Whether they’re the market of the future, an answer to the affordable housing crisis or a passing fad made for reality television shows and hipster Instagram feeds, the tiny home movement is getting renewed interest in the age of the coronavirus.
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.
Built in 1976, Georgia King Village in Newark, New Jersey, was in need of a makeover. L+M Development Partners who acquired the two 18-story, affordable housing towers in 2016, were taking on a distressed structure, but were confident they could restore the complex. One rehab priority was installing a new exterior to replace the uninsulated precast concrete façade; the envelope was so porous that Georgia King residents were consistently unable to maintain a comfortable temperature in their apartments.
Over the next few years, L+M Development added a fresh new design and structural improvements transforming the Georgia King Village into a more efficient, more comfortable, and more attractive complex, while preserving its affordability.
Working with Sto Corp. products and experts, L&M upgraded the towers’ building envelope, using StoTherm® ci Essence, a system that combines the quality of StoTherm® technology with a StoGuard® waterproof air barrier incorporating air, water, and vapor control layers and protection against moisture intrusion.
Sto TurboStick®, a relatively new product, was also used to improve the speed and efficiency of installation. The product is a ready-to-use, single component polyurethane foam adhesive for securing Sto Insulation boards in StoTherm exterior wall claddings. It helps workers install the boards faster and easier than traditional adhesives.
“We wanted to bring high-end products like the StoTherm system to this project so we could make a positive difference for the people who live there by improving their comfort as well as enhancing the appearance of the towers,” said Elli Himelstein, Project Manager with L+M Development
With eight facades, multiple drops and a difficult design pattern to follow, it was a challenging, project. Nonetheless, Georgia King Village residents were able to remain in their apartments for the duration of all these improvements. Their lives were not disrupted to accomplish the upgrade.
In addition to the high-caliber products provided, Sto also worked with the property management team to mitigate any resident concerns. A technical representative from Sto Corp. was actually dispatched onsite to explain the re-cladding system and construction process. By walking residents through the installment timeline, which included a vision of the final result, they explained that ultimately the system would be more energy efficient, and their homes would be more comfortable and attractive.
The makeover marks the official re-emergence of the residential complex as a symbolic cornerstone in Newark’s West Ward. Today, the positive changes continue, and the adjacent community has a new vitality. In fact, the McDonald’s restaurant adjacent to Georgia King Village recently renewed its façade and landscaping, and when choosing the exterior wall color, asked L+M for the shade they had used for their renewal project. The multi-national restaurant chain liked it so much that they matched the Georgia King façade’s gray for their renovations.
Three leading economists, including two from the National Association of Home Builders agree that the sluggish residential construction industry is experiencing a moderate rebound and that 2016 could be housing’s “best year in a decade.” They say that while the recovery has been a slow process, single-family construction may surge as much as 14% and will likely outpace multi-family for the first time since the crash eight years ago.
Multi-family construction has been quite robust in recent years — due to rental demand driven by the recession and the sheer number of millennials — but it is expected to taper off. This market phenomenon also owes its origins to the millennials who are now aging and making the switch from renting to owning, while also getting encouragement from lower mortgage rates.
Despite positive predictions for the industry, the three major obstacles hindering new construction remain the “3-Ls” – labor, lot availability and lending constraints. Limited housing inventory also continues to pose a problem in the residential sector, with a housing supply that has gone from surplus to shortage.