Repositioning an Industrial Terminal Building as a Nature-Inspired Workplace of the Future

The Tetra Tech High Performance Buildings Group designed systems to support energy-efficient and health-promoting upgrades for the repositioning of St. John’s Terminal, complementing COOKFOX Architects’ biophilic design intent, and targeting LEED Platinum.


  • Architect: COOKFOX Architects
  • Developer: Oxford Properties Group
  • LEED: LEED Platinum targeted
  • Size: 1,300,000 square feet

Tetra Tech worked with COOKFOX and Oxford Properties Group to design a space that focuses on the health and wellness of its occupants and redefines the workplace of the future. Built in 1934, the massive St. John’s Terminal was the terminus of the New York Central Railroad’s West Side freight line used for transporting manufacturing-related goods until 1960. This historical building is now being transformed into the next generation of high-performance, nature-inspired workplaces.

The Tetra Tech team carefully integrated new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) infrastructure into the existing building structure and facade. HVAC upgrades that contribute to a healthier indoor environment include highly filtered air, UV-C lamps in the air stream of the air handling units, and an elevated level of ventilation air. Energy-efficient upgrades include a new chiller plant, ice storage, and energy recovery units.

To improve occupants' connection with nature, key parts of the biophilic design include a new facade that brings daylight into the interiors and provides views of the city and Hudson River. A double-wall curtain wall with a ventilated cavity and integrated shading provides energy savings estimated at approximately 1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year compared to a typical high-performance facade. Viewglass, an electrodynamic window shading system, was utilized for optimal visual comfort. Our team collaborated closely with the architect to accomplish the design intent of exposing the existing train trackbed through the exterior without impacting energy or occupant comfort. The trackbed, along with additional terraces, are adorned with native plantings, strengthening occupants' connection to nature.

As the sustainability consultant for the project, we worked with the developer and architect to ensure the project stayed on track of targeting LEED Platinum. Sustainable features include a high-performance facade, rainwater capture, use of native and adapted plant selections, and high-efficiency irrigation with smart scheduling technology that results in no potable water use for irrigation. The project has a 39.2 percent energy cost reduction compared to an ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010, Appendix G baseline and a 36.7 percent water-use reduction through high-efficiency plumbing fixtures.

Tetra Tech provided comprehensive energy analysis to support the building’s energy efficiency and sustainability goals. In addition to stringent New York City Energy Conservation Code compliance and LEED studies, our team undertook a detailed analysis of the ice storage system charging and discharging cycles, utility rates, electrochromic glass technology, ventilated double skin facade, and Zone Green deductions. These features are critical to achieving LEED Platinum and ultimately delivering a high-performance building.

The information technologies design includes redundance riser pathway, in-building radio, cellular and Wi-Fi 802.11ax, CCTV system and digital video recording, background audio/music system, digital signage and displays, and security access control and perimeter electronic security.

As the commissioning agent for the project, Tetra Tech’s focus was to provide a quality assurance process of verifying and documenting that MEP systems were designed, installed, and tested according to energy conservation codes, green building standard requirements, and the developer’s project requirements. Our process also included training verification of the facility’s operating personnel and delivery of necessary documentation to maintain and operate the facility according to developer’s project requirements.

Rendering by COOKFOX Architects