Long before they began design on a new student residence complex at Stony Brook University in Long Island, N.Y., a group of architects roamed the campus with a video camera in hand, conducting random interviews with students.
“We wanted to find out what motivated the students, what made them more loyal alumni, and how we could make the new buildings seem more like a home away from home,” explains F. Eric Goshow of Goshow Architects in New York. His firm took its findings to the project interview, talked about what it learned, and got the job.
Stony Brook is part of the State University of New York system and its 1960s-era campus is characterized by poured concrete and brick buildings. One recurrent theme among the New York system students was that the northeastern campus was particularly dreary in winter. Goshow’s firm thought about how the new buildings might provide contrast rather than blend into the existing context, and the idea of using strong colors emerged. In addition to being an identifier of the residences on campus, color would make the buildings come alive.
The concept could have been a tough sell to the administration, but extenuating circumstances worked in Goshow’s favor. The student population was growing at a rapid pace and the project had to be ready to accommodate 604 beds by the 2010 fall semester. This gave the team less than two years to design and construct 173,000 square feet of space across three buildings: two residence halls and a connected commons building called the Center for Global Studies and Human Development.
Working with this tight time frame, the architects knew that they had to reduce on-site labor. “Our thoughts immediately turned to a lightweight, easy-to-assemble metal panel system,” Goshow recalls. “This is one of the great science-research universities in the nation, so metal also leant the 21st-century appeal that we were looking for and opened the door to using a wide range of colors.” Goshow chose the colors orange, red, blue, and white to brighten the campus.
The $56 million project includes 104 suite-style apartments that each house six undergraduate students. In addition to the suites, each residence building includes one common kitchen, a common laundry room, an activities room, lounge spaces, and inviting places for academic study. The Center for Global Studies and Human Development serves the entire campus with a café, a multipurpose room for 350 students, four classrooms, and office spaces.
The three buildings stand at varying heights to add visual interest, and all were built on load-bearing, light-gauge metal-stud frames and precast-concrete floor planks to expedite construction. The project is pursuing LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and the use of metal-stud frames created a challenge in complying with LEED and New York State energy codes.
Amanda Langweil, Goshow Architects’ director of sustainability, says that one of the biggest issues with metal studs is that they transmit heat and cold. “They act as a thermal bridge, transferring heat through the studs from the exterior to the interior of the building. Proper insulation and getting the right R-value out of the building envelope was a big concern, so we ran continuous rigid insulation outside the studs in addition to batt insulation between them to reduce thermal bridging.”
Working with Amityville, N.Y.–based Kenneth J. Herman on the envelope’s fabrication and installation helped the team achieve the right system to meet the project’s desired insulated building envelope, aesthetic design intent, and speed of construction.