An Ode to the University

Feb. 6, 2019
New Orleans
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Tulane’s Freeman School of Business set out to unify two halls into one complex by adding a 45,000-sq.-ft., four-story addition and renovating 40,000 sq. ft. of classrooms and lecture halls. Inspired by Tulane’s mascot, the Wave, and several 100-year-old oak trees lining the street, a scalloped curtainwall was designed as the heart of the project. Given the historical significance of the trees and weather-related conditions that are an ongoing threat to New Orleans, it was critical to preserve the trees and provide protection against extreme weather while achieving LEED Gold criteria.

The YUW 750 XT unitized curtainwall was selected to meet these goals. One of the highest performing, impact-resisting products on the market, YUW 750 XT can achieve a U factor of up to 0.32 BTU/(h°F ft²). An advanced thermal barrier protects against interior moisture and it interfaces with ThermaShade sunshades for added performance. For further protection, 1.3125-in. thick insulating glass with Butacite 090 PVB interlayers were incorporated.

The unique shape presented design challenges. First, while the layout of the scalloped steel worked in CAD, it didn’t work on site. As a result, areas which weren’t at a 90-degree angle didn’t match the field layout. Because little product had been fabricated, fortunately, adjustments to YUW 750 XT were made with minimal delay and were modified based on the already-implemented design of the structural steel and curbs.

Second, YUW 750 XT required more than a standard mullion: five custom mullions, two concave mullions and two convex mullions were needed to create the shape. Third, to correctly position custom sunshades and fins, each mullion shape required a custom anchor bracket machined specifically for their location, resulting in many permutations of anchor brackets. Since most mullions weren’t rectangular, horizontal face covers were ever-changing. Likewise, the unit module for locating sunshades and fins was different from the face cover dimension and varied from opening to opening. Rather than face covers being cut squarely, they were miter cut to accommodate the scalloped shape.

The new complex serves as an ode to the university and gives respect to the 100-plus years old trees. 

Judge’s Comment: “First, any product and project that not only considers, but saves existing trees, is a winner in my book. Now, a curtainwall product that allows for innovative architecture, particularly more organic forms, while delivering envelope performance—that’s a combination I can back, especially as it’s resulted in a great looking building that totally works in context of the school’s nickname.”

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