C3D Architecture PLLC – 232 7th Avenue
C3D surmounted many challenges in its design of 232 7th Avenue in Manhattan.
By Alan Dorich
For C3D Architecture PLLC, the 232 7th Avenue project is more than just a mere structure. “This whole building works like an organism,” Principal Damir Dan Sehic says. “It has its own bones, skin and systems which have to work as a whole, very similar to human bodies.”
C3D’s design for the 17-story mixed-use building reflects that goal. The building, located in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, will cover 55,000 square feet above ground and feature retail space on its first floor and apartments on its other 16 levels.
232 7th Avenue also will have a roof terrace, a gym, an exercise bike room and a generator, which became an essential feature in the city after Hurricane Sandy. “We had to place the generator, which almost looks like a shipping container, on the roof,” he recalls.
The generator not only powers elevators in the case of a blackout, but also fire protection and life safety systems, corridor lights and exit signs. “It’s essential thing to have in NYC today,” Sehic asserts.
Working Within Limits
Construction started on 232 7th Avenue in spring 2015 and is on track for completion in 2017, Sehic says. Although C3D had a limited budget on the project, the company still managed to design the building to be very functional.
Apartment layouts, kitchen, bathrooms, lighting, finishes are all very functional and are also in full compliance with Handy-cap Law.
“That part is very important,” he says, noting that the company wanted to ensure people like their homes. “After all, architecture is about making spaces livable and people enjoying their apartments. They have a life in there.”
He also is proud of 232 7th Avenue’s façade, which is designed to continue and align with the NYC street façade with special treatment at lower levels for pedestrians to experience. “We have levels of precast stone that’s going to look like limestone,” Sehic says.
General contractor Foremost Construction and the project team poured concrete forms that are hung on the façade, much in the same way limestone panels would be hung, he says. “They’re very pleasing to the eye,” Sehic says. “It has this natural feel and at the same to be within budget.”
The building also will incorporate composite panels that have two layers of aluminum and a quarter-inch of rubber. The panels, he notes, have a 20-year warranty and do not easily show dust. “It really maintains its look for many years,” he says.
232 7th Avenue’s superstructure, he adds, also features three-inch panels mounted on party walls that fulfill thermal and waterproofing functions. There will be a gap between the panels and the concrete wall behind them. “So if there’s any rain water that seeps between the panel and the wall, the air circulating within gap is going to dry it out,” Sehic says, noting that the façade is waterproofed as well. “If there’s a splash on the wall, it will not go into the building.”
Up to Code
C3D’s clients wanted 232 7th Avenue’s design to allow it to easily transition into a commercial building, if such a need presented itself, Sehic says. “That was the most challenging thing,” he admits.
Not only did the company have to carefully consider the fire protection aspects, but it also had to design it with separate stairways. Two separate stairways are not required for residential buildings but it is anticipated that this building is going to be partially converted to a Transient Hotel in the future. The city code requires commercial structures to be built with stairways that are structurally independent and separated by code-required distances.
“If you have a fire in one stairwell, then [there is a chance] the other is not going to be impacted,” he says. “The interest is to have a much safer exit for commercial type of use.”
The city codes also require builders to hire an independent agency to check general contractors work. “If they are pouring the concrete or installing fire-rated partitions, [they need the third-party agency] who is going to sign off and confirm work is properly done in compliance with construction documents,” Sehic says.
The project team also has ensured it will protect the foundations of its neighbors’ buildings. “More often than not, we go below the neighbors’ [foundations],” he says, noting that this required permission from adjacent buildings.
“It’s a very complicated process and it requires many agencies to work together,” Sehic says. “There’s a lot of work that nobody sees.”
C3D has learned lessons from 232 7th Avenue, including coping with adjacent buildings that actually extended over its property lines. “Those happened to be where we were to have our stairs,” Sehic recalls. “We had to work around them.”
Sehic says C3D expects to keep busy after 232 7th Avenue is finished. “We are really growing fast,” he says, noting that the company is at work on Journal Square Development, a major project in Jersey City, N.J.
“We’re designing a whole new city downtown with several new high-rises and pedestrian street. We are also doing a large project in the Great Neck, [N.Y.], area for the same owner.”
The company also is designing several projects in Manhattan. “We are doing a new hotel at 355 Seventh Avenue, a new hotel at 320 Broadway and a new hotel in Long Island City, among other projects. Currently, our office is handling over 80 jobs, smaller or larger. In addition, there are quite a few new buildings under construction, mostly in NYC,” Sehic says.