Steel industry recognizes architect, engineers and contractors for SUNY New Paltz Atrium with national award

NEW PALTZ – The Atrium at The State University of New York at New Paltz, has earned national recognition in the 2012 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). In honor of this achievement, members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony at the Atrium in the Multipurpose Room prefunction space at noon on Friday, Oct. 26. Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievement in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects across the country. The IDEAS2 award is the highest, most prestigious honor bestowed on building projects by the structural steel industry in the U.S.

The media are invited to attend this event.

According to Vice President for Student Affairs L. David Rooney, “Not only has the form of the Student Union changed, but so, too, has the function of the building. The Atrium has provided a venue for casual social interaction, recreation, commuter space, and small group study that our existing Student Union Building was unable to do. The opening of the Atrium immediately facilitated those positive changes.”

“Inspired by the nearby Shawangunk Ridge, the Atrium symbolizes our Hudson Valley location and our creative, forward-looking learning environment,” said SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian. “The new energy that the Atrium brings to the campus is apparent in the spirited way that our students, faculty and staff, and visitors use this space. We are excited that architectural and engineering professionals have recognized the innovative design and use of materials that are at the heart of such a special addition to our campus.”

The Atrium has added approximately 15,000 square feet of new space and 12,000 square feet of renovated space to provide students with new places to gather, hold events and meetings. The building features new dining venues, an enhanced bookstore, student lounge areas, a game lounge, conference and meeting rooms and an elevated seating area designed for student collaboration.

The addition was made possible by State Sen. John Bonacic and State Assembly Member Kevin Cahill (’77), who recognized the need to upgrade the Student Union building and secured a $10 million supplemental state appropriation for New Paltz.

Christian will open the ceremony. Following that, AISC’s Industry Marketing Manager Larry Flynn will present awards to the project team. Refreshments will be served courtesy of the Office of Student Affairs.

The project team members include:

  • owner/developer The State University of New York at New Paltz
  • architect ikon.5 architects, Princeton, N.J.
  • structural engineer Robert Silman Associates, New York
  • mechanical engineer Altieri Sebor Wieber, LLC, Norwalk
  • general contractor Niram Construction, Booton, N.J.
  • steel fabricator Erection and Welding Contractors LLC, New Milford, Conn. (AISC Member/AISC Certified Fabricator)

The Atrium at SUNY New Paltz is a National award winner in the category of projects Less than $15 Million, making it one of only five projects around the country to receive the National honor.

Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel from both an architectural and structural engineering perspective, with an emphasis on: creative solutions to project requirements; design innovation; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of the steel; the use of innovative design and construction methods; and sustainable design and construction.

SUNY New Paltz has taken a new approach to the concept of a university student commons or gathering area. The Atrium on campus is a three-level steel and glass “winter garden” addition to a 1970s student union building. Taking its inspiration from the forms of the nearby Shawangunk Ridge, it spans over and fills in a previously underutilized plaza courtyard.

“The potential of steel design is apparent in the free formed and unique geometry of the building,” commented Asma Momin, P.E., a structural engineer with PageSoutherlandPage in Dallas,Texas, and a judge in the competition.

Working within a strict budget of a publicly funded project, the design used repeated structural sections types in the steelwork, which served to simplify fabrication. In addition, varying the HSS wall thickness reduced the overall steel tonnage, making it cost-effective without sacrificing aesthetics. With the expressed steel grid, a very economical glazing system could be employed and easily installed due to the relative frequency of local structural support.

The expressive new addition improves the experience of entering the university while tying the campus back to its surrounding, distinctive landscape. Set upon the existing concrete plinth, the new structure draws an intense but elegant contrast between the old and new construction.

A sustainable, high-performance building, the Atrium has been designed to reduce energy consumption and provide a healthy, light-filled interior environment for the campus community. The ceramic-fritted glass enclosure permits transparency while controlling solar gain, and low- or zero-impact mechanical and electrical support systems are included throughout. The Atrium employs daylight harvesting and views, radiant heating and cooling, use of recyclable materials and photo-optic lighting controls.

The 10 IDEAS2 winners for 2012 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received from architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 award dates back more than 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E., president of AISC, said, “The entire Campus Commons at SUNY New Paltz project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a commons area that serves the campus community extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

Steel Factors about Atrium Project

    • In order to span over and enclose the courtyard with a column-free space that will also allow for future flexibility, the project team designed a structural tube “stress skin” system for the addition that recreates the angular forms of Shawangunk Ridge, an internationally known rock palisade in the nearby Catskill Mountains. Uniform 4-in.-sq. HSS sections were fabricated in large planar sections in the shop, and then erected on-site before being spray-coated with intumescent paint to meet the required fire rating. The erection of the entire steel enclosure was completed in less than two weeks.


  • To resist the dead load and wind uplift on the roof, a 1-in.-diameter stainless steel cable and 2-in. down rods were used to transform the stress skin on the horizontal roof plane into a series of trusses and hold-downs. Ceramic fritted glass, patterned with an abstracted digitized version of the tectonic plates of the Shawangunk Ridge, was placed on top of the stress skin to create the enclosure.



  • The distinctive geometry of the steel and glass enclosure demanded creative use of structural analysis and design software, as well as sequential prefabrication of portions of the steel assembly. Ikon.5 architects, Robert Silman Associates and Altieri Sebor Wieber worked intensely and collaboratively in integrating the architectural, structural and infrastructure systems, as all of these systems are exposed and therefore part of the visitor’s experience.



  • Structurally, the Atrium is composed of six main surfaces (eight including the small beveled corners), with an exposed superstructure of tubes and cables that form a column-free net on which glass panes are placed. Welded HSS members, 4 in. by 4 in., provide the majority of the structure. Because of snow load, the HSS on the upper and lower roofs is supplemented with steel bars and cables to form out-of-plane trusses, where the HSS acts as the top chord. The HSS on the roofs is supplemented by hold-down cables anchored down to panel points on the sidewalls to address wind uplift.



  • The “ridge” surface is formed geometrically as the step in elevation between the low roof and the high roof, and the 100-ft spanning “truss” formed by the HSS in this plane was increased to 14-in. by 4-in. members for the top and bottom chords. Field connections to assemble the atrium surfaces onsite were generally performed by welding at exposed locations and bolting at hidden locations.



  • The steel of the Atrium is supported on more conventional structure at the new occupied floor level: steel framing with concrete slab on deck with lateral resistance provided by moment frames and braced frames. A partial floor mezzanine also floats within the space, supported partly by columns and partly by rod hangers up to the ridge truss. The new structure is founded on mini-caissons down to rock, with concrete caps and grade beams supporting the basement slab. It is seismically separated from the existing plaza and building complex.


About the American Institute of Steel Construction

The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information.