October 25, 2011

City Board Questions Gates Hall Details­

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The University further detailed its plans for the William H. Gates Hall Computing and Information Science Building at a meeting of the Ithaca Planning and Development Board Tuesday night. The building will be located next to Hoy Field.

Members of the Planning and Development Board expressed concern about some elements of the building’s design. Before the project can win final approval from the board, the University must address the board’s suggestions before its November meeting.

Board members expressed concern about elements of the building’s exterior, which will include what John Keefe, project manager, called a “strata hardscape” — layers of stone in front of the building designed to mimic the shale stone in Ithaca’s gorges.

“The architectural idea is that they wanted to interpret the gorge and the building rising out of it,” Keefe said.

Board members said that the hardscape could present a safety issue.

“I still have some concern about the strata hardscape portion. … It looks like steps. Are people going to want to use those as steps?” said John Schroeder ’74, chair of the Planning and Development Board and The Sun’s production manager. “If so, is that a safety issue because the levels are irregular, and they might lose their step?”

Tessa Rudan ’89, a member of the Planning and Development Board, echoed Schroeder’s sentiments.

“I just have to say, if it was my property I think it would be very risky,” she said. “And just knowing the way students will use something maybe not the way you intended it, and I think this is really opening up that sort of unintended consequence.”

In response, Keefe said that the hardscape will contain a retaining wall on top that will prevent people from climbing on it, which was not depicted in the presented design.

“I think the wall that was described … resolves a lot of issues, but I have not seen drawings that demonstrate that wall,” Schroeder said. “I think that the building design, now that I fully understand it, is quite nicely done.”

The board also expressed concern about the relocation of historical pillars that serve as an entrance to Hoy Field.

“There are stone pillars that have been part of the entrance of Hoy Field since at least 1949,” Schroeder said. “They are being relocated for the new building, but they’re just up against a fence. … We are asking them to find a new location where they can serve as a real gateway that you can walk through.”

Gates Hall was designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis with a $25 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The building will include perforated and angled stainless steel paneling on its exterior.

At the meeting, Keefe discussed elements of the building intended to improve its energy efficiency.

“These panels not only add an architectural aspect to the building, but also assist in the solar gain, eliminating and reducing the solar gain of the building itself,” Keefe said. Solar gain is the increase in temperature in a space, object or structure that results from solar radiation.

Despite the functional aspects, the panels are not solar panels, he said.

“Solar panels in Ithaca are a tough deal just because of the amount of solar gain we have here,” Keefe said. “When you’ve got a limited budget, where do you put your money to conserve energy? And our idea was to put it in energy conservation rather than energy creation.”

To conserve energy, the temperature of the building will be regulated by chilled beams — pipes filled with cold water, Keefe said. Chilled beams were installed in Olin Hall during its 2009 renovation, he added.

“What that does is it limits the amount of air flow into the room, and that’s your highest energy consumption: the fan energy for providing air to a room,” he said. “That allows us to bring our fans down, make them smaller, make them less energy consumptive.”

Keefe added that the perforated panels were designed to not obstruct the views from the building’s windows.

“It’s basically like a screen, like looking through a screen, so you get good views in and good views out,” Keefe said.

Gates Hall will earn at least a silver LEED certification, with a goal of a gold certification, Keefe said.

Original Author: Joseph Niczky