Prefabricated Facade Panel System at Abington House

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The reason we became engineers and technical architects is that we love to make things better – we learn how things work, take things apart and fix them! So a trip to the factory to see how things that we have designed are actually being constructed is always exciting. For a recent project, we did just that.

Abington House is a new 33-story residential tower adjacent to the Highline at the corner of Tenth Avenue and West 30th Street, the border of Chelsea and Manhattan West, and developed by the Related Companies. The tower is brick with punched windows, aluminum, glass and stone storefront at the base designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The working drawings were created by Ismael Leyva Architects with façade and roofing consulting by Gilsanz Murray Steficek. The residential windows are operable for ventilation and for access to clean them from inside the building. This is a traditional New York City residential tower, mostly.

The façade was detailed and priced in two ways: traditional brick on concrete block backup, laid by hand from hung-scaffolding and, alternately, as pre-cast concrete wall panels with the windows shop-installed in the precast fabricator’s plant. Installing windows into pre-cast façade panels had not, to our knowledge, been done before in New York City due to labor union jurisdictional rules. This project included a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with the affected trades which allowed more flexibility with work rules. Therefore, the project design and construction team thought the alternative was worth pursuing. For this project, the pricing of the two options was comparable, but panelizing the wall and windows saved roughly 20% of the time required to enclose the building and provided a higher quality envelope.

In the spring of 2013, GMS traveled to southern Ontario to observe the panel construction process. At the Artex Systems Inc. plant in Concord, Ontario, the forms are placed on the plant’s floor, and then bricks are laid face down onto forms which have ridges to provide the proper joint spacing. The concrete reinforcing and anchor hardware are then positioned. Steel forms are used at the perimeter of the panels, where dimensions are more uniform. Wood forms constructed in the plant’s carpentry shop are used for the window openings where dimensions vary between panel types. After casting, the forms are stripped and the panels are cured in the shop. The panels are patched if needed, and then cleaned.

The windows were produced by Pioneer Window Manufacturing Corp. in Johnstown, NY, shipped to Concord and installed at the precast factory using the appropriate fasteners and sealants. The completed panels were “just-in-time” trucked to NYC and installed over the summer and fall of 2013. GMS also provided NYC special inspections for the façade panel installation. Residents began to move in to the apartments in May 2014.

Next time you walk on the Highline, see if you can spot the panelized windows!

Project Information:

Abington House
500 West 30th Street
New York, NY 10011

33 Story Rental Residential tower adjacent to the Highline.
312 units of housing with 30,000 sf of amenity space.

Developer: Related Companies
Design Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects
Architect of Record: Ismael Leyva Architects
Façade and roofing consulting: GMS
Construction Manager: Tutor Perini

The panel is framed for casting

The panel is framed for casting

Panels are prepared for installation of windows

Finished panels are loaded for transport

Assembled Panels travel to New York City

Assembled Panels travel to New York City

Facade panels are installed onto the building

Facade panels are installed onto the building