Hundreds of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) students are living in comfort at the recently finished West Campus Housing Project, a $70 million structure completed by Hoar Construction, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.
“The university had a need for additional housing and a need for additional parking,” says Chris Potter, Senior Project Manager for Hoar Construction.
The university’s freshman enrollment increased about 15 percent from 2015 to 2018.
“Students have a great building to call home for the next two to four years,” Potter says.
The new seven-story dormitory building includes 225,000 square feet of residential space, with 172 units, and 233,000 square feet of below-ground parking, with 646 spaces, increasing the parking by about 500 spaces, enough for each resident. An area on the corner of each floor features common spaces for students to gather, study together or work independently. The areas have 10-foot-tall windows overlooking the mountains, buildings on the campus or the greater Chattanooga area.
A Barnes & Noble bookstore, campus dining, restaurants, a demonstration kitchen, a post office, and laundry facility grace the ground floor. The building also features six upgraded tennis courts, new locker rooms and stadium seating for each set of courts. The competition courts are home to the university’s tennis team.
Architects DH&W of Chattanooga, founded in 1959, designed the West Campus Housing to compliment the UTC Library and Aquatic Recreation Center, also designed by the firm. The building was built to Tennessee Sustainable Design Guidelines.
Hoar participated in preconstruction activities, starting in the fall of 2014 and lasting about one year.
“It was a long job, roughly 34 months, so we were involved with the owner and design team for a long time,” Potter says. “We went through a lot of exercises to get the price where it needed to be. We did value engineering, cost analysis to make sure everything could be built for the funds available.”
Schedule is Everything
Before breaking ground for the new building in September 2015, Hoar demolished the existing tennis center. The project required coordination with students residing in nearby dormitories to ensure the building would finish on time.
“Schedule is everything,” Potter says. “The housing units had to be available for the fall of 2018. If not, they would have needed to place 600 students in hotels.”
The bottom level of parking is approximately 20 feet below the street level, and the edge of the building is less than 10 feet away from the adjacent street, Potter reports. Proximity to the adjacent streets created safety risks due to insufficient space for proper sloping procedures. Additionally, overhead city power lines limited options, and major utilities were located below ground.
The Hoar team sought geotechnical solutions to design a shoring system and safe work environment. The team decided on a soil nail shoring system, which entails draping the embankment with wire mesh, drilling horizontal holes approximately 10 feet to 20 feet in depth, and then driving similar length steel anchors horizontally into the soil to secure the wire mesh, Potter explains.
“We used the system to ensure safe conditions while we were doing the mass excavation,” Potter says. “The cut was deeper than 20 feet, so we had to install the shoring system in lifts to make sure the embankment was secure as the work progressed.”
The system required coordination with the city’s utility department to avoid disturbing any existing power or water lines. Hoar hired a Ground Penetrating Radar firm to provide more accurate locations to ensure a safe and nondestructive installation.
“The upfront coordination efforts were vital to the success of the shoring system and no utilities were damaged during the installation of the shoring system,” Potter reports.
The concrete structure sits on a concrete foundation.
Crews built the windows in the parking garage on site. Challenges existed in making the windows watertight. A quality control representative monitored installation and tested the system.
“These windows being a little more unique, we spent a lot of time talking with the glass contractor, manufacturer, architect, and our quality control department to come up with the best practices,” Potter says.
Crews tested each of the more than 600 windows, one at a time. If one did not pass, the team assessed why and made adjustments to the procedures, so future windows would benefit from what was learned earlier in the process.
“On a large job like this, small items can turn into big issues quickly,” Potter says. “Everything is magnified, so we have to be intentional to keep an eye on quality and safety.”
The exterior sports a brick façade, cast stone, metal panels, and curtain wall system at the corners of the building.
A Solid Reputation
Established in 1940, Hoar started with small projects. As it gained a reputation for honesty and professionalism, the company grew. It now operates in Alabama, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. The company provides general construction, construction management, design-build and program management services.
Hoar takes a collaborative approach to construction. Safety remains a top priority for the family-focused company. On this job, every person on site met weekly to discuss safety. During safety week, Hoar held safety luncheons to bring awareness to everyone on site and talked about how safety can affect them and their families, Potter says. The corporate safety director talked with the team, and material vendors made site visits and gave demonstrations.
“We wanted everyone to understand how seriously we take safety, and that we wanted them to take it just as seriously,” Potter says. “It was a safe job, and the superintendents did a great job. We want people to feel safe working on our jobs.”
This was Hoar’s first job in Chattanooga and with the University of Tennessee system. Potter praises the team effort it took to make the job successful.
“We were able to deliver a great building with high quality on time and on budget,” Potter concludes. “We gained a lot of trust along the way with local trade contractors, the architects and engineers, and the university. I’m proud of how we went into a new area and delivered the project as promised.”
Photos courtesy of Hoar Construction
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