In Virginia Beach, building over a pond

It’s rare on a building construction project that all workers are required to wear life jackets. It’s rare too that all materials must access the building either by crane or pedestrian footbridge.

To complete the Tidewater Community College Virginia Beach Student Center, Skanska needed to build in the middle of a five-acre storm water retention pond that was about 10 feet deep. Every construction project has its own unique challenges, and building this student center required innovative thinking.

Team members say it would have been an ordinary building project – if it wasn’t for the pond. The student center rests on a 30,000-square-foot platform with a 5-inch-slab and 10-inch concrete planks, strategically connected to 354 concrete piles that are up to 135 feet long. Cranes mounted on modular barges were used to install the piles and precast elements.
Virginia Beach Student Center
“It took a year to put the foundation in just to start constructing the building,” said Ronney Pope, Skanska USA superintendent.

The water complicated logistics in other ways. The facade of brick, metal panels and glass was installed via aerial lifts mounted on barges. And 90 percent of the materials for the building had to be lifted to the concrete platform via a shore-mounted tower crane. (The center is connected to campus via three bridges, but those are just for pedestrians.) We were not permitted to drain the pond.

So the pond sparked innovation. The 25-foot-long suspended concrete beams that comprise the building platform were designed to be cast in place over the water, but to save time and increase efficiency our team set up a small casting yard on-site and cast the pieces on land.

And sustainability went beyond designing and building the facility to meet LEED Silver standards. For example, rather than tear out the 16 piles and thick concrete pad that was left behind after the tower crane was removed, with the owner’s blessing, we transformed it into a social gathering space by laying a topping slab. Now it’s home to four picnic tables.

When it opens this fall, the 90,000-square-foot, three-story student center  will provide students with dining options, a bookstore, a child care center, student meeting spaces and recreational spaces, including a fitness center.


Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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