In our constant quest for how to balance creativity with practicality and cost, some examples stand out as projects that taught us a lot.
Grand Central Terminal
We’ve worked on Grand Central for close to 20 years. This structure, first opened in 1903, is both a New York landmark and one of the city’s busiest and most-used structures. Millions of people—from tourists to daily commuters—pass through it each week.
- Our first explorations underneath the main terminal building included encounters with “mole people,” homeless individuals who had taken up residence in abandoned tunnels. One gentleman had been living high up in a shaft—for 22 years.
- We discovered that some elements designed early on in the building’s life cycle, like the elaborate roundels on archways, had never been connected. We used the roundels as part of our smoke removal system.
- One of the most difficult decisions made during the Grand Central renovation was whether to install a newer, more generic type of stone on the west and new easy balcony steps. The cost of quarrying the original stone was astronomical. But ultimately, it was most faithful to the building to use it and recover costs elsewhere.
- The massive renovation project was begun in 1988, 85 years after Grand Central was opened.
- One of the first assignments was to remove all the outdated pipes and electrical systems that served the surrounding buildings. Many systems throughout the building served neighboring buildings and structures, like a coal-fired boiler plant. All were antiquated and needed replacement.
- Our new design included a new 3,000-ton cooling plant, upgraded HVAC system with new cooling towers on the roof, and fire and life safety upgrades.
- One of the most complicated aspects of the project was minimizing disruption to the operation of the building. This required replacing major components in phases.
- We upgraded the electrical systems completely, including a high-voltage loop, transformers, a generator, alarm system, and facility-wide central automatic temperature control system.
National Museum of the American Indian
The museum is housed in this famous Beaux Arts-style building, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, designed by architect Cass Gilbert. It is a designated National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark.
We managed the MEP design for the restoration and adaptive reuse of this historic structure designed in 1900.
- A special air quality control system was required in the exhibition space to monitor the temperature and humidity in the air to preserve organic materials contained in the exhibit artifacts.
- The historic structure required extensive research on materials of the period in which it was built; all our modifications had to be faithful to the original design of the building.
- It was clear that the building needed a new electric distribution system, fire alarm system, fire protection systems, and an upgrade and interface to the existing security system.
- Our initial systems upgrade included the installation of a new chilled water system with both absorption and screw chiller machines.
St. James Theatre
Rich with theatrical history and lore, this building was renamed the St. James Theatre by the legendary Astor family. It became a part of the Jujamcyn Theaters group in 1970.
As part of our work on this historic structure, we helped create the technology that brought Disney’s Frozen musical to life.
- The theater’s plans for an expanded range of featured productions—including spectacles like Frozen—required major technological upgrades.
- Our work also included upgrading the energy systems of the building, which, together, improved occupant comfort, energy conservation, ongoing maintenance, and reliability beyond expectations.
- The owners considered a number of options to upgrade the four 15 ton and one 20 ton compressors currently used to cool the lower house of the building.