After several years of planning and construction, the St. John’s Terminal building at 550 Washington Street is now home to Google’s HQ.  The project, which was completed earlier this year, is comprised of the adaptive reuse of the 90-year-old former freight terminal and a new 9-story overbuild addition. The new aluminum and glass structure spans two city blocks and is built on top of the original 3-story brick clad terminal that served as the end point for what was the Tenth Avenue elevated rail; known today as the High Line.

The project was developed by Oxford Properties and designed by CookFox Architects (core and shell) and Gensler (interiors). Future Green Studio Corp was the landscape designer. The construction manager was Turner Construction for the core and shell, and a joint venture of Turner and Structure Tone managed the interiors.

GMS provided Building Envelope consulting services and assisted with the design, detailing and specifying of the new facades, roof systems and terraces of the building as well as the rehabilitation of the existing terminal facades.  The double-skin curtain wall system installed on the tower addition is first of its kind in New York. The units include automated blinds with sun tracking technology and self-tinting glass. The system’s energy efficiency allowed for the downsizing of the building’s MEP systems and has resulted in a sizable reduction in the building’s energy usage. Additionally, GMS provided support for the flood mitigation program at the first floor/grade level.  That work included the design and engineering of a custom-glazed flood-resistant storefront construction and direct interaction with the NYC Building Department’s Office of Technical Certification and Research. 550 Washington Street is located only a few hundred feet from the Hudson River within the FEMA 100-year flood zone.

The GMS Facade team also coordinated the mock-up testing and provided construction observations and special inspection services during the storefront and curtainwall installation.

The GMS Structures team provided structural engineering services for the interior renovation of approximately 1.3 million sf of space, spanning the from the cellar, to ground, mezzanine, and 2nd through 12th floors. The space consists of open workspaces, offices, huddle/meeting rooms, storage, IDF rooms, micro-kitchens, reception areas, fitness center, medical/massage suites, central kitchen, theater, auditorium/event spaces, cafes, occupiable roof terraces, and workplace lounges.  Some atypical designs include a theater acoustically isolated from the main structure, feature walls spanning multiple floors adjacent to main stairs, workplace clusters with demountable partitions to allow flexibility for making changes to the layout, unique terrace structures, and windscreens among other amenities.

St. John’s Terminal stands as a model for how to recycle a building thoughtfully. The building incorporates solar panels, rainwater retention, and reclaimed materials such as wood from the Coney Island Boardwalk refurbishment following Hurricane Sandy. Recycling the bulk of the existing building prevented an estimated 78,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

The building also supports 1.5 acres of vegetation at street level, in rail bed gardens and on terraces throughout, as well as in planter boxes built into the curtain wall itself. Over 95% of the exterior plants at St. John’s Terminal are native to New York State, sustaining the local ecosystem. The project has been granted LEED Platinum status.


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