AJ Celebrezze Federal Building to be Re-Clad Using Double-Skin Technology

The AJ Celebrezze Federal Building in Cleveland, built in the mid-1960s, is undergoing a transformation that includes a double-skin technology designed to create a more energy-efficient structure. Interactive Design Inc. (IDEA), led by partner Charles Young, was chosen as the project architect. IDEA’s design plans will utilize a glass double-wall technology it says has never before been used on a high-rise in the United States, though common in Europe. The technology is designed to upgrade the perimeter structure to improve the costs of operating the building and minimize temperature variances throughout the edifice utilizing advanced systems available for cladding. The project is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“In the planning phase, it became obvious to us that the design needed to utilize solar orientation to drive the architectural concept, as seven months out of the year Cleveland experiences relatively cool to cold temperatures,” says Young. “We determined that the Celebrezze building was an ideal candidate for double-wall technology, a sustainable green and advanced technology system, which utilizes double glass panes to insulate the building and maintain visual purity.”

According to architects, in the proposed scheme, a new external curtainwall is placed approximately 2 ½ feet beyond the face of the original building skin. In this way, the existing façades can be retained and used as the internal portion of the double wall resulting in a thermal blanket similar in concept to a thermos bottle. This approach helps ensure minimal disruption to the existing tenants in the building by utilizing the existing façade to serve as a protective barrier between the façade construction process and building employee.

In designing the structure the IDEA team looked at how the building responded to the sun’s light. Downtown Cleveland is planned on a grid, similar to other major cities, such as Chicago, and in both cities the grid runs parallel and perpendicular to the lakefront. While the Chicago lakeshore runs more or less south to north, the Cleveland lakeshore runs southwest to northeast roughly 35 degrees off latitude. As a result, the building receives sun exposure on all four facades throughout the year.

In response to this solar orientation, the design addresses north and south facing facades differently. The east and north facades receive mostly oblique angled light in early morning and late afternoon. The facades for these two sides are transparent with perpendicular interior fritted glass fins that filter and modulate this oblique light. Glass edges are detailed to float over the existing building to highlight the new high-performance skin and the original façade structural frame.

The south and western facades receive direct midday solar exposure. These façades have been developed with a double-wall construction to provide an insulating envelope in winter months and to reduce heat within a barrier zone in summer months. Horizontal light shades are utilized within the cavity to reduce direct sunlight on the interior tenant space. Glass is treated with a graduated frit pattern from almost opaque to clear from top to bottom to further reduce direct glare and heat loads on the building systems and improve tenant comfort.

“We are excited by the design challenges presented by the façade re-cladding of the Celebrezze building,” adds Young. “The deterioration of this building is endemic to that of many facades built during this era in the United States. Our design concept addresses the use of a sustainable technology to both repair an aging exterior skin and upgrade a thermal enclosure to significantly reduce an older building’s energy consumption–while at the same time permitting the construction process in a fully occupied building. We believe that double curtainwall technology will become more common as the building and construction codes require more sustainable green technology systems to combat rising energy costs. Not only do the new glass facades enhance the building’s energy performance, but they manifest visually as a graceful and elegant overlay respecting the original design and allowing the original composition to show through.”