The first major building erected on the Air Force Academy campus since the iconic Chapel was completed in 1963 is the brand new Center for Character and leadership Development (CCLD). This new building was designed by SOM New York Office. SOM was the firm that designed the original campus which has become a national historic district.
The CCLD is also known as Polaris Hall for the signature feature of the building: A tower canted at a 39-degree angle in order to align with the North Star, symbolizing the academy’s “unchanging core values,” The tower’s four sides taper to a squared-off roof containing an oculus. SOM collaborated with an astronomer, Dr. Devin Della-Rose, to ensure Polaris would always be due north of the building at 39° altitude.
From inside the CCLD’s Honor Board Room, a cadet accused of violating the academy’s honor code can look up at night and see Polaris through the opening, an intimidating reminder, perhaps, of the value of a moral compass. The glass tower also serves as a majestic skylight for the CCLD’s “forum,” a large gathering space for meetings and TED Talk–style events, which is located next to the board room but doesn’t share the same alignment with Polaris.
The Forum which is the main hall under the skylight is sunken below grade and has three levels needing to be made accessible. Entry is from the office level (top) which is at grade. The next level is down to the stage and then finally down to the forum floor.
Handi-Lift, Inc. was first approached to consult on the design of the lift in 2011. After many delays (including a pipe break just before opening was scheduled) the building was finally completed in April, 2016.
The main design challenge was how to locate the lift to serve three levels while only traveling 69”. To do this the lift had to have entrances on three of the four sides of the platform and be adjacent to the stage.
The architect also wanted the lift to not project above the stage level when not in use and of course be covered in millwork to match the surroundings.
To minimize the impact vertically we chose the configuration based on ASME A18.1 rules for Partial Enclosure. The design we created uses the concept of the “ToeGuard” as a skirt underneath the lift with two gates on the platform and the upper landing gate integrated with the balustrade.
All three gates had to be automated to meet the ANSI A117.1. Surface mounted power door operators were not feasible nor desired from an aesthetic perspective so we turned to Tormax who makes a very powerful in floor operator. We rotated the operator 90 degrees so that with a 3” offset pivot the box would not project into the pit on the upper landing. On the platform we pulled them back from the edge to center hang the gates and reverse the rotation to swing out. To accommodate these two operators we had to build a false floor that was 8” thick including 1” of wood flooring which was installed on top of the operators.
Due to the weight of the operators, the false floor and finishes we could not use a traditional vertical platform lift drive system with a lift tower buried in the wall so we used Autoquip’s lever hydraulic drive system designed for 2,500 pounds of capacity and modified their hydraulics and control system to accommodate the controls, interlocks, limits and other features required by A18.1. We used their double table to be able to get the travel we needed given the platform size and built a pedestal under the lift to accommodate the skirt which collapses into the pit.
The pump and controller along with the three controllers for the three Tormax operators had to be located behind removable panels on the upper landing so a great deal of work and trade coordination was required to locate the equipment and piping in the walls behind finish panels.
Since the building was built on bedrock the depth of the pit was a big issue. We needed a pit 6” deeper than the travel of the lift. That would be c.7’0” but we could only get 3’0” for the pit depth so we designed a telescopic skirt to protect the underside of the lift when at the upper and middle landings. We got it to work but this was probably the most difficult aspect of the entire project and I hope we don’t ever have do a telescopic skirt again. The amount of trade coordination for tracks in the finished walls and the complexity for installation (let alone service) of having a removable telescopic skirt was significant (making profit insignificant).
The platform gates and single side barrier which accommodates the COP and grab rail are heavy steel construction designed to accommodate ½” of millwork on all sides. This custom fabrication work was done by Pabst Enterprises who also did the telescopic skirt.
The excellent millwork was done by ISEC. This was very difficult due to cut outs for gate pivots and interlocks.
Our fixtures on each landing and on the platform were by EPCO and the interlocks were the Garaventa PL2000.
It was a pleasure working with Morningstar Elevator who secured the contract with the Air Force Academy. Handi-Lift, Inc. had the lift built in NJ and shipped it out to Morningstar for installation. Richard and Gregg and staff were up to this very challenging project and overcame some huge obstacles to pull off one of the most complex lift installations we have ever designed.
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