With a tight job site and timeline, precast concrete was a key component in a new luxury hotel in Georgia.
By Matt Werner
Tight constraints on job site, energy efficiency and quick installation are all reasons to choose precast concrete, and for the new Hotel Simone on St. Simons Island, Ga., all three came into play.
As one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, St. Simons Island is a popular tourist spot. General Contractor Kelly Mahoney wanted to take advantage of the market by building and owning a boutique hotel located steps from the beach that catered exclusively to adults. He also wanted the facility to be built to the highest standards and have the look of “new Florida” modern with innovative construction methods. He chose precast concrete to achieve all his goals.
A firm believer
Prior to this hotel, Mahoney had primarily built multi-family developments, and that’s where he crossed paths with NPCA member VANHOOSECO Precast. Mahoney’s company, Value Added Concepts, had specified precast walls for a project in Knoxville, Tenn., featuring a slope that would have made cast-in-place very difficult.
“I started sourcing them for other work that had similar problems with limited site access and tight schedules,” Mahoney explained. “I wanted to try them on doing a whole building as opposed to just the foundation walls.”
So, Mahoney and VANHOOSECO got to work on designing Hotel Simone. VANHOOSECO Engineering Manager Allen Trotter said their team helped shift the design away from traditional construction to make the building’s entire shell out of precast. Trotter noted they produced columns, beams and the company’s licensed Envirocast walls, which feature EPS insulation and metal drywall studs, to deliver an economic and energy efficient product.
“Everything is incorporated so it opens up the interior,” Trotter said. “Once it’s set, you can start immediately on the interior of your building.”
Being able to get the project completed quickly was a big reason Mahoney wanted to use precast. Trotter estimated they started producing the pieces in September 2018 and completed their work on-site in February 2019.
“We all felt using precast could shave three months off the schedule,” Mahoney explained. “Having used precast a few other times and seeing the time savings, I’m a firm believer in it.”
Mahoney also noted the ease of strapping and bracing the panels together by using precast.
“Everything is tied together with their plates, so that saved a lot of time and headaches,” he said. “Plus, the overall strength is superior to traditional stick frame buildings.”
Trotter said the production of the pieces wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for VANHOOSECO, but there were logistical considerations that required a lot of planning. For one thing, it was more than 500 miles from their plant to the job site. For another, the job site itself was only about half an acre with houses and streets surrounding it. With nearly 500 total pieces and more than 2,000 tons of precast for the job, it required a coordinated effort from all parties to make sure the project went off without a hitch.
Trotter joked he had been on tougher job sites with elevation differences, but this was the closest proximity to other buildings he’d had to overcome.
“It’s tight for getting just passenger vehicles around let alone a 250-ton crane,” he said. “You could only fit the crane in one spot. If you’re in the house, you can pretty much reach out and touch the hotel.”
The VANHOOSECO team was able to make several trips to the job site prior to construction to game plan how they were going to make it work.
The restaurant next to the project was willing to allow crews to use the parking lot until mid-afternoon for staging. They also found an empty space about seven miles away they were able to use as a staging yard for all the precast pieces and equipment, making the challenge a little more manageable.
“We dedicated a driver for doing nothing but swapping loads in and out,” Trotter said. “We spent a lot of time hauling trailers from the secondary staging yard. We had probably 100 loads between the planks and the beams, and we could only fit three on the site.”
A design consideration they also had to take into account was the island’s height restriction of 45 feet or four stories.
Fortunately, the use of precast for the flooring system helped save space there as well. Trotter said they had to take into consideration the hotel’s pool, which was above the garage on the third floor of the building.
“We were using 8-inch planks for the flooring, but there we had to use 10-inch solid planks because of the weight of the pool with the water in it,” he explained. “With the height restrictions, we had to increase the width and reinforcing of our beams because we couldn’t do anything to the depth of them.”
Hotel Simone was ready to open in August 2019, just eight months after the project started.
“Using precast is definitely a good, quick way to do it,” Mahoney said. “We’re seeing some of the benefits operationally already. The performance of the building is better than a traditional building.
“It’s for sure quieter than it would have been if we did a stick frame with regular insulation.”
All parties consider the project successful.
“The issues we had were primarily logistics,” Trotter said. “We’re looking at doing more projects together, which is great.”
Matt Werner is the managing editor of Precast Solutions magazine and is NPCA’s communication manager.