Residence Hall Goes Green

By Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

Construction of the University of Indianapolis' (UIndy) new residence hall is quickly taking shape, incorporating an innovative "green" product made from recycled material that is energy-efficient, fire-resistant and sound-dampening. The $9.8-million East Hall, a four-story structure with 154 single-occupant rooms, multiple lounges and two-story atriums with balconies, is being built with AERCON's Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) — a material produced in blocks, lintels and panels.

This marks the second time that that AAC is being used to build a facility on the southeast Indianapolis campus. Central Hall was one of the first academic buildings in the nation to use the product. "Our first project was very successful, and the product has lived up to all of our expectations," says Ken Piepenbrink, director of UIndy's physical plant. "It was a very easy decision to select AAC again."

Shiel Sexton, Indianapolis, which built Central Hall, is serving as general contractor for East Hall, and the architect is Design Collaborative of Fort Wayne, IN. Following groundbreaking in September 2008, the project is moving forward and is scheduled for completion in advance of the 2009 fall semester.

Crews are currently erecting hundreds of pieces of AAC. According to Shiel Sexton Project Superintendent Josh Whitt, the residence hall requires 800 wall panels per floor and almost 500 floor panels per floor. Contractor Charles Masonry Inc., Whitesville, KY, has been busy installing the panels, utilizing two Potain wireless radio remote-controlled, mini tower cranes, supplied by R.H. Marlin Inc., Indianapolis.

"The wall panels are 12 feet high and vary between 12 and 24 inches wide," notes Whitt. "The floor panels are about 2 feet wide and up to 19 feet, 6 inches long."

In addition to the new residence hall, 200 new campus parking spaces will be created, along with new sidewalks and sitescape work along adjacent streets.

East Hall, UIndy's sixth residence hall, is being built east of New Hall. It will bring campus housing capacity to 1,335. Each of the 154 single-occupant rooms will offer private access and a bath shared with just one other room. Every floor will have lounges, and two-story atriums on the first and third floors will have overhanging balconies on the second and fourth floors, providing a very open feel.

According to Piepenbrink, the design and features of East Hall are based on input from students. "Student groups worked with the architects to tell them what type of building they wanted to see and the type of atmosphere they wanted to have in the facility," he says.

AAC Features

Autoclaved Aerated Concrete is a versatile, durable and lightweight product, making it ideal for projects such as East Hall. "I think AAC is a wonderful — almost do-it-all — product for this type of application," says Piepenbrink. "It is probably not the best of products if you are going to do a lot of remodeling — tearing walls out and putting new walls in. But when it is a permanent structure — a facility that is not going to change much, AAC is just outstanding."

Mike Quaka, vice president-general manager, AERCON Florida LLC, based in Haines City, FL, says AAC is ideal for cost-conscious clients because of the reduced time and labor costs associated with installing the product. "No wall insulation is needed, and because the blocks are lighter the delivery costs are dramatically lower," Quaka says.

Shiel Sexton likes the product. "From both a construability standpoint and from a scheduling standpoint, it is a pleasure to use AAC," says Whitt, a 12-year construction veteran. "A structure goes together quickly — it's almost like using LEGO blocks. So, using AAC is much easier than constructing a standard metal frame building."

AERCON says AAC won't mold, and it outperforms wood and concrete masonry's thermal insulation. It also has the highest UL fire rating in the industry, is non-combustible and emits no toxins or gases when exposed to fire.

In terms of sound control, the product offers an insulation value of 7 decibels per square feet of surface area. "AAC has good sound values," says Whitt. "Somebody studying in one room won't be able to hear a radio blaring in an adjoining room. So, that is a good reason to use AAC in a dorm situation or in the construction of a hotel."


Campus Growth

The University of Indianapolis, founded in 1902 and with a student population of 4,700, has undergone numerous physical changes during the past 15 years. Today, the university has evolved from "a commuter campus to a real campus," says UIndy's Ken Piepenbrink.

In addition to the ongoing East Hall construction, a recent campus development is the $15-million renovation/expansion to Schwitzer Student Center. The building, now in use, includes new dining and recreation facilities and a 48,000-square-foot addition with conference and special event space. F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. Inc., Indianapolis, served as general contractor for the project, which was officially dedicated Feb. 11.

UIndy is planning to renovate Krannert Memorial Library, and has chosen Browning Day Mullins & Dierdorf, Indianapolis, as the architect. "We haven't set any dates for starting the project," says Piepenbrink. "It is probably going to be a phased project over several years."

The university also has launched a capital campaign for a proposed 103,000-squre-foot Student Athletics & Recreation Center, which will provide much-needed space for sports teams and related academic programs as well as fitness facilities for the entire campus community. The overall cost of the project is estimated at $7 million to $8 million.

The two-story Student Athletics & Recreation Center would include office space and a training room for the athletics program; a Hall of Champions to honor standout athletes and teams; an indoor track and intramural basketball courts; and offices and locker rooms for football, men's and women's soccer, and men's and women's track and field. The likely construction site is north of Key Stadium along State Avenue.

The new center would help alleviate crowding and scheduling issues in the university's existing Ruth Lilly Fitness Center. "Once we move the athletes out of the Ruth Lilly facility, we can go back and remodel that building to make it a true recreation building again," Piepenbrink says.

Infrastructure improvements are also planned. Hanna Avenue — a major east-west thoroughfare that runs along the south side of the campus — will be upgraded. The city of Indianapolis is planning significant improvements to the stretch of Hanna Avenue between East Street and Carson Avenue. UIndy will invest approximately $2 million for the Shelby Street to State Avenue section of the roadway to reroute unsightly power lines and provide extensive landscaping.