Condo Project Moves Ahead

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

In Birmingham, Ala., general contractor Golden & Associates recently topped out the 2600 Highland Condominiums, a new 11-level condo project located at the corner of Highland Avenue and 26th Street.

The building will include a three-level below-grade parking deck and eight additional levels containing 43 high-end condominiums. A pool area, fitness center and spa will complete the project. The $19-million project is scheduled to be complete in April 2008. Simonson Germany Nonemaker & Associates of Atlanta is the design architect firm and Krumdieck A+I of Birmingham is the interior design firm.

Replacing the old Otto Marx mansion, which formerly occupied the site, the building was designed to blend in with the historical residential area. The exterior of the building will consist of brick, stucco and limestone with a slate roof, building materials found on many of the historic homes in the Highland area. The condos will range in size from 1,100 square feet to 2,400 square feet and have one, two or three bedrooms. Each unit will have its own balcony and 10-foot ceilings, plus high-end interior finishes.

Golden & Associates Construction, general contractor on the project, was established in 1997 by Geoff Golden. The company has handled a variety of new construction and renovation projects. Key personnel on this project include William Tynes, project manager; David Echols, superintendent; Seth Kirk, project engineer; and Steven Denny, field engineer.

Tight Conditions Complicate Site Work

Work on the project began October 2006 with foundation excavation and construction. Because of the below-grade parking, plans called for excavation of as much as 35 feet. Three shoring walls — on the north, east and south sides of the cut — provided excavation support. Borden & Brewser completed the excavation, using excavators and track loaders to load the sandy clay and clay material into dump trucks, while Russo Corp. installed the steel H-piles and timber lagging to construct the shoring walls. Excavation and wall construction took about eight weeks to complete.

Attention then turned to construction of drilled piers, also handled by Russo. Plans called for construction of 53 piers under the structure. Four additional piers were constructed to support the Peiner tower crane used during construction. Pier diameters ranged from 30 inches to 48 inches. The design called for the piers to be seated in rock, but steeply sloping subsurface rock complicated construction. Because of the irregular and steeply sloping rock, which was shallow on the west end of the site but much deeper on the east end, pier depths ranged from about 14 feet on the west end of the site to about 53 feet on the east end. On the west end, three to four piers could be completed in a day, while construction of the east-end piers required several days apiece.

Drilled pier construction was further complicated by the fact that there was little extra room in which to work. In fact, throughout the project, one of the biggest challenges has been the extremely tight site, which squeezes a 15,000-square-foot building footprint into just under an acre of real estate.

"There is hardly any extra room around the building," Tynes notes. Material storage space is at a premium, he adds, and most construction materials must of necessity be scheduled for as-needed delivery.

"It was an extremely tight site with two drill rigs working," notes project manager William Tynes, "Almost the entire site was taken up with two drill rigs, two cranes and several sections of casing."

Yet another complication came in the form of groundwater. On the eastern half of the site, where the rock was deeper, constant pumping was necessary during the pier construction phase. Water was pumped to a sediment tank for clearing; clean water was subsequently discharged to a nearby storm sewer.

The final hurdle during the foundation phase came in the form of some challenging soils.

"The soils looked good," Tynes notes, "but test showed that it was very expansive material." This necessitated 18 inches of undercutting, followed by placement of a bed of crushed stone.

Concrete Work

With foundation work complete and the excavation support system in place, the concrete phase began in mid-February of this year. Ard Contracting, Birmingham, handled concrete construction, including the slabs, walls and columns.

By mid-May, concrete work was completed to the street level with the pouring of the first living space floor. The first elevated slab was completed by June 1. Then, with the construction team focusing on the residential levels, construction moved ahead on a 10-day cycle per floor. Concrete columns — most measuring 12 inches by 24 inches, with some measuring 24 inches by 24 inches — supported the 8-inch-thick post-tensioned slabs. No beams were incorporated into the slab design of the residential floors. In fact, the project included only a single poured-in-place transfer beam, which was located in the parking deck area.

Floors were poured in two pours of about 7,000 square feet each. Concrete work could not begin before 7 a.m., and each half-floor pour was typically completed by noon. Overall, the project utilized about 6,000 cubic yards of concrete, which was supplied by Sherman Concrete. All concrete work was formed, and all concrete was placed using a bucket and the tower crane.

"Once we got into the elevated floors, we got into a good cycle," Tynes says, adding that constructability was further aided by the fact that the floor plans were essentially the same for most of the way to the top.

The roof slab was poured August 13, and the building's topping out was celebrated shortly thereafter.

The building will feature an EPDM roof on tapered insulation. Synthetic slate shingles will accent the building's towers, and mansards will be included on all balconies. Quality Architectural Metal & Roofing Co. and Cochrane Roofing will handle the roofing phase.

The exterior of 2600 Highland will be finished primarily in brick, with stucco used on the top two floors. Precast trim and Arriscraft synthetic stone will provide architectural accents. On the inside, high-level finishes will typify the project.

Focus On Safety

To maintain a safe work site in spite of the crowded conditions, Golden & Associates holds weekly meetings with members of the project team and constantly monitors the project to keep an eye on safety. In fact, safety is literally built into the design — for example, cast-in-place safety hookups in the exterior columns make it easy and straightforward for workers to properly tie off.

"With more than 100 people working on the project," Tynes says, "safety is a major consideration."