Selecting NeXclad terra cotta tiles allowed us to respond to existing campus context while realizing a high performing building envelope that also offered a sense of human scale on campus. Terra cotta resonates with the brick aesthetic of the University of Pennsylvania and, as a comparatively lighter envelope material, provided an opportunity for us to construct the building’s super structure and foundation systems more quickly. This lighter structural system could be off-site fabricated which provided a higher quality control in the wall panel factory, faster installation, and a faster close-in. It also allowed interior systems to be installed in a controlled environment, which was a huge help in the last month before the onset of the pandemic.
Shingles were installed on 618 prefabricated exterior wall panels within controlled factory conditions. The shingle system, which is lighter than a brick system, allowed us to use a lighter panel which had two critical benefits: it could be off-site fabricated and affordably shipped to site, and it allowed us to use a lighter, faster structural system. Design Assist envelope partnerships with the off-site wall panel manufacturer and window/curtain wall subcontractors helped to optimize the design process. These efficiencies allowed the design team to achieve the project’s ambitious schedule while improving quality control. Our choice of Ludowici terra cotta created efficiencies that helped us finish the project on time and on budget despite the global pandemic.
The New College House project inherited a brick legacy from another recently-built dormitory, the ornamental brick seven-story Lauder College House. New College House is located in a more architecturally eclectic area of campus; using a terra cotta shingle instead of a brick scales up that natural material to the taller 13-story second building of New College House while still responding to the traditional brick of other campus buildings.