Design Through Construction at UNT System Joe Greene Hall

Project Background

The Joe Greene Hall Project

The University of North Texas System identified a need to add space for student housing on the growing Denton campus in 2016. In response, they initiated a project to build a 500-bed residence hall for freshman residents to open for students in the fall of 2019.

Our client, the Office of Facilities Planning and Construction at the University of North Texas System, turned to HVJ for geotechnical services and materials testing. HVJ’s scope included front-to-end activities, from the initial design to project completion, to contribute to the success of the project in meaningful ways.

HVJ has a history of delivering excellent results for similar projects at the University of North Texas System. In 2015, HVJ supported the completion of Rawlins Hall, a 250-room and 487-bed residence hall for freshmen and upperclassmen from the Honors College. This new building, Joe Greene Hall, was to be named after football legend Joe Greene who got his start on the football field at The University of North Texas System and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. It was to have a pod neighborhood concept on each floor, with large lounge areas, a community kitchen, a variety of small lounges and study rooms, and common area laundry and billiard rooms.

Practice: Geotechnical Engineering, Materials Testing

Sector: Building

Location: North Texas, Denton

Services: Design and Construction

UNT Greene Hall, construction aerial (API Image 180313080)

The Problem

The location of the new residence hall is on active campus area, and the university needed this project completed with minimal disruption to students and other university activities. It was also critical that the project was completed on time to allow for students to move in for the Fall 2019 semester.

Some challenges that we needed to address during this project included:

  • Identification of the optimum size of drilled shafts, and estimation of quantities of drilled shafts needing casing was a design challenge. While no groundwater was encountered during the geotechnical field investigation, sandy soils were encountered in some of the borings and groundwater is known to vary seasonally.
  • The new building would be surrounded by grassy areas, which was identified as a potential impediment to heavy fire trucks being able to access the building in close proximity, so HVJ needed to build a workaround in the design plan.
  • Water ponding was also observed during construction towards the southeast end of the building. An assessment was needed to identify the source of the water and provide a remedial solution to prevent its accumulation.
  • Lastly, an existing adjacent building was identified as the storage location of chillers for the large air conditioning systems. During construction we found an unexpected problem, in that some areas of the crawling slab had experienced concrete spalling and rebar deterioration. This barrier had the potential to delay the installation of a new chiller which would serve the residence hall’s air conditioning system and potentially prevent the opening of the residence hall in the fall semester.

The Goal

Our objective was to provide reliable geotechnical solutions for the building structure, sidewalks and pavement, and to complete materials testing to verify the building material and installation were in accordance with the plans and specifications.

We were to complete the work seamlessly with minimal disruption to the students, and work with the design and construction team to keep to the commitment to complete the building for Fall 2019 occupancy.

Our Solution

HVJ worked closely with the design team and the structural engineer to identify the most economical drilled shaft design diameter and length that can efficiently carry the building loads. HVJ engineers were able to apply their experience from the construction of nearby Rawlins Hall, assisting in estimating the number of drilled shafts needing casing. Furthermore, HVJ provided drilled shaft inspections during construction to verify the need for casing and monitor the cost of this construction item for peace of mind.

To address the accessibility of fire trucks in the grassy areas surrounding the building, HVJ provided recommendations for the use of GrassPave, a green porous paving solution. GrassPave is an invisible turf reinforcement system designed to transfer the weight of vehicles to the supportive base course through interconnected honeycomb cells. It also allows for rapid absorption of storm water. This provides a way for emergency fire apparatus trucks to have direct access to the building despite their heavy loading. GrassPave provides a long-term paving alternative and can reduce CO2 emissions.

As for the encountered water ponding, HVJ engineers visited the site and investigated the potential sources including groundwater and surface drainage and run-off. HVJ ruled out the groundwater concern, and worked closely with the drainage engineers to provide a French Drain system to collect the water and outlet into an adjacent storm sewer.

The unexpected problem we encountered in the adjacent existing building that was planned to hold the coolers for the large air conditioning system had the potential to derail the project schedule. HVJ’s team conducted petrographic examination and chloride analysis of concrete cores to determine the causes of concrete and rebar deterioration. We were able to quickly evaluate the slab, coordinate with the design engineers and identify carbon fiber reinforcement as a solution that allowed for the chillers to be installed on time.

The outcome was a project that was successfully completed on time and with minimal disruption to the university activities. The building was opened for new students in the Fall of 2019.

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