Like all of us, buildings of a certain age often have problems with their facades. Even those that have been well maintained can suffer from failing joints, broken gaskets, and crumbling mortar—conditions that cause air and water infiltration, compromising energy performance and occupant comfort. Sometimes buildings, especially those built in the 1960s and 70s, are simply aesthetically out of sync with the desires of current owners or tenants. But despite their problems, these structures often have good bones and can be reinvigorated with a renovation that includes a new skin.
Jorgensen Laboratory, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in Pasadena, was recently revived with such a renovation. The former computational center had been designed by the highly regarded A. Quincy Jones in the early 1970s. But the 30,000-square-foot three-story reinforced-concrete structure was insular and bunkerlike, due to vertical concrete “sunshades,” several feet deep, which blocked daylight and obstructed views of the leafy campus.
The university had decided that a new set of users should move in: the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis and the Resnick Institute—two recently established programs focused on energy conservation and generation. There was one major problem, however: the building's image and configuration were “antithetical to the users' mission of sustainability,” says John Friedman, of John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK).
Caltech hired JFAK to design an overhaul for Jorgensen, which was completed in the spring of 2012. The plan included removing the intrusive sunshades, wrapping the building in thermally efficient glazing, and reorganizing the interior so that many of the new offices and state-of-the-art research spaces could be as near the perimeter as possible. In addition, the architects added a new glass-enclosed entrance pavilion to replace the building's original off-putting entry sequence via a bulky bridge, and they brought sunlight into the interior through a new skylit stair.
Before embarking on the radical transformation, JFAK enlisted engineers from Buro Happold to design new building systems and also to study the effect of removing the sunshades. The aim was to improve daylighting, but without incurring solar gain, says David Herd, a Buro Happold partner. “We were looking for the sweet spot,” he adds.
By measuring light levels in the existing interior and performing extensive simulations, the engineers demonstrated that JFAK could remove the sunshades without increasing cooling loads. Much of the building perimeter would often be in shadow, they determined, since the first level is mostly below grade, the entry floor is shaded by the overhanging floor above, and the west facade is shielded by an adjacent structure. The surrounding trees also provided some protection.
The team devised a new building skin that relies on an aluminum curtain wall system for the top floor, where the new cladding has a vertical span of 12 feet, and a storefront system for the floors below, where spans are shorter. Both systems incorporate 1-inch insulated glazing units with a low-E coating. Although these components are mostly standard, the architects have created interest and rhythm by varying the sizes of the lites, by making some of the mullions deeper than others, and with strategic use of translucent glass. Its placement responds to functional concerns, such as the location of equipment on the interior, “but it is also partly compositional,” says Friedman.
This new, mostly transparent envelope allowed the project team to deploy daylight sensors to reduce energy use. The building also has other energy-conserving features, such as air conditioning that automatically shuts off in any perimeter office where a window is opened, as well as a ventilation system configured to reduce the cooling and reheating of fresh air. Together, these strategies helped the project earn LEED Platinum status and should produce a 37 percent savings in energy when compared to a more typical laboratory building—a projection that Buro Happold hopes to confirm over the next few months through a post-occupancy measurement and evaluation process.

Fresh Face, New Spine

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) relied on a similar approach for its makeover of a fortresslike office building in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, at 680 Folsom Street. The just-completed project, designed for developer TMG Partners, had the aim of transforming the property, vacant since 2007, into desirable office space. The comprehensive renovation included replacement of the 1960s structure's seemingly impenetrable precast-concrete facade panels with a high-performance curtain wall, largely glass. “The goal was to make it more open and inviting and have the activity inside energize the street,” says Leo Chow, an SOM director.

The project also entailed increasing the leasable area by almost a third, to 500,000 square feet, with the addition of small projections on each facade and two new floors on top of the original 12. “The building was a simple, dumb box,” says Chow. “We wanted to articulate it as a series of masses.”

The replacement cladding consists of one-story-tall, 6-foot-wide units that include 10-foot-high insulated vision lites. These afford views of the city's financial core and San Francisco Bay and let daylight deep into the interior. Vertical aluminum fins on the building's northwest-facing facade shield the glazing from the setting sun.

Although attaching a new facade to an existing building is often complicated by elevated code requirements for wind loads and other forces, 680 Folsom's new skin is attached to the structure via the building's original anchors. Their strength proved sufficient, since they had been designed to support the hefty precast panels. “The robust existing slab anchors greatly simplified the retrofit,” says Mic Patterson, director of strategic development at Enclos, the project's facade contractor. “We just had to weld our connector to the existing steel embeds, and we were ready to go.”

The building's steel moment frame did, however, require a seismic retrofit because of the added floors. Early on, the design team considered adding diagonal bracing. Ultimately they rejected such a system, since the braces would occupy valuable floor space and obstruct views through the new curtain wall. Instead, the project's structural engineer, Tipping Mar, devised a novel solution that involved reconfiguring the building core to create a pivoting spine. During a temblor, this base-isolated, reinforced-concrete element should redistribute seismic deformations throughout the structure and prevent the phenomenon of “weak story” at the base, where perimeter columns have vertical spans of 35 feet instead of 15 feet, the building's typical floor-to-floor height. Weak story exists, says Steve Tipping, Tipping Mar principal, where a story's lateral strength is less than 80 percent of the one above it. The new core at 680 Folsom prevents this condition by “forcing the floors to hang together and act as one unit,” he says.

In addition to ensuring that the building's structural integrity is maintained, the retrofit strategy should also minimize damage to nonstructural components, including the building skin. The pivoting spine will limit inter-story drift (the horizontal movement of one level of a building relative to the one above it), making extensive repairs to the curtain wall unnecessary after a design basis earthquake—a quake for whose magnitude the building is designed, in this case one with only a 10 percent chance of being exceeded in 50 years.

Chow says that the importance of protecting the investment in a building's skin should not be underestimated. “To an owner, that's where the value is,” he says, adding that at 680 Folsom, “the facade projects a sense of quality and clean modernism.” This image apparently has market appeal: last summer, while construction was still under way, TMG sold the tower to Boston Properties after leasing almost all of its office space to and Riverbed Technology. The companies are expected to move in early next year.

Less-Invasive Surgery

At 680 Folsom and Jorgensen Lab, new facades are just one aspect of those buildings' almost complete reinvention. But installation of a new skin can also be part of less radical transformations, used to address performance problems or to subtly tweak a building's image. Such was the case for a 33-story apartment building with a stepped profile on Manhattan's Upper East Side, designed by Emery Roth & Sons in 1962. The 608-unit tower at 215 East 68th Street was one of the first to use two relatively new, and not yet well-understood technologies: it had a lightweight concrete structure and a cavity-wall facade of one wythe of white-glazed brick with a backup wall of concrete masonry. Over the years, the concrete structure was slowly shrinking. The condition, known as creep, put pressure on the brick, which had been laid without relieving angles. As a result, it bowed and spalled, and water found its way into the interior.

In an attempt to address the problem, the property's manager, Rudin Management, had periodically replaced large sections of brick—a practice that gave the tower a patchwork appearance. For a more lasting solution, Rudin turned to the team of FXFOWLE Architects and a facade specialist, Forst Consulting and Architecture.

The two firms explored replacing the old skin, which covered about 350,000 square feet, with a new brick cavity wall that would be better detailed than the original. But they soon realized that new reinforcement for the inner block wall could serve double duty, functioning also as an armature for terra-cotta rainscreen cladding. They reasoned that a rainscreen system—a two-stage wall where an outer, open-jointed layer serves as the primary barrier for rain, snow, and hail but is not weather-tight—would offer a number of advantages over a brick cavity wall. Because there is an inner weatherproof layer that incorporates insulation as well as a barrier membrane and is separated from the outer skin by an airspace, the exterior cladding is essentially back-ventilated, improving drying capacity, says Ralph Forst, Forst Consulting principal. Another chief benefit is weight—terra-cotta tiles are significantly lighter than brick, which would mean less stress on the building's structure.

The system that the project team developed consists of tiles typically about 1¼ inch thick, 9½ inches tall, and 36 inches long, supported by an extruded aluminum armature. Behind the tiles is a 4½-inch airspace and then 3 inches of semi-rigid insulation over a new barrier membrane covering the existing block wall. Designers maintained white as the facade's dominant color but added banding of gray and black between the building's punched windows. The scheme retains some of the character of the original brick, “but it is richer and more pleasing to look at,” says Bruce Fowle, FXFOWLE founding principal.

Although construction is still going on at the building's base, which will be clad in stone, the terra-cotta work was completed earlier this year. Installation on an existing, fully occupied structure presented several complications. One was the project sequence, which needed to be orchestrated so that it could be performed top-down. If contractors had performed the work bottom-up, the usual method for new construction, they risked damaging already-in-place terra-cotta tiles while demolishing the old brick face, says Bud Streff, director of sales for NBK, the tiles' manufacturer.

The designers and the client are counting on the rainscreen's ease of maintenance. They expect the tiles to be durable, but if some do break or the barrier membrane requires inspection to locate leaks, removal can easily be accomplished without the messy grinding or sawing required for the repair of brick, says Forst.

No leaking or breakage has occurred. However, it's still too early to know if the terra-cotta will be as easy to maintain as its project team hopes. But there is a larger question regarding 215 East 68th Street, and for any building that has been revamped with a new skin: will their new facades seem as fresh decades from now as they do today? It would be interesting to return to the Upper East Side, to the South of Market neighborhood, and to Caltech in twenty years to see if any of the buildings have exchanged their replacement skins.


Jorgensen Laboratory

Formal name of building:
Jorgensen Laboratory Renovation

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Completion Date:
May 2012

Gross square footage:
35,700 SF

Total construction cost:
$17.1 million

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Contact: Kenneth Hargreaves (626) 395 - 8881

Architect's firm:
John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects 701 East Third Street, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90013
P: (213) 253 - 4740
F: (213) 253 - 4760

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
John Friedman, FAIA, Principal in Charge
Alice Kimm, FAIA
Robert McFadden, Designer & Project Architect
Claudia Kessner, Project Architect
Eddie Hermann
Matt Azen
Marc Cucco
Jessica Sano

MEP: Buro Happold Consulting Engineers, Inc
9601 Jefferson Blvd, Suite B
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 945 - 4800

Structural: Saiful Bouquet
155 North Lake Avenue, Sixth Floor
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 304 - 2616

Civil: VCA Engineers
3951 Medford Street
Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 729 - 6098

Lab Planner: Jacobs Consultancy
420 Stevens Avenue, Suite 150
Solana Beach, CA 92075
(858) 793 - 0969

Landscape Architect: The Office of James Burnett
550 Lomas Santa Fe, Suite A
Solana Beach, CA 92075
(858) 793 - 6970

Technology & Acoustics: Waveguide Consulting, Inc.
6060 Center Drive, Suite 870
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(310) 645 - 2300

FF&E: Neiman Studio
233 South Barrington Avenue, Suite 314
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 925 - 2669

General contractor:
DPR Construction
4665 MacArthur Court Suite 100
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Contact: John Foran (949) 633 - 4253

Benny Chan (Fotoworks)
5069 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(323) 730 - 0100

680 Folsom Street

Formal name of building:
680 Folsom

680 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

Completion Date:

Gross square footage:
502,000 square footage

TMG Partners

Architect's firm:
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
One Front Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
TEL: 415.981.1555
FAX: 415.398.3214

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
SOM Team (all are registered architects)
Design Partner: Craig Hartman, FAIA
Design Director: Leo Chow, AIA
Technical Director: Keith Boswell, FAIA
Managing Director: Carrie Byles, AIA, LEED® AP
Senior Designer: Michael Temple, AIA, LEED®, AP
Senior Technical Designer: Maurice Hamilton, AIA
Technical Designer: Yoko Takada
Senior Architect: Kirit Sedani
Project Manager Danielle McGuire, AIA
Ryan Griffin
Marguerite Eid
Melanie Pratt
Nate Sunderhaus

Structural: Tipping Mar
MEP: ACCO Design-Build
Landscape: SWA
Lighting: Francis Krahe & Associates Inc.

General contractor:
Plant Construction Company

© 2013 David Wakely Photography Tel: 415.861.7503

© Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP 2013 Tel: 415.352.6817

215 East 68th Street

Formal name of building:
215 East 68th Street
Location: 215 East 68th Street, New York, NY

Completion Date:
March 2013

Gross square footage:
352,000 SF Gross Exterior Wall ' 245,000 SF of Terra Cotta Rainscreen

Rudin Management Co, INC.
Paul D. Mandel, SVP, Project Manager

FXFOWLE Architects
22 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
T +1.212.627.1700
F +1.212.463.8716

Forst Consulting and Architecture, PLLC
19 West 44th Street, Suite 611
New York, NY 10036
T +

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, Founding Principal, Partner in Charge / Elizabeth Finkelshteyn, Principal, Project Manager / Bill Chalkley, AIA, LEED AP / Carol Hsuing, AIA, LEED AP

Ralph D. Forst, RA, Principal / Robert T. Lai, Sr. Designer / Dino Rossi, Project Manager / Glenn C. Steele, Senior Inspector QC/QA

Architect of record, if applicable:
Forst Consulting and Architecture, PLLC
19 West 44th Street, Suite 611
New York, NY 10036
T +

Severud Associates ' Structural Engineering
Ed DePaola, Principal
Andrew Mueller-Lust, Project Engineer
Fortunato Orlando, Project Engineer

Viridian Associate - Energy

General contractors:
Western Facades
Michael B. Radigan, Project Executive
James D. Rogers, Project Manager
NBK Ceramic
Michael Cleere, Project Designer
Ivo Respondek, Project manager

Chris Cooper / / +1 (212) 380-6841

Ashley Streff
(781) 956-1114



Jorgensen Laboratory

Structural system
Existing concrete waffle slab structure; Steel frame at new entry pavilion

Metal/glass curtain wall:
Arcadia, Inc

Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope

Exterior: Arcadia
Interior: Wilson Partitions, Inc.

Shading devices:
MechoShade Systems, Inc.

680 Folsom Street

Structural system
Steel frame with base isolator, concrete sheer wall core

Exterior cladding
Curtainwall: 4-sided structurally glazed custom unitized curtainwall
Shading devices: Vertical, extra aluminum integrated unitized curtain devices
Other cladding unique to this project: Custom, structurally glazed units anchored on back up tube steel support system.

Exterior Curtainwall & Storefront: Enclos
Glazing: Viracon

215 East 68th Street

Structural system
1962 - PIP Concrete Frame

Exterior cladding
Rain-screen cladding: Custom NBK Rainscreen System
Rain-screen system elements: Factory assembled vertical mullions and tile clips in clear anodized aluminum. 30mm thick glazed Terracotta Tile on stick-built vertical mullions with formed aluminum copings, window sills and closures in PPG Duranar finishes.
Moisture/air barrier: Sikagard 560 (formerly Liquid Plastic’s Decadex) and Dupont’s Liquid Tyvek.
Windows: Existing Traco replacement windows dating from 1996 remained throughout the recladding project.