Sweeping views of the New York skyline and complex, artistic steel framing characterize a soon-to-be-open golf
course clubhouse on the Jersey shore.
BY JEFFREY URDAN
LIKE GOLF? IF SO, THERE'S A NEW
COURSE ON THE JERSEY CITY, N.J.
WATERFRONT. Just bring your clubs and your spikes - and the $500,000 membership fee (you also have to be invited to
join). Once you're in, you can arrive by land, sea, or air: by car, private yacht service with onboard concierge, or
While it may be exclusive in terms of membership, the soon-to-be-open Liberty National Golf Club possesses
architectural, environmental, and structural attributes that everyone can appreciate. From an environmental standpoint,
the course uses local grasses and employs an advanced rainwater reclamation system to irrigate the greenery, and mature
trees were planted throughout. Further, it was built on a 250-acre brown-field site, and all aspects of the project were
designed with sustainability in mind.
From a design perspective, the owner wished the clubhouse, framed in steel, to be evocative of a luxury yacht, given the
waterfront setting. Visitors are greeted with a 24-ft-long cantilevered canopy and enter into a dramatic reception area
ceilings, beyond which are framed views of Midtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
Fast and Complex
And then there's the structural steel framing itself. "The grid for this project is not the customary orthogonal grid, with
rectangular bays and X and Y coordinates or dimensions that everyone is used to working with," says Chris Christoforou,
the engineer of record with Thornton Tomasetti's Newark office. "Every column is located with polar coordinates based on
an angle and a distance from one of four focus points. So all the beams are connecting to radial-laid girders, some of
them curving; no two connections on the job are alike."
Christoforou notes that the structural design team didn't set out to work with steel specifically. However, the fast-track
project schedule required very quick erection of the structural frame. The architect began the project drawings in 2006,
and the project was scheduled to open in the summer of 2008, about a year ahead of what would be expected for a project
of this size and complexity, says Christoforou.
Since the building geometry is so complex, a concrete contractor would have required a longer schedule - and expediting
the schedule would have made the project prohibitively expensive to do in concrete. In addition, long cantilevers on the
roof, with its curved profile, would have made concrete an even more impractical choice. So, the compressed time frame
really made steel the only viable option.
Technology and Teamwork
Fabricator Crystal Steel's detailing team developed its initial wireframe using StruCAD. The team consisted of 13 detailers
and checkers working for nearly five months on parallel portions of the StruCAD model, really pushing the software to its
limits and beyond. "StruCAD was not designed to work in this type of multi-user environment, but StruCAD's tech
support group helped us find a way to fool the system into thinking it was multiple jobs," says Bill Lo, president of Crystal
When the detailing manager met with the design team and walked them through the 3D model, there were a lot of
questions about design intent and how to bring the various elements together. The architect and engineer worked openly
and constructively with the fabricator in a close collaboration that would extend over the next several months as the
design blossomed and the steel details were nailed down in parallel. Crystal Steel submitted connection geometry and
computations directly to the design team while concurrently posting the submissions to an internal web site for project
The Devil is in the Details
The geometry in plan view was difficult due to the polar grid, but that wasn't the end of the challenges; the vertical
geometry of the sloping side-wall framing and the curved surface of the roof made 3D detailing a necessity. If an
architectural feature was based on a certain set of dimensions and that geometry was adjusted in any direction, the change
caused a ripple effect of changes throughout the steel model.
Because of the complex geometry of the framing members, few of the connection details could be considered "standard."
In fact, the individual connection geometry could not be determined until the overall framing geometry for the structure
was fully developed and confirmed. StruCAD's 3D modeling enabled Crystal Steel to provide precise locations for every
individual piece of steel on the project without spending weeks calculating angles of rotation. Once member locations had
been established, connection computations were provided by Crystal Steel's structural consultant, Columbia Engineering,
Inc. In the end, more than 2,200 piece details were produced along with the corresponding computations for the
Approvals, Transmittals, Comments and Stamps
Once the shop drawings were complete, they were submitted for review via the project website created by the
construction manager. Rather than print drawings, pack them up and mail them, unpack and stamp them "Received,"
review, comment, copy comments to multiple sets, repack, re-ship, etc., the drawings were uploaded once, and all team
members were notified.
With approved drawings in hand, Crystal Steel set to work fabricating the job. More than 75% of the job consisted of
pieces with skewed cuts, and there were about 100 pieces of rolled material for the roof. With the ongoing design
modifications that come with a fast-track job, loading trailers at the last minute was critical. "If we had run this like a
normal job - worked the pieces and then loaded them right onto the trailers - we would have unloaded trailers twice for
every time we loaded them," says Bill Gibris, vice president of operations for Crystal Steel. "We held off until the last
possible second to load because we knew there would be design changes coming, and we didn't want to have to locate
finished pieces in the middle of a trailer, then unload and rework them to conform to new information that had just been
developed by the design team or incorporated by our detailers. Fabrication was working so closely to design that changes
were flowing daily."
Putting it All Together
Despite the complexity of the project and the fast-track schedule, the steel came together just fine, thanks to the close
collaboration between the design team and the fabricator. As Darley Travers, Crystal Steel's project manager, put it: "If
you have 100% perfect details and 100% perfect fabrication, it doesn't matter how complex the building is - the steel fits
Jeffrey Urdan is vice president of Crystal Steel Fabricators.
Willowbend Development, LLC, New York
Lindsay Newman Architecture and Design, New York
Thornton Tomasetti, Newark, N.J.
Steel Fabricator and Detailer
Crystal Steel Fabricators, Inc., Delmar, Del. (AISC Member)
Fabricator's Consulting Engineer
Columbia Engineering, Inc., Columbia, Md.
Shamrock Construction Group Inc., Matawan, N.J. (AISC Member)
Bovis Lend Lease, Princeton, N.J.
Steel Detailing Software