Office Reno: Caliper Studio in Brooklyn, NY

Office Reno: Caliper Studio in Brooklyn, NY

Passive Office, Brooklyn, NY by Caliper Studio

Make way for the new Caliper Studio passive office! Located on the North side of Brooklyn, an area that is rapidly transforming from an old industrial center to a new hub of hip restaurants, nightclubs, and artist studios. Caliper’s new digs seems to be emblematic of this change. The firm, founded in 2003, by Stephen Lynch, Jonathan Taylor and Michael Conlon, is an integrated design office with an in-house metal fabrication shop. The architectural practice is in lock step with the artist class that Bushwick has become known for. The 14,500 SF industrial building houses a full metal fabrication shop and is reminiscent of the manufacturing history of the neighborhood. Throw in a little Passive House and you have a recipe for an ideal space, worthy of admiration. Here at 475 we look longingly at the soon-to-be-ideal working conditions of Caliper Studio, provided by the use of high performance building techniques. The building utilizes passive details to create around 2,600 SF of separate office space within the industrial building. This building-within-a-building addresses the 5 principals of Passive House, supreme airtightness (achieved through the Pro Clima system), continuous thermal insulation, great windows, high-efficiency heat recovery ventilation and thermal bridge free construction.

Floor Plan

The unique aspect of this project is that it is one of the first commercial applications of these principles in Brooklyn. 475 is proud to be a part of Caliper’s quest for new high performance applications. Now let’s take a look at how they got there… The existing structure was an 8” CMU wall with no interior finish. The ceiling consisted of wooden joists partially covered by drywall, supported by large steel beams situated 18’ apart. The floor was a standard concrete slab poured on grade. These conditions formed the initial shell. The interior renovation was then carried out by the Brooklyn based full service construction company Bluestone Studio, Inc. Bluestone started by building interior partitions with standard 3 5/8” stud walls, separating the shop interior and the office space. The first step was creating a continuous thermal blanket around the shell. This was done by covering all the walls with Roxul mineral wool batts. 6” batts were used on the interior condition, while 8” batts were used on the exterior walls. These boards would run continuous, offset behind steel studs eliminating all thermal bridges. The floor was insulated and then poured over with a second slab.

Roof before Intello Continous Roxul Insulation

Next the airtight layer was provided through the Pro Clima system. INTELLO Plus was used on the face of the mineral wool providing a quasi-netting, supporting the insulation as well as creating a continuous airtight, and vapor variable layer. This layer is then protected inboard by steel stud framing. The membrane was run continuously up and onto the ceiling. All seams were taped with TESCON VANA including the plywood sub floor.

Full Intello wall with service cavity

The assembly is straight forward, 8” exterior CMU wall or 3 5/8” interior stud partitions, 6” Roxul Insulation on the interior and 8” for the exterior, Intello Plus Smart Membrane, 3 5/8” steel framing/service cavity, and finish drywall or custom metal paneling. The secret to the success of the system was in the detailing and the sequencing. Attention to detail is always essential when trying to reach Passive House levels of performance, creative solutions also help as well. What they did… A nifty trick was employed to hold the Roxul batts in place during construction. Standard twine was run from floor to ceiling, strapping the batts in place. This provided temporary support for the insulation before the permanent system of Intello plus and steel framed studs were constructed. A simple yet effective solution, made for easy construction and thermal bridge free performance.

Insulation twine close up Bottom plate detail

Another interesting strategy was employed through the sequencing of the Intello vapor intelligent membrane. Once the now free standing batts were put in place, the Intello was rolled out directly on the surface of the insulation layer. This was done by first sealing the Intello membrane to the concrete floor with Contega HF adhesive caulk. The membrane was then caped with the bottom plate of the steel frame wall. The plate was connected directly into the concrete floor sandwiching the membrane and holding it in place. The workers form Bluestone Studio were careful to secure the bottom plate with fasteners that ran inboard of the Contega HF seal. This ensured that the air barrier stayed intact without any penetrations. Extra care was taken wherever there were cuts in the steel framing. All cut ends were taped to ensure the safety of the Intello membrane. Now that the Intello was securely attached to the floor the workers rolled the membrane up the wall and fastened it to the wood ceiling joists with staples. Each steel beam was notched out and taped around to ensure continuous airtightness. The steel studs were then framed in front of the Intello membrane creating a protective service cavity.

Workers applying Intello Intello between Bays

Double wide INTELLO Plus membrane (10’ wide) was used to reduce the amount of taped seams. The ceiling was filled between the joists with roxul mineral wool and held in place by furring strips. The INTELLO was stapled to these furring strips and was run perpendicular to the steel beams between each bay. Another key detail was addressing the sprinkler system and suspended ceiling hanging from the wood joists above the intello. Every penetration was painstakingly addressed with the use of Kaflex mono gaskets. The gasket was slipped over the rod before it was put in place.

Multiple rod Penetrations Kaflex rod detail

The North facing wall has large Triple pane Intus Windows, looking over the scenic Bushwick landscape. Each window is sealed with the Pro Clima System. EXTOSEAL ENCORS was used as the heavy duty sill flashing tape, TESCON Vana 100 for the Jam and Header and Tescon Profil for all the interior and exterior window to buck connections.

Exterior window Detail Exterior window Detail corner

The ventilation planned for this project is a Zehnder Comfoair 550 ERV. How did it perform? 475 headed over to the new office site to give it an initial blower door test. We were happy to see that all pipes were sealed and doorways closed off.

Closed Pipes Blower door

BD reading

On the first go around the ring was too large to get an accurate reading. This was a good sign. Upon going down two ring sizes on the blower door, the room was finally able to pressurize at 50 Pascals. The manometer measured around 200 cfm @50 Pa. The building volume was calculated at 33,600 CF, this gave a total ACH of about .35, well under the .6 ACH Passive House limit! With the completion of the air barrier in place Caliper Studio opened its doors to the public for the first time, hosting a New York Passive House meet-up and tour. If you missed the soiree, I am sure there will be a grand opening, where you can see the finished product of this progressive project. Congrats Caliper Studio! Your attention to detail and passion for high performance building payed off. 475 will try not to covet the new office too much!

Caliper Open House