Building Group Solidifies Trust with Long-term Client while Tackling Student Housing Crisis in California

 |  Building, Education, Student Housing

Collaboration and trust are at the cornerstone of Sundt’s new project for Cal Poly Humboldt, the northernmost campus in the California State University (CSU) system. The relationship that Sundt has built with CSU throughout decades of prior work history lent itself to a level of trust, flexibility and innovation during the design process resulting in plans for a building that went beyond initial expectations.

This 964-bed Craftsman Student Housing complex is currently in the preconstruction phase under a collaborative design-build contract. The plans have undergone many design changes to develop a building that will stand up against the test of time and provide housing to as many students as possible, while also remaining on budget.

Remote Location

The site is located in a city called Arcata in Humboldt County in Northern California, nearly six hours from Sundt’s Sacramento office. The site is accessible primarily by two winding two-lane highways that can be treacherous in the dead of winter. During the proposal process, the team was able to demonstrate a long history of successes with remote builds, citing our work on the Mammoth Lakes Courthouse and Kinross’s Round Mountain Gold Mine in the backcountry of Nevada. This gave our proposal a competitive edge over other teams less familiar with the challenges of construction activities in remote areas.

This project also opened opportunities to revitalize previous relationships with subcontractors that specialize in working in remote locations. Because the business models of these subcontractors are built around remote working conditions, the preconstruction team was able to secure better pricing on some elements of the groundwork, strengthen relationships with old connections and save the client money in the process.

Adaptive Design Process

Due to the collaborative nature of the design-build contract, the client was able to work closely with the preconstruction team to evolve the original design as budget increases were approved. For example, the initial proposal was for a 800-bed complex, but the Sundt team pointed to the fact that the size of the site could accommodate an additional 200 beds. The increase was approved, and the team was able to move forward with plans for a larger building to house even more students.

“The primary feedback we’ve gotten from CSU across all other projects we’ve done for them is that our teams are very good at communicating,” said Project Executive Sean Falvey. “We involve the client in the decision-making process. We take the time to understand the client’s wants and needs, challenge the design where it makes sense, and incorporate solutions that help us meet the goals for the project.”

Care was also taken in the selection of the materials. Cal Poly Humboldt wanted to construct a housing complex that could last 50-plus years without maintenance. As a result, they chose to go with the more expensive concrete construction than its cheaper counterpart, wood. Additionally, using concrete would drastically cut the size of the labor force needed on-site day-to-day. This will minimize the burden on the surrounding community, as lodging and resources are scarce in the sparsely populated Humboldt County.

“Our vision for this project is a cast-in-place, self-perform concrete with pre-cast concrete panelized façade systems. This would help reduce the amount of labor on site and assist with the owner’s longevity goals,” said Dylan Rogers, Preconstruction Project Manager.

What’s Ahead

The Cal Poly Humboldt Craftsman Student Housing project is integral in addressing the student housing crisis that’s affecting more and more California students as cost-of-living increases. The complex will offer much needed affordable housing for young people seeking to further their education at Cal Poly Humboldt. Located minutes from the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by ancient redwoods, Cal Poly Humboldt provides a curriculum strong in natural resources and the sciences, and the liberal arts, and bolstered by programs that emphasize practical learning experiences for students Creating more housing will allow the school to increase their enrollment and give more students the unique hands-on education that Cal Poly Humboldt offers with their programs.

The project is currently in the late stages of preconstruction, with 95% of construction documents ready for permit submittal and the final design almost wrapped up. Construction is slated to start in March with anticipated completion in winter 2025.