Glulam Timbers Support LEED-Certified Observatory

Edited by Matthew Phair | September 28, 2010

The New Jersey Meadowlands, which are famous as a sports and entertainment center with NFL football, horse racing and other events, has completed a new Center for Environmental and Scientific Education for K through 12, undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education. A key component of the center is the William D. McDowell Observatory.

The Lyndhurst, NJ, building procured by owner New Jersey Meadowlands Commission is a landmark of engineered wood, built as an example of green building design to LEED standards. It is designed to be a study center for astronomy and environmental education.

The 24-inch-deep members span 36 feet on the upper roof.

Built by general contractor Benard Associates with glulams, decking and erection subcontracted to Dijon Associates, the roof of the 10,000-square-foot structure is framed with 6-1/2-inch-wide, glued, laminated timbers. The 24-inch-deep members span 36 feet on the upper roof, while the 19-inch-deep timbers span 30 feet on the lower roof. Columns are 6-1/2-inch by 6-1/2-inch glulams, while the roof deck is 3-1/2-inch tongue-and-groove decking. Glulam timbers and decking are fabricated from FSC certified Southern Yellow Pine. Di Stasio and Van Buren were engineers on the project.

Architect Fredric A. Rosen says the exposed glulam framing was specified because of its strength and appearance. "We wanted ... a natural look consistent with environmental learning," he says.

Rosen adds that glulam timbers and decking in rectangular sections allowed a consistency of architectural detailing. "The geometry of the building with its articulated plan and sections provides for natural ventilation and daylighting of the spaces" he adds.

The residual space created by the three elements of the building, classrooms, class/lab and the support spaces is the main circulation space/lobby display that features the solar system inscribed in the glass terrazzo floor.

The sloping roof also provides a platform for the 165 solar panels that will generate electricity for the building's power needs.

Engineered Wood

The American Institute of Timber Construction (AITC) defines glued laminated timber as a stress-rated engineered wood product comprised of wood laminations, or lams, bonded together with strong, waterproof adhesive. This means that no large, old-growth trees are needed in the fabrication of the beams. The furring, sheathing and finishing often required with some framing can be eliminated with glulam construction.

Also, when glulam materials arrive at the job site prefinished, this delivered product is the finished product. This makes glulam a time-saver as a structural component for many kinds of buildings. Many other types of framing members arrive on site in raw form, and require additional cladding to create the final product.

About 35 percent of all glulam beams and trusses manufactured in the U.S. are used in commercial and institutional construction, a sizeable increase over the past five years, according to the AITC.

Glued laminated wood arches, beams and trusses are also a renewable resource, because U.S. foresters plant 5 million trees each day to insure a future supply of wood.

Unadilla Laminated Products, the glulam producer, manufactures glulam beams, arches and trusses in a variety of shapes and sizes including columns, floor and roof beams. Their engineers help design large and small jobs, including churches, ice hockey enclosures, home pool enclosures, and domed stadiums.