Thomas Jefferson University – Jefferson Tower Construction and Edison Building

New construction, existing building renovation; Thomas Jefferson University - Jefferson Tower Construction and Edison Building; Stantec

By Stantec August 15, 2013

Engineering firm: Stantec
2013 MEP Giants rank:
Thomas Jefferson University – Jefferson Tower Construction and Edison Building
Philadelphia, Pa., United States
Building type:
Project type:
Engineering services:
Electrical/Power, Fire & Life Safety, HVAC
Project timeline:
February 2009 to July 2013
Engineering services budget:
$15 million
MEP budget:
$15 million


Stantec faced a number of complex challenges on the project, which included both the Edison Building renovation and the newly constructed Jefferson Tower, on Thomas Jefferson University’s Philadelphia campus. Since the two buildings had to connect together via second and third floor corridors, the team encountered challenges that resulted from the structural differences of the two buildings, such as unmatched and low floor heights, small floor plates in the Jefferson Tower, and uneven pressurization. The space itself complicated the project as the Jefferson Tower is long, thin, and situated on a corner of the street.

To achieve LEED Silver certification for the 11-story Jefferson Tower, the team mitigated several issues centered around shaft sizes. Horsepower from the fans could not be driven up, and with the building’s low ceiling and small floor plates, the team struggled to realize the required efficiency rating for LEED Silver status. Similarly, maintaining the minimum efficiency level within the lighting system was challenging as the need to keep the system 75% to 80% below code for LEED status had to be balanced with the lighting design team’s desire to include components with highly pleasing visual appeal. Since the original design for the Edison Building did not account for makeup air from the toilet exhaust system, air was being drawn out of the adjoined tower. Reconnecting to the electrical system also proved difficult as the existing system ran throughout numerous buildings. To further complicate the project, the team was confronted with the monumental challenge of how to pump no. 2 fuel oil up to the tower’s rooftop generator, as there was no fuel oil tank or pump installed in the basement.


To combat the project’s many challenges, the Stantec team addressed each issue separately while relying on their combined range of experience and expertise to find solutions. To achieve LEED Silver status for the Jefferson Tower and resolve the problems stemming from the architectural differences between the two buildings, the team employed a floor-by-floor approach while working closely with the project’s architect. By fostering a collaborative environment that focused on shared design goals, the group was able to reduce ceiling heights without impacting the architectural layout of the building and incorporate multiple shafts in the north and south sides of the Jefferson Tower. Stantec’s team also coordinated with the structural engineering crew to determine which beams could be undercut and penetrated throughout the space. Similarly, the lighting system’s level of efficiency was successfully kept in check at 75% to 80% below code in part because of the team’s history of excellent cooperation with the project’s lighting design contractor. In response to the design shortfalls of the Edison Building’s HVAC system, the team provided makeup air for each floor and renovated all the toilet rooms.

Additionally, stair tower pressurization for smoke control was designed into the Jefferson Tower to provide pressurization on multiple floors, ensure even pressure throughout the tower, and allow the building to comply with regulations concerning the amount of time required for the doors to tightly close. The team utilized its expertise to ensure proper operation of the interconnected fire alarm system. Per the client’s request, the team also installed double-ended switchgear in the electrical system.

The Jefferson Tower’s fuel supply issue was solved after the team invested a significant amount of time and critical thought to calculate pressure loss formulas and help plan out the task with a local oil vendor. While the team could have installed a tank in the tower basement and pump oil up from there, this option was discarded as it would have added at least $250,000 in extra cost and the basement’s available space was severely limited by its small floor plate. The nearly completed Jefferson Tower and renovated Edison Building will provide much needed clinical office space for Thomas Jefferson University’s combined neurology/neurosurgery groups and present a new public "face" for Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.