Case Studies

The Northside Residence Hall: Making A Mark at Texas A&M University

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Linbeck Group LLC (Linbeck) has assisted many institutions in considering the weight that lowest cost bids carry in selecting a construction partner. Linbeck has played a role in shaping the Texas landscape since 1938, and the company leverages a proprietary collaborative approach involving every team member and Lean operating principles to continually eliminate waste and identify the areas of greatest value for the client. As a result, Linbeck’s portfolio represents a diverse array of projects with a variety of challenges, where every project provides the company with an opportunity to do even better for the sake of the client.

Linbeck calls the city of Houston, Texas, home, but the company also maintains a network of outposts across the Lone Star State with additional branches in Fort Worth and San Antonio. The company pioneered its signature TeamBuild approach in the late 1960s to focus efforts on continually building value for the client. This approach is balanced by Linbeck’s adoption of the Lean Operating System, as pioneered by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota Motor Corporation, which aims to continually eliminate waste to deliver projects swiftly and more cost-effectively.

The combination has helped Linbeck establish a loyal client base in many commercial market sectors, especially in the institutional market. Linbeck has completed a number of projects for Rice University in Houston, with the most recent addition in 2009 where the team oversaw construction of the McMurtry and Duncan Residential Colleges. Linbeck completed construction on a tight timeline of 25 months and still managed to have the residence halls open, fully furnished and certified as LEED Gold for the fall 2009 semester.

Going Green and Gold

Linbeck’s work on the project helped the team attract the attention of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The university contacted Linbeck to oversee construction on a new $66 million student housing development on the main campus. “Our relationship with Rice University stretches back at least 15 years, but this is our first job ever for Texas A&M,” states Brian Dupre, project manager at Linbeck. “We had pursued work at Texas A&M in the past that never panned out, but we’re really looking forward to nurturing our relationship with Texas A&M the way we have with Rice University.”

The Northside Residence Hall project involves the demolition of three existing on-campus residence halls, which will be replaced with one central residence hall with 648 beds. The hall surrounds a central courtyard on three sides with a façade of brick veneer and swathes of glass curtain wall to flood the main entrances and stairwells with light. The building will also house a coffee shop, a media room, community learning center, laundry facilities, a mail room, a video production studio and 3,000-square foot game room for casual games of ping pong and billiards.

“The construction site is surrounded with a lot of live oak trees and we have been very careful to keep them alive and protected throughout construction,” adds Dupre.

Efficient, Effective

The university doesn’t plan to pursue LEED certification, but the university did request the architectural team incorporate as many sustainable features as was cost-effective, especially because it will be the first new residence hall built on the main campus since the 1980s. Interior finishes lean toward solid surfaces, which require fewer chemicals to maintain and withstand use much longer.

In addition, bathrooms will be outfitted with dual-flush, low-flow toilets to conserve water. All 288 bathroom units were premanufactured and finished, delivered straight to site and ready for installation, down to the custom millwork and painting scheme. “All we have to do is set the pods in place and connect the water, waste and electrical lines so the bathrooms are fully finished as soon as the structure is,” expands Dupre. “It’s something we have worked with before, but we’re really fine tuning it on this project, and we’re finding it has helped us save significantly on a time and cost standpoint.”

As an added bonus, manufacturing bathroom pods in a controlled facility offsite helps reduce the amount of waste generated on-site and save on labor costs, while also ensuring a consistently high-quality end product.

Exceeding All Expectations

The university is roughly a two-hour drive from Linbeck’s Houston headquarters, which led the company to extend its search for subcontractors to experienced companies that Linbeck either had never worked with before or had not worked with in quite a while. The company was able to stick with a trusted Houston contact for drywall and painting respectively, but Linbeck opted to work with local specialists for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing components. The resulting team has been overwhelmingly well assembled, according to Dupre, especially since the region received a whole year’s worth of rainfall in just a three-month span in 2012.

“The rain hit just as we began the foundation work in December 2011,” says Dupre. “The team was able to really accelerate our schedule by working later evenings and over weekends to get the project back on track and that, to me, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this project.”

Completion of the Northside Residence Hall has been slated for late June 2013, but Linbeck and Dupre plan to stick around for the summer months. The team plans to lend a hand with commissioning and ensure the hall is ready to receive students for the fall 2013 semester. If everything proceeds according to plan, Texas A&M university students will benefit from a state-of-the-art student housing complex that’s also located conveniently on campus, while Linbeck Group LLC will add one more example of the difference the TeamBuild approach, Lean operating principles and passionate employees make.

Published on: March 13, 2013

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