custom details on this project, including the curtain wall lateral supports with vertical expansion slots.



One feature of this building, unlike most buildings, is the exposed ductwork. There are two amazing things about the ductwork; they are a centerpiece in the four-story atrium and they are ALL stainless steel! The image below is standing in the atrium looking up.


The entire building structure is cast-in-place (CIP) which was designed by Meyer Borgman Johnson (MBJ)... I even remember the engineers name we worked closely with but am afraid I cannot spell it correctly. I fondly recall discussions about deflection at curtain walls and non-bearing walls as well as pan and joist layouts in all the 'annoying' angles we added:) I love working on CIP building-structure projects as they are built-to-last and easy to detail.

In the image below you can see short CIP stepped bridges at each level lined with clear glass guardrails and custom SS supports/toe kicks.


Some seating steps just inside the main entrance into the atrium.



All the fin-tube radiation is in a custom-designed enclosure consisting of SS perforated panels and bars on top to create a place to sit... which is probably popular on a chilly Minnesota winter day. Plus, it still looks pretty nice after 18 years of use.



More exposed SS ductwork...


A nice clean clean ceiling in the corridor...


Durable materials such as sealed concrete floors and burnished CMU walls. The interior corridor wall has two layers of gypsum board with a Fry Reglet channel around the perimeter of each door... which is not easy to see in my photos.


Due to existing buildings, accessibility and maintaining the exterior aesthetic the tall windows in the corridor are 6'-0" (1.8 m) above the floor level. Here is Ben standing under one!


When this building was designed the codes were a little different and using traditional methods glass was not allowed between a laboratory with hazardous materials and a corridor. But working with modern materials and techniques along with the UofM building code officials we employed fire-glass and deluge sprinklers on both sides to allow for a decent amount of borrowed light.


Another code limitation in the USA is that spiral stairs are not allowed in commercial projects... if it looks like a stair, smells like a stair, then it is a stair and part of egress (I have another related story for another project in the future). FYI: Winder stairs are allowed but the inside tread needs to be a minimum distance which ends up making them fairly large (see atrium stair above).

Well, did that stop the creative desire to have a spiral stair-like stair, of course not! Enter, the square spiral stair! This stair connects to graduate study areas.


Centered within this "spiral" stair is a vertical "light tube" which probably cannot be purchased anymore with the advances in LED lighting. See the next two pictures.



Lighting in utilitarian stairwells; the landings were held back to accommodate the exterior window aesthetic.


More custom details with the railing and even the handrail supports - the lateral curtain wall supports look similar to this.



A dramatic view from the top floor of the atrium. If you don't like heights you may not want to get to close to the edge as the glass railings make for an interesting experience! In this photo you can also see a portion of the existing building preserved, and exposed, within the atrium.


The large-diameter vertical stainless steel ductwork in the atrium, again.


If you look back at the first picture you will see a "tin man" statue just outside the building. Minnesota has a program, which is written into State law, called Minnesota Percent for Art in Public Places. Thus, that statue was made possible by allocating one percent of the project budget towards an art installation!

Another design feature I did not get any good pictures of was the punched openings, which are all high quality aluminum (US Aluminum, if I recall correctly) which were detailed to feel like double-hung windows found on the adjacent existing building.

Have you ever been in this building? Feel free to comment below.

Update: I found this postcard (click to enlarge) for the dedication of the art installment. The sculpture is titled "platonic figure" by Andrew Leicester.




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