Sto Panel Used for Student Housing at Rowan University

StoPanel

This large-scale student housing project at Rowan University in N.J. relied on StoPanel to meet an aggressive construction schedule.

Rowan University in New Jersey needed housing to accommodate its rapidly expanding student body and partnered with the nearby town of Glassboro (just outside Philadelphia) to construct a six-story residential building.

The proposed structure, called The Penthouse, was a large L-shaped building with 500,000 square feet of floor space and approximately 200,000 SF of exterior wall. While designed mainly for student housing, there was also mixed-use space on the first floor. The project had to go up swiftly in order to house incoming students that same year, so the construction schedule was exceptionally aggressive.

The owner, developer and general contractor, Nexus Properties concluded that the only way they would come close to meeting the desired timeline for completion was by using prefab panels for the walls. Even with that, it was going to be tight.

Having worked with Jersey Panel for over 20 years, they enlisted their help. StoPanel was then brought onto the team. The offsite construction plans called for StoPanel Classic, a lightweight prefabricated panel that is both energy efficient and durable, with continuous insulation and the StoGuard air and moisture barrier forming the core of the system.  Sto’s versatile choice of finishes would then allow for almost any design aesthetic that was envisioned.

Nexus ultimately specified StoPanel Brick ci, a lightweight, energy-efficient prefabricated exterior wall panel, incorporating EPS insulation and StoGuard. It weighed a fraction of conventional thick brick and gave the Rowan buildings an updated traditional look. The final touch was Stolit® Lotusan,®  a ready-mixed, hydrophobic exterior textured finish designed to resist dirt pick-up and keep the walls clean and attractive. To achieve a very detailed exterior look, three contrasting finish materials were used – brick, cast stone and texture

Essentially the entire outside wall structure was completed in-house, then brought to the jobsite by truck, lifted into place with a crane, then bolted to the structural framing.  “The beauty of prefab is that the exterior goes up quickly,” said Art Baruffi Jr, VP Project Management for Jersey Panel, “And the interior can get started at almost the same time.” The average installation, he reports, was 10 panels a day, with each building requiring an average of about 65 panels.  “We didn’t need carpenters, plasterers and other related trades in the field since the walls were ready to go up when they arrived, and we worked with a crew of just five or six people to install them.”

The owners were so pleased with the new building, including the quality panels and the waterproofing details, they engaged the same StoPanel Technology team and their affiliate, Jersey Panel Corp. for the next six buildings they constructed. Between 2014 and 2018, seven buildings comprising more than 450,000 square feet and 1,500 wall panels were constructed in three phases.

Everyone involved in the process understood that panelization as a construction methodology offered distinct advantages: The buildings could be enclosed before it got cold, and the interior could then be finished. Working on the final six buildings almost simultaneously, they were able to make the panels ahead of time and the installation got faster and easier with each structure. In this case, speed meant cost savings and added value.

Sto panels were the right choice for these projects and served the needs of the university and ultimately the city, by creating aesthetically-pleasing buildings with high energy efficiency and superior performance characteristics. The new buildings are a showcase on the campus that Rowan can now use to help attract more students.


The Changing Face of Construction

In this three-part blog series, we are going to explore how the evolution of design and construction processes have dramatically changed in the past decade, especially as they relate to prefabrication and modular construction.

We’re not talking about the prefabricated kit homes of the 20th century, but rather offsite construction that accounts for a wide range of projects today, from whole-building modular solutions, to prefabricated walls and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that can help contractors accelerate production schedules while employing less labor on site. In today’s labor-constrained construction environment, the prefabrication solution is being increasingly adopted where reduced costs, resource efficiency and meeting tight schedules are priorities.

Several industry reports have shed light on these big-picture industry trends, including a study by FMI, a leading investment banking and consulting firm focused on the engineering and construction infrastructure and the built environment, and the BIM (Building Information Modeling) Forum. They surveyed 156 industry leaders most of whom work in the commercial sector and whose businesses, collectively, represent approximately $38 billion in annual revenue.

Some of the findings:

  • In 2010, only 26% of the survey respondents were using prefabricated assemblies on more than 20% of their projects. By late 2016, this number more than doubled: 55% of respondents were using prefab assemblies on more than 20% of their projects.
  • Project inefficiencies and improved technologies are driving prefabrication as a way to mitigate labor shortages and improve construction schedules.
  • Contractors who use prefab on more than 50% of their projects are more productive and efficient compared to those who do less prefab.
  • While many contractors struggle to make prefab pencil out, others plan to increase their investments in prefab over the next five years.

Just how much can prefabrication impact a project’s bottom line, and can it really be a competitive differentiator? Join us next week as we delve deeper into this topic and take a look at the relatively small, fast-growing cottage industry of prefabrication innovators who are driving change and shaping the future of the industry.


The New World of Virtual Reality in Construction

Virtual building design is making a dramatic impact on the construction industry.

Okay.  You are an architect in Hong Kong, and you’re working with a construction company in San Francisco. You can both “look around” a computerized 3D model of your building (this is not new technology) but now you can also actually feel what it’s like to be right inside the structure by wearing virtual reality (VR) headsets, getting a 360-degree view. And, by wearing the same headsets, you can do this together and make real time changes even if you’re on opposite sides of the world.

Welcome to the world of virtual building design – a big leap for the construction industry, which has traditionally been more interested in bricks than clicks.

Building information modeling (BIM) – or developing a 3D digital prototype of a project – has been trending.  Using 3D gaming technology and cloud-based software, industry leaders are now bringing together building design environments and workflows into a single, navigable view. Users navigate these virtual designs almost like a video game.

The opportunity for reducing errors, keeping tabs on and tracking large complex projects while also saving money (30% of a project’s total budget is usually spent correcting errors not visible in the design stage) are the obvious benefits of this VR computer-aided design. It’s definitely disruptive technology, and it’s spawning new, streamlined building design practices that will change the nature of construction forever.


Integrated Design-Build Project Delivery Gains Momentum

Many states and municipalities are adopting new rules for commissioning construction projects.

The construction industry is re-evaluating the traditional design-bid-build method of project delivery and exploring alternatives. Rather than architects designing a project and then, after the fact, involving a contractor to bid and build, the new trend is for “integrated project delivery” with designers and builders working together from the start of a project with a single contract for both design and construction services. In fact, half of all U.S. states now favor an integrated design-build approach, which reduces the likelihood of schedule-stops and delays, budget over-runs, change orders and other conflicts.

Studies have found that a design-build delivery system can cost 6% less and result in 34% faster project completion compared to the traditional design-bid-build format. New York requires design-build on some state contracts, claiming that infrastructure projects in particular lend themselves to this integrated approach and could save New York City alone $2 billion over the next decade.

There continues to be ongoing dialogue over this practice and trend.

Construction Dive: http://www.constructiondive.com/news/do-contract-types-determine-a-projects-fate/408171/

Building Design + Construction: http://www.bdcnetwork.com/half-us-states-now-allow-design-build-public-projects ;

Engineering News Record: http://www.enr.com/articles/38694-disputed-design-build-study-raises-questions-about-costs?v=preview;

The Design-Build Institute of America: http://www.dbia.org/Pages/default.aspx


Can Green Buildings Make Us Smarter?

Green is good -- outside or inside an occupied building.

A recent study published by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) suggests that Green Buildings create optimized conditions for health and productivity. In a series of experiments, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) factors for both “green” and “conventional” buildings were simulated in a controlled environment that included office workers, and the researchers measured variables such as carbon dioxide variation, ventilation and exposure to volatile organic compounds in the building atmosphere.

The results? On average, cognitive scores for the two groups of workers were 61% higher for those working in a building with green features than with conventional construction.  In other words, green building can potentially deliver a smarter workforce.


Energy Efficient Buildings Key to Combating Climate Change

energy efficient building

Renovating the Federal Building in Portland, Oregon cut energy usage by 45% and water consumption by 60%.

A new report from the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Sustainable Business Council concludes that energy-efficient buildings are one of the most effective and economical ways to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint in response to global warming. That’s because buildings account for more greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. than any other source, including transportation and industry. The report probes the economics of green buildings and their value in mitigating greenhouse gas production, suggesting that brick and mortar solutions to the climate challenge make for good economics in the long run.