Sims Sunset Park Materials Recovery Facility

Nucor Building Systems

Before construction broke ground at the Sims Sunset Park Materials Recovery Facility, the project was recognized with an Excellence in Design award from the Public Commission of Design of the City of New York. Since then, the public-private collaboration between Sims Metal Management and the City of New York has been making headlines and physical progress at an amazing rate.

Tasked with processing Department of Sanitation waste from the city’s five boroughs, the new facility was commissioned as a part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2030 PlaNYC goal to improve air quality, reduce traffic and divert 75 percent of the city’s solid waste from landfills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By centralizing the location for off-site recycling of metal, glass and plastic recyclables, the city will minimize the amount of trucking and waste trafficking by more than 260,000 miles a year.

Sims Metal Management Municipal Recycling (SMR) is a division of Sims Metal Management (SMM), the world's largest recycling company, one of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World (as named by Corporate Knights) and the long-term recycling partner of the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY). From the early concept stages with award-winning, Manhattan-based Selldorf Architects, the design and functionality of this project have been intimately connected, resulting in plans that include four large structures for recycling operations that total 125,000 square feet. A range of products and materials, including pre-engineered framing systems from Nucor Building Systems (NBS), a Nucor Company, are being used to create each part of the facility.

Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Nucor Corporation is North America’s largest recycler and a top steel producer with a production capacity that exceeds 26 million tons. Nucor Building Systems, a Nucor company, is a leading manufacturer of metal building systems including the industrial, warehouse and agricultural markets. Using the Nucor Builder network and resources, NBS has one of the largest design-build contractor databases in the country. As a large-scale recycler and member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), Nucor’s products as well as their corporate philosophy were in line with the Sims Materials Recovery Facility’s overall goals of sustainable construction.

From the beginning, Sims and the City of New York intent was to build a state-of-the-art facility that also incorporates a range of innovative sustainable features and large-scale environmental elements into the design and construction.

Building Relationships

To help create a comprehensive design and navigate the city’s complex approval process, Sims and Selldorf Architects began working with Nucor Building Systems long before the facility’s groundbreaking on October 25, 2010. Because the proposed Sunset Park Materials Recovery Facility would not only be used to provide a service to the City, but also be constructed on City-owned property, several local agencies were involved in reviewing the design including the Department of Sanitation, the Economic Development Corporation and the Public Design Commission.

“Initially we were contacted to design the Administration and Visitor Center but once we saw the overall plan we suggested a more comprehensive look at the total project, “ said Annabelle Selldorf, principal of Selldorf Architects. “We then began with a master plan for the 11-acre site, understanding how the buildings function with one another and then placing the buildings on the site with an overall circulation scheme for the various needs: truck, car, bus, bicycle and pedestrian traffic for goods and services, staff, visitors and school groups. We also attempted to leave as much green space on the site as possible.”

“Once that was accomplished we turned to the individual buildings and to a large extent the functional requirements – Tipping, Bale and Storage - pretty much determined the overall size and disposition of the buildings. We then looked at the available Nucor material for finishes and thought of ways to distinguish and give some character to each building,” continued Selldorf. “Not only did Nucor start with a competitive bid in this project, they were the only manufacturer that was truly open to discussion and responsive to our design goals. We had several initial calls with their engineers who were incredibly helpful to us in being able to fine tune our design.”

Thomas Outerbridge, General Manager, Sims Municipal Recycling, serves as the head of operations for the project as well as other existing facilities and operations in the New York City area. He says that Sims' strong relationship with NBS was one of the many reasons for using the company's products on the new recycling project.

"I have known about Nucor since I was very young and my grandfather saw it as a great new development in the domestic steel industry," said Outerbridge. "SMM has historically been-and still is-a significant supplier of recycled steel scrap commodities to Nucor. This relationship, and the fact that they share the same commitment to the use of recycled materials, made it an easy decision to look at NBS products for this project which is about recycling at every level."

According to Outerbridge, the key objectives of the design were to have a facility that serves its operational requirements; stands up well over time in a challenging elemental environment; and to create a beautiful structure within the specifications of the pre-engineered building and traditional metal building materials.

“This partnership, between NBS, Sims and West Rac, wasn’t just about the budget and design,” said Gary Krupnick, President of Hauppage, New York-based West Rac Contracting Corporation, general contractors on the project. “On a project of this scale, where the city is involved and there are constant issues of budget constraints and fast-track continuity, we needed a team that was responsible and professional. Tom Outerbridge and the folks at Sims put together a great team. As the project progresses, one of the most rewarding aspects has been working with this creative, team-oriented, open-minded group.”

Nucor At The Core

One of the major long-term and large-scale sustainable attributes is the use of the Nucor steel. As the largest recycler of scrap steel in North America, Nucor is focused on sustainable practices, and specifically on high-volume recycling of steel and other by-products of their production process. This enables the company’s products to be made from more than 80 percent recycled content that all comes from US steel. This commitment to being “Made in America,” is another branch of the company’s sustainable commitments: less transportation waste, and an investment in the domestic economy.

Upon completion, the 11 acre facility will include four main structures: a Tipping Building, where recyclables arrive by barge; a Processing Building; a Bale Storage Building; and a Visitor Center and Administration Building, developed for the public and viewing of the recycling process. The Tipping, Processing and Bale Storage structures will be constructed using 100 percent Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings (PEMB) from Nucor Building Systems.

“It was a very positive experience collaborating with the NBS engineers, they worked with us to create a PEMB Systems that would maximize the benefits of the NBS products and our architectural strengths, to achieve our design goals within the capabilities of the NBS system,” said Marc Pittsley, Project Manager with Selldorf Architects.

As one of the largest Nucor dealers in the country, West Rac Contracting not only had lots of experience working with the product, but also was familiar with projects where the pre-engineered core building had to facilitate both the physical and cosmetic needs of the facility. “The owners hired one of the most creative Architectural firms around to create something out-of-the-box, while still staying within the functional parameters,” said Krupnick. “Our erection crews are experienced with Nucor products, and this facility is a great example of the flexibility of these kinds of building systems.”

One design challenge posed to the team was finding ways to distinguish this facility’s design from the typical big box construction, which more commonly utilizes pre-engineered buildings. Nucor Building Systems is known for having product finishes that weather well and are understatedly attractive; Selldorf, known for their modern designs and innovative use of materials, based much of their design on the physical characteristics and finish of the NBS products. In the large Tipping building they turned the building inside out, exposing the structure and cross bars in a way that is not normally seen on the exterior of industrial facilities, but would point to the functionality of the structure and create a striking visual effect.

One of the many benefits of using PEMBs was quicker construction and the ability to allow the buildings to have no interior support columns – a decision made based on aesthetics as well as necessity as the machines that will be used in many parts of the facility require wide space. While the framing and secondary components and NBS sheeting that were used are common to every similar design, special conditions were also developed to accommodate the clear span system over the waterfront as a way to allow open air condition for incoming barges loading and unloading material.

Nucor Building Systems’ “Made in America” credentials as well as the flexibility and dedication of their national sales and planning teams were also attractive to the client. The NBS National Accounts team went to great lengths to develop a strategic plan for this facility based on the project’s individual solutions and budget, and continues to make efforts throughout the dynamic construction process to coordinate as things change and develop.

Many of the Nucor Building Systems products used on the facility are non-stock sizes and have been special ordered to fit the design needs. The facility design modified cost-effective pre-engineered structural elements to accommodate each step of the recycling process, most notably employing an exposed main frame structure that extends as a canopy over the barge dock. The tipping building has a fully exposed main frame structure made from galvanized steel to withstand the elements and the adjacent processing and bale storage buildings are clad in corrugated metal, which also wraps around the tipping building at the upper level. The administration and visitor center buildings floor plans were carefully designed to allow for structured office and exhibition space, while also using design elements to lead visitors to the Tipping building, where they will be able to observe recycling activity.

“We view this as not just another recycling facility, but as a showcase for the recycling process and for Sims and Nucor Building Systems,” said Outerbridge. “This being New York City, with a waterfront location in Brooklyn, and the ever-growing public emphasis on sustainability, it’s important to us that we create something all New Yorkers can be proud of.”

The facility’s location on the working waterfront in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park enables materials to be delivered via barge, rail and truck. Though the lot on the Gowanus Bay, with three sides bound by water, is ideal for a facility with such high-traffic needs, the location also created some challenges as a building site, including subsoil conditions for the foundation. The building’s engineering and design team worked with West Rac to perform a significant amount of site preparation including deep dynamic compaction and static loading. The site is now a 65-foot solid-fill pier comprised of urban fill.

“The location of the project and architectural features required every subcontractor to incorporate creative solutions,” said Burt Shell, Director of Business Development and National Accounts for Nucor Building Systems. “Those ideas were important to critical scheduling dates for site work, equipment deliveries and the erection sequence of the pre-engineered structures.”

Although this was the first infrastructure project for the Selldorf team, and the first project of this large a scale, their experience working with Sims and with Nucor has been mutually beneficial. “We have learned a tremendous amount about pre-engineered buildings and recycling in general from this project,” said Selldorf. “The project deploys a large number of sustainable features from solar panels to a wind turbine to recycled paving materials. I hope when it is complete that it will demonstrate to the public the possibilities of design thinking on other large infrastructure buildings.”

The NBS portion of the project is slated for completion in late 2012. After the structural construction is complete, Sims will continue working on machine installation and readying the site to be in full capacity use by Spring of 2013.

“In today’s competitive global environment, companies must earn each job every day,” said Shell. “For this project, we had the right scope, the best products and the best team, so our core commitments to the environment and the community were the icing on the cake.”

The second, third and fourth photos are courtesy of Tom Outerbridge.

About Nucor Building Systems

Nucor_Building_Systems_logoNucor Building Systems, a division of Nucor Corporation, has been a leader in the design and manufacture of custom-engineered metal building systems for more than two and a half decades. With four full-service plants strategically located throughout the country in Waterloo, IN; Swansea, SC; Terrell, TX; and Brigham City, UT; Nucor Building Systems has an Authorized Builder network of more than 1,100 of the best design-build contractors in the US and Canada. For more information about Nucor Building Systems, visit


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