Team Turns a Difficult Site Into a Golden Opportunity

Special Recognition: Consol Energy Center

July 06, 2011 |

The Consol Energy Center, the new 720,000-sf home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is unique among National Hockey League stadiums: It is the only NHL arena with a LEED Gold plaque on the wall. With seating for 18,087, including 236 loge box seats, 1,950 center-ice club seats, and 66 suites equipped with wireless Yinz Cam technology (for replaying game highlights), the CEC has all the bells and whistles a hockey fan could hope for.

What most impressed our jury, however, was the way the Building Team—led by a joint venture of PJ Dick and Hunt Construction Group—worked within the confines of an extremely tight site in the middle of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Four types of foundations—188 caissons, 1,100 geopiers, spread footings, and 26,000 sf of undercutting—were needed to meet the varying demands of the soil, rock, organic materials, and water table conditions.

Adding to the complexity of the site, the designed foundation for a 1,500-foot retaining wall separating the lower retail area from the event level—a 28-foot change in elevation—was so large (due to the pressure from the backfill) that it became cost-prohibitive.

To solve the problem, the team used CLSM (controlled low-strength material) as backfill, relieving lateral pressure off the retaining wall as the material was placed in five-foot lifts on a daily basis. In combination with enlarged caissons and minimized bracing, this solution saved $300,000 and three weeks’ time. The contractor also diverted 90% of construction debris from landfill.

“This was a good use of the land,” said juror Terry Fielden, with Gilbane Building Co. “I don’t know what else you’d do with that site.” Added juror Michael Damore, AIA, with A/E firm Epstein, “They made the site work."

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