Campus-based transportation facility relies on granite

April 1, 2008
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Located at the southern end of Fordham University's Rose Hill campus, the new regional intermodal transportation facility provides shuttle services to and from the University, the New York Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, the Belmont-Arthur Avenue neighborhood and shopping district and the Metro North Rail Line. The facility, which comprises five stories and 1,546 parking spaces, features a thin sawn granite veneer utilizing a prefabricated panel system to match other hand-laid granite block buildings on the University's campus.


Located at the southern end of Fordham University's Rose Hill campus, the new regional intermodal transportation facility provides shuttle services to and from the University, the New York Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, the Belmont-Arthur Avenue neighborhood and shopping district and the Metro North Rail Line. Plans for the structure began in 1998, resulting in the combined effort of the University, city, state and federal government. The facility, which comprises five stories and 1,546 parking spaces, features a thin sawn granite veneer utilizing a prefabricated panel system to match other hand-laid granite block buildings on the University's campus.

Since the building is located at the entrance of the Rose Hill campus, which is very visible, one goal of the project was to "gift wrap the facility in such a way that it would not look like a parking garage," said Project Architect Doug Hyde of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering, P.C. of Albany, NY. "We wanted the parking structure to be respectful of the collegiate vocabulary of the campus, as well as being complementary to the adjacent residence hall, which I designed a few years ago. Generally, parking structures are horizontal in nature, but we wanted the facility to be more vertical."

Project Manager Jeff Bartleson with Eastern Exterior Wall Systems of Bethlehem, PA, which served as the installer for the project and also assembled the panels, added that an additional goal was to "come as close as possible to mimicking the existing fieldstone used on the adjacent buildings." And, considering the other stone on the campus was laid by hand on site, it was a challenge for Eastern to try and match this pattern due to the constraints of using a panelized system, said Bartleson.

To meet these goals, approximately 40,000 square feet of Corinthian granite from Champlain Stone, Ltd. of Warrensburg, NY, was specified in a thin sawn ashlar pattern. "Other buildings on the campus feature this exact stone, including the adjacent one, so it was an obvious choice of material to use on the parking facility as well," said Bartleson.

According to Hyde, since Fordham's Rose Hill campus is predominantly stone, "this building needed to be of that palette to complement and embrace the aesthetic of the campus." And, since Corinthian granite was used on the adjacent O'Hare Hall Residential College for belt coursings, medallions, archways, cappings, trim pieces and adornment of traceries, it was only natural to use it on the new structure. "Corinthian granite was also used for a bridge that provides connectivity from the parking structure to the O'Hare residence hall through a portal, which in essence is a major gateway to the campus," Hyde said.

Jane Bennett of Champlain Stone, Ltd. explained that the stone was shipped to Eastern Exterior Wall Systems' facility in Pennsylvania, where workers trimmed the thin sawn ashlar/roughly rectilinear stone into more uniform sizes and shapes, then installed them onto 10- x 16-foot cement panels, all off site from the project. "The panels were shipped to the site, [lifted] using hydraulic cranes and then pinned onto the facade of the building," she said. "There was no mess on site typically associated with traditionally installed stone masonry."



The parking facility features approximately 40,000 square feet of Corinthian granite from Champlain Stone, Ltd. of Warrensburg, NY, in a thin sawn ashlar pattern.

Using a panelized system

According to Hyde, for cost reasons, it was always the intent to use a panelized system for the stonework. "To lay up stone by stone is quite costly and takes a lot of effort," he said. "For the O'Hare Hall Residential College, we used a 5-inch-thick stone cavity wall where each stone was laid by masons in the field, which ended up being expensive."

Hyde explained that the masons started out using stone that was cast into concrete panels, but that the method proved to be archaic and inappropriate, so they switched to a different system. "Champlain Stone's quarry involved a method of cutting the stone into 3/4- and 1 1/4-inch-thick pieces, so that the stone could be applied to structural steel studs," he said. "Basically a thinner and much lighter stone was applied to the panels, so they could fabricate the panels, lay up the stone in the shop horizontally and then use a more pliable mortar between the stones. All in all, it worked very well.

"In my opinion, this was the biggest challenge -- trying to find the appropriate methodology for creating the pre-fabricated panels," Hyde continued. "Using the heavier stone was a time consuming and difficult process. It just didn't prove to be the most effective way of getting the end result that people wanted in a timely fashion."

Bartleson said that workers had to "hand face" each individual stone to get rid of any sharp or uneven edges in the stones surface. "Champlain sent us the stone veneer in crates cut between 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches thick," he said. "We had to take each stone and knock off the arris around the perimeter with a chisel to ensure proper thickness when grouting the joints." There were two steps to the installation. We had to dry lay the stone pattern and size each stone exactly, then transfer the pieces from the mock-up board to the panel and attach the stone using a thin set."

After the grout cured, workers then had to wash the face of the panel and load it onto the trucks to be transferred to the jobsite, explained Bartleson. The average panels weighed anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds, and were erected using a hydraulic crane. "Essentially, there were inserts already designed into the precast structure, and an 8- x 8 1/2-inch shelf angle was used to attach the panels to the structure." he said. Bartleson said that this project was the first time that Eastern Exterior Wall Systems had undertaken a true thin stone veneer on a panel system. "The whole job was a challenge," he said. "The toughest part was trying to consistently match the ashlar pattern and having to size every stone beforehand. It was one of those things where the first panel could've taken three hours or so to lay out and fabricate, and then we got the hang of it. There was a relatively large learning curve involved. The weight of the panels was also a consideration when it came to erecting the job." According to the Project Manager, there were six workers involved with the installation at a time -- five installers, plus a crane operator. "The job came out beautifully," he said. "A lot of people in that area of the Bronx have been commenting on it. One project manager said that while he was on site during the construction process, people kept stopping and asking who made the panels and if it was real stone used." Hyde shared similar sentiments. "People are generally pleased with the end result," he said. "It took a while to get there, but essentially finding the right way to produce the panels enabled us to meet the goal of making the building not look like a parking structure. It is very much a part of the vocabulary of the campus, and it definitely fits into its context."

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