Expediting a Project Schedule to Upgrade Student and Family Housing at UMass Amherst

By Brian McCormack and Daron Kurkjian

The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) embarked on an ambitious new Residential Life Expansion in 2020 to replace the Lincoln Apartments and North Village student housing with upgraded residences for family, undergraduate, and graduate students. UMass used a Public-Private Partnership (P3) arrangement to demolish the older housing and construct the new, modern facilities. Based on the campus space constraints and ever-present need for more student housing, normally tight design and construction timelines were compressed.

To expedite the schedule that required the first new units be available by September 2022, Weston & Sampson worked with UMass to design the demolition and construction phasing to facilitate immediate P3 redevelopment. We prepared abatement and demolition bid documents in a five-week period. Our project team closely coordinated with redevelopment design architects and civil engineers to allow for the smoothest transition from demolition to redevelopment.

Site Background

The Lincoln Apartments were built in 1958 and North Village in 1971 and together included 200,000sf of living space and 61 buildings. Commonly used building materials of this construction era include universal and hazardous wastes, which were identified in areas physically inaccessible to occupants. Working under COVID-19 pandemic access restrictions to active quarantine spaces, we applied our building construction knowledge to extrapolate hazardous building material types for the design.

Design and Construction Constraints

With work compressed into less than two years, the design included an assessment of hazardous building materials, abatement and demolition design, debris materials management, and capping and removal of utilities over the 37-acre project area. Utility design also included reconfigurations to tie in the proposed service connections for the P3 redevelopment. We coordinated much of our effort related to utilities with both the university and the Town of Amherst, as their utilities

 are necessarily interconnected. We developed a long-lasting stormwater design for on-site infiltration that supported the demolition phase and remains operational post-redevelopment.

Acting as the project environmental engineer, our team quickly identified and mitigated site construction issues that could delay the abatement and demolition phases. These included planning for the proper abatement of hazardous building materials and steam heat piping insulation. We developed bid documents in a compressed five-week period to allow for an expedited bidding process by dedicating our project engineers solely to this effort. We also met frequently with our interdisciplinary team on design elements and were fully aligned with and committed to UMass’ goals and timelines.

Once the building demolition phase was complete and P3 development construction had begun, we supported the redevelopment team. For example, we reviewed and commented on the proper phasing of the disconnection of water main lines that looped and served a large neighboring apartment complex. We also supported proper subsurface utility removal that extended into the redevelopment.

Project Takeaways

The new student housing complexes at UMass are complete and the first new student tenants took occupancy in September 2022 for the former North Village and August 2023 for the former Lincoln Apartments. The elements essential to the success of such a complicated project with an aggressive schedule were the importance of a fully dedicated project team that was focused from Day 1 on the end goals, and buy-in from the entire project team on the tight schedule along with constant communication.

Brian McCormack, PE, is a senior team leader and can be reached at mccormab@wseinc.com.

Daron Kurkjian, PE, is a team leader and can be reached at kurkjiand@wseinc.com.

Published in High Profile, December 2023

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