By: Mike Lopez
I recently visited the Vessel, a soaring honeycomb-shaped structure and landmark that was built as part of the Hudson Yards Development Project. Staring up at this 150’ tall sculpture, I began thinking about how and when maintenance would be performed on it and how to access its outward reaching surfaces.
On its website, the NYC DOB categorizes the structure as an eight-story aerial walkway that is within the tax lot that includes 10 and 30 Hudson Boulevard, along with the new shopping center known as Hudson Yards. Whether the Vessel will be part of the FISP universe is still unknown, however access to perform required exterior maintenance will eventually be necessary. I imagined a sidewalk shed surrounding the structure and the exterior being accessed by supported scaffolding or boom lifts.
In the case of the Vessel, access appears to be feasible, but costly. However, sometimes accessing the elevations of a building are not so straightforward. For example, one of Sullivan Engineering’s current projects requires a street level stair tower and a hoist just to deliver material to the roof. These materials are then assembled on the roof and lowered to an interior courtyard in order to perform the required work to address current SWARMP conditions. Another example was the use of aerial lifts to perform repairs instead of removing various façade elements in order to secure supported scaffolding. As a third and possibly more common example, access to a rear elevation that required complex scaffolding and approved entry and use of the adjacent building’s rear yard delayed the regular maintenance of this façade to the degree that its restoration has added significant cost to the project.
In projecting future costs and issues associated exterior building restoration, building owners and boards should contemplate the costs associated with access, which for some buildings, may entail some amount of creativity and team discussion. The amount of work to be performed should also be considered when there are costs for complex accessibility. Should a project’s scope of work be expanded, should more comprehensive façade repairs be performed, should potential future conditions or issues be addressed? Understanding the complexity of access to a building and working with the right team to determine the long-term financial implications between increasing the current scope of the project or planning future maintenance and restoration campaigns, is imperative.