The American Society of Civil Engineers highlights the innovative techniques and inspirations behind the new 180,000 square foot, cantilevered student union at Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Birds In Flight—Students At The Center
Designed by ikon.5 architects and engineered by Thornton Tomasetti, the form of the student union was inspired by birds in flight. The metaphor is especially fitting, given that Embry-Riddle is an Aeronautical University whose next door neighbor is the Daytona International Airport. Containing a library, amphitheater, cafeteria, food vendors, student government offices, meeting spaces, common areas and administrative space, the Mori Hosseni Student Union is named after an alum—who is also a donor and the chair of the university’s board of trustees.
Behind the scenes insights on design and construction have been reported by the American Society of Civil Engineers:
The structure of the $70 million, four-story building features a soaring, curving design with multiple cantilevers. These include the supports called wing beams that help create a roof overhang with cantilevers up to 25 ft and a spine girder that runs the full length of the building footprint, cantilevering approximately 50 ft.
Cantilevers seemed a natural extension of the avian theme, says Chris Christoforou, P.E., LEED AP BD+C, a principal in the Newark, New Jersey, office of Thornton Tomasetti. In fact, cantilevers were “the first thing that came to mind” for Christoforou once he knew the building design represented a bird because to him, the basic shape of a bird features a series of cantilevers. “The beak of a bird is a cantilever, the tail is a cantilever, the wings are cantilevers,” he explains. And once he determined that there would be multiple cantilevers in the design, it was clear to him that the ideal material with which to build this birdlike building was steel.
“Nothing can get you the depth-to-span ratio that steel will,” Christoforou says, adding that steel was also much easier to work with than concrete because it would not need shoring or formwork.
Strong Partnerships Support Ambitious Goals
Shaping and bending steel can get complicated! The success of the Aeronautical University’s student union building relied heavily on the engineers and architects partnering closely to “develop very creative details to generate smooth surfaces for the roof structure, without relying on breaks, segments, or facets….”
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