- Company: Uhl Construction Company
- Industry: General Building
- Location: Allison Park, Pennsylvania
- Expected Completion Date: September 30, 2015
- Project Website
The overall project consists of the converting and renovating of the 107 year old dormitory building into offices, classrooms, a campus health center, and other student activity space to support Clarion University’s Student Success Center. The renovation highlights include: The demolition of the existing steel, cast iron, wood and masonry interior structure, including a section of the roof which was demolished. The exisiting exterior masonry wall assembly, stair closures and roof structure remains in place, but has been modified in some areas. A new interior steel frame with concrete floors and new foundations have been installed with this conversion. The installation also includes two elevators. All exterior remediation has been included, as well as a new geothermal heating/cooling system with a new well field, HVAC control which shall include the campus full access to all monitoring/controls/reporting. A new plumbing, sprinkler-fire protection system was required including all storm and sanitary additions. Replacement of the existing pad mounted exterior transformer, supply installation of a new exterior emergency generator, all new electrical system throughout the building with new controlled lighting, and an all new IT and communication system. Fire protection/reporting and a lighting protection system are included. The project complies with certain US Green Build Council (USGBC) LEED prerequisites and credits needed for the project to obtain LEED Silver Certification based on “USGBC’s LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations.”
Please view the attached “Building a Ship In a Bottle” video. It provides an idea of the complexity and the uniqueness of this project.
*Produced by Gilbane Building Company
What impact does this project have on America?
Clarion University’s Becht Hall Project, which converted the 107 year old dorm into offices, classrooms, a campus health center and other student activity space, supports the idea of the “Student Success Center” for all students.
This building was one of the original buildings on campus, and well before Clarion became a university. It was an integral part of the university’s history. The overwhelming sentiment was that the structure needed to be saved. The project was a complete new structural “superstructure” within the confines of the existing building, to preserve its overall historical appearance and value.
The project met the State System of Higher Education’s budget, in the midst of overall, state wide budget cuts.
Uhl Construction offered suggestions of where additional work could be performed in an effort to save on costly future work. (For example, the fourth floor windows were failing and not scheduled to be replaced. Uhl proposed unrequested budgets to replace the window and trim. The reasoning was that the cost to replace the windows in the future would be approximately 25-30% more expensive due to the limited access to the building via man lifts. During the project, the windows could be installed from the scaffolding erected as part of the base contract work.)
This project received a “LEED Silver-rated Certification.”
What interesting obstacles or unusual circumstances did you overcome to complete the project?
With the restoration and rebuilding of Clarion’s Becht Hall, we have learned that challenges of the logistics can be overcome. With that said, the largest challenge that we faced was bringing multiple departments “players” under one roof. Deconstruction and renovation can salvage significant historic structures and serve a modern and evolving use.
This project included erection of approximately 700,000 pounds of steel, with over 1,000 pieces erected with a 40-ton crane, all made “in the blind” via radio through 200 holes in the existing roof which our iron workers laid out and our carpenters cut prior to a steel erection sequence. Coordinating steel deliveries and staging on an extremely tight college campus, with the utilization of an R/T fork truck and trailers also proved to be challenging. Continual strategizing of crane size and placement to keep the cost down and devising plans on what steel could be erected through the roof with the crane , and how some of the much larger pieces of steel would fit into the building also added to the daily trials of the project. By the use of an air-hoist and because the roof could not be used, plans had to be produced on how and where the decking would get into the building onto multiple floors. Several different rigging procedures had to be utilized, including all steel lifted into the building “on end”, landed, then re-rigged conventionally to set in place.
All steel for this project was set without the disruption of the historic structure. Our iron worker crew carefully set the corridor steel through and around the temporary shoring which was supporting the roof. There were a total of 260+ full pen welds, including column splices and moment connections, all of which were X-ray inspected without a single fail.
This project maintained strict deadlines per sequence to stay on schedule. At times, the iron worker foreman was overseeing the steel erection, decking and concrete reinforcement concurrently.
What dangers and risks did you encounter, and describe any extraordinary methods used to keep workers safe?
This project was extremely complex, therefore project safety was very challenging. The project was very unique. Many of our standard safety procedures had to be reviewed and analyzed to be utilized on this project.
As the plan for the demolition, shoring, and steel erection evolved, safety was constantly evaluated. Some of the approaches to the demolition and shoring had to be eliminated due to limited control over safety. We maintained 100% safety tie-off for all trades, and no aerial lifts were used. “Retractibles” and “Beamers” were utilized. This included demolition, shoring, and steel erection. Each discipline had a ground man to watch for potential hazards, and coordination of the various trades for each crew could work in and among the other trades safely.
The steel was erected “blindly” via the use of radios. Each trade foreman had a radio so they could listen in to the erection process and schedule their crews around the steel lifts. Many times the IW foreman would call for quiet, or for other trades to vacate an area so that steel could be lifted overhead. The radios became a vital tool to coordinate the work, progress the project forward, and keep all trades safe in the process.
Weekly “Tool Box Talks” were supplemented by safety committee meetings. These meetings would focus on reoccurring tasks, and ways to improve the in-place safety, or look ahead to new challenges imposed by changing scope or the existing building conditions. We did not take a “top-down” safety approach. Many of the safety concerns were initiated from the workforce and the site leadership. Time was then taken to review various approaches to improve or build a safety protocol before work would resume or commence.
Ironworker Foreman, Wayne Travis, won the “2015 Jack Daley Ironworker Award” due to maintaining a “zero accident” jobsite for over 9,000 ironworker man-hours.
The project was highlighted in Gilbane’s safety week newsletter based on Uhl’s committment to safety under such complex circumstances.
How did you leverage new technologies to work faster and reduce waste?
Uhl Construction Company utilized ipads to take photographs of any unusual circumstances as they arose on the jobsite, which would allow for a very timely response to originate the way the issue would be resolved.
Uhl also implemented a “special” crew onsite every day, which focused primarily on ways to reduce waste on the site. This crew was also involved in learning specifically about materials used on the jobsite which were LEED certified. Many of the LEED certified products were refurbished, hence reducing waste.
Originally built in 1905 as a dormitory, the renovated building will house departments focused on student success. In addition, it will also allow students to conduct University business virtually: the building will contain Admissions, Health Services, the Center for Social Development, Academic Enrichment & Tutoring Services. With rich history filling its walls, the team worked closely with the University to maintain the building’s eligibility for the “National Historic Places”.
“Building A Ship In a Bottle” was the most innovative aspect of an educational facility that Uhl Construction has been involved with. The clay tile roof, exterior masonry, and interior woodwork was all preserved. By renovating nearly all of the interior of Becht Hall while preserving the exterior shell, this project can truly be described as “building a ship in a bottle”.
Following the renovation, the historic Becht Hall is viewed as a blend of the past and the present.