Jacob K. Javits Center Expansion & Renovation

Ceco Building Systems

Combine virtually every construction and logistics challenge  – the renovation of an existing building, expanding that building, plus tunnels, traffic, the responsibility of keeping a booming business in continuous operation, and place it right in Manhattan – and you have the Jacob K. Javits Center expansion and renovation project.

One of the nation’s premier convention facilities, the Javits Center is located at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, on the west side of Manhattan. Completed in 1986, the Javits Center has hosted thousands of trade shows, conferences and special events, including many of the top 200 tradeshows. The Center's 760,000 square feet of exhibition space can be divided into nine self-contained halls, enabling accommodation of trade shows and conventions of all sizes. Average attendance is 3.5 million a year.

However, the facility hadn’t been expanded or renovated in 25 years, and it was in dire need of more space. Aiding in that revitalization were custom-designed metal building systems from Ceco Building Systems.

According to Kevin Taylor, project manager for Construction Manager Tishman Construction Corporation of New York, a contractor with an international reputation, the enormous convention center had to be fully renovated and expanded while remaining open and completely operational. To do that, Javits Center North and its connector were constructed and sequenced to be completed prior to the renovation to supply show space that will be taken out of service during the renovation in nine phases.

To fulfill the needed expansion, a new building was designed and constructed: Javits Center North, a 98,000-square-foot structure with 160-foot clear span for shows, and The Link, a 260-foot-long connector of the main Javits Center to the new Javits North building. The renovation of the main Javits Center is still ongoing and includes façade and roof replacement, the replacement of rooftop mechanical units and the repair, replacement and upgrade of several building systems and interior components.

Site Preparation

Javits Center North covers almost an entire New York City block and is situated outboard of the original Hudson River shoreline. As a result, the subsurface conditions were rather poor, consisting of variable fill (placed in the 1700s and 1800s) and river sediment, according to Marc Gallagher, an engineer with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc., which provided geotechnical, civil and environmental engineering along with survey services for the expansion project. “A large building would typically be placed on expensive pile foundations to limit long-term settlement,” he explained. “However, because the fill has been in place for a significant time and the building is quite tolerant of some settlement by its nature - a temporary long span steel building - the concern about long-term settlement was somewhat mitigated. Also, the owner understood the issue and accepted placing the building on large spread footings, and the potential settlement, thereby eliminating piles and saving substantial costs.”

The site/civil design included new storm water detention systems inside, under the floor slab, and outside the building. It entailed new electric vaults, new streetscaping, and a new plaza with retaining walls. The proximity of the plaza and building to the existing Lincoln Tunnel, which was only several feet below West 39th Street at its shallowest, made the design of utilities and the structural system a challenge, and mandated close coordination of design and construction work with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The Expansion And Renovation

The Ceco portion of the Javits Center North expansion was a design-build project requiring a considerable amount of homework by project members before the start-up. The project team was led by the Convention Center Development Corporation, a New York State agency, Tishman Construction, serving as the Construction Manager, Architectural Team Javits II Architecture (a joint venture between FXFowle Architects and A. Epstein & Sons International, New York, NY), and Racanelli Construction (Melville, NY), a leading general contractor, construction manager and design-build firm, serving as the prime sub-contractor for the custom-designed building and other key components. In addition there were separate mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural concrete and architectural finish contracts.

A Ceco Building Systems authorized builder, Racanelli enlisted the design assistance of Ceco’s Eastern service center. “This project perfectly fits our design and manufacturing capability,” said Ceco President Roger Burlingame. “Our specialty is custom-designed integrated steel structures, and the Javits project was just the type of challenge in which we excel.”

According to Racanelli Construction Marketing Director Carmine Martuscello, in order to ensure that every detail of the project was addressed, he and Ceco Building Systems representatives flew to Indianapolis to view the manufacturing of the particular red wall panels ordered for Javits Center North.   

Notwithstanding extensive preparation, the expansion entailed a huge amount of work since it was a fast-track job. Racanelli Construction’s role was to implement this approach. The complexity of the project demanded the expansion be done quickly so that it was complete in time to support the renovation schedule for the main Javits Center.

Some team members had to be acclimated to the custom-designed building world. “While understanding the building type, we weren’t particularly familiar with Ceco's specific building systems,” commented Larry Dalziel, architect and project manager with Javits II Architecture. Tishman project manager Kevin Taylor agreed. “There was a learning curve – there was a lot of special attention paid to scheduling.”

The speed of the project and the unfamiliarity with custom metal buildings weren’t the only challenges, however. Adhering to stringent building codes maintained by the City of New York was understandably challenging. Add to that the fact that part of the Link was built above the Lincoln Tunnel, which brought an entire set of logistics to work out, including a mere five-foot clearance because of the tunnel below. Weather wasn’t always cooperative, either. The expansion project began in March of 2009 and was completed in July 2010. During this time New York City endured the worst snow in the area in 50 years, and in March, the most rain in 50 years. The substantial grade change, approximately an 11-foot drop over the 675-foot length of the lot, also proved challenging.

Each project member had his own set of challenges. David Ennis of EPoc Partnership, the firm that designed the building as Associate Architects of Javits II Architects, mentioned budget constraints and the aggressive schedule that had to be adhered to as well as the requirement of water tightness.

“The main Javits Center roof has always leaked,” Ennis added. “Part of the renovation was to replace the roof, and the new building had to be more closely analyzed for water tightness.” Also, Javits North is 260 feet from the main Javits Center and is 160-feet, column free in width, with a minimum clear height of 25 feet, and about 500 feet long. Finally, the Link needed to allow 45-foot wide by 20-foot high clear access over an existing City sewer main.

As if these circumstances were not enough of an undertaking, adjacent to the renovation site churned another project: the City of New York was in the midst of extending its MTA subway line #7 and building an additional station near West 34th Street.

Regarding the renovation portion of the project, “it was the perfect storm,” commented Jeff Smithline, director of Transportation Engineering and project manager with Sam Schwartz Engineering. Part of the scope of the MTA's subway extension is to rebuild the elevated portion of 11th Avenue directly in front of the Javits Center. “With the reduced footprint caused by the simultaneous Javits renovation and subway construction, my job was to develop a plan to keep the Javits Center operational for events and conferences. Accommodating the buses, shuttles, taxis, pedestrians and personal vehicles generated by the events became a challenging task.”

We had to figure out how the Center could still function and operate at full capacity while all this work was going on,” Smithline added. “The Javits Center had to continue to provide good service to their customers and visitors, and we worked closely with city engineers, the bus companies and with Javits operations and security personnel.”

Tishman’s project manager Kevin Taylor said that delivery logistics played a big role in the expansion portion of the project. A unique challenge involved pouring the large concrete floor of the new building. Each day during this phase as many as 50 to 75 concrete trucks had to be strategically brought into the construction area. These deliveries had to be scheduled around Javits events. “We needed to be very careful of our scheduling of deliveries, so we worked closely with operations people and their ‘move-in’ and ‘move-out’ dates for shows.”

Ceco’s custom-designed building systems allowed the Javits Center expansion to proceed smoothly and on budget. According to Dalziel, the combination of cost and aesthetics associated with a metal building permitted the use of the necessary clear span, column-free space, repeated from bay to bay.

"One of the biggest challenges was the fact that there was an incredible amount of site conditions and site constraints and programmatic requirements for which a custom-designed metal building is perfectly suited to handle,” added Ennis.

Ceco materials used in constructing Javits Center North and “The Link” connector included DoubleLok 24-gauge Galvalume standing-seam roof panels; insulated panels (R13 wall and R30 roof); and unpainted PBR 24-gauge Galvalume wall panels. The Link also sported 26-gauge interior liner wall panels in Custom Red with a Kynar finish. The Link included the installation of three massive 45’ wide by 20' tall glass sliding doors, the largest in Manhattan.

Kevin Taylor commented on the speed of the expansion building. “Looking back, custom-designed construction goes faster than conventional steel. We just had to adjust our planning accordingly. Everyone is very, very happy with it. It’s a unique building, and Racanelli Construction did an excellent job. We look forward to working with them again. Ceco also was very good – very responsive.”

“It was a pleasure working with Tishman Construction,” commented Martuscello. “It was our first experience with them, and we enjoyed it. It was also great working with the architectural team.”

“Overall, the (expansion portion of the) project turned out quite nice,” commented Dalziel. “The team worked very well together.”

The renovation portion of the project is ongoing with a scheduled completion date in 2013.

About Tishman Construction

Tishman Construction is a construction management firm headquartered in New York City with operating units in Newark, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Abu Dhabi. Tishman provides a wide range of construction and construction-related services for projects of varying scope, budget, schedule and complexity. Tishman Construction’s services include Construction Manager as Agent; Construction Manager at Risk; and Owner’s Representative. Some of Tishman’s current projects include One World Trade Center in New York City for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Headquarters - Phase 1 in Washington, DC; and the Philadelphia Convention Center Expansion.

About Racanelli Construction

Since its founding over six decades ago, Racanelli Construction in Long Island, New York, has been responsible for new construction and renovation across a broad range of market segments, completing projects that include corporate headquarters, industrial complexes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, university and college facilities, retail stores, hotels, restaurants, houses of worship, self storage complexes, condominiums and townhouses. With years of industry-specific expertise, extensive resources and a reputation for integrity, Racanelli is recognized as one of the region’s leading providers of preconstruction planning, project management, design/build, and general contracting services.

About Ceco Building Systems

Ceco Building Systems designs and fabricates metal buildings. For more information, visit www.cecobuildings.com.

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