Poole Anderson Construction LLC

How suite it is to have some privacy in your college residence hall. That is what colleges and universities are delivering today. “Today’s students have different needs and requirements when they’re looking at various colleges in regard to what type of living experience they expect,” points out Stephanie Schmidt, executive vice president of Poole Anderson Construction LLC. “They’re not looking for a room with two beds and a gang bathroom.”

According to Rick Lawrence, project manager for Poole Anderson, “The competition among the universities is quite stiff, and they really bank on their residence life – the housing and dining options – as one of the things that will attract students. So with that, they’re trying to stay on top of what the students expect and what’s going to attract them.” 

The four-story, 101-bed freshman residence hall at Penn State University’s Harrisburg, Pa., campus has 24 apartment-style units in which four students share two bedrooms and one bathroom. The second, third and fourth floors include study rooms and lounge spaces in a central atrium. The entrance has a reception desk on the first floor with a housing office, two-bedroom staff apartment and laundry.

Construction of the $7.8 million, 32,000-square-foot structural masonry building was started in July 2009 and is scheduled for completion in August 2010. The floors are precast concrete plank panels approximately 4 by 30 feet with a 2-inch concrete topping. Some steel is used to span openings where masonry was not structurally feasible. LEED Gold certifi­cation is anticipated for the structure. Poole Anderson is functioning as the construction manager at-risk.

Spray It On

A spray-on insulation vapor barrier that efficiently encapsulates the building and reduces loss from the high-efficiency HVAC system is helping the residence hall obtain its LEED Gold certification. This is the first time Poole Anderson has used the product.

“It is no more expensive than a standard 2-inch rigid foam with a spray-applied waterproofing membrane,” Lawrence maintains. “It’s actually marginally cheaper in this instance, so you get increased performance with a product that costs about the same.”

Many rapidly renewable resources are being used for the interior construction materials, such as bamboo plywood and sunflower panels for some of the casework and millwork. Paints, sealants, glues and other solvents used on the building have low volatile organic compound content. 

“We are recycling as much of our waste as we can,” Lawrence reports. “Our goal is 70 percent recycled for all our waste.”

The windows are thermally broken, double-glazed aluminum, so exterior temperatures are not transmitted inside. Their coatings vary depending on their location in the building. The central lobby area between the building’s two sections is linked by an ornamental staircase between the first floor and second and an overlook between third and fourth floors. The floor-to-ceiling storefront windows in these areas allow daylighting. Sunshades are used outside the building at the glass on the south side of the atrium to help control direct lighting.

“The site was designed with rain gardens to help collect and control storm water runoff,” Lawrence notes. “The water that’s collected in those rain gardens will be used to provide water for the plants in the rain gardens. They’ve selected plants that are indigenous to the climate and the location, and, therefore, require less watering and less maintenance, so you don’t have to rely on irrigating the landscape.”

Instead of leading underground to a storm sewer, rain from the gutters’ downspouts is deposited onto the grade and is filtered through the landscape into the rain gardens and collected as the other rainwater. 

Worst Winter

Among the project’s challenges were its one-year timeline and what Lawrence thinks is one of the worst winters Harrisburg has experienced in many years. “Without doing research, it was my opinion that it was the worst they’ve had,” Lawrence stresses. “We had at least two storms with over 24 inches of snow within a week’s period, and at that point, we didn’t have the roof on. We ended up with 4 to 5 feet of snow, in some places drifting up to 6 feet on the fourth floor, which we hand-shoveled out through the windows.”

Additionally, the sprayed-on vapor barrier had to be applied within a certain range of temperatures, and without it, interior work would be compromised. The masonry also had to be constructed at certain temperatures or tented. “Coordinating all that in a timeframe that would be beneficial to the project was challenging,” Lawrence concludes.

Poole Anderson self-performed installation of the doors, finished and rough carpentry, concrete and bathroom specialties, with 38 subcontractors on the project. The choice of durable construction materials was by design. “Freshmen are typically hard on living spaces in a college setting,” Lawrence reports. So painted masonry was used in approximately 50 percent of the rooms and an abuse-resistant drywall was selected. 

Student Housing Growth

Poole Anderson Construction has done many projects for Penn State University, including renovations of dormitories and dining halls, laboratories, offices, and it is constructing a new 1,000-seat softball stadium. Besides K-12 and university educational projects, the company has built and renovated hotels, senior living facilities, retail, industrial, multifamily housing and office buildings. 

“Student housing and residence halls are a priority of our business plan in the future,” says Douglas Wenger, director of project planning and design. “It’s an important area of growth we see for our business.” 

Over the past five years, Poole Anderson has converted or built approximately 500,000 square feet of student housing, Schmidt estimates. She adds that much student housing is in need of renovation or replacement. “We are taking these aging facilities and converting them from what was the standard at that time to the new suite style of living,” she says.

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