Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
55 Hudson Yards: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities at New York City’s Newest Western Expansion
Thursday, 28 September 2017

See more on CTBUH Related Events
See more on CTBUH New York Chapter

NEW YORK – The CTBUH New York Chapter kicked off its Fall networking series on September 28 with an insightful evening spent examining the current progress of a historic development, Hudson Yards. The event was hosted at the New York offices of WSP. With speakers from Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction (MTACC), Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), and WSP, discussion centered around the challenges of the project and the ingenious engineering solutions that continue to make the project not only viable, but a stunning expression of architectural expertise. 55 Hudson Yards is particularly intriguing in the field of tall buildings, as it manages to perfectly blend great design with necessary infrastructure, as well as developing and integrating the surrounding neighborhood.

Following informal drinks and networking, New York Young Professionals Committee (YPC) Co-Chair Ilkay Can-Standard, Founder, GenX Consultants, spoke briefly about the progress the chapter is making and encouraged attendees to become CTBUH members to support the group’s initiatives. The first speaker was Bob Shafei, Program Manager, MTACC. Shafei has successfully navigated a plethora of challenges during his 20-year-long career with New York City Transit (NYCTA) and MTACC, making him the perfect candidate to take on the megaproject of 55 Hudson Yards.

Bob Shafei, Program Manager, MTA Capital Construction, gives his perspective on 55 Hudson Yards.

The first speaker was Bob Shafei, Program Manager, MTACC. Shafei has successfully navigated a plethora of challenges during his 20-year-long career with New York City Transit (NYCTA) and MTACC, making him the perfect candidate to take on the megaproject of 55 Hudson Yards.

Shafei began by highlighting the enormity of this project; rezoning the train yard added more than 50 million square feet (4.6 million square meters) of new work and living spaces, creating the largest central business district in the United States. The subway extension alone has a budget of $2.4 billion, which was fully funded by the city, following the loss of its bids for both the 2012 Olympic Games and the new Jets Stadium. Shafei also pointed out that despite the huge undertaking, the project is actually under budget – something everyone agreed was relatively unheard of in this industry!

Shafei then went on to demonstrate how this project is so much more than just a tall building; it is truly a catalyst for change. 55 Hudson Yards is the third commercial tower within the Hudson Yards development – the largest private real-estate development in the history of the United States and the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Center. Considered the “final frontier” of New York City, the transformational project encompasses not only this 51-story tower, but also a new terminal connecting Queens and Manhattan, additional train storage to help meet rush hour demands, ancillary buildings for maintenance and ventilation plants, and over 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of new tunnels, all built 120 feet (36.6 meters) underground. Shafei ended his talk by regaling the audience with some of the more complex challenges of the project, including tunneling underneath both Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The second speaker was Lauren Schmidt, Director, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC, and Project Manager for 55 Hudson Yards. Schmidt joined KPF in 2004, and has acted as architectural designer and job captain for several complex projects including One Jackson Square, a residential building in New York City; Al Bateen Wharf, a mixed-use project in Abu Dhabi; and 175 Park Ave., a repositioning project in New Jersey.

Schmidt began by giving an overview of the building’s structure and the challenges that came along with this.
The main issue was the need to build on top of the subway station below. This potential setback was alleviated through early coordination with Extell Development and MTACC to fully integrate the structure onto its foundations.

A digital model of the Hudson Yards Subway Station.

Schmidt then explained the decision to use post-tensioned concrete slabs to first reduce structural loading, and the intelligent design that then allowed this reduced load to pass beneath the station and into the ground below.

Following on the theme of thoughtful design, Schmidt provided an overview of the facade modulation grid used to unify the rectangular tower and square podium segments. Once this design was finalized, areas of the building were then “popped” out to incorporate necessary requirements, such as mechanical ventilation and larger windows for potential retail units on the ground floor.

Another interesting design element of the project was the “J” building, an ancillary building that houses tunnel ventilation for the subway station. Schmidt explained how KPF chose to match the facade to further incorporate the project’s grid theme, yet shifted the grid to delineate items such as exhaust vents, entrances, and terraces, etc.

Schmidt explained how she strived to design an efficient floor plate for the building, including four banks of elevators. While the building’s design was oriented to specialize in law firm specialty layouts, it was also important to accommodate some flexibility for subsequent tenants. For example, built into the design is the option to cut out slabs to allow for double-story suites, as well as the ability to create terraces at high-rise levels.

Finally, guests were treated to a sneak preview of the interior lobby walls, which are comprised entirely of large panels of Jet Mist stone, sourced from a quarry in Virginia. Schmidt discussed how the natural seams of the stone were used in construction and how the 2.4- x 5-meter panels were allowed to weather before being shipped to New York City. With a nod to the future of the building, Schmidt finished with an update on the project status: 55 Hudson Yards recently topped out and is scheduled for completion in 2018, with 50 of 52 floors already contracted to tenants.

The façade modulation grid used to unify the rectangular tower and square podium segments.

The final speaker of the evening was Jeffrey Smilow, Executive Vice President and WSP USA Director of Building Structures. Jeffrey began his career with WSP in 1984, garnering over 38 years of experience in structural engineering before turning his talents to Hudson Yards.

Smilow opened his speech by providing further detail into how the structure’s load was able to bypass the subway station below, namely through the use of full-height partial outriggers on top of the concrete core, along with the previously mentioned post-tensioned concrete walls. Both the station platforms and the buildings were supported by two-meter caissons, each measuring 30.5 meters long. These caissons were drilled between the existing tracks, allowing the tower to extend from beneath the station and through the platform, before finally rising skyward.

A final highlight of Smilow’s talk was his discussion on how data was used to future-proof the building for any adjustments tenants may wish to make. Each of the tensioning cables was laser-surveyed as it was being embedded into the poured concrete slabs on each floor. This data was then incorporated into the Revit building model for as-built plans, providing what was essentially “x-ray” vision into the building. The concept was that whenever a modification is required (for example, opening up a space into a double story unit) the “x-ray” would be able to highlight exactly where – and more importantly where not – to cut the slab.

Lauren Schmidt, Director, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, and Project Manager for 55 Hudson Yards, presents. Jeffrey Smilow, Executive Vice President and WSP USA Director of Building Structures, discusses 55 Hudson Yards.
It was truly inspiring to hear how each of the restrictions imposed on the project was overcome by intelligent design and collaboration. A lively Q&A followed the presentations, before the evening concluded with further drinks and networking.

The CTBUH New York Chapter would like to extend its thanks to each of the prominent speakers, as well as to WSP for the use of its offices on this occasion.

Lionel Lake AAI Architects
Devon Telberg AAI Architects
Shimou Chen AI.
Alan Lee Archilier Architecture
Peter O'Loghlen Archilier Architecture
Kai Sheng Archilier Architecture
Ying Xu Architect
Yong-wook Jo Arup
Vaidas Razgaitis Arup
Alex Reddihough Arup
Michelle Roelofs Arup
Ryan Duval BIG NYC - Bjarke ingels Group
Armen Menendian BIG NYC - Bjarke ingels Group
Nicholas Potts BIG NYC - Bjarke ingels Group
Jennifer Wood BIG NYC - Bjarke ingels Group
Alberto Marquez BuroHappold
Robin McDonald Canelle - Infra. Risk Management
Zeynep Aysu Unal Cannon Design
Jennifer Pazdon CastConnex
Michal Mrowiec Dattner Architects
Adam Siegel Dattner Architects
Damian Reid Dmar.Remodeling,llc
Maggie Dusing Essential Light Design Studio
Nagi Alamri Fischer + Makooi Architects
Jim Bushong FXFOWLE
Sara Davis FXFOWLE
Hanxi Wang FXFOWLE
Ilkay Can-Standard GenX De-tech Consulting
Ted Gardner Gilbane
Lyubov Tsinis GKV Architects
Douglas Amarhanow Gsapp
Candice Ogando HOK
Simon Shim HOK
Enrico Tomassoli HOK
Irina Shalaeva IBI Group- GS Architects
Rohit Motwani Jacobs
Zack Royals Keller Williams
Kimberly Butler Kimberly Butler Photography
Wenxin Chen KPF
Jaclyn Jung KPF
Michael Kirschner KPF
Jill Lerner KPF
Lane Rapson KPF
Philip Sanzari KPF
Lauren Schmidt KPF
John Simons KPF
Ayman Tawfeeq KPF
Andrew Werner KPF
Larry Giannechini Lendlease
Lester Ali Lester Ali Photography
Ines Leong L-INES Studio
Adam Paiva Longman Lindsey
Richard Camacho Maars Living Walls
Christine Leach Mace North America
Benjamin Palagonia McNamara Salvia Structural Engineers
Bob Shafei MTA Capital Construction
Ekaterina Bordyugova Rafael Vinoly Architects
Arianna Friedman Rafael Vinoly Architects
Liz Geldres Rafael Vinoly Architects
Denis Ostrovskiy Rafael Vinoly Architects
Jason Tipold Silman
Andrew Wynnyk Skystone Group LLC
Michel Franck Spacesmith
Julia Libby Spacesmith
John Arfman TEC Systems Inc.
Barry Fagan TEC Systems Inc.
Dave Suskie TEC Systems Inc.
Hao Chen Thornton Tomasetti
Olga Pavlenko Thornton Tomasetti
Nickolaus Sundholm Thornton Tomasetti
Ana Bertuna Tishman Speyer
Alex Barnas Vidaris, Inc.
Valeria Bustos Vidaris, Inc.
Colleen Large Vidaris, Inc.
Mamata Malla Vidaris, Inc.
Alexander Mango Vidaris, Inc.
Michelle Maxwell Vidaris, Inc.
Emma Stanley Vidaris, Inc.
Engela Sthapit Vidaris, Inc.
Raghav Venatesh Vidaris, Inc.
Elaine Tai Violinist
Snezhka Chausheva Wexler Associates
David Brown Woods Bagot
Gerardo Aguilar WSP
Amzaray Ahmed WSP
Allen Berber WSP
Erdem Dogan WSP
Motaz Elfahal WSP
Angel Eng WSP
Joseph Fiorello WSP
Charle Guerrero WSP
John Hollyday WSP
Johan Leonard WSP
Hezi Mena WSP
Gustavo Oliveira WSP
Mehfram Pour-Manouchehri WSP
joseph provenza WSP
Luis Puna WSP
Cander Puri WSP
Louis Schurott WSP
Chris Shirley WSP
Craig Tracy WSP
Fatih Yalniz WSP
Ed Zhai WSP