Cold-formed steel framing is used to on the massive campus of George Mason University.

This fall, students walking across the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., will see many new faces among an enrollment that surpasses 32,000. However, incoming students aren’t the only new arrivals on campus this year. The university is in the midst of a major building boom, with several new projects either already under construction or set to begin. One project, well underway near the campus main entrance, is shaping the face of the university’s new look and feel.

The George Mason University Foundation University Hall is a new five-story, 140,000-square-foot mixed-use building that is adding to the unique architectural feel of the campus. Scheduled for completion in the summer of 2011, this new facility comes on the heels of George Mason’s record-setting annual fundraising campaign, which surpassed $52 million in gifts and pledges earlier this summer. The George Mason University Foundation is privately funding Foundation University Hall, in conjunction with Bank of America, which is providing construction financing for the project.

The University, founded in 1972, has quickly become one of the most well regarded in the country, ranking 143rd on US News and World Report’s list of 150 Best Colleges of 2011. Upon its completion, the elegant University Foundation Hall will add to this already excellent reputation. 

Safety in Framing

The interior and exterior framed walls of University Foundation Hall are being built using structural cold-formed steel framing as well as the recently introduced EDGE Steel Drywall Framing System, both manufactured by Edison, N.J.-based Super Stud Building Products Inc. Dell Perry Inc., one of the top metal framing, drywall and acoustical contractors in Northern Virginia, is installing the framing. The company has formed a long and successful working relationship with the general contractor on the project, E.E. Reed Construction LLP. Capitol Building Supply Inc., part of the GMS group of companies, is supplying the building materials for Dell Perry.

The project was designed by Davis Carter Scott, well-known architects of McLean, Va., and is being managed by principal architect Ernest Ulibarri. The finished structure will feature approximately 70 percent traditional brick exterior finish with the front-facing side highlighted by glass curtain walls angled out from the base to create a dramatic look and feel from both the outside and inside of the building. While the building will primarily house administrative offices, there will also be classroom space and retail venues on the ground floor.

“It will create a great first impression for the university,” says Glen Klingerman, E.E. Reed’s senior project manager. “DCS and the University Foundation wanted the building to not only represent the campus, but they also wanted it to be built in an environmentally responsible way. The steel in the structure certainly plays a big role in that objective.”

“Dell Perry is a great partner on this project,” says Jon Hopkins, E.E. Reed’s project superintendent.

Klingerman echoes that sentiment: “Their superintendent, Bill Schaeffer, has more than 35 years of framing experience and is invaluable to us on a schedule-driven project such as this. He is our go-to guy and he always delivers.”

Schaeffer reciprocates this trust and respect. “E.E. Reed really knows what they’re doing and that makes my job much easier.”

With respect to having selected Super Stud’s drywall framing system for the project, Schaeffer states, “I won’t use a product without this rolled edge again. I’ve cut myself plenty on studs and track through the years, so why would I ask my guys to frame with stud and track that poses that kind of risks for injury when Capitol now offers The EDGE?”

CFS's Growth

The use of CFS in mid-rise construction has grown exponentially in recent years thanks to efforts by the American Iron and Steel Institute’s Committee on Framing Standards to establish a prescriptive method for the product within the International Building Code. With these standards now integrated into the IBC, CFS’s numerous advantages can now be utilized in structures and applications that were not possible a decade ago. Architects, engineers, owners and general contractors are now able to design and build structures utilizing CFS that either weren’t possible or were not cost-effective in the 1990s.

Aside from its safety and strength, CFS offers numerous benefits over wood or concrete in mid-rise structures, including non-combustibility, mold-resistance and a lighter weight. This offers measurably greater savings for the owner in terms of insurance and repair/remodeling costs over the lifetime of a structure. Significant savings can also be realized due to reduced foundation costs resulting from lighter building weight. This is especially relevant in areas with poor soil conditions.

Super Stud’s efforts to grow the market for CFS construction are not limited to education facilities like Foundation Hall. The company is also completing a dormitory structure for the U.S. Army at Camp Shelby, Miss., that is designed to resist progressive collapse, an increasingly critical design factor in these types of structures. The structure was completely engineered and panelized at Super Stud’s affiliate manufacturing plant, Safe Guard Building Systems, in Hattiesburg, Miss., near the Camp Shelby location. This three-story structure features Super Stud’s framing in all of the interior and exterior load-bearing walls as well as its drywall system in the non-bearing portions. Safe Guard also engineered and manufactured the CFS roof trusses for this structure, which will be used to house U.S. Army personnel being trained at the base. The general contractor on this project, Hanco Corp. of Hattiesburg, attributes Safe Guard’s design-build philosophy and panelized system to almost single handedly keeping the project on schedule.

“This project got behind schedule early on due to weather and foundation issues,” says Phillip Hanberry, one of Hanco’s principals. “Safe Guard’s ability to accelerate the delivery schedule, combined with a top-quality product, is what allowed us to get this project back on schedule.”

Designed by the Tomkins Design Group of Jackson, Miss., the Camp Shelby building has the character of a mid-rise hotel, but is designed to minimize damage that could result from a deadly explosion.

The George Mason and Camp Shelby projects are only two examples of how the use of CFS is growing in mid-rise, multi-use structures. There are dozens more throughout the country including dormitories, multi-family, hospitality, assisted living and even correction facilities that have been built cost-effectively over the past ten years, in large part due to changes to the IBC that acknowledge CFS’s many advantages. This cost-effectiveness, combined with the ability to address most any design challenge posed by a project, make CFS the ideal solution for more structures than ever before.

And while most incoming freshman will graduate from George Mason in four years and while the soldiers leave Camp Shelby after a few months to accept their tour of duty in Afghanistan, these buildings will continue to provide safe, environmentally responsible shelter for decades. W&C

Curt Kinney is vice president of marketing and business development for Super Stud Building Products Inc., and works with all five of their affiliated group of companies. He has been part of the American Iron and Steel Institute Committee on Framing Standards and its predecessor, the Residential Advisory Group, and is also a member of several committees including the American Society for Testing and Materials.