Photos by Robert Benson

East Hartford, Conn.-based ceiling contractors N.T. Oliva Inc. is a third-generation company that has been producing quality work since 1962. The contractor’s work spans from residential to commercial projects throughout most of the state, as well as western Massachusetts. N.T. Oliva’s vice president and project manager, Josh Oliva, says the company will work on almost any project from 5,000 to 500,000 square feet. Currently, its workforce ranges from 25 to 30 workers and staff.

One of these projects, and one in which N.T. Oliva is most proud is Kroon Hall, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University which the company worked on over the last two years. The project was named CISCA’s 2008 Best Of Competition (Gold)-Acoustical Solutions, East Region winner.
Kroon Hall was built as a sustainable building. The hall is meant as a showcase of the latest in green building technology, a healthy environment for students, and an inspiring building that connects students, faculty, staff, and visitors with the natural world. Kroon will also be the new center of environmental activities on the Yale campus and an anchor for long-term sustainable development of Science Hill.

Although this is not the first sustainable project on Yale’s campus, it is a benchmark, says Mark Simon, FAIA, partner with Centerbrook Architects and Planners LLP, which served as executive architects to the project. (London-based Hopkins Architects were the design team for the project).

“The building is framed in concrete and the concrete mass is exposed in ceilings to expedite energy exchange with the interior atmosphere,” says Simon. “The building thus has more thermal mass to store heat or cold from day to night and day to day.”

When asked what the design concepts were to Kroon Hall, Simon says the primary approaches were to reduce the building’s need for energy prior to considering active sources of energy.

“It uses a passive solar approach: it is a long, narrow building running east-west to maximize exposure to the winter sun,” he says. “The lowest floor is set into the sloping site to expose less of the building to winter winds. At the same time, south-facing glass is set deep into the building mass and east and west glass is behind louvers to shade them from summer sun. The building is super insulated and has high-performance glass.”

Furthermore, he says one of Centerbrook’s goals was to make a durable, 100 year-plus building. Collectively, Centerbrook and Hopkins were charged to uphold Yale’s architectural tradition with a contemporary building, Simon says.

Groundbreaking took place in May 2007.

Drywall contractors Partitions Inc., also of East Hartford, landed the bid for Kroon Hall and subcontracted its work out to N.T. Oliva. Through past working relationships, Partitions knew N.T. Oliva would be right for the project.


The ceiling is a continuous plane, where the panels stretched from one wall to the next. Ceiling manufacturer Rulon supplied its FSC-certified Aluratone acoustical panels and wood veneered flat panels. Approximately 10,000 square feet of the Aluratone product was used.

“We did a very extensive shop drawing process and all the panels came cut to size, except one wall that split a panel and we had to field cut those,” says Josh Oliva.

There were approximately 495 panels on the project. Out of that number, N.T. Oliva had to cut maybe a dozen in the field.

“There were several different panel configurations. Some were slotted for better acoustical performance with acoustical backer. Some were solid wood. It was MDF core with an oak veneer,” says Josh Oliva.

Panels proved to be very heavy, with each piece around 2 to 3 pounds per square foot (approximately 60 pounds a panel).

The panels did need to provide good acoustical attributes, not just serve a decorative function. The Rulon ceiling panels are perforated with acoustic material behind to help control sound reverberations and quiet the large spaces, says Simon.

“Several [of the panels] were slotted; slots cut through the board and we put the non-woven acoustical backers on it. The panels came with the backers so we didn’t have to field apply those,” says Josh Oliva.

“The impact of the final product is very impressive because there is no break between the walls and ceiling,” he says. “We had to index each panel to make sure they lined up because we had probably 20 panels from one end to the other. Otherwise, it would ruin the effect.”


The project also required modular scaffolding to be erected, as well as electric scissor lifts for easier access. It was 26 feet to the peak of the ceiling. The ceiling contractor had two 20 feet towers with outriggers and staircase, which had to be built onto the scaffolding.

“If you look at the space, there is a large opening in the floor that we had to bridge across,” says Josh Oliva. “So, the scaffolding was very planned out. There were a lot of obstacles.”

The Kroon Hall is slated for LEED Platinum status. The USGBC is reviewing the design submissions to determine its ranking. Construction submittals are also underway, says Simon. W&C