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AI Tech Center Aims to Revive City’s Technological Prominence

Andy Hart

February 18, 2010

The announcement by Abul Islam, President/CEO of AI Engineers, Inc. located in Middletown, Connecticut of his plans to build a brand new, scientifically advanced Tech Center at Constitution Plaza in Downtown Hartford took many people back to the early 1960's, when the Plaza itself was new and considered one of the greatest urban renewal projects in the country.

But Mr. Islam wants to go back even further into the city's history, back to the time when Samuel Colt built a huge factory on the banks of the Connecticut River that was so advanced and innovative in its time that it attracted some of the best scientific minds in the country.

On the surface, one can see little similarity between the architectural renderings of AI's gleaming office tower and the hulking Colt factory in the South Meadows. But the Colt factory's innovative techniques were as revolutionary in their time as the AI Tech Center's fuel cells, photovoltaic power system and other advanced energy saving measures are today.

"This building will be able to produce at least 50 percent of its own power," said Islam, opening the way for the AI Tech Center to take a leading role in the "Green Revolution" just as the Colt factory was instrumental in the Industrial Revolution.

Islam's decision to build the Tech Center at Constitution Plaza was greeted with a sigh of relief by city leaders who were reeling from Channel 3's decision to move out of Constitution Plaza. But Islam wants to do far more than simply patch the physical and figurative hole left by the departure of Channel 3.

It's no accident that the AI Tech Center is located a stone's throw away from the new Connecticut Science Center. Islam sees educating the region's future workforce as the key to its future.

"The energy, dedication and inspiration of the many people I have met and worked with over the past few years in Hartford have helped set the City on the course of choosing the right road to take into the future," said Islam. "We must all build on this success. As an engineer and business owner, I know the value of mentoring. Mentoring helped me achieve my goals and my dreams. And I am honored and privileged to be able to offer the same encouragement to the next generation of scientists and engineers," said Islam.

The new AI Tech Center will almost be a scientific exhibit in itself demonstrating the latest technology in energy efficiency. Indeed Mr. Islam plans to make the new building a destination for Hartford's school children and students from nearby college and universities to learn about existing and future green building construction and operating methods.

Demolition of the old Channel 3 Broadcast House is now nearing completion. Construction on the AI Tech Center is expected to begin late spring or early summer of this year. When completed, the 290 thousand gross square foot structure is expected to be the first LEED Platinum certified commercial building in the State of Connecticut.

The AI Tech Center was designed by the Boston architectural firm Childs, Bertman, Tseckares, Inc. (cbt). Architectural drawings reveal a building that is "green" not only in a figurative sense but also literally: it's topped by a rooftop garden. The glassed-in Tech Center is designed to maximize the capture of solar energy. The interior will be flooded with natural light, another throwback to the Colt legacy. Like most 19th century factories, the Colt Armory used large and numerous windows to let in the sunshine and reduce lighting costs.

"We have been committed to creating sustainable buildings that fit the fabric of our cities, and the AI Tech Center offers many tenets that cbt holds near and dear," said Charles Tseckares, principal of cbt. "As a high-performance LEED Platinum building at the heart of Constitution Plaza, the project contributes to the city with sound urban design and architecture that embodies the goals of a forward-thinking technology center." The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

AI Engineers, Inc. itself will occupy two floors of the Tech Center. Founded 18 years ago and currently headquartered in Middletown Connecticut, AI Engineers, Inc. is a 100 person firm delivering project excellence in civil and architectural engineering, bridge inspection and construction inspection.

Jones, Lang, LaSalle, the world's second largest commercial real estate firm, will be leasing the rest of the building including retail space and a rooftop restaurant that will offer spectacular views of the city. Associate Sean O'Neil said in spite of the slowdown of real estate in the region, this forward-thinking and innovative building will be a big draw for certain tenants. And one of those draws will be the impact the green technology will have on energy costs. He believes corporations who want to enhance their brand will want to locate to the AI Tech Center.

Suffolk Construction of Boston, Massachusetts, which has worked extensively with CBT around the country, will be erecting the building. The company has considerable experience in sustainable construction practices. Mark DiNapoli, President of Suffolk Construction, said this project exemplifies what they believe modern buildings should have; "sustainability, collaboration and an opportunity for reinvestment in a community". Suffolk has constructed a number of buildings in Fairfield and New Haven Counties.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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