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Penn's Mass Timber-Built Amy Gutmann Hall Celebrates Final Wood Panel Placement

Thu August 03, 2023 - Northeast Edition
Penn Today & CEG


Designed by Texas-based Lake Flato Architects, along with KSS Architects, with offices in Philadelphia and Princeton, N.J., Gutmann Hall will rise six stories and span 115,954 sq. ft., and, in addition to classrooms, include collaborative spaces for student projects and a data science hub. (University of Pennsylvania rendering)
Designed by Texas-based Lake Flato Architects, along with KSS Architects, with offices in Philadelphia and Princeton, N.J., Gutmann Hall will rise six stories and span 115,954 sq. ft., and, in addition to classrooms, include collaborative spaces for student projects and a data science hub. (University of Pennsylvania rendering)

Two years after the project ceremonially broke ground at 34th and Chestnut streets, members of Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania community gathered on July 26 for the "topping off" of Amy Gutmann Hall.

A time-honored tradition in construction, the signing and placement of the final wood panel signaled the completion of the frame for the new School of Engineering and Applied Science building.

After partaking in a celebratory toast, the crowd cheered as a crane erected the wooden panel, which had been signed by those "who took a very bold idea and made it a compelling reality," said Penn President Liz Magill.

"Together we celebrate this milestone in the creation of Amy Gutmann Hall," she continued, "a testament to the belief that collaborative research and learning can solve some of the world's most urgent problems. Within this building, may the insights that we gain through data science help us harness new knowledge and understanding to create a better world. I know we all cannot wait to see these innovations come to life."

A hub for data science on the Penn campus and for the Philadelphia community when it officially opens next summer, Gutmann Hall will embolden interdisciplinary work in a field that is "transforming all facets of engineering education, and of course research and innovation," said Vijay Kumar, Penn Engineering's Nemirovsky Family Dean.

The new facility, with next-generation hybrid classrooms and laboratories, will be equipped to support exploration that advances graphics and perception, privacy and security, computational social science, data-driven medical diagnostics, scientific computing and machine learning.

It also will allow for the development of "safe, explainable and trustworthy artificial intelligence," Kumar explained.

Designed by Texas-based Lake Flato Architects, along with KSS Architects, with offices in Philadelphia and Princeton, N.J., Gutmann Hall will rise six stories and span 115,954 sq. ft., and, in addition to classrooms, include collaborative spaces for student projects and a data science hub.

Handling the building's landscape design is Ground Control Collaborative, located in nearby Bucks County, Pa.

Gilbane Building Co., a nationally known contractor based in Providence, R.I., is building the new addition to the Penn campus.

Gutmann Hall is expected to be completed in the summer 2024 with a total construction cost of $68.3 million.

Data Science Building Philly's Tallest Mass Timber Project

With the United States increasing its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which led to the federal government setting a target of eliminating carbon emissions by 2050, Pennsylvania has been doing its part to use more eco-friendly building methods.

Guttman Hall is a perfect example of that effort as the six-story structure is being built through mass timber construction. With this method, buildings are assembled using large, engineered wood panels prefabricated off-site.

With its construction, the building will be the first mass timber project for Penn, and the first six-story mass timber building in Philadelphia.

Eighty-two truckloads of mass timber — a more sustainable and efficient product than steel or concrete — have been used to construct the frame of the new data science building. According to KSS Architects, the system reduces the structure's carbon footprint by 52 percent relative to concrete, and 41 percent relative to steel.

Its design also maximizes daylight and views, integrates ecological environments into interior spaces, and incorporates sensory stimuli that encourage collaborative social behavior and comfort. In addition, its exposed wood throughout the building's interior will evoke a warm, welcoming environment.

"The building is not so much built as it is engineered and then prefabricated with extraordinary precision," said Magill, adding that the techniques used to create the new building relied heavily on advanced computation and data, "which is precisely the kind of work that this building will foster when it's completed. The building reflects the use, and the use helped determine the building."

Named for Penn's longest serving president, the construction of Amy Gutmann Hall has been made possible due to a transformative $25 million commitment to Penn Engineering from Harlan Stone in 2019, a university trustee, member of Penn Engineering's Board of Advisors, and chair of the school's Technical Advisory Board.

Stone, a School of Arts & Sciences alumnus and parent of a Penn Engineering student, said at the topping off celebration that he imagines the new building as a place that will "produce new ideas, methodologies and paradigms of how data can impact humanity for good."




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