Achieving project vision without compromise.
Whether quietly supporting in the background or rising stunningly to the forefront, structural solutions should always unite grace and efficiency within budget. Together with our partners, we’ve innovated all manner of building systems, yielding deep choice and flexibility and designing both the groundbreaking and the proven. Our single-discipline focus and broad client and market base includes consulting on projects ranging from intricately detailed residences to $1.3 billion projects. 
 

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A stone throw from the north satellite inside SeaTac Airport security sits a multi-story training tower for Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting. This 1,320 square-foot tower features drive-up access all around, hose drying, exterior stairs, a basement level and more. 

 

Photos: Rice Fergus Miller

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Photos: Rice Fergus Miller

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Brinkman Condos
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Extensive use of soil nailing allowed two of the seven stories of the concrete masonry structure to be built into the hillside to maximize the use of the 50’-wide lot. Efficient use of steel framing facilitated large open spaces within the large condo units and the specialized lateral system allowed panoramic views of Commencement Bay.

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Brinkman Condos
Tacoma, WA
Hokold Pacific Towers
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Seattle University 1313 East Columbia
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The 1313 East Columbia building has seen several uses in its history. Built in 1936 in the Art-Deco style, it originally served as a Coca-Cola bottling plant. The University purchased the building so it could be used as a temporary academic library and later as a main hub for its facility administration. A full seismic upgrade of the existing concrete facility was completed as well as modifications to framing that allowed desired program modifications and the support of new mechanical equipment.

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Stillwater Apartments
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The Tacoma Public Utilities Shops building provided much needed working space dedicated to the continued mobilization of TPU’s fleet of service vehicles. PCS collaborated early on with long-time client TPU to establish the functionality needs of the 55,000 square-foot facility. PCS developed a steel truss that could span the width of the building and fit within slots through the concrete tilt-up exterior walls to create a 25-foot cantilevered roof along the longitudinal face of the building. The cantilever eliminated the need for any exterior canopy columns, which reduced vehicle damage, while increasing operation and storage efficiencies around the building.

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The Tacoma Public Utilities Shops building provided much needed working space dedicated to the continued mobilization of TPU’s fleet of service vehicles. PCS collaborated early on with long-time client TPU to establish the functionality needs of the 55,000 square-foot facility. PCS developed a steel truss that could span the width of the building and fit within slots through the concrete tilt-up exterior walls to create a 25-foot cantilevered roof along the longitudinal face of the building. The cantilever eliminated the need for any exterior canopy columns, which reduced vehicle damage, while increasing operation and storage efficiencies around the building.

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Yakima County Correction Center
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The Yakima County Correction Center stretched its dollars to maximum effect by purchasing an existing pre-engineered metal building from Pierce County, deconstructing it, transporting the pieces across the mountains, and resurrecting the structure in Yakima County. The exterior of the building was enhanced with insulated concrete wall panels, while additional floor space was created by the construction of a new mezzanine floor structure. PCS worked closely with the general contractor to ensure details allowed for speedy erection and straightforward incorporation of new mezzanine and exterior wall panels.

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Wildcat Minerals
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Wildcat Minerals, North Dakota, consists of an array of complex bulk material conveying, storage, and distribution equipment. PCS used BIM to design a bulk materials vertical conveying and storage system that incorporated a unique integrated structural support system.   The material spouts and tanks provide support, rather than relying on guy wires or supplemental structural towers. This design concept allowed a standard bucket elevator to cantilever 49-feet above the storage tanks and saved the owner significant money while enhancing site expansion flexibility.

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North Dakota
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Seismic upgrades are vital to keeping our historic buildings functional and safe in the 21st century. What’s significant about Cedar Park Elementary School’s history?

Cedar Park Elementary was built in 1959 and was designed by Paul Thiry, the Pacific Northwest’s father of architectural modernism. In 1981 it was converted from a school to a live-in artist colony; 30 years after that, Seattle Public Schools returned the building to its original use as an elementary school.

The building was designated as a Seattle landmark, so our upgrades had to follow the standards set by the Landmark Preservation Board. Instead of changing the structure to fit our vision, we had to reach the exact conclusion that the architect did in 1959.

 

How did your team connect to meet that challenge?

We had to connect early and often, flowing ideas back and forth with the team to determine an “invisible” retrofit solution that wouldn’t disrupt the original aesthetic.

 

What bold solution did you come up with?

Our engineers brought up the idea of using Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) to structurally bond the existing roof to the new panels throughout the building. FRP was the code-approved “structural duct tape” that accomplished the necessary upgrades while honoring the structure’s historic character. It’s not very pretty, but it was perfect in this situation, as the upgrades were hidden under new roofing or concrete patching.

 

How did you come up with this idea?

We researched and synthesized information from similar projects. FRP is typically used for localized seismic upgrades in concrete structures—for example, wrapping concrete columns for reinforcing confinement, or upgrading existing concrete shear wall capacities.  At Cedar Park, FRP provided an unobtrusive positive connection between each of the concrete elements. 

 

What did the rest of the team think of using structural duct tape?

PCS may have come up with the initial solution, but the whole team collaborated about where and how to utilize this idea. At first the Seattle Building Official was startled at the expansive use of FRP we proposed, but they quickly got on board after we shared our rationale for the material.

 

What else contributed to the project’s success?

Early conversations and understanding of the building’s parameters in the planning and execution stages. Constant collaboration with the team allowed the push-and-pull of ideas that led to using FRP.

 

What lessons are you taking forward from this project?

First, bring in specialty contractors early in the design phase. We were able to lean on their experience and learn the best ways to apply the FRP from the beginning. Then, fill your toolbox with knowledge – talking with our team helps us form new ideas and varied options to meet any diverse challenge.

 

 

Rick Oehmcke joined PCS Structural Solutions in 1987. Rick heads up the Building Information Modeling (BIM) team at PCS and has served as a Principal in Charge on many of the firm’s educational, commercial and residential projects. He enjoys the challenge of coming up with unique solutions through collaboration across design disciplines and construction trades.

 

Project Photographs provided by Studio Meng Strazzara.

 

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Seismic upgrades are vital to keeping our historic buildings functional and safe in the 21st century. What’s significant about Cedar Park Elementary School’s history?
Cedar Park Elementary was built in 1959 and was designed by Paul Thiry, the Pacific Northwest’s father of architectural modernism. In 1981 it was converted from a school to a live-in artist colony; 30 years after that, Seattle Public Schools returned the building to its original use as an elementary school.
The building was designated as a Seattle landmark, so our upgrades had to follow the standards set by the Landmark Preservation Board. Instead of changing the structure to fit our vision, we had to reach the exact conclusion that the architect did in 1959.
 
How did your team connect to meet that challenge?
We had to connect early and often, flowing ideas back and forth with the team to determine an “invisible” retrofit solution that wouldn’t disrupt the original aesthetic.
 
What bold solution did you come up with?
Our engineers brought up the idea of using Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) to structurally bond the existing roof to the new panels throughout the building. FRP was the code-approved “structural duct tape” that accomplished the necessary upgrades while honoring the structure’s historic character. It’s not very pretty, but it was perfect in this situation, as the upgrades were hidden under new roofing or concrete patching.
 
How did you come up with this idea?
We researched and synthesized information from similar projects. FRP is typically used for localized seismic upgrades in concrete structures—for example, wrapping concrete columns for reinforcing confinement, or upgrading existing concrete shear wall capacities.  At Cedar Park, FRP provided an unobtrusive positive connection between each of the concrete elements. 
 
What did the rest of the team think of using structural duct tape?
PCS may have come up with the initial solution, but the whole team collaborated about where and how to utilize this idea. At first the Seattle Building Official was startled at the expansive use of FRP we proposed, but they quickly got on board after we shared our rationale for the material.
 
What else contributed to the project’s success?
Early conversations and understanding of the building’s parameters in the planning and execution stages. Constant collaboration with the team allowed the push-and-pull of ideas that led to using FRP.
 
What lessons are you taking forward from this project?
First, bring in specialty contractors early in the design phase. We were able to lean on their experience and learn the best ways to apply the FRP from the beginning. Then, fill your toolbox with knowledge – talking with our team helps us form new ideas and varied options to meet any diverse challenge.
 
 
Rick Oehmcke joined PCS Structural Solutions in 1987. Rick heads up the Building Information Modeling (BIM) team at PCS and has served as a Principal in Charge on many of the firm’s educational, commercial and residential projects. He enjoys the challenge of coming up with unique solutions through collaboration across design disciplines and construction trades.
 
Project Photographs provided by Studio Meng Strazzara.
 

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A building is only as strong as its foundation. Tell us about the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma Paper & Stationery Building.

It was built in 1904 in historic downtown Tacoma. Over the years it has served as a biscuit and candy factory, stationery facility and home to the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant. In 2016, UW Tacoma decided to renovate the building for science classrooms, social areas and event spaces. As the last of the Tacoma campus’s historic warehouse renovations, it was awesome to help turn it into a welcoming entry to campus for commuter students.

 

What were the project challenges?

The issues weren’t with the building itself, but rather the contaminated soil on which it sat. For most buildings we would sink a large foundation below grade, but doing so here would require extensive excavation, disrupting the soils and triggering costly remediation to remove the contaminated ground below the building.

 

How did working on this shared problem connect the project team?

Early communication with the GC/CM, with a lot of pushing and pulling ideas and sharing perspectives. We brainstormed some different solutions with the contractor, who compared the dollar value of our ideas. Together, we came up with the most cost-effective solution.

 

AKA teamwork!

Absolutely. Our relationship with the contractor was vital to this project, because they were able to determine if our plan would pay off financially down the road.

 

What was the bold solution?

A large foundation to support this four-story building would have required expensive contaminated soil excavation. To minimize soil disruption, we engineered shear walls supported by micropiles. These micropiles were 7-inch diameter steel-cased beams drilled into the ground and surrounded by grout, eliminating need for a below-grade foundation.

 

How did you come up with this idea?

A lot of digging. We’d form an idea, then the contractor would ask for specifics, then we’d dig deeper for answers. With detail they were able to determine the cost of every idea, which is ultimately how we landed on using the micropiles.

 

Why aren’t micropiles used more often?

They’re expensive. The decision came down to detailed financial analysis by the contractor, who ultimately decided that micropiles were the optimal choice in this case. You have to weigh the different concerns in order to come up with the best solution for any specific project.

 

What are you taking forward from this process?

How the solution came to be. We were all open to each other’s perspectives; instead of simply applying a one-size-fits-all foundation which would necessitate contaminated soil removal, we listened to the contractor’s concerns and went back to the drawing board.

 

 

Wes Neeley has been with PCS Structural Solutions since 2001 and was named a Senior Associate in 2018. Wes gained first-hand construction experience from growing up around his father’s construction company, and he uses that knowledge to support the planning, design and construction of a variety of project types. Wes has served as a Project Manager and Engineer on many institutional, educational and commercial projects, and he enjoys exploring creative solutions for complex problems.

 

 

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A building is only as strong as its foundation. Tell us about the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma Paper & Stationery Building.
It was built in 1904 in historic downtown Tacoma. Over the years it has served as a biscuit and candy factory, stationery facility and home to the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant. In 2016, UW Tacoma decided to renovate the building for science classrooms, social areas and event spaces. As the last of the Tacoma campus’s historic warehouse renovations, it was awesome to help turn it into a welcoming entry to campus for commuter students.
 
What were the project challenges?
The issues weren’t with the building itself, but rather the contaminated soil on which it sat. For most buildings we would sink a large foundation below grade, but doing so here would require extensive excavation, disrupting the soils and triggering costly remediation to remove the contaminated ground below the building.
 
How did working on this shared problem connect the project team?
Early communication with the GC/CM, with a lot of pushing and pulling ideas and sharing perspectives. We brainstormed some different solutions with the contractor, who compared the dollar value of our ideas. Together, we came up with the most cost-effective solution.
 
AKA teamwork!
Absolutely. Our relationship with the contractor was vital to this project, because they were able to determine if our plan would pay off financially down the road.
 
What was the bold solution?
A large foundation to support this four-story building would have required expensive contaminated soil excavation. To minimize soil disruption, we engineered shear walls supported by micropiles. These micropiles were 7-inch diameter steel-cased beams drilled into the ground and surrounded by grout, eliminating need for a below-grade foundation.
 
How did you come up with this idea?
A lot of digging. We’d form an idea, then the contractor would ask for specifics, then we’d dig deeper for answers. With detail they were able to determine the cost of every idea, which is ultimately how we landed on using the micropiles.
 
Why aren’t micropiles used more often?
They’re expensive. The decision came down to detailed financial analysis by the contractor, who ultimately decided that micropiles were the optimal choice in this case. You have to weigh the different concerns in order to come up with the best solution for any specific project.
 
What are you taking forward from this process?
How the solution came to be. We were all open to each other’s perspectives; instead of simply applying a one-size-fits-all foundation which would necessitate contaminated soil removal, we listened to the contractor’s concerns and went back to the drawing board.
 
 
Wes Neeley has been with PCS Structural Solutions since 2001 and was named a Senior Associate in 2018. Wes gained first-hand construction experience from growing up around his father’s construction company, and he uses that knowledge to support the planning, design and construction of a variety of project types. Wes has served as a Project Manager and Engineer on many institutional, educational and commercial projects, and he enjoys exploring creative solutions for complex problems.
 
 

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In the aftermath of a major earthquake, it’s crucial that hospitals remain fully operational. How did PCS improve seismic resilience at the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital?

Our task was to make sure the hospital could keep running during and after a seismic event. Like many hospitals, Tacoma General runs on hydraulic power produced by the CUP. Many steam lines begin and end at the CUP, so they were an Achilles heel for the hospital: if the lines broke during an earthquake, then the hospital would effectively shut down. We had to seismically anchor the piping so it would stay in place and continue to function after an earthquake.

 

What was challenging about this particular project?

Our engineers needed an accurate model of the space to determine the best locations to place the seismic anchors, but the piping was so complex and densely interwoven that it simply wasn’t possible to use traditional as-built methods to determine the existing piping layout.

 

What bold solution did you use to solve this problem?

We used point cloud scanning to create an accurate 3D visualization of the space, then generated our Revit model based on the scans.

 

How does point cloud scanning work?

A 3D scanner on a tripod uses laser beams to record the X-, Y-, and Z-coordinates of millions of points on surfaces that the scanner can “see” from its vantage point. All those points are then assembled to create a fuzzy 3D image of the space.

 

What other challenges did the project team overcome?

The scanner’s lasers can’t record anything beyond the first object they hit – so the pipes behind the ones in front will only be recorded in bits and pieces where the lasers can “see through” gaps in the array. Our Revit model had to show every pipe flowing continuously through the space, not just the incomplete segments from the scan. Our process was a bit like a Sudoku puzzle in 3D: model the obvious pieces captured by the scan first in small chunks, then piece them all together and use deduction to fill in the gaps of missing pipe. I wrote some custom software especially for this project that helped streamline that process.

 

What did you take away from this project?

How invaluable point cloud scanning can be! The point cloud gave us a way to “see” the site from many angles with perfect accuracy while we modeled it, reducing mistakes in the modeling process and allowing for smoother and less disruptive installation of the seismic anchorage. With our Revit model, the engineers were able to design anchors to secure the piping—ensuring Tacoma General Hospital will keep on running regardless of rain, shine, or earthquakes.

 

 

Sage Cowsert is a Senior BIM Technician with more than 20 years of experience at PCS. Sage is a valued resource for his coworkers as well as his clients; with an eye for streamlining everyday processes and complex modeling challenges, he frequently builds custom programs that boost efficiency firm-wide.

 

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In the aftermath of a major earthquake, it’s crucial that hospitals remain fully operational. How did PCS improve seismic resilience at the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital?
Our task was to make sure the hospital could keep running during and after a seismic event. Like many hospitals, Tacoma General runs on hydraulic power produced by the CUP. Many steam lines begin and end at the CUP, so they were an Achilles heel for the hospital: if the lines broke during an earthquake, then the hospital would effectively shut down. We had to seismically anchor the piping so it would stay in place and continue to function after an earthquake.
 
What was challenging about this particular project?
Our engineers needed an accurate model of the space to determine the best locations to place the seismic anchors, but the piping was so complex and densely interwoven that it simply wasn’t possible to use traditional as-built methods to determine the existing piping layout.
 
What bold solution did you use to solve this problem?
We used point cloud scanning to create an accurate 3D visualization of the space, then generated our Revit model based on the scans.
 
How does point cloud scanning work?
A 3D scanner on a tripod uses laser beams to record the X-, Y-, and Z-coordinates of millions of points on surfaces that the scanner can “see” from its vantage point. All those points are then assembled to create a fuzzy 3D image of the space.
 
What other challenges did the project team overcome?
The scanner’s lasers can’t record anything beyond the first object they hit – so the pipes behind the ones in front will only be recorded in bits and pieces where the lasers can “see through” gaps in the array. Our Revit model had to show every pipe flowing continuously through the space, not just the incomplete segments from the scan. Our process was a bit like a Sudoku puzzle in 3D: model the obvious pieces captured by the scan first in small chunks, then piece them all together and use deduction to fill in the gaps of missing pipe. I wrote some custom software especially for this project that helped streamline that process.
 
What did you take away from this project?
How invaluable point cloud scanning can be! The point cloud gave us a way to “see” the site from many angles with perfect accuracy while we modeled it, reducing mistakes in the modeling process and allowing for smoother and less disruptive installation of the seismic anchorage. With our Revit model, the engineers were able to design anchors to secure the piping—ensuring Tacoma General Hospital will keep on running regardless of rain, shine, or earthquakes.
 
 
Sage Cowsert is a Senior BIM Technician with more than 20 years of experience at PCS. Sage is a valued resource for his coworkers as well as his clients; with an eye for streamlining everyday processes and complex modeling challenges, he frequently builds custom programs that boost efficiency firm-wide.
 

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The Northwest Airplane Hangar is an elegant structure. What was challenging about the design and construction process on this project?

The hangar featured very high-end architecture with a lot of unique features incorporated into the building skin. In order to accomplish those details, a lot of secondary structure was necessary. A typical façade might be metal stud infill with metal panels, but this design required several framed-out openings. We helped the entire design team realize very early-on just how much steel this secondary structure would require—truck loads.

 

How did you connect with the design team to address this issue?

The contractor was brought on-board shortly after schematic design, so they needed to establish a budget in short order to keep things moving. The amount of secondary steel needed would critically affect the budget, so we decided to model those building elements much earlier than usual to help us all visualize the structure.

 

What did that process look like?

First, we modeled the project and created a 3D rendering compatible with VR, so you could get a feeling for standing in the hangar and seeing the structures as you looked around. Second, we also created a much simpler, more portable visual, which was a 2D isometric model of the building. Ordinarily, figuring out all of that secondary steel would happen much later in design, but we worked with our BIM technicians to communicate the rough magnitude of how much was needed.

 

How did the model help the design team communicate better?

The team’s concern was that contractors would base their bid on the exterior skin shown in the architectural renderings, without realizing the amount of secondary steel needed. If you don’t come up with that cost up front, you’ll probably have to sacrifice something else later. So, we created this intuitive, quick visual to help everyone get on board right away. We cut our picture of the building in half to show two different perspectives, and we modeled the secondary steel beams in red so they vividly stood out.

 

How did the team react to the models?

They were really excited to get it so early, commenting, “Wow, our structural engineers are already model rendering? That’s really forward!” By creating this easy-to-understand visual, we got all the disciplines coordinating earlier and deeper.

 

What did you take away from this project?

At the end of the day your most effective solution isn’t always the fanciest, most high-tech one. We produced a 2D image of a 3D object—a simple visual that instantly and efficiently portrayed the critical information and saved time for everyone. We used a simple tool to connect the entire design team and unite our understanding of the project.

 

 

Jason Collins has been with PCS since 2003. A Principal of the firm, his work encompasses a broad range of project types, including private development, healthcare, and residential projects featuring inventive structural design. Jason leverages his creativity and collaborative skills to brainstorm out-of-the-box solutions to design challenges.

 

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The Northwest Airplane Hangar is an elegant structure. What was challenging about the design and construction process on this project?
The hangar featured very high-end architecture with a lot of unique features incorporated into the building skin. In order to accomplish those details, a lot of secondary structure was necessary. A typical façade might be metal stud infill with metal panels, but this design required several framed-out openings. We helped the entire design team realize very early-on just how much steel this secondary structure would require—truck loads.
 
How did you connect with the design team to address this issue?
The contractor was brought on-board shortly after schematic design, so they needed to establish a budget in short order to keep things moving. The amount of secondary steel needed would critically affect the budget, so we decided to model those building elements much earlier than usual to help us all visualize the structure.
 
What did that process look like?
First, we modeled the project and created a 3D rendering compatible with VR, so you could get a feeling for standing in the hangar and seeing the structures as you looked around. Second, we also created a much simpler, more portable visual, which was a 2D isometric model of the building. Ordinarily, figuring out all of that secondary steel would happen much later in design, but we worked with our BIM technicians to communicate the rough magnitude of how much was needed.
 
How did the model help the design team communicate better?
The team’s concern was that contractors would base their bid on the exterior skin shown in the architectural renderings, without realizing the amount of secondary steel needed. If you don’t come up with that cost up front, you’ll probably have to sacrifice something else later. So, we created this intuitive, quick visual to help everyone get on board right away. We cut our picture of the building in half to show two different perspectives, and we modeled the secondary steel beams in red so they vividly stood out.
 
How did the team react to the models?
They were really excited to get it so early, commenting, “Wow, our structural engineers are already model rendering? That’s really forward!” By creating this easy-to-understand visual, we got all the disciplines coordinating earlier and deeper.
 
What did you take away from this project?
At the end of the day your most effective solution isn’t always the fanciest, most high-tech one. We produced a 2D image of a 3D object—a simple visual that instantly and efficiently portrayed the critical information and saved time for everyone. We used a simple tool to connect the entire design team and unite our understanding of the project.
 
 
Jason Collins has been with PCS since 2003. A Principal of the firm, his work encompasses a broad range of project types, including private development, healthcare, and residential projects featuring inventive structural design. Jason leverages his creativity and collaborative skills to brainstorm out-of-the-box solutions to design challenges.
 

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Northwest Airplane Hangar
Pacific Northwest
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How will the new Welcome Center at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma be used?

The Welcome Center will serve as a gateway and focal point for prospective students and their families. The building has open, inviting spaces for presentations and community gatherings, smaller rooms for interviews, and space for the Admissions Office. The building’s exterior has a familiar masonry aesthetic seen across campus, but its structural system actually departs from the norm.

 

What was unique about the structural system?

We decided to use a wood frame system for most of the building, with heavy timber and steel framing in a few strategic areas. Structurally, it’s framed more like a house than the other buildings at UPS, which are completely steel framed.

 

What discussions led the team to this solution?

Due to some changes on the project team, we joined the project around 50% Design Development level, which meant we had to catch up fast and account for a few important factors. First, the project was over budget; and second, the proposed steel structural system needed significant revision to fit with the architectural design and mechanical systems.

The idea of a wood framed structure quickly emerged in our first team conversations as a great fit for the project’s coordination needs as well as offering a significant cost savings. Despite initial hesitance, once the owner saw the benefits, they enthusiastically embraced the wood frame concept.

 

How did you hone in on the final design?

We worked with the architect to utilize the best type of structure for each area as needed—wood in the smaller rooms and “back of house,” and steel integrated with the heavy timber elements in the larger presentation spaces to support important visual elements. We worked fast to design a blended solution, rather than a one-size-fits-all structural system.

 

What other conversations with the project team shaped this project?

The contractor approached us about using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) throughout the project. We coordinated discussions with the contractor, architect and others to ensure SIPs were a good fit, and that we maximized the benefit. This building system was a natural fit in the steel framed areas, but we were able to adapt it to the wood-framed areas as well. The SIPs provided another significant cost savings and a way to achieve simplified framing at the shallow profile roof eaves.

 

What did you take away from this project?

Our goal in every conversation was to zero in on finding the best solution for the project and the owner, even when that meant exploring outside conventional assumptions. Our diverse experience lets us synthesize our “lessons learned” from very different projects and apply them in new ways.

 

 

Alex Legé is an Associate Principal at PCS with over 11 years of experience with the firm. A versatile collaborator with a broad portfolio of residential, healthcare, and educational facilities, Alex’s background in architectural engineering enables creative solutions.

 

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How will the new Welcome Center at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma be used?
The Welcome Center will serve as a gateway and focal point for prospective students and their families. The building has open, inviting spaces for presentations and community gatherings, smaller rooms for interviews, and space for the Admissions Office. The building’s exterior has a familiar masonry aesthetic seen across campus, but its structural system actually departs from the norm.
 
What was unique about the structural system?
We decided to use a wood frame system for most of the building, with heavy timber and steel framing in a few strategic areas. Structurally, it’s framed more like a house than the other buildings at UPS, which are completely steel framed.
 
What discussions led the team to this solution?
Due to some changes on the project team, we joined the project around 50% Design Development level, which meant we had to catch up fast and account for a few important factors. First, the project was over budget; and second, the proposed steel structural system needed significant revision to fit with the architectural design and mechanical systems.
The idea of a wood framed structure quickly emerged in our first team conversations as a great fit for the project’s coordination needs as well as offering a significant cost savings. Despite initial hesitance, once the owner saw the benefits, they enthusiastically embraced the wood frame concept.
 
How did you hone in on the final design?
We worked with the architect to utilize the best type of structure for each area as needed—wood in the smaller rooms and “back of house,” and steel integrated with the heavy timber elements in the larger presentation spaces to support important visual elements. We worked fast to design a blended solution, rather than a one-size-fits-all structural system.
 
What other conversations with the project team shaped this project?
The contractor approached us about using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) throughout the project. We coordinated discussions with the contractor, architect and others to ensure SIPs were a good fit, and that we maximized the benefit. This building system was a natural fit in the steel framed areas, but we were able to adapt it to the wood-framed areas as well. The SIPs provided another significant cost savings and a way to achieve simplified framing at the shallow profile roof eaves.
 
What did you take away from this project?
Our goal in every conversation was to zero in on finding the best solution for the project and the owner, even when that meant exploring outside conventional assumptions. Our diverse experience lets us synthesize our “lessons learned” from very different projects and apply them in new ways.
 
 
Alex Legé is an Associate Principal at PCS with over 11 years of experience with the firm. A versatile collaborator with a broad portfolio of residential, healthcare, and educational facilities, Alex’s background in architectural engineering enables creative solutions.
 

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UPS Welcome Center
Tacoma, WA
181
9
8

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