With cold-formed steel, largest student housing construction project in U.S. history is completed.
By any owner’s standard, the true measure of a
successful construction project is one that finishes on time and within budget.
Any other scenario can turn into a real nightmare. But when a project the scale
of Poly Canyon Village-820,000 square feet with 11,000 load-bearing wall
panels-manages to shave six months off the original 20-month schedule, it’s
more like a dream come true.
Spanning 30 acres at the base of the picturesque Poly Canyon, the Poly Canyon
project is comprised of nine buildings, four and five stories over slabs or
podiums, and adds nearly 2,700 new beds to California Polytechnic State
University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Poly Canyon Village is the largest cold-formed steel load-bearing project in
California and the most sizable student housing complex ever undertaken by an
American university in a single construction project. How did this project
finish so early?
Cold-formed steel, wood, and
concrete masonry units were all initially considered for the project, but when
the final decision came down to two designs (conventional wood and steel
framing) steel won out.
“Steel framing was selected based on superior quality, performance, and other
benefits to the owner such as lower construction costs, and it’s
non-combustible,” says Kevin Greer, project executive from KHS&S
“Cold-formed steel framing was the primary factor in this job’s success,” says
Mark Blackmon of Clark Design/Build of California, Inc. in Oakland, Calif. “The
flexibility to pre-fabricate panels off-site definitely contributed to the
project’s success, and the speed at which KHS&S was able to install the
structures on site allowed for all the subcontractors to be productive.”
He also added that the efficiencies gained through pre-fabrication made it
possible to start several components in several places at the same time, which
significantly cut down on any potential downtime for workers and
subcontractors. “We actually became a job where if a company didn’t have a lot
of work, they could send them over here because we had plenty of places people
could go and be productive.”
Jeff Heller, the program manager for Brookwood Program Management, agrees that
the accelerated construction schedule resulting from steel framing’s
panelization system was responsible for the earlier completion date that also
resulted in saving money.
“There are a lot of cost advantages to finishing a project early. You save on
labor which also reduces all of your overhead costs,” he says.
Wrapping up sooner can have other far-reaching cost advantages. According to
Kevin Greer, the savings for Poly
went beyond salaries. “Nearly all of the contractors on the project (about 100)
were not local, so there were definite savings on housing costs, per diems and
Owners can also save on course of construction insurance costs, and reduce
exposure to liability. Scott Bloom of Cal Poly’s Facilities Planning and
Capital Projects department says that a faster construction schedule provides a
risk benefit to the university. “Since the second phase of the project has been
limited to interior installation, the potential of a student being hurt in
proximity to the second phase of construction is reduced,” Bloom says, while
also affirming the university’s satisfaction with the project’s success and the
decision to go with cold-formed steel.
The wall framing used four-inch studs of 33- to 68-mil thickness. The thicker
68-mil studs were used at the ground floor and the stud thickness decreased as
additional floors were added. PACO steel columns and Sure-Board were employed
for the shear walls. Floor framing was accomplished with Dietrich TradeReady
steel floor joists with 9/16-inch shallow metal decking, and USG Levelrock was
poured one inch over the top flute of the decking for the finished floor. Roof
framing was done with ITW TrusSteel trusses fabricated by Pacific Coast Truss
Fabricator a CEMCO Company with fire-treated structural plywood.
In addition to the design criteria calling for Type II, one-hour fire rating
for multi-story residential construction, another significant reason the
university ultimately chose steel was its mandatory requirement that the
project be LEED-certified. At the conclusion of the second phase, the process
for submitting for LEED certification began. Tegan Sullivan of Clark
Design/Build, who has served as the captain for the team, confirms the LEED
certification requirement is one of the biggest reasons steel framing was
“When they were deciding how they would build, cold-formed steel and the
panelization process was attractive because of the off-site plant,” Sullivan
says. In addition to qualifying for LEED credit because of steel’s recycled
content, there are also points when multiple components come together in a
factory-with one being that the manufacturing plant is located within 500 miles
of the job site. “Cold-formed steel has such a high recycled material content
and it would give them the most points.”
The project achieved a LEED Gold Certification.
VILLAGE GREEN SOCIETY
By all accounts, Poly
has been a resounding success. In fact, Greer says the entire project could
have been turned over a year early but the lead time for some of the
furnishings, retail build-out and training of facility managers was not enough
to advertise and lease the rooms. Still, he says such a positive outcome was
not so easy to come by, because of a number of complicated logistics and design
criteria specifying Type II construction, mandatory LEED certification, and
gabled roof framing.
“The logistics of the project should have scared most people away,” Greer says.
“Who wants to do a two-and-a-half-year project 250 miles away from your home
base of operations, especially when you are counting on hiring 100 new
tradesmen who have never even seen a load-bearing job?”
Poly Canyon Village
could have easily become mired in the complexities of the logistics and design
requirements. Instead, the inherent efficiencies cold-formed steel brings to
the table through an automated system like panelization, has helped shave
several months off the original completion date.
For Blackmon, while this was his first experience working with cold-formed
steel, it went so well he is already promoting the system for other Clark
projects similar in nature.
“I would absolutely use this system again, especially for these kinds of
projects,” Blackmon says. “The manpower on site along with the faster
construction schedule makes the system with cold-formed steel ideal for
low-rise and mid-rise multifamily construction projects.”
With the project completion in October 2009, Poly Canyon Village is an
impressive apartment development and new home for Cal Poly students with
amenities including a swimming pool, community center and a central retail
For additional information on this project and how cold-formed steel framing
can be used to increase a project’s return on investment in other multifamily,
midrise and hospitality load-bearing applications nationwide, contact the Steel
Framing Alliance for other valuable information, including design standards, how-to
guides and solutions for your next project. W&C