A Greener Shade of Old Blue: Yale University Sculpture Building

Yale is out to out-green every other U.S. college and university, with a particular eye to outshining that institution of crimson hue to the northeast.
August 11, 2010

Although Yale University's bottom-line mandate to Building Teams is simply to achieve LEED certification for all new buildings, the true directive is to shoot for at least LEED Silver. Thus far, the Chemistry Research Building has hit the Silver mark, and Malone Center, at LEED Gold, has exceeded it. The Kroon Hall – School of Forestry & Environmental Studies building, currently under construction, should achieve LEED Platinum, and several other LEED-seeking projects are in the works on the New Haven, Conn., campus.

Add to that list the new 55,000-sf Sculpture Building, designed by KieranTimberlake Associates, Philadelphia, with BVH Integrated Services of Bloomington, Conn., as MEP engineer and the New York office of atelier ten as environmental designer. Completed in May 2007, the $52.6 million studio/classroom/craft shop/office building has earned LEED Platinum status and was recently named one of the American Institute of Architects' Top Ten Green Buildings of 2008.

The four-story structure, with an accompanying 3,000-sf standalone student exhibition gallery, 288-space parking garage, and 9,000 sf of retail/office space, has been lauded for its sustainable design, notably the use of a custom triple-glazed exterior curtain wall (with a Nanogel core), gray water and stormwater harvesting, a solar hot water system, and displacement air ventilation. (For more on the green aspects of the project, see Senior Editor Jay Schneider's November 2007 article, “A Not So Simple Building”: http://www.BDCnetwork.com/article/CA6501490.html.)

Currently, the Sculpture Building is serving as the temporary home of the School of Architecture, while the Rudolph Building—Paul Rudolph's 1963 Art & Architecture Building—gets a belated and merciful do-over from New York's Gwathmey Siegel + Associates Architects.

While the Sculpture Building justifiably has been lauded for its greenness, there's more to the story. The contractor, Boston's Shawmut Design & Construction, faced project-delivery requirements that the university itself deemed “impossible goals” that had never before been achieved at Yale. These included a cost-plus contract fee that required Shawmut to document and report every purchase, or risk not getting paid for it. Yale also demanded a quantifiable risk analysis on every component of the buildings, down to the most minute detail. Add to these fast-track preconstruction with various early-release packages, schedule compression, and multiple turnovers, plus a tight 18-month construction schedule to get the architecture students into the building on time.

Yale also established a steering committee of stakeholders—including faculty members, provosts, university board members, and donors—to advise the Building Team. According to the contractor, the committee was able to overcome the vested interests of its individual members and served as a means for resolving a number of cost and scope problems. “Unexpected changes” from the temporary tenants from the School of Architecture resulted in $2 million of added costs to the building's infrastructure and interim access requirements. Nonetheless, the Shawmut-led Building Team was able to implement these changes within the budget and schedule constraints.

Thoughtful consideration also was given to the new complex's relationship to the surrounding New Haven community. To solidify town-gown relations, the Building Team sited the garage and retail space along busy Howe Street and brought the academic core inside the block. But they made sure to keep the entire site open and accessible from all four surrounding blocks, making the buildings (and a future landscaped area for sculptural exhibits) available to the entire community.