Ghaith YacoubLogo Property of Drexel University
The URBN Center & URBN Center Annex
Philadelphia, PA

This is a student-generated Capstone Project e-Portfolio (CPEP) produced in conjunction with the AE Senior Thesis e-Studio.


Table 1: Building Information












Table 2: Project Team

project team










u The URBN Center is a renovation of the famous design of Robert Venturi that is aimed to bring students of the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & design in Drexel University under one roof. The four story building is re-designed to create a great working environment for students who are pusuing an education in Architecture, Arts Administration, Design & Merchandising, Digital Media, Entertainment & Arts Management, Fashion Design, Game Art & Production, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Music Industry, Product Design, and Web Development & Interaction.

It is important to point out that although the URBN Center is a four story building, it is divided into 8 levels (two levels on each story). When entering the building, the visitor will be welcomed with a large lobby that is used to display students’ work and to host merchandising spaces for the students and guests. A stairwell is located in the center of the first story that extends all the way to the fourth story linking all 8 levels of the building. Throughout the eight levels of the URBN Center, the space is divided for students’ studios, classrooms, display galleries, computer labs, a screening room, and faculty offices.

Additional architectural features of the URBN Center include sliding walls that are designed to allow the students to creatively change the work space they are in. The building also has a skylight above the stairwell that allows a lot of natural lighting inside the building. As for the Annex, it will feature a black box theater and a state of the art screening room. Figure 1 shows 3D sections throughout the four stories of the URBN Center.

Due to the historical significance of Venturi’s original design, there is some preservation of certain aspects of the design that were untouched during the renovation. For example, there was full preservation of the façade along the south side of the building which features a classic mosaic design by Robert Venturi. A picture of the preserved façade is shown in figure 2.  Also, there are various art designs on several walls of the original design that were preserved due to their historical importance.

Codes and Zoning
The codes that were used for this projects are the following:
ICC Electrical Code 2006 (utilizes National Electric Code 2005 standards)
International Energy Conservation Code 2006
International Existing Building Code 2006
International Fire Code 2006
International Fuel Gas Code 2006
International Mechanical Code 2006
International Plumbing Code 2006
ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities standard.
International Building Code 2006 (IBC)
As for zoning, The URBN Center falls in the C-4 Commercial District, while the ANNEX is in C-3 commercial District.







Figure 1: 3D Sections of the URBN Center starting with the first story at the bottom (property of Meyers, Scherer & Rockcastle, LTD)



facadeAs mentioned above, the south side of the building maintained its original façade that was designed by Venturi. The south exterior façade is composed of a mosaic exterior design that is shown in figure 2. A new square brick veneer façade is placed on 6” CMU with 1 3/8” air cavity on the other 3 sides of the URBN. The south Side shows typical window Ribbons that are similarly installed on the west elevation. As for the North and East elevations, they feature curtain walls that are both decorative and sustainable by allowing natural light inside the building. The glass that is used on the windows and the curtain walls of the URBN Center is a ½” thick clear tempered glass. There is also a Storefront at lobby and entry vestibule is an aluminum system with tinted insulated glass units. The same materials are being used for the Annex façade and windows.

As for the roofing of the building, both the URBN center and Annex have a mechanically fastened / adhered (to manufacturer’s recommendations) EPDM system: Centimark 60 45 mil EPDM, black face finish.



Figure 2: Mosaic Facade on the South side of the URBN Center



Natural lighting is a major part of the sustainable efforts in the URBN Center. This is achieved by a skylight on the main roof of the building as well as long window ribbons and curtain walls along the north and east elevations. Also, the building utilizes a chilled beam system which is widely considered as a more economical HVAC system in the long run.      A more detailed analysis of this chilled beam system is going to be in the next project submittal.


The demolition will encompass the ceiling assemblies and their components. Also, the existing floor tiles, carpeting, and other sheet goods over concrete slabs are to be removed. The demolition of structural and MEP systems is also required. As for wall surfaces, the interior surface of the exterior walls are to remain. Also, existing art installation is preserved under the owner’s recommendations. Based on the age of the building on the subject property, the painted surfaces within the building are not expected to contain lead. The painted surfaces on the subject property were observed to be in good condition during the property inspection. As for Asbestos, the environmental report indicates the presence of asbestos in mastic adhesive used for fixing tiles in the Annex which is planned to be contained. As for Façade demolition, the only required demolition is in locations of the curtain wall system.


Structural Steel Frame:












Figure 3: Raised Levels Supportsthe new levels.

The original design of the URBN Center consisted of 4 levels. However the renovated consists of stepped floor which sums up with a total of 8 levels (2 levels on each story). Therefore, most of the new modification of the framing system took place when constructing the new levels. The new framing consists of cold-formed metal framing. On a typical raised level, a 4SWIB Brace is placed at every other bay for floor support. A detailed of the new floor brace support is shown in figure 1. Also, a 4x4x5/16 Brace @ each vertical channel is used for support of a typical operable partition. Composite slabs are placed on certain sections of the new levels. The composite slab consists of 2 ½” normal weight concrete cover w/ 6x6-W2.0 x W2.0 WWF OVER 2" 18 Ga. (GALV.) COMPOSITE DECK. (4 1/2" TOTAL THICKNESS).

Mechanical System
The mechanical room of the URBN Center is located on the north-west corner of the first level. The building utilizes an active chilled beam mechanical system. The active chilled beams work as radiators that are cooled by recirculated chilled water. The beam takes warm air that rises to the ceiling and redistributes cool air back to the room1. The benefits of an active chilled beam system are less use of energy, less duct work, and being a quiet system compared to a conventional VAV system1. Due to the unique distribution of floor levels inside the building, the mechanical load is distributed in vertical quadrants to the Roof top Units rather than distributing the load by floor.

Electrical/Lighting System:
The URBN Center is mainly fed a 13.2KV U.G Utility Feeder which is stepped down with a dry type transformer before being distributed to the building to a 277/480 volt system. The building also has an emergency generator with a 500 KW capacity. As for lighting, the URBN Center utilizes linear T-5 fluorescent light fixtures for the majority of the building. The fluorescent fixtures provide direct/indirect lighting to the building.

Due to historical significant of Venturi’s design, the façade on the south side of the building was completely preserved and remained untouched during construction. New masonry units were placed on the other three sides of the building. The existing masonry façade is a brick façade and there were no changes to the existing bricks on the exterior of the building. The only removal of the façade was in the location of the new curtain walls. All other existing masonry bricks remained in place.

Curtain Wall:
Curtain walls are placed along the East and North elevations of the building mainly to provide passive solar lighting into the students’ studios and work spaces. The glass that is used on the windows and the curtain walls of the URBN Center is a ½” thick clear tempered glass. The curtain walls are stick built and installed piece by piece on site.

In addition to the mezzanine, an elevator is added in the atrium located in the center of the ground floor that spans along the 4 stories of the URBN Center. The elevator capacity is 2,500 LB and it is a traction drive, machine room-less type. The elevator is enclosed with a point fixed structural glass shaft.



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This Page was last updated on January 13, 2013 , By Ghaith Yacoub and is hosted by the AE Department ©2013