Panel Solutions for Student Housing

Construction of student housing typically faces a number of unique challenges. Small jobsite areas, active areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, and tight project schedules to meet student move-in dates can make it difficult to employ typical field-built construction techniques.

As a result, panelization is becoming a popular methodology of construction for building enclosures for student housing. Prefabricated insulated wall panel solutions are lightweight, energy efficient, durable, cost-effective, and require only a fraction of field personnel for a typical installation, even when building to Passive House standards. By specifying a single water- and airtight panel with the option of using virtually any desired finish or cladding—from brick, metal, or natural stone to the most modern, lightweight and energy-efficient coating systems—owners and designers have the freedom to choose the look they prefer while meeting the schedule and performance requirements of the general contractors at an attractive price.

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Arcadia Flats Student Housing – Western Michigan University

An example of a student housing community built with prefabricated insulated wall panels is Arcadia Flats Student Housing at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After receiving the drawings for this six-story residential housing unit for WMU, Centerline Prefab, LLC worked with the construction manager, Triangle Associates, and architecture firm, Stantec, to develop the panel details to meet the owner’s design intent before they were detailed using BIM to ensure they would be designed to fit properly in their final installed locations.

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There were three primary constraints for the Arcadia Flats Student Housing project—time, weather, and space. To meet the move-in date for students, the exterior building envelope needed to be completed before the arrival of winter, allowing interior work to take place during the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall known in the region. The new residence hall replaced an existing building that was surrounded by buildings on three of its sides, creating a small laydown area.

The building was set with 48’ StoPanel Metal ci panels on the upper four floors and Sto Backup panels on the bottom two floors. The 206 prefabricated wall panels were shipped to the jobsite once they were produced. Along with the crawling hydraulic crane, the panels only needed a small staging area in the tight space between buildings. With an install time of 37 minutes per panel on the jobsite, the building envelope was completed in a fraction of the time it would have taken to build on-site.

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The Hub on Campus – Purdue University

Another student housing panel project is the Hub on Campus near Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Working in partnership, Grayhawk, LLC and Great Lakes Prefabrication designated, fabricated, and installed 430 StoPanel Classic ci panels for the project. Like Arcadia Flats Student Housing, there were some logistical challenges including time and space because the crew had to work within a small footprint with active city streets on two sides. However, the Hub also presented unique design challenges because of the sheer number of penetrations through the walls. Each individual apartment required multiple penetrations, all of which were waterproofed within the fabrication plant in order to provide for the highest quality building envelope.

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Working with an extremely tight project site with limited laydown area and little room for scaffolding, the prefabricated StoPanels were safely installed by a small crew using one central tower crane. Meanwhile, various aesthetic requirements were met using StoSignature® Brick and Stolit® 1.5 to replicate a corrugated metal appearance.

With small crews, tight spaces and time constraints, prefabricated insulated wall panels helped provide building solutions for all involved to create aesthetically pleasing student housing in the Midwest.