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312 College Avenue Apartments
Ithaca, NY

Located in the collegetown neighborhood of Ithaca, New York, this building presented a number of design challenges. There is a 40-foot grade differential between the front and rear of the site, narrow street frontage, and virtually no setback from the lot lines. Local laws restrict the maximum allowable building height. The owner wanted an elegant, technologically advanced building to take advantage of the high-end of the housing market. The construction schedule was extremely aggressive, with much of the building being constructed during the cold northern winter. We responded by designing a building whose masonry exterior skin is load-bearing and is functional, economical, and aesthetically satisfying. The building contains six floors of apartment spaces—one more than a framed system could have accommodated within the legal height limits—as well as one floor of mechanical spaces above ground and two below-ground levels of parking. Interior and exterior load-bearing walls use reinforced concrete masonry units, with floors constructed of 10-inch, untopped, precast concrete planks.

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Located just inches from the property line, the wall system had to be thin to maximize interior space but also have suitable thermal properties for the northern climate and be aesthetically pleasing. Single-wythe construction allowed the walls to be built overhand off the plank, eliminating the need for scaffolding on the tight site. The walls are detailed to provide sufficient insulation and drainage. Savings in both thickness and money was achieved by eliminating veneer and exposing the exterior load-bearing masonry walls. These walls made use of various architectural finishes and colors. At each floor level, there is a 10-inch by 26-inch masonry band constructed of channel units, reinforced and grouted to form masonry beams and the bearing for the floor planks, with a precast concrete unit at the planks. Masonry openings as large as 10 feet were accommodated through the use of masonry beams and masonry lintels throughout the exterior walls.