UNCC's New Student Union

By Christina Fisher | September 28, 2010

Balfour Beatty is a little over one year into construction of the new student union at the University of North Carolina — Charlotte. The $55-million, 192,000-square-foot building will be a focal point of the campus and feature a Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Einstein's Bagels, Wendy's, a movie theater, dining room, and grand ballroom. The project also features a 6,000-square-foot regional utility plant, which can be expanded for another future building on campus.

Work began in May 2007 with demolition of three parking lots. There was approximately 60,000 cubic yards of cut and fill, which included 1,100 cubic yards of rock.

The foundations for the student union are primarily spread footings. The biggest spread footing is below the foundation wall. The building has a lower level so there is a partial basement. There is a 16-foot foundation wall around the basement, so the footing below this wall measures 9 feet wide and 24 inches thick for a distance of about 300 feet.

There are two pedestrian bridges on the project. A structural steel bridge with a concrete deck connects a new parking garage with the student union. The bridge that proved to be the greatest challenge was a glue laminated timber bridge that was built over a creek that links the student union with nearby dorms.

"We had 25 feet of clearance through the woods in which to construct a 20-foot-wide bridge," says Ryan Allen, Balfour Beatty project manager. "We paid special attention to ensure trees outside the limits of construction were not adversely affected."

Accessibility was another challenge during construction of the timber bridge. There is an 80-foot drop from the top of the bridge to the creek, so fall protection was critical. Because access on the south side of the bridge closest to the student union was so tight, the construction team used a 160-ton Maxim crane in order to swing the glulam beams, which were 65 feet long and 48 inches thick, over the tops of the trees. Two bays of the bridge were erected from the south side. Access was a bit easier on the north side of the bridge, and the team was able to erect the remaining six bays of the bridge with a 90-ton Maxim crane.

In addition to site restrictions, Balfour Beatty has had to constantly monitor student pedestrian traffic around the site, which is also bordered by Craver Road, the most heavily traveled road on campus.

With a little less than a year to go, 65 percent of the brick masonry is in place; 35 percent of the glass has been installed; and several roofs are in place. Drywall installation is next on the agenda.

The UNCC student union is scheduled for completion in May 2009.