Jerome L. Greene Neuroscience Center: building for scientific progress

MAPEI products used in award-winning project

The Jerome L. Green Neuroscience Center at the Manhattanville campus of Columbia University in New York City was built to take us into new frontiers of medicine. According to the University, “At the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, hundreds of the world’s leading researchers will tackle the most exciting scientific challenge of our time: understanding how the brain works and gives rise to mind and behavior.”

Housed within the Greene Science Center, the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute brings together nearly 1,000 scientists from across many departments at Columbia University who will collaborate on research, teaching and public programming. Their goal is a deeper understanding of the brain that promises to transform human health and society.

Floors covered with Mapeguard 2.

From effective treatments for disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to depression and autism, the potential impact for humanity is enormous. “Just as science was transformed in the 20th century by the decoding of DNA, science in the 21st century will be transformed by decoding the human brain,” said Eric Kandel, MD, co-director of the Zuckerman Institute.

The Greene Science Center is the first of several buildings to be completed on the Manhattanville campus. The University press office reported, “The nine-story, 450,000-sq.-ft. [41,806 m2]

Unique tile-to-metal stair installation.

structure is the largest that Columbia has ever built and the biggest academic science building in New York City.” Designed by the world-renowned Renzo Piano Building Workshop, in association with Davis Brody, LLP, and Body Lawson Associates of New York, the science center has led us to expect great things of its construction. In fact, the center won the Ceramics of Italy 2017 Tile Design Competition in the Institutional category.

MAPEI at work on the jobsite

Jantile, Inc., of Armonk, N.Y., won the bid to install the ceramic tile throughout the project. As always, coordination with other trades played a role in the installation, but thanks to general contractor Lend-Lease, with whom Jantile frequently works, all went smoothly.

Tiles set with Ultraflex LFT and grouted with Ultracolor Plus.

The main challenge dealt with accurate transitions from space to space. Because the Jantile crew was working with such large tiles over vast expanses of open space, and because the glass facades shed so much light on the space, the installers had to be exceptionally careful lining up tiles with each other and other surfaces on each of the eight levels.

Lots of light meant exacting transitions.

The first and largest component of the project for Jantile was the preparation of the space prior to setting tile. The core structure of the building is steel with a glass facade for the shell. Because the subsurface was steel, each of the eight upper floors had to be prepared with a mud bed measuring 2.5” (6,3 cm) in thickness. First, the crews put down a slip sheet and covered it with mud and wire reinforcement. The installation crews then combined MAPEI’s Planicrete® AC, a liquid latex admixture, with the mud bed mix to enhance its performance.

Once the mud bed cured, it was covered with MAPEI SM Primer™ and Mapeguard™ 2, a thin, lightweight crack-isolation and sound-reduction sheet membrane. Mapelastic™ 400 was also used for waterproofing in the restrooms.

Wide open expanses of tile.

Casalgrande Padana tile was installed over 78,000 sq. ft. (7,246 m2) of space on the upper eight levels of the nine-story building. In the corridors and open expanses, MAPEI’s Ultraflex™ LFT™ mortar and Ultracolor® Plus grout were used to install 40,000 sq. ft. (3,716 m2) of Pietre etrusche capalbio tiles from Casalgrande Padana’s Pietra Native Series measuring 24” x 48” (61 x 122 cm) and 18” x 36” (46 x 91 cm). An additional 38,000 sq. ft. (3,530 m2) of 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) floor tiles and 12” x 12” (30 x 30 cm) wall tiles from the Pietra Native series were set in public restrooms in the building. Once again, the setting materials were Ultraflex LFT and Ultracolor Plus. A custom mix of mosaic tiles from Vitra were used as a decorative feature in the restrooms, also set with the MAPEI products. All tiles and installation products were provided by MAPEI distributor ProSpec, LLC.

The installers worked from shop drawings that had been approved by the architects. The work in the restrooms took one to two months, and was done intermittently as each floor became ready. The large, open expanses were completed over a continuous six-month period. When restrooms and floor expanses were ready at the same time, eight to 12 Jantile installers worked the site.

One particularly interesting and unique challenge was met with a series of MAPEI products. The metal stairways connecting each floor were designed to be covered with the large-format Casalgrande Padana tiles. To get the ultimate bond between the ceramic tiles and metal stairs, the installers began by coating the metal surface with Primer E 100%-solids epoxy primer to enhance the bond with Mapecem Premix cement-based mortar for subfloor preparation work, which was layered on top of it. The tiles were then set into the Mapecem® Premix using Ultraflex LFT.

Project manager Don Durnell summed up this fascinating but challenging installation: “Coordination by experienced people throughout the entire process is what allowed us to accomplish this feat. We depended on the experience and expertise of our long-time employees to get the job done right.”

MAPEI is proud to have been a part of the job.