Fort Ti wins engineering award

TICONDEROGA - Fort Ticonderoga and Ryan-Biggs Associates of Troy have been cited by the American Council of Engineering Companies, ACEC, for engineering excellence in building Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center.

The building assignment was unusual from the beginning: to precisely recreate an 18th-century French building that would hold 21st-century educational facilities. The magasin du Roi, the King's warehouse, was the site of the baking ovens and held all the fort's supplies, including the gunpowder. It was intentionally blown up in 1759 by the French as they abandoned the fort to Gen. Burgoyne's advancing forces. The force of the explosion and the ensuing fires destroyed the building.

Confronted with the unusual challenges, and working closely with historians, Tonetti Associates Architects and Fort Ti Buildings Supervisor Lyle St. Jean, Ryan-Biggs engineers devised strategies to surmount the complications. Preservation and environmentally sustainable building practices were cited by the both designers and donors as primary concerns. To that end excavated stone was reused to face the entire building including the South-east Bastion; wells were drilled in the bedrock for the geothermal heating system, and materials with recycled content were used throughout the construction process.

The project initially required three years of archeology to get the site ready for construction to take place. As plans began to develop one of the initial challenges was maximizing the useable interior space by devising a unique alternative to containing the utility systems for the building. The answer was a tunnel under the Parade Ground where the electrical, plumbing and heating systems come into the Mars Center from mechanical rooms in the North demi-lune.

Some of the masonry walls of the fort date back to 1755, while others were reconstructed in the early-20th century, using what were then state-of-practice engineering standards and construction techniques. Less than 30 percent of the original 18th-century building fabric survives. The foundation and basement level underwent many upgrades over the years as the Fort became an ever-more popular family destination.

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