Webcor Builders – Bancroft Residence Hall

Webcor Bancroft picWebcor returns to a familiar California campus to build Bancroft Residence Hall.

By Chris Kelsch

The University of California, Berkeley is considered one of the finest public learning institutions in the United States. But like many universities it is facing a housing crunch. To help combat that shortage construction of the Bancroft Residence Hall, a new student housing facility just off its main campus, is underway.

Bancroft Residence Hall will be directly across from the newly renovated student union and a short walk to most university facilities. Designed by SCB, the eight-story dormitory is expected to house first-year students and will encompass 186,000 square feet. When completed, the dorm will offer beds for 783 students, plus study and activity space.

Additionally 7,000 square feet of retail space will be offered on the ground floor. An 11,000-square-foot community center will include a study area and meeting rooms, state-of-the-art fitness center, and student lounges.

Construction began in November 2016 with the removal of a surface parking lot and demolition of Stiles Hall, a small, two-story building that housed student service organizations. A portion of the new building is reserved for the programs that have been temporarily relocated. The project has to be completed quickly because there is a pressing need for expanded student housing at Berkeley.

John Evans, senior project manager for Webcor Builders, says the project is on a strict timetable. “We have to complete this project by July 2018,” Evans says. “We should definitely be able to do it, no excuses. The students are moving in here at the start of the 2018 school year, no matter what.”

Webcor is familiar with building on the Berkeley campus. In recent years it completed the retrofit and renovation of California Memorial Stadium, the historic football venue that sits directly on top of the Hayward Fault. That high-profile project entailed corrective structural work to meet state seismic standards as well as modernization of the facilities.

Rainy Winter

Concrete was being poured for the Bancroft Hall foundation in April. The project has not been without challenges, however. Specifically, rain. “This year we have had two to three times as much rain as normal rainy winters,” Evans says. “That has affected our mass excavation and our subgrade and our ability to off-haul dirt.”

Despite the rain turning the soil to mud, Evans reports that the project is going smoothly in its early stages. “We are a solutions based company,” Evans says. “We like working through issues as they arise.” Though work was never stopped, Evans reports that quite a bit of overtime was put in to a) find alternative sites to off haul soil and b) pump out additional water to compensate for the rain. webcor box

Much of the site debris was and will be diverted away from landfills, contributing to efforts to achieve a LEED Gold sustainability certification for the building. The new residence hall is already targeting LEED Gold, with a number of green building elements including outdoor courtyards with sustainable landscaping, reducing Bancroft Residence Hall’s water usage for irrigation by 50 percent.

New Safety Measure

Keeping its workers safe has always been a priority for Webcor, but the company is trying something new on this project-- Spot-r technology by Triax Technologies.

Wearing Spot-r devices that look like pagers, Webcor employees can press a button if they have an accident or a near miss, or observe an accident or unsafe condition. The device also tracks and reports slips, trips, and falls in real time and serves as a badging system. The information gathered by Spot-r is sent to Webcor onsite management in real time to address any safety issues.

“The device was developed by a company that made devices for youth sports that tracked collisions,” Evans says. “So far we have had very good luck with it and have implemented some suggestions to help Triax develop the product.”

Continuing Education

As Webcor moves to complete Bancroft Residence Hall, it has landed other projects within California’s university system to meet growing demand. Just recently it won a $1 billion-plus project with University of California, Merced. Between now and 2020, Webcor will construct 13 buildings plus infrastructure including new classrooms, labs, student housing and amenities.

As for Evans, an eight-year veteran of Webcor, he continues to enjoy the diversity of projects he has been part of. “I have enjoyed working on all types of projects,” he notes. “I like the people and opportunities that you are given. With Webcor, you are always learning and growing.”


Public-Private Solution

In response to tighter state budgets, California universities are increasingly turning to public-private partnerships (P3) to fund major projects such as Bancroft Residence Hall. In this case, American Campus Communities (ACC), a major developer and manager of student housing based in Austin, Texas, is developing the project.

The $73 million Bancroft Residence Hall project represents the first time Webcor is working for ACC. “The relationship between Webcor and ACC is great and we hope to perform many more projects for ACC in the future,” Senior Project Manager John Evans says. “The relationship between all parties , including the architect and developer, has been very collaborative and efficient and allowed everyone to effectively execute the work.”

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