Officials at the University of New Haven are using a total precast concrete system with architectural insulated precast concrete wall panels in several finishes to create a new hub for student activities on the campus. The system is expected to help complete the Westside Residence Hall on a fast-track schedule so it is ready for occupancy in the fall of 2014.
“I was skeptical that precast concrete was the best choice for a high-design dormitory like this,” says John Corkill, project architect at Design Collective Inc. “But the erection has gone relatively quickly while the final design and shop-drawing process was completed on a parallel schedule track.”
The four-story, 90,000-square-foot facility sits on a podium base consisting of below-grade mechanical, kitchen-support and parking areas. Its first floor consists of a 300-seat dining room, common lounge spaces, office space for university personnel, and about 2,300 square feet of state-of-the-art technology classrooms. Above this are three more levels with 151 units providing space for up to 355 student beds, arranged in pod systems around central lounge areas.
The precast concrete system consists of columns, beams, hollowcore plank, stairs, landings, parapets and 8-inch-thick solid precast concrete interior wall panels. The perimeter contains 11-inch-thick load-bearing architectural panels that include 3 inches of insulation. The panels are finished with a combination of a buff-colored sandblasted texture and embedded thin brick, with large glass areas and projections to add dimension and visual interest. Oldcastle Precast fabricated the precast concrete components.
“The blend of brick that can be achieved today with precast concrete panels has improved greatly, providing a more natural look,” says Corkill. A white cement mix was used as the backing and mortar between bricks, creating a bright joint pattern.
The project was slowed by various design and construction-team changes, leading to the need to complete the 16-month schedule in only 11 months, Corkill explains. “We went to a fast-track system once all of the changes were worked out, and the precaster kept things rolling. They assured us we’d meet the schedule to open for occupancy when students arrive in the fall.”
Oldcastle has been operating two cranes 12 hours per day to meet the schedule, and was able to erect the north portion of the building while precasting details on the south side were still being designed. “The owner has been pleased with how the work has progressed, but their real happiness will come when the project opens on time,” Corkill says.