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Stamford, Conn., Adaptive Reuse Project Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

October 1, 2013 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – Chelsea Piers Connecticut, a 400,000-sq.-ft adaptive reuse sports facility in Stamford, Conn., has earned national recognition in the 2013 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). In honor of this achievement, members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony at the building on Friday, October 4, at 11 a.m.

Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievement in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects across the country. The IDEAS2 award is the highest, most prestigious honor bestowed on building projects by the structural steel industry in the U.S. and recognizes the importance of teamwork, coordination and collaboration in fostering successful construction projects.

The awards presentation coincides with a day special to the U.S. structural steel industry: national SteelDay. Steel industry companies and related businesses across the U.S. celebrate the day with a variety of events taking place from coast to coast (www.steelday.org).

Members of the Chelsea Piers Connecticut project team include:

  • Owner: Chelsea Piers, New York
  • Architect: James G. Rogers Architects, South Norwalk, Conn.
  • Structural Engineer: WSP Cantor Seinuk, New York
  • General Contractor: AP Construction, Stamford, Conn.
  • Steel Detailer: WSP Mountain Enterprises, Inc., Sharpsburg, Md. (AISC Member)

Chelsea Piers Connecticut is the recipient of the competition’s Presidential Award of Excellence in Engineering, making it the only project in the country to receive this honor. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. The Presidential Award is a special honor given at the judges’ discretion for projects representing outstanding achievement in a particular discipline.

Each project is judged on its use of structural steel from both an architectural and structural engineering perspective, with an emphasis on: creative solutions to project’s program requirements; applications of innovative design approaches in areas such as connections, gravity systems, lateral load resisting systems, fire protection and blast; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of the steel; and the use of innovative design and construction methods.

“Great innovation and an adaptive reuse of an abandoned space. An idea that can be replicated,” commented Mark Simonides, vice president and operations manager for Turner Construction’s Great Lakes Region, and a judge in the competition.

Opened to the public in the summer of 2012, Chelsea Piers Connecticut features two NHL regulation ice rinks, enormous turf fields (for soccer, lacrosse, football, field hockey, softball, and baseball), a 20,000-sq.-ft gymnastics center, an aquatics center with an Olympic-sized pool, seven tennis courts, 12 squash courts, a trampoline center, a baseball/softball training area, childcare/preschool, food service, pro shop, catering and party/special event spaces.

The building housing this state-of-the-art sports facility is a 45-year-old manufacturing plant previously used by Clairol as the facility for manufacturing Herbal Essence shampoo. The adaptive reuse saved the old building from being demolished and ending up in a landfill; Clairol maintained the building well, keeping it in excellent condition.

Although the building square footage met the project’s requirements, the lack of large column-free spaces created a potential roadblock. Professional quality sports facilities such as swimming pools, hockey rinks and tennis courts require large column-free areas in excess of a 100 ft wide. This criterion required the removal of 23 columns from the building in order to achieve the column-free zones. Determining an economical method for removing the existing columns while leaving the entire roof structure in place was the principal challenge. The solutions selected by WSP Cantor Seinuk were extremely creative, economical and highly sustainable, resulting in reuse of the existing roof structure, limited demolition and limited use of new materials.

The proposed structural system was based upon the use of king post trusses constructed out of the in-place existing roof structure. Leaving the existing beams, which formed the top compression chords of the truss, in place and using a portion of the existing columns as the king posts, only a relatively small amount of steel had to be added to form the tension cords of the truss. Upgrading of the in-place top chord members was accomplished via composite action with the new concrete slab poured on the existing in-place metal roof deck. Steel angle members were used for the tension chords of the trusses. Although the simple and basic “off the shelf” structural members remain exposed, their aesthetically pleasing form is quite apparent. The positive effect of the forms on the facility’s architecture is further testament to the economic and sustainable accomplishments achievable via innovative engineering. It is an excellent example of form following function.

The design met all the criteria - with the exception of being able to achieve a flat floor after the concrete was poured. Since the existing roof, which was supported upon the new king post trusses, was slated to become additional space for the new sport facilities, there was a requirement for a very flat floor structure. The proposed eloquent solution, calling for the cambering of the trusses prior to pouring the concrete slab, was accomplished via jacking of the existing roof structure prior to the installation of the new truss members. After the installation of the truss steel, the existing columns were cut out and removed. Upon pouring the new roof concrete the trusses deflected precisely as designed, leaving a flat surface for the tennis courts and soccer area to be located above.

Chelsea Piers Connecticut embodies innovative, sustainable engineering for building reuse and development. A forward-thinking design team coupled with a supportive and motivated owner allowed this project to reach its full potential. The result is a state-of-the-art facility serving the athletic needs of the community while forming a viable anchor business in a once abandoned industrial facility.

The 13 IDEAS2 winners for 2013 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received from architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 award dates back more than 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E., president of AISC, said, “The entire Chelsea Piers Connecticut project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a state-of-the-art sports facility that serves its purpose extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

High-resolution images of the Chelsea Piers Connecticut project are available upon request by contacting AISC’s Tasha Weiss at 312.670.5439, [email protected]. To learn more about the IDEAS2 awards and to view all of this year’s winning projects, visit www.aisc.org/ideas2.

Chelsea Piers Connecticut
Photo Credit: Chelsea Piers


For more information contact:

Tasha Weiss
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]



American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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