Product Focus: Augustana College Utilizes EPS Geofoam

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — As of the 2013 fall term, the multimillion-dollar Center for Student Life now serves as the focal point for students at Augustana College. The college’s centerpiece of academic life has been reinvigorated with the addition of 35,000 square feet and two new functions: dining services and student activities. Designed by Decatur, Ill.-based BLDD Architects, the project also includes the renovation of 39,000 square feet of the previous library structure. The groundbreaking project depicts a new concept in student-centered college life.
According to W. Kent Barnds, executive vice president of the college, the Center for Student Life was situated in the central area of the campus to maximize its effectiveness and to be at the centermost crossroads of student activities. BLDD worked closely with the college to determine the perfect location for Augustana’s students and to maximize the way students will navigate the campus. However, the perfect location also presented serious construction challenges because of its location on a hillside. John Whitlock of BLDD Architects explained, “The use of geofoam allowed the design team to implement the college’s vision without compromising program, function or aesthetics. Without geofoam, a major redesign might have been necessary.”
Slope stability was a major sticking point as engineers put their skills to the test. The new Center for Student Life would be added to the existing library building set on top of a steep hill. Part of the building is cut into the hillside to create a basement space, while the other is to be built up to create an upper floor.
“Because the addition was so close to the hill engineers were concerned that there would be a slope stability issue if the area under the kitchen/loading dock was backfilled with soil up to the fifth floor elevation,” said Eric Reinsch, PE, lead structural engineer of Rock Island-based KJWW Engineering Consultants. “The north retaining wall was revised to be more a standard wall and the soil fill behind it was substituted with lightweight EPS geofoam to reduce the surcharge on the hillside and wall. By removing the soil we were able to reduce the wall thickness and design to be more of a traditional wall. Geopiers were used to support the footings and to densify the soil along the top of the hill. All of the foundations extend past the geofoam and bear on the geopiers. The only thing the geofoam is supporting is the weight of the slab and the associated live load for the floor — about 75 per square foot and 100 per square foot, respectively. EPS Geofoam 15 from ACH Foam Technologies was selected because of its density and compressive resistance.”
Casey Adamson, the foreman on the job for Reston, Va.-headquartered Centennial Contractors, said his crew had not worked with geofoam before.
“We had four concrete perimeter walls about 16 feet high,” he said. “We had been looking at fill materials — specifically soil, sand, smooth rock and geofoam.”
According to Adamson, the soil and sand would have to have been machine compacted. Neither rock nor geofoam would require settle time or compacting. “ACH Foam Technologies sent [installation specialist] Dale Mullikin to our site before we began the project,” Adamson added. “Our number one concern was not to compromise the structural integrity of the concrete perimeter walls. Dale gave us a thorough understanding of why geofoam would be the best fill material as well as how to install it. The installation was seamless.”
The team used 3,000 cubic yards of geofoam blocks and it only took a crew of four men to install the product. “The geofoam was so light and easy to manipulate,” Adamson said.
“The most difficult aspect of this project was installing the fill around hundreds of pipes under the kitchen area. We used ACH’s suggestion to cut the small pieces of geofoam with hot wire right on the jobsite. We’d surround each pipe with small geofoam pieces, leaving a trench for the pipe to fit in, and then filled that with concrete. This held the puzzle together and also provided some additional protection for the pipes,” said Brian Hedgren, project manager with Davenport, Iowa-based Russell Construction. “In the other fill areas, all we had to do is start with a nice level base, and then stack the geofoam blocks right up. It was the best choice for alternative fill materials and the least expensive.”
Preliminary work on the $20 million construction and renovation project began in March of 2012; project completion is expected by Aug. 1, 2013. The Center for Student Life will be certified as LEED Silver — the college’s first LEED Silver building.

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