by Nicole Hetherington, Assoc. AIA / ZDS Inc. 

Last month, AIA RI sponsored a construction progress tour of RISD’s newest residence hall located on 60 Waterman Street in Providence. Upon completion, the project will be New England’s first hybrid cross-laminated timber (CLT) and steel residence hall – an exciting frontier in architecture and construction. I had the opportunity to attend the tour, which was lead by project team members from NADAAA, Odeh Engineers, and Shawmut Construction. The tour took attendees through the 6-story structure, each level presenting different stages of completion.

The team utilized the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) method where owner, architect, and contractor work collaboratively from the beginning stages of project conception. This method also introduces important consultants, such as the structural engineer and MEP engineers, early in the design phase of the project. Theoretically, IPD utilizes the strengths of each participant throughout the project trajectory, and in turn, maximizes efficiency from design through substantial completion. 

The IPD team realized early on that environmental sustainability, beautiful design and an aggressive schedule would be the major factors driving this project. To help achieve these goals, the team chose to fully expose the cross laminated timber slabs as part of the interior finish. I found this to be the most intriguing aspect of the project. Touring the building, we could see the raw CLT slabs on the exterior of the building, and the same slabs will end up being the finished floor and ceiling of the dorm rooms. These particular CLT slabs are from a Canadian based company, Nordic Structures

I asked the structural engineer, Paul Kuehnel from Odeh Engineers, how seamless IPD was in reality. He said he would definitely do it again, and although there was more upfront work in terms of planning, once they agreed on the design, the construction typology and schedule, the process was fast and effective. The building was erected in only three weeks which I’m told exceeded everyone’s expectations.

At approximately 60,000 SF and a budget of $47 million, the new residence hall will house 148 RISD students when it opens in late August 2019.