Building Blocks for Campus Transformation
Building Pace University’s Master Site Plan
Snow wasn’t the only thing that piled up sky-high on Pace University’s Westchester campus this winter. The modular units that are the literal building blocks for Kirchhoff-Consigli’s construction of two, four-story Residence Halls, stacked up faster than the white stuff. With an average of six, 55-foot-by-12-foot units put in place a day, the precise logistical management of this modular approach has significantly reduced the construction schedule for these two residential halls and is an important part of Kirchhoff-Consigli’s strategy for the $86 million campus transformation underway today.
Like a carefully orchestrated theater production, the construction of this master site plan for Pace’s Westchester County campus in Pleasantville is unfolding, scene by scene. On center stage—these two new Residence Halls are rising up; on stage left—the new Environmental Center is complete; while on stage right, the transformed Kessel Student Center celebrated its opening just last month. This multi-phased, multi-building master site plan project, led by Kirchhoff-Consigli’s Project Executive Mark Zych, is requiring the best innovative thinking to keep its many moving parts synchronized.
Logistical Strategy Sets Strong Building Pace
The rapidly rising Residence Halls are at the center of this master site plan project. Along with a third hall to be built in a future phase, they add a total of 1,000 new beds to the campus and create a cohesive core around a traditional “Campus Green.” What is less traditional—and providing Kirchhoff-Consigli’s partners at Pace great cost savings, site safety and schedule benefits—is the manner in which sections of this new student housing are being built: with pre-fabricated, modular building units.
And yet, for modular construction at this scale—totaling over 220,000-square-feet—to reap great schedule benefits it also needs precisely honed logistical planning to avoid a log-jam of modular components, which could actually slow the work. Keeping this 3D-chess game moving requires advanced planning—and minute-by-minute attention.
Before construction began last fall on Alumni Hall, the first of the two suite-style halls to be built, Kirchhoff-Consigli’s Project Superintendent, Robert Seckler, identified a 13,000-square-foot staging area and planned the delivery and installation sequencing for the 170 modular units that would arrive on campus by truck from the Pennsylvania fabrication facility, four hours away. Project Engineer Steve Burpoe explained the heightened efficiency with which this modular process is unfolding as the team moves into the construction of Residence Hall B, “Before the foundation work began for Residence Hall B, the modular units were in production. As soon as the foundations are complete in June, the units will be ready and we will begin their installation, without missing a beat.”
Kirchhoff-Consigli team’s coordination with Pace staff helps safely manage the daily arrival on campus of six or more units, in a slow parade of flatbed trucks. With the modular unit deliveries scheduled two hours apart, there is enough time to unload each unit before the next truck arrives—so campus traffic—and campus life—can keep flowing.
Planning the number of modular units to arrive each day also takes a fine balance: enough for the fast pace of installation, but not so many that they need to be repeatedly moved, like cars in a valet parking lot. To build the halls, each unit—roughly the size of a tour bus and weighing 64,000 pounds—is maneuvered into place by the 365-ton crane.
In just six weeks this winter, all 170 of Alumni Hall’s units were put into place, paving the way for its completion this summer. Each 55-foot-by-12-foot modular suite will house four students in two bedrooms, with a shared bath and living room. Once complete, Alumni Hall will be the new home-away-from-home for 477 Pace students.
And on a parallel track, the installation of the second hall’s 124 units will begin this July, though with even less wiggle-room. A portion of Alumni Hall’s staging ground is part of the second hall’s site—and now is its foundation, currently in construction.
Many Modular Benefits
The Modular Building Institute defines modular construction as “a process in which building components are constructed off-site, under controlled plant conditions, using the same materials and building codes, but in about half the time as when built on-site. Building off-site ensures better construction quality management and safety conditions, as well as reducing on-site disruption and material storage needs.” Kirchhoff-Consigli’s work at Pace benefits from all these advantages.
A modular approach was not originally part of the project’s design. During the construction management team’s in-depth pre-construction planning, the Kirchhoff-Consigli team collaborated with the architects, EYP, in adopting a hybrid modular design approach, knowing it could bring many benefits to the project, while not hindering the design goals. This approach combined the use of these modularly built suites, with traditional on-site building methods for the customized construction of the halls’ common areas and shared spaces, like foyers, lobbies, cafés, and social and meeting rooms.
Making the Right Connections
Needing to accommodate mechanical air ducts, hot and cold water piping, electrical lines, sprinkler lines, plumbing, fire alarm system, as well as phone and digital data lines, the tight, hidden spaces above each residence hall corridor house the buildings’ vital infrastructure. To anticipate and coordinate, the team focused on a prototypical suite, identifying where it connects to the building systems that run above the hallway ceilings.
Using a prototypical model, the team confirmed the dimensions and space requirements for the M/E/P systems. And if the building design showed a spatial miscalculation, it could be corrected, before the actual joining of modular suite systems to public area systems.
Andy Deschenes, Director of Consigli’s Project Services, likened this connection of each suite’s duct work from either side of the residential halls’ central corridors, into the compact ceiling spaces above the corridors, as a “zipping up.”
“In effect our pre-construction model helped us determine how to build a giant duct-work ‘zipper’ that would integrate the systems from the suites on both sides of each hall. Once we had the dimensions for this ‘zipper’ confirmed in our prototype, it helped us be highly efficient in the field.”
All of this carefully planned modular construction at Pace is saving time, creating a safer building environment, and ensuring a high quality of construction. Win, win, win.