Jewel of the Hudson: The New Javits Center

Event: Greening a Giant: The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Location: Center for Architecture, 04.12.10
Speakers: Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP — Founding Principal, FXFOWLE Architects; David Choy, PE — Senior Vice President, WSP Flack + Kurtz
Moderator: Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP — President-Elect, AIA New York Chapter
Organizer: AIANY Committee on the Environment


The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.


Although the structure of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is sufficient, stated Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, founding principal of FXFOWLE Architects, there is a laundry list of issues that must be addressed as the first phase of renovations begins. Rusting rooftop units, staining on the concrete base, and an entry that is prohibitive to pedestrians are just some of the challenges facing FXFOWLE Epstein, a collaboration between FXFOWLE and A. Epstein & Sons International, not to mention the water leakage, which is costing the building $1 million in water removal annually.

FXFOWLE Epstein’s goals are simple: the firm wants to restore the 1986 building to I.M. Pei and Partners’ original vision while making necessary performance and operational enhancements to meet — and surpass — current codes and standards. The new design will enhance the pedestrian experience by relocating fire stairs to clear the approach to the building (creating a “Piazza Navona on the West Side,” as Fowle described), adding canopies to emphasize the building entrances, and improve wayfinding with new signage.

Daylighting will be improved not only with more efficient fittings and lamps with daylight dimming capabilities, but also by replacing the existing, highly reflective glass with more transparent, fritted glass that has a selective solar coating. A gantry system on the interior will provide access to the glass for the maintenance staff, as well. And the mullions will be painted a lighter color, which will also improve the light quality on the interior. Deeper in the interior, portions of the floor slab will be removed, the escalators will be stacked, and spaces that are currently windowless will be opened to the atrium complete with tree bosks.

The bulk of the exterior will be clad with stainless steel panels, and added insulation throughout the envelope will improve thermal performance. Fowle sees the roof as “the fifth façade,” as so many surrounding buildings look down on it. A seven-acre green roof will be planted to both improve its aesthetics and energy consumption — David Choy, PE, senior vice president at WSP Flack + Kurtz claims that the U-Value of the roof will almost double that of the existing one. Although security and structural concerns prevent the roof from being inhabited by visitors, the sedum will significantly reduce water run-off, as well.

While the team is confident the new Javits Center will meet LEED Silver requirements, Choy and Fowle believe LEED Gold is achievable, mainly because of the many planned energy improvements. Carbon dioxide sensors, motion detectors and occupancy sensors, thermally improved walls, and demand controlled ventilation all contribute. In concert with an energy model by Ellana, an in-depth study of LEED requirements, ASHRAE standards, the NYS Energy Code, Executive Order 111, and Local Law 86, the team believes the building will save an additional 26.3% of its current annual energy consumption. During the discussion, Fowle frequently referred to the Javits Center as a glass pavilion. Calling it a “jewel in a high-density context,” hopefully the renovations will reveal its true crystalline nature.