During Sandy, apartments at Redfern Houses – a nine-building, 604-unit housing development in Far Rockaway – were flooded and without power and heat for weeks. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), as part of its Recovery and Resiliency Department is completing upgrades to infrastructure and building a new community center and daycare facility to replace the one severely damaged. Five electrical power service buildings, boiler plant and a two-story, 14,295 sf community center are under construction. The latter includes the daycare center, offices, and storage on the ground floor and community space on the second floor.
The new electric service buildings are elevated above the NYC Code prescribed Design Flood Elevation to prevent future power loss from flood conditions. In addition, these structures house gas-driven stand-by emergency generators to provide full power capacity for the entire residential complex. A new boiler plant, also elevated above flood level, is being constructed on top of an existing coal bunker to replace the current boiler room which was below grade and completely flooded.
MDSzerbaty Associates Architecture (MDSA) has been involved in five Sandy Resiliency Projects for NYCHA. “Tasked with developing resilient methods for each site, funded by FEMA grant dollars, has been challenging. Working with the updated FEMA Guidelines MDSA is relocating the electric service and other utilities into new structures at the Far Rockaway site”, describes Michael D. Szerbaty, AIA, Principal, MDSzerbaty Associates Architecture.
“Redfern Houses were inundated with water during the storm. We needed to raise up the critical infrastructure and buildings, including the community and child care center to meet the 500 year flood elevation,” explains Szerbaty.
Hardened Building Envelope
“MDSA has used precast concrete for decades and we turned to it for these structures since a hardened envelope was desirable,” continues Szerbaty. “For these types of structures – a precast concrete building was simple and appropriate. It also minimized the number of trades on site.”
The insulated architectural panels provide a finished appearance as well as durable interior. The community/childcare center features a distinctive facade with insulated precast concrete panels and hurricane resistant glazing.
The precast solution has enabled rebuilding the NYSHA critical systems in a rapid, yet cost effective manner,” says Aldo Rodhani, Project Manager, Coreslab Structures (CONN). “In addition to expedited construction time, selecting total precast makes project coordination easier and reduces the risk of errors during construction,” he adds.
The boiler plant and electric service buildings were enclosed in just a matter of days, allowing construction to progress. Precast panels have been proven to be economically viable and we don’t have to worry about waterproofing, installing insulation in the field, vapor barriers and flashing – it is all in the insulated precast panel. It is as simple as you can get,” explains Szerbaty.
The light sandblast on the child care center is offset by reveals and rustications in the large precast walls to break up the scale and create shadow lines. “You use a precast insulated wall panel and many basic technical problems are solved without a lot of concern”, explains Szerbaty. In addition, while the revised NYC energy codes are becoming more stringent, precast insulated panels help meet or exceed those goals. “With insulated precast wall panels, we don’t have to worry,” says Szerbaty. “We now have a fully protected, elevated building that will serve as shelter should a similar weather event occur”.
Precast is often a logistical challenge in the NYC metro area due to narrow and crowded streets.
These projects in the outer boroughs were able to accommodate the crane and delivery of the precast pieces.
Whether above or below grade, precast concrete demonstrates that it can be part of the Stronger Buildings initiative. These and other changes ensure New York will make people, property and infrastructure more resilient to increasing hazards and vulnerabilities in the future.