Steel Shots: Barging In

Placing the first of 19 steel modules on the project site. (Photo: Lorenzo Sanjuan, Thornton Tomasetti) 

Rockefeller University is in a tight spot. Founded by John D. Rockefeller and widely considered one of the best biomedical research institutions in the world, the university is located on Manhattan’s Upper East side, adjacent to the East River and FDR Drive, one of the city’s busiest roadways and a major north-south traffic artery. When the university decided to expand its campus with a modern three-story building to house laboratory space, it was boxed in on the north, south and west sides. The only way to go was east—over FDR Drive.

Working on and over one of the busiest highways in New York City could have been an excessively expensive and time-consuming endeavor. In addition, laydown area for the job was limited to a 10-ft to 15-ft strip of land between FDR Drive and the river promenade. In an attempt to reduce the cost and schedule and address these space constraints, the design and construction team explored off-site steel modularization for the structural framing system. Fabricator Banker Steel (an AISC member and certified fabricator) further developed this plan and came up with the solution to split the building portion that would span FDR Drive into 19 individual modules—approximately 92 ft by 48 ft and three levels high. These modules were prefabricated at a site in Keasbey, N.J., and transported to the project site via barge. Several other trade components were also installed into the modules prior to shipping, including cast-in-place concrete on two levels, fireproofing sprinkler systems and conduits. The modules were set 2 in. from the existing structure, the façade of which was surveyed using a point cloud survey and incorporated into the 3D model of the new building at the design stage.

For more about the project, see the article “Barging In” in our January issue (available now!).