Corrections or additions?
This article by Tricia Fagan was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 6, 1999. All rights reserved.
From the Rubble, the Commons Risen: Part II
Story by Tricia Fagan
Photos by Brian McCarthy
Bricking has been completed on one side of the five-story
building, and the pump jack scaffolding is already set up so the masons
can turn the corner and start on the other side. The white trailer
in the lower right of the photo holds the fireproofing material which
will be sprayed on the all the steel beams and columns of both buildings,
the decking in the five-story building, and the core area of the three-story
Describing the "core area" design concept, DeLuca explains
that both buildings are equipped with loading docks and elevators.
"One of the key decisions we made regarding their placement involved
connecting them via a central service corridor that facilitated moves
in and out of the building. With this design, tenants can move equipment
and materials directly from the loading dock to their floor via the
elevator — which is equipped with doors that open to both the
front and the rear as well.
"It’s a little thing. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice
it. But it really helps having this service core setup because, for
example, you don’t have people moving furniture in and out through
the lobbies." He adds that they had to struggle with the design
for a while before they got the core area to work without encroaching
on too much of the rentable space in the buildings.
The three story building is ready for bricking to begin. In front,
the pond has had its liner set in, all the pavers have been laid out
along the banks, and the pond has begun to fill up naturally.
When bricking is completed on the upper four levels
of the larger building, the glass subcontractor’s job begins. Here,
again, coordination between the various building subcontractors is
essential. "The windows are all manufactured off site," says
Rosner. "They have to be coordinated with both the steelwork and
with the masonry so that when they bring the glass out on the truck,
it everything ends up fitting together properly. The windows arrive
six months after the steel is done, so any changes, however small,
had to be immediately passed along to the glass works. The windows
are built to the steel, since the steel framing shelf is in place
well before the glass even arrives."
Referring back to the curve on the face of the building, Johnston
adds, "That radius got changed a couple times along the way and
each time we had to re-contact the glass makers."
With the bricking completed, it’s now easier to see
the temporary lighting that had been put in place as soon as the roof
decking was attached. Interior work, including wiring, plumbing, and
some construction of the common spaces in the building has also begun.
Here’s another great toy for grown-up kids who loved
all those especially cool toy trucks. This concrete pump delivers
concrete mixed on ground level in a separate truck up and into whichever
part of the building it’s needed. The type of ground floor used in
this building is known as ‘slab-on-grade.’ Concrete is poured over
a six inch deep stone bed (laid directly on the soil) covered with
The upper floors are called supported slabs. Here, the concrete is
poured directly on the metal decking where it actually bonds with
the metal. "Since the concrete bonds with the decking — which
is, in turn, welded to the steel beams — they all start to act
together to give rigidity to the entire structure," says DeLuca,
"so these types of floors actually act to increase the overall
rigidity (sturdiness) of the building in general."
The 4-inch concrete slab consists of 2 1/2 inches of concrete over
the metal deck and 1 1/2 within the thickness of the corrugated deck.
Little nubs are welded to the deck before the concrete is poured.
It hardens and forms a "diaphragm" in a horizontal direction
so it does not slide off.
Workers stand by to finish the concrete floors by hand. "They
have these big finishing machines that they use now. They’re like
a big buffer that has finishing blades on it," says Johnston.
The finishing must be done while the concrete is still wet, so the
workers often stayed late into the night. "We were here until
11 o’clock every night that we were pouring these floors while they
finished them," he adds. "We would have been here later except
for the township ordinances."
Concrete was not used on the roofs of these buildings except around
the mechanical equipment located at the center core of each building.
There it was used primarily to dampen the sound of that equipment.
The steel deck on the roof is covered instead with a rigid insulation
and a rubber-based roofing membrane.
Because the pump scaffolding is at a premium, it is
used for bricking only the higher levels of the buildings. The ground
floor masonry is done last, using regular scaffolding. Although the
winter has been relatively mild, by the time the masons begin work
on the ground floor bricking for the five story building, a late,
cold snap causes some problems. The first application of mortar on
the ground floor do not set correctly because of the temperature,
and have to be completely redone. As a remedy, a heavy-duty plastic
cover is put up around the bottom floor. With that protection in place,
space heaters warm up the area enough to safely install the brick
and allow the mortar to cure.
The windows begin to go in at the beginning of March. The glassworker
already has been on site for about a month building the window frames,
Rosner explains. "They start from the inside, working a full floor
at a time, so they have to wait until all the bricklayers are done
on a particular floor before beginning," he says.
"They typically build the frames first and then go back to install
the glass," Rosner says. The sills and headers for the windows
are brought on site in fixed lengths. The mullions (which run the
length of the windows) are fabricated on site.
When it came time to fit the windows in the curved sections, each
five-foot, pre-cut glass segment is set in, with one window frame
left open on the curve until all the other segments are in place.
"What happens with these types of details," says Rosner, "is
that, geometrically, the last piece is never exactly five feet. Since
you can never predetermine it, we have to basically build the curve
and the frames — and then order that last piece of glass."
Even when the windows have been placed, there is always some last
minute adjustment required to get them perfect. Each window must be
caulked after it’s been set in place.
Bales of foil-backed thermal batt insulation lies within one of the
loading docks areas. The commercial-quality insulation (with an "R"
rating of at least 13) is added to all the perimeter walls.
The pump jack scaffolding is finally taken down. To a lay eye, this
may look like a lot of scaffolding, it is actually was far less than
the construction team had originally hoped for. "If it hadn’t
been for the extensive construction going on at the same time, we
would have had the brick work going on both buildings at the same
time. The fact was, we couldn’t, physically, get more scaffolding,"
The long, inset balconies are another special architectural
feature that appears on all four sides of the buildings. They open
out from either individual offices or suites, depending on the choices
made by the new tenants. DeLuca notes, "They’re another great
spot to set up a conference room or executive offices. The balcony
creates a private spot to work or have a conversation. There’s a lot
of potential with those — and to a great extent it’s up to the
tenants of the building how creatively they will be used."
The elliptical courtyard that lies between the two buildings
is the last feature to be completed, because it has been utilized
as a staging area for all the construction work. Landscapers arrive
in late spring to begin working the soil, plant trees and floral settings,
and complete the walks.
The SJP people note that they put in mature trees and mature shrubs.
"If you look at the overall cost of development it is not a huge
cost but it really makes a difference," says Kaplan. "We spend
at least twice as much on the site as most other developers do."
Several different types of walkways have been integrated in the site.
Township planners requested that the Commons site have some type of
formal connection with its neighbor in Carnegie Center, the Hyatt
Regency. Here work is done on a brick pathway — similar to other
pathways throughout Carnegie Center — that leads from the site’s
west parking lot over to the hotel, and provides a visual link to
the rest of the complex.
Both ponds have filled well. Each has fountain aerators. These add
to the visual interest of the landscape, but also serve a practical
purpose by helping to keep algae growth down and keep the water circulating.
Aerators have been a municipal requirement since the mid-1990s to
keep algae from forming. Some older centers do not have them and their
ponds have algae. "Even if it weren’t a requirement, it isn’t
good business," says the SJP officials. They add that the pumps
are at the bottom of the pond, six to eight feet below water,, so
that they will not freeze in winter. And if ice does form on top of
pond the aerators are shut off since nothing would form on the top.
All members of the team agree that the buildings went up remarkable
quickly. DeLuca says, "The buildings went up really quickly —
it’s amazing how quickly. They build them almost as quickly as we
design them these days."
"We finished more than two months ahead of schedule and significantly
under budget," Rosner adds. "With all the construction that
was started this past year, basically it was a race to see who finished
first. We got it done before Carnegie, and we got it done before Hillier,
and we got it done before TramellCrow."
They are all equally confident that they have developed a Class A
property that adds significantly to the Route 1 corridor. The buildings
at the Commons, says DeLuca, "tend to have a more corporate feel
to them. High quality materials are used in the building exterior,
like the brick — and the limestone. These buildings have insulating
tinted glazing on the windows and above average mechanical systems
in terms of things like heating, cooling, mechanical, and communication
setups. The building is flexible in terms of being able to adapt to
the needs of a tenant. They can easily run additional wiring if needed
— they could set themselves up as a computer center if they wanted
The buildings have two separate electric services, drawing power from
two different sub-stations. "It is virtually the only office building
in the area that has access from two different stations. The likelihood
of both going down is nil," says Kaplan. "It also has two
redundant fiber optics."
The Princeton Commons passes all inspections and receives a temporary
certificate of occupancy on July 9.
SJP announces that it has leased 36,500 fee of space
at the Commons to Pharmacia & Upjohn and Korn/Ferry International.
These leases, when combined with a 232,000 square foot lease already
signed by Merrill Lynch, put the project at 90 percent occupancy.
At the groundbreaking less than a year before, SJP noted in written
corporate profile that it "has never had a bankruptcy, a foreclosure,
or a Chapter 11 proceeding, and has never turned a project back to
its lenders or investors." Add two more buildings to SJP’s win
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.