SIPs help meet tight construction schedule during harsh Montana winter

construction_littlebighornSIP Install- fast & superior insulation, photo courtesy of BNIM Architects

The project team for the Little Big Horn College Health & Wellness Center faced a daunting schedule.  Time was running out to use a government grant for the project, so the team needed to start construction (moving dirt and pouring the foundation slab) even before they finalized the building design.  Adding to the timing challenges, they had to construct the building’s shell during one of the coldest Montana winters in 20 years.

On top of requiring rapid completion, the College (of the Apsàalooke Nation – Crow Tribe of Montana) wanted a very green, energy-efficient building targeted to LEED Platinum standards.  This commitment to the environment reinforces the center’s role in supporting healthy living and respects the tribe’s historic, cultural and artistic way of life.

Since the owner, architect and general contractor used an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approach, all parties had a strong stake in working together to address the schedule and green building needs.  Rather than operating under separate contracts for design and construction, with the IPD the participants all signed one contract focused on successful completion of the project.  “This allowed every team member to bring their best ideas to the table and collaborate on solutions,” noted Scott Moore, Project Manager with BNIM Architects.

construction2_littlebighornLarge-size SIP panels have fewer joints needing sealing, photo courtesy of BNIM Architects

One of those ideas was to use Premier Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for the exterior walls and roof.  “SIPs meet a number of needs with just one system,” said Doug Morley, Principal Architect with Springer Group Architects.  “They install fast, insulate well and are strong.  Other than in the large gymnasium, this reduced the need for a secondary support structure in the building and saved a bunch of time and money.”

Echoing Morley’s comments, contractor Glen Kamerman, Partner with Kamerman Construction, said:  “With the pre-built panels, you just have to piece the building together like a puzzle.  The SIPs were really accurately constructed and went together well.  Using Premier SIPs probably saved about 15 – 20% or better on the installation time.  It also eliminated the need to heat the walls during winter construction, as would have been necessary with concrete masonry units.”

“SIPs really helped us meet the accelerated project schedule,” added Matt Anderson, Owner of Compass Consulting Engineers.  “SIP shop drawings were done concurrently with design, so by the time we released the foundation package, the SIPs were being fabricated in the shop.  The erection was extremely fast and in no time at all we were dried in.  Plus, SIPs are strong and provide great design flexibility.  They work well in long spans and have high shear and diaphragm values.  This was especially crucial to help create the wide-open space in the project’s gymnasium.”

In addition to rapid construction and high strength, the SIPs play a key role in the building’s high energy efficiency design.  The large-size panels have fewer gaps requiring sealing than other construction methods and provide continuous insulation throughout the walls and roof.  “Energy savings is a big part of getting to the LEED Platinum goal,” said Ben Mitchell, Project Manager with Fisher Construction, general contractor.  “It’s hard to get a gym to meet any energy code, let alone LEED Platinum, but the SIPs provide a super energy-efficient envelope  – much better than we could get from other products for the same labor and material costs.”

The Health & Wellness Center is a major addition to the Little Big Horn College campus and is designed to serve students and the surrounding community.  The design includes an NCAA gymnasium seating approximately 1,300 people; spaces for aerobics/community gathering, weight lifting and cardiovascular fitness; locker rooms; and support facilities.  Beyond the high-performance building envelope, some of the center’s other green features include overhead prismatic skylights and sun-shading devices – to reduce reliance on artificial lighting and mechanical heating and cooling systems – and on-site rainwater detention.

Project Summary

  • Project:  Little Big Horn College Health and Wellness Center, Crow Agency, Montana
  • Size:  35,000 sq. ft.
  • SIPs installed:  70,000 square feet of wall and roof panels
  • Scheduled Completion:  Summer 2011
  • Architect of Record:  Springer Group Architects, Bozeman, Montana
  • Design Architect & Green Building Consultant:  BNIM Architects, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Structural Engineer of Record:  Compass Consulting Engineers, Bozeman, Montana
  • Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineers:  Three Rivers Engineering, Bozeman Montana
  • General Contractor:  Fisher Construction, Billings, Montana
  • SIP Installation Contractor:  Kamerman Construction, Manhattan, Montana
  • SIP Manufacturer:  Premier SIPs , Puyallup, Washington

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