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Composites build a staircase to education

News International-French

19 Aug 2016

The ultra-modern A. Alfred Taubman Complex will soon offer a source of daily inspiration for engineering and architecture students of Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, USA.

The centerpiece of the new, three-story structure will be a uniquely designed spherical stairwell built from FRP composite materials. Composites Consulting Group (CCG), an independent Diab Group company, provided infusion expertise to bring this ambitious project to life.

Making room for the future

Construction on The Taubman Engineering, Life Sciences, and Architecture Complex (TELSA) marks the first phase of Lawrence Technological University’s (LTU) 55-million dollar “Proud Heritage, Bold Future” capital campaign. For the project, LTU selected Thom Mayne of the internationally renowned Morphosis Architects, based in Los Angeles. A winner of numerous prestigious awards throughout his more than forty-year long career, Mayne is known for an emphasis on green architecture, and the TELSA complex was designed with sustainability in mind.

The new building will support the LTU campus’ rapid expansion by linking the existing science and engineering buildings and providing 125,000 square feet of much needed classroom space. Facilities will include robotics and biomedical laboratories in addition to modular spaces designed to accommodate the unanticipated needs of technological education in the future.

Fusing a strong partnership

The focal point of Mayne’s design is an exterior stairwell enclosed in a 44-foot tall, futuristic-looking orb. CONSTRUCT was awarded the contract to design, manufacture, deliver and install the enclosure. JRL Ventures, Inc. of Sarasota Florida, leading experts in the design and engineering of composite tooling, were brought in to fabricate the Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) components that would be used to form the distinctive sphere. Having previously completed a number of highly successful projects with Diab and Composites Consulting Group (CCG), JRL turned to CCG for manifold design and support for the resin infusion process.

Infusion expertise ensures safety and compliance

The TELSA stairwell enclosure is composed of five separate, 44 foot-long FRP components fabricated from one section of tooling. To ensure the components met local and state fire regulations, CONSTRUCT selected a phenolic infusion resin system using Cellobond J2027 resin and Phencat 382 acid catalyst. A number of traditional infusion materials, including nylon, aluminum and carbon steel, can become reactive when using a phenolic resin system. Understanding which products to use was therefore a crucial element in the infusion. 

Ground broke on the TELSA complex in September 2014. Thanks to CCG’s expert training and process support, JRL and CONSTRUCT were able to deliver and install the building’s focal point, which is sure to be an example for the future generations of engineers, architects and designers passing through Lawrence’s campus. Construction on the building is expected to be complete by late 2016.