Florida master-planned community rests on an underground precast infrastructure.
By Bridget McCrea
With its golden beaches and year-round sunshine, the state of Florida attracts a high number of new residents to its shores every year. To meet their housing needs, companies like Beazer Homes have developed a range of options that appeal to a wide variety of lifestyles, from the $100,000+ town homes to single-family homes priced at $280,000 and up.
When constructing its developments, Beazer relies on precast concrete as a support structure. Take one of its most recent projects, for example. Known as Belmont, the master-planned community is located in the quaint town of Ruskin, situated just south of the metro Tampa area. In total, the development comprises more than 2,100 residences on about 1,000 acres of land. A 10,000-square-foot pool complex, splash zone, playgrounds, basketball courts and sand volleyball facilities keep residents busy when they’re not enjoying their homes or the quaint “downtown” main boulevard.
Supporting Phase I of the development, which wrapped up in May of this year, are about 100 precast storm structures and the same number of sanitary structures. Additional pieces included a lift station that is 12 feet in diameter and about 35 feet deep. “It’s the largest lift station I’ve set on any recent project,” says Don Campbell, senior project manager at Tampa-based Kearney Construction Co., the project contractor. “Getting it set was a bit of a challenge, but it all worked out pretty well.”
Kearney Construction got involved with Belmont Phase I after submitting the winning bid, and it is the site contractor that handled “all of the earthwork through to the paving” for the development. “That includes all of the site utilities such as the storm, sewer and water, plus the curbing, paving, ponds and drainage. You name it,” says Campbell, who was charged with coordinating all of those activities through the life of the project for which Heidt & Associates Inc. served as the architectural and design firm.
The precast manufacturing was handled by Atlantic Concrete Products Inc. of Sarasota, Fla. Atlantic maintains a close relationship with Kearney Construction and supplies most of the firm’s precast needs. “We’ve had a good relationship with them for a number of years,” says Campbell. “They know what our expectations are and either meet them or exceed them without any major issues.”
It’s in the details
The project comprised more than 160 storm structures ranging from 2-foot by 3-foot to 96 inches in diameter, including more than 65 sanitary structures that were buried up to 26 feet deep. The products were made with Dura Plate liner provided by A-LOK Products. “We constructed over 100 vertical feet of Dura Plate in these manholes,” says Megan Ditcher, sales and administrative manager at Atlantic Concrete.
The precaster also used 15-inch to 60-inch A-LOK gaskets and lined a lift station that measured 144 inches in diameter. “This is a big project, and not our typical precast job,” says Ditcher, who adds that the manufacturer was challenged with having to design a lot of the project and ensure that the installer wouldn’t have to pour any of the products on site.
Take the large end walls, for example. According to Ditcher, many of the structures were so large that they couldn’t be shipped on a typical truck. To overcome the challenge, the precaster poured 58-inch by 91-inch footers in the ground, and the contractor field-poured on top of them. Atlantic also poured a few large boxes that were 3 feet by 13 feet in size. “We don’t normally do things like that,” says Ditcher, “but it wound up working out well.”
From concept to completion
The Belmont project kicked off in December 2006 with the submission of shop drawings to Atlantic Concrete, which took the ball and ran with it by transforming those renderings into actual products and immediately putting them into production. Working on an aggressive schedule, the contractor at times used five or six pipe crews to install those products, which were expected to be delivered on a predictable basis in order to meet the timelines.
“We needed structures to support all of those pipe crews in advance of them being there and throughout the process of building the entire project. They kept up with our schedule very well,” says Campbell, who adds that precast was the “only choice” for the project. “We wouldn’t do any other type of construction down there. It would be too labor intensive, and the quality would be uncertain. These products need to be built in a way that holds up before they go into the ground – and after.”
Getting there isn’t always seamless, as Campbell found out in late 2006 when the precast products began rolling out of the plant. The 12-foot lift station, for example, had to be of a weight that was low enough for the contractor’s equipment to lift, manipulate and install it. To make sure that was feasible, Campbell says the precaster cast it in several pieces which then stacked upon each other.
“The challenge is making sure that the top of one piece is level with the bottom of another piece, so that when you mate them together they seat correctly,” says Campbell.
Ditcher says the project was finished in a timely manner thanks in part to the use of A-LOK gaskets, which allowed the contractor to “put the boxes and pipe in, and keep on moving,” rather than being bogged down by field pouring. “Between the precast and the gaskets,” says Ditcher, “they were able to do just that.”
The end result exceeded Beazer’s expectations, according to Keith Malcuit, director of land development for the firm’s Tampa division. He says that Belmont will encompass nine phases when completed, seven of which are single-family homes and two of which are town homes. “To date, we’ve completed Phase One A, which encompasses 282 single-family units,” says Malcuit, who adds that the infrastructure and pads are completed for that phase, as is the overall master infrastructure for the community’s amenities and facilities.
Malcuit says precast is the material of choice for such projects, not only for its cost and speed of installation, but also for its flexibility and quality control. “Production times are fairly short, as there’s really no lengthy lead time necessary to get the materials to the site,” says Malcuit. “Precast has worked very well for us, and we plan to continue using it on future projects.”
Working the market
Despite current market conditions, Malcuit says sales are going well at Belmont, where buyers get cost-effective homes in a highly amenitized community environment. “We have an unusual niche in that we provide high value at a moderate price,” says Malcuit, who adds that future phases have yet to be scheduled and will likely resume sometime in the near future, depending on sales volume and market conditions.
The $16 million project, which was completed in less than six months, was a success, according to the owner, contractor and precaster, all of whom worked in tandem to ensure a timely delivery schedule, high-quality product and seamless installation process.
“The beauty of it all is that Beazer now has in place all of the infrastructure for future phases, which will go significantly faster than the first phase because all of the dirt work is done, the ponds are built and some of the master storm drainage is complete,” says Campbell. “They’ve prepared themselves for a very aggressive completion schedule should they require it.”
Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers manufacturing, industry and technology. She is the winner of the 2007 Florida Magazine Association’s Gold Award for best trade/technical feature statewide.