Creative approaches enable an affordable solution for a unique residence hall
- Project The Heights, Montclair State University
- Location Montclair, New Jersey
- Type of Precast CarbonCast Insulated Architectural Cladding
- Project Size 567,271 sq.ft.
- CarbonCast Surface Area 175,000 sq.ft.
- Architect PS&S Architecture P.C., Warren, NJ
- Contractor Terminal Construction Corporation, Wood Ridge, NJ
- Owner The Capstone Companies, Wood Ridge, NJ
- Precaster High Concrete Group LLC
Innovations abound in all-precast residence halls
The combination of tight budgets and increased enrollment has required creative approaches for less costly student housing on college campuses nationwide. Owners of The Heights at Montclair State University, Montclair, N.J., a $211 million, 567,271-square-foot, two-tower residence complex—now the largest in the state—opted for an innovative carbon fiber reinforced enclosure system for record cost and energy savings.
Despite needing to reduce costs, officials wanted to promote a unique residential experience compelling commuter students to stay. CarbonCast® Insulated Architectural Cladding offers exceptional performance and aesthetics as an exterior wall system intended for horizontal and vertical placement. Each sandwich-type precast panel uses C-GRID® carbon fiber grid connectors between inner and outer concrete wythes to deliver all the benefits inherent to precast cladding while incorporating rigid insulation in the panel.
“Precast eliminated fireproofing, which saved time and money. No additional exterior finishes were required. In operations and maintenance, precast will afford the durability of masonry without the hassle of tuck-pointing, leaks and more. Acoustically, the precast system’s mass will reduce sound-transmission between rooms and floors significantly,” said Steve Derochi, President of PS&S Architecture P.C., Warren, N.J.
Rising to meet new challenges
A multi-residential complex, Dinallo Heights and Machuga Heights share panoramic views of Manhattan to the east. Each has four residential buildings that house 2,000 students in eight wings varying from six to eight stories and 7,500 to 9,500 square feet.
Residence halls are enclosed with 175,000 square feet of 11”-thick CarbonCast Insulated Architectural Cladding fabricated by High Concrete Group LLC at its Denver, Pa., and Springboro, Ohio plants. Each manufacturing plant poured one complete building.
The load-bearing precast sandwich panels are comprised of 5” inner and 3” outer concrete wythes connected by C-GRID epoxy-coated carbon fiber grid shear trusses. The relatively low conductivity of C-GRID prevents thermal bridging through the panel and enables edge-to-edge, continuous insulation (c.i.) for a thermally efficient building envelope. The architectural stackwall panels also incorporate 3” of rigid XPS insulation foam from Owens Corning for a uniform R-15 value that meets ASHRAE-90.1 requirements for a mass wall with continuous insulation. Large, ‘furred out’ solid panels at the ends provide shear support.
“Thermal mass is still a big deal in reducing operating costs,” says Derochi. “The insulated panels also eliminated virtually any thermal bridges in the exterior wall system.”
Depending on the application, CarbonCast Insulated Architectural Cladding can typically provide weight reductions of about 40 percent compared to solid, 6” thick precast. While this load-bearing application did not benefit from weight reduction, the stackwall configuration eliminated use of a redundant structural system to support the floor at the building perimeter.
Aesthetics impart a southwestern atmosphere
Campus officials wanted to replicate the aesthetics of Spanish Mission-style buildings first constructed when the institution was founded as the New Jersey State Normal School in 1908. Characteristic of this style are white stucco walls and low-pitched tile roofs, though new structures omit the original stucco.
“We chose precast because we believed it would result in a better quality and more durable finish,” said Derochi. “From a campus planning point of view, you can stack the precast system pretty high without a significant cost premium.”
The façade has two precast concrete mixes in buff and white colors that achieve the look of stucco. The mix contained 30 percent fly ash in place of Portland cement to reduce the exterior’s carbon footprint and post-consumer demand for building materials. Because 80-90 percent of the materials were extracted, manufactured, delivered and installed within 500 miles of the project site, transporting and erecting the panels saved on fuel, further reducing emissions.
Elevations for the first two floors mimic limestone while the upper five to eight stories are white concrete. Panels have bay window projections, bullnoses and numerous reveals for added intrigue and articulation. Precast manufacturer High Concrete Group LLC gained forming and cost efficiencies by moving window block outs and creating left- and right-hand versions of panels in 26’- and 36’-length modules.
Interior wall surfaces received a steel trowel finish for direct paint application in rooms and corridors, eliminating drywall and associated maintenance costs often accrued on an annual basis for student residence buildings. Painted prestressed plank eliminated the need for hung ceilings.
Getting the job done with high marks
Key to expediting an already tight schedule was use of precast concrete chosen instead of cold-formed metal and an exterior insulation and finishing system. Panels are manufactured off-site in a controlled factory environment and delivered for immediate erection. This prevented material and equipment storage, weather delays and other setbacks, expediting construction and allowing other subcontractors ample time to complete their work.
“Many hours over and above the normal pre-planning time frame were put into this project, which resulted in a 15-month construction schedule being condensed to 13 months and a project completion date targeted well ahead of the contractual completion date,” said Donald Dinallo, President and CEO of Terminal Construction Corporation, Wood Ridge, N.J.
It also prevented higher field labor costs. A crane on each of the two building sites lifted the precast panels and floor plank into place. To minimize downtime and accelerate erection, the buildings were constructed by story. Each crane erected the two wings simultaneously, alternating between buildings while grouting operations were taking place.
“The structure was ready to accept rough-ins as soon as two floors were in place above, which expedited the other trades big time,” says Derochi.
Early project development also minimized changes to forming, unique sizes, and narrow-width, non-uniform hollowcore to limit time and costs. For instance, the design team determined that the mansard roof planned for the project was too expensive during the design-build process. PS&S and High Concrete Group LLC worked closely to create an L-shaped eyebrow parapet alternative to the mansard roof. Screens hide roof-mounted mechanical systems. As a result, the 2-½’ to 3’ eyebrow projection saved approximately $1.5 million per building or a total of $3 million overall.
The facility is also the first public facility operated by a private owner, The Capstone Companies, Birmingham, Ala., authorized under the New Jersey Stimulus Act of 2009. According to the arrangement, the university provided land while a development team designs, builds, finances and manages the project. The university will own the facility that opened to students in August 2011 after 30 years.
“The partnership worked very well with both parties having the ultimate goal of the start-up of construction and its ultimate completion,” Dinallo explains. “It is a testament that when the public and private sectors work together with a common goal, success is achieved on all fronts.”
It is registered for LEED® Silver Certification.