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Onondaga Community College Addition Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

June 25, 2014 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The new Academic II Addition at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y., has earned national recognition in the 2014 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 in the building’s first floor rehearsal hall on Friday, June 27, at 10 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 addition’s project team members include:

  • Owner: Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Owner Representative: State University of New York (SUNY OCC)
  • Architects: CannonDesign, New York; C&S Companies, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Structural Engineer: CannonDesign, Grand Island, N.Y.
  • General Contractor: Hueber-Breuer Construction Co., Inc., Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Steel Fabricator and Erector: Raulli & Sons, Inc., Syracuse, N.Y. (AISC Member/AISC Certified Fabricator/Advanced Certified Steel Erector)
  • Steel Detailers: JCM & Associates Limited, Frankford, Ontario, Canada (AISC Member); Raulli & Sons, Inc.

The Onondaga Community College, Academic II Addition is a Merit award winner in the category of projects $15 Million to $75 Million, making it one of only eight projects around the country to receive the Merit 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. 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 (AESS); technical or architectural advances in the use of the steel; and the use of innovative design and construction methods.

The new Academic II Addition connects two facilities, a classroom building and student center, on Onondaga Community College’s campus—both on opposite sides of a gorge.

“An elegant solution that ties architecture and structural engineering together with the project site and nature,” commented Diana Nishi, S.E., P.E., vice president of Englekirk in Los Angeles, and a judge in the competition.

The two-story addition affirms the college’s commitment to growing its arts programs, cultivating its music curricula and enhancing the cultural environment both on campus and in the community. Spaces include a 150-seat music recital hall with a 9,000-sq.-ft stage and chorus balcony, a music resource center, a 2,500-sq.-ft instrumental and choral rehearsal room that can seat up to 110 musicians, a 1,200-sq.-ft percussion rehearsal room, practice rooms of various sizes, 16 faculty teaching offices and eight music-oriented smart classrooms.

Physically connected to both a classroom building and the student center, the 45,000-sq.-ft, two-story Academic II “bridge building” unites the east and west campuses, which are divided by a 60-ft-deep fissure that previously was spanned by only a narrow bridge that was open to the elements. It connects the campus spine on the south with public, staff and student parking to the north. The building also shares the student center’s loading dock and other support functions.

Use of bridge construction materials and techniques was essential in achieving the architectural vision. Three two-story, 200-ft trusses supporting the building incorporated some of the largest rolled steel elements available (up to W14x665). Structural steel elements and connections are embraced in the architectural space design, and bridge bearings are used to transfer loads to the building’s foundations.

The building’s 200-ft span relies on three 30-ft-high trusses that, due to limited working space on both sides, were erected with the help of a support tower built in the middle of the gorge, allowing trusses to be erected in two halves and spliced in the middle. This piecewise approach allowed field assembly of the trusses to occur in a smaller area and enabled use of a smaller crane.

Designers were challenged to create a structure stiff enough to span 200 ft without observable deflection or vibration, as well as address uneven loading issues due to different program requirements. Deflection also posed another, more general, challenge: If trusses were loaded after placement of the curtain wall or exposed concrete floors, the deflection of the trusses could cause windows to pop out and the concrete to crack excessively. A combination of two options was used to solve the deflection issue. The trusses were preloaded to neutralize deflections and unloaded sequentially as the building was completed, and non-deflection-critical items were installed first to help deflect the trusses.

Because the recital hall was a two-story space on one end of the building and the rest of the building was composed of two one-story layers, the load on the structure was unbalanced. While the north truss supported the weight of the roof and two lower levels, the south truss only supported a roof and one lower level, and the center truss supported a two-story space on one side and two one-story spaces on the other. To ensure compatible deflection, each truss was designed relative to the stiffness of the others as well as to its specific loading conditions.

When unexpected rock fragmentation was discovered on one side of the gorge during excavation, drilled micropiles and rock anchors were installed by a specialty contractor to supplement the building’s original 7-ft-diameter caissons.

The unusually large steel members posed another issue regarding bolt installation. During steel fabrication, the team learned that the 1 ½-in. A490 bolts specified in the design had a tendency to fail if they were installed by turning the head end of the bolt instead of the nut end. In the building’s design, however, the bolts were an architectural feature specifically designed to be installed in one direction, requiring rotation of the bolt head—and because the bolts were so large they couldn't be installed any other way. This installation proceeded under careful examination with successful results.

The 12 IDEAS2 winners for 2014 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received from architectural and engineering and other project team member 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. And about this year’s winning academic addition, Roger E. Ferch, P.E., president of AISC, said, “The entire Onondaga Community College, Academic II Addition project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a structure that serves its college, students, staff and the public extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

High-resolution images of the Onondaga Community College, Academic II Addition project are available upon request by contacting AISC’s Tasha Weiss at 312.670.5439, [email protected]. For more information about the IDEAS2 awards and to view all of this year’s winners, visit www.aisc.org/ideas2.

Onondaga Community College Addition_small
Photo Credit: Tim Wilkes


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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Phone: 312.670.2400
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