In Virginia Beach, building over a pond

Tasked with building over a pond, our team responded with innovative solutions

It’s rare on a building construction project that all workers are required to wear life jackets. It’s rare too that all materials must access the building either by crane or pedestrian footbridge.

Welcome to the Tidewater Community College Virginia Beach Student Center, which Skanska recently completed in the middle of a five-acre storm water retention pond that’s about 10 feet deep. It has great examples of innovation and One Skanska solutions.

When it opens this September following an on-time and on-budget delivery, this 90,000-square-foot, three-story student center  will provide students with dining options, a bookstore, a child care center, student meeting spaces and recreational spaces, including a fitness center.

Our local team members say it would have been an ordinary building project – if it wasn’t for the pond. The student center rests on a 30,000-square-foot platform with a 5-inch-slab and 10-inch concrete planks, strategically connected to 354 concrete piles that are up to 135 feet long. Cranes mounted on modular barges were used to install the piles and precast elements.
“It took a year to put the foundation in just to start constructing the building,” said Ronney Pope, USA Building superintendent.

The water complicated logistics in other ways. The facade of brick, metal panels and glass was installed via aerial lifts mounted on barges. And 90 percent of the materials for the building had to be lifted to the concrete platform via a shore-mounted tower crane. (The center is connected to campus via three bridges, but those are just for pedestrians.) The owner did not permit our team to drain the pond.

The pond also sparked innovation. The 25-foot-long suspended concrete beams that comprise the building platform were designed to be cast in place over the water, but to save time and increase efficiency our team set up a small casting yard on-site and cast the pieces on land.

Collaboration between USA Building and USA Civil was key to Skanska winning this project and developing the logistics plan, said Larry Burkholder, Skanska senior project manager. In particular, USA Civil had recently built a similar pier-based platform for a new cruise terminal in nearby Norfolk, Va., and that relevant experience proved invaluable.

Sustainability went beyond designing and building the facility to meet LEED Silver standards. For example, rather than tear out the 16 piles and thick concrete pad that was left behind after the tower crane was removed, with the owner’s blessing we transformed it into a picnic area by installing a topping slab. Now it’s home to four picnic tables.

“We worked well as a team,” Pope said. “The owner is extremely pleased with the building, and that’s what it’s all about – client delight.”

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