BIM Ensures That No Data Is Stranded on Island Building Project

14 Mar, 2018 By: Cadalyst Staff

Morphosis Architects applies Bentley Systems building information modeling (BIM) software in the creation of Cornell Tech’s Bloomberg Center, located on Roosevelt Island, New York.

Roosevelt Island is a long, narrow strip of land in New York City’s East River, situated between Manhattan and Queens. In years past, the island was a site for institutions that city dwellers preferred to keep at arm’s length: a smallpox hospital, a penitentiary, the New York City Lunatic Asylum. Today, the island is perceived as very desirable property, and is home to residential buildings, a state park, and a new technology and entrepreneurship campus.

The first building constructed on the Cornell Tech campus is the Bloomberg Center, which won Bentley Systems' 2017 Be Inspired Award for BIM Advancements in Buildings and Campuses. Morphosis Architects was honored for using building information modeling (BIM) technology to improve communication and data sharing, compare and evaluate alternate designs, simulate environmental effects, and ensure that construction proceeded on schedule. Morphosis used Bentley applications including AECOsim Building Designer, MicroStation, Navigator, and ProjectWise for the Bloomberg project.

Forging a Form That Fits the Function

The Bloomberg Center is more than the academic headquarters of the campus. “It’s the entry building, it’s also your face to Manhattan — it creates a presence for the university,” explained Cory Brugger, director of design technology at Morphosis Architects. Brugger presented the project at Bentley Systems' 2017 Year in Infrastructure conference.

In addition to providing a sense of identity, Morphosis sought to foster openness and collaboration among the Center’s students and other occupants. According to Brugger, that vision wasn’t well served by the original design for the campus, which had been prepared by another firm. “[It] had an eight-story building, which kind of takes away from the general idea of connectivity, of open space and collaboration. You don’t want to be going up and down stairs or in elevators to collaborate with an industry partner or with your professor or with another group.”

After exploring several options, the team decided on a design that’s half as tall, showcases views of the water and the New York skyline, and incorporates a variety of accesses and atriums, lounges and social areas, and workspaces. “Everything is about creating interaction in this space, and giving opportunity to the students, and all of that opportunity is based on that main circulation … you’re always going through these three different zones of public to private,” Brugger pointed out.

Considerations of “public” and “private” space were complicated by the fact that some facilities in the Center are open to the general public, and the campus is not isolated from the surrounding area, but rather integrated with it. “The site is completely barrier-free; everybody from the island, everybody from the public, can walk through our site, move down to the river, past the historic sights and down to the Four Freedoms Park,” Brugger said.

Supplementing with Sunshine

Adjusting positions and heights of the Center and nearby buildings altered the way that shadows fell across the campus; the team conducted many daylighting studies and shadow analyses as the layout was refined. While these simulations are important in many architectural scenarios, they were crucial for the Center, because the project’s plan for net-zero energy use included a photovoltaic (PV) array system. “We wanted to create a PV array for onsite generation, but we’re also in a very dense urban environment,” Brugger noted.

As the architects examined various potential sizes and shapes for the solar panel array, they could compare options based on how much energy each arrangement would produce. “We can get real-time updates as we start laying the panels out on site,” said Brugger. “So as soon as you start looking at what those angles are, what the rotation is, that defines your spacing, and that defines the count of panels we can have on site,” he explained. “All of that information comes back — it’s built into our quantifications of the BIM model, so you can see in our data analysis … full quantification not only of the unit itself, but of its efficiency and its energy production based on the design intent at any given time.” Ultimately, the PV array was incorporated into a canopy that extends over the top of the building, and also provides shade and protection for certain areas below.

To achieve the net-zero energy goal, each decision that increased energy use or decreased efficiency had to be compensated for: “We have to find ways to be more efficient in the building, or we have to find another way to create more energy on site,” Brugger said. For the latter, Morphosis used geothermal heating and cooling systems; for the former, the team explored passive ventilation strategies, but they were frustrated by the lack of a clear prevailing wind direction. “This site is quite strange — we get wind from every direction, different velocities. You’re sitting on water that changes direction, depending on how the tide goes,” Brugger observed.

Turning to other ways to boost efficiency, the Morphosis team focused on minimizing heat transfer between the inside and outside of the building; Brugger likened it to building a well-insulated refrigerator. They also coordinated the climate control and lighting systems with motion sensors and a scheduling system. “The units will turn on right before meetings are scheduled; the lights will turn on. There are, obviously, overrides, but the goal is we create an intelligent system that allows the use cases to define how air conditioning and lighting are being used inside these spaces.”

From Design to Build

When it came time for construction, the island location added complications: there is only one bridge access to the build site. Many materials had to be brought in by barge from a holding area adjacent to Roosevelt Island. In addition, the restricted amount of space on the island put extra pressure on the organization of workers, machinery, and materials. “The site logistics became a huge part of our coordination process,” said Brugger.

Drones mounted with cameras flew overhead during the build, monitoring the sequence of construction and helping the team ensure that progress was adhering to the plan. Cornell Tech is being built in three phases; the first, which encompasses five acres and includes the Bloomberg Center, opened last September. Stakeholders hope to garner LEED Platinum certification for Bloomberg Center; certification is currently in progress.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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