Pioneer Hall – University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN

After debating for years whether to renovate the building or completely knock it down and build a new one, the University of Minnesota decided on a $104.5 million renovation and addition project for Pioneer Hall, the oldest dorm on the Twin Cities campus – spearheaded by KWK Architects partnered with architecture/engineering firm-of-record TKDA.

Originally built in stages between 1928 and 1932, Pioneer Hall has become an outdated facility that does not meet building codes, isn’t handicap accessible, and is lacking in many comforts students wished they had. Simply put, Pioneer Hall was on its last legs, and doing nothing was no longer a viable option due to the building having both outdated electrical and plumbing systems, and being out of compliance with current building codes and disability-access laws.

The renovation and addition project will transform the old dorm, which, in addition to being out of code in many areas, had narrow corridors, no air conditioning, limited study space, and an underground dining area. Once finished, Pioneer Hall will become a more spacious living area with places to gather and study, much like the popular 17th Avenue Residence Hall, which opened in 2013.

The new dining space will be moved from its current underground location and brought up to grade level, and will serve all students living in the Superblock, a quartet of freshman dorms (including Pioneer) on the edge of campus. Seating capacity, meal, serving, and seating options will all be expanded, and the new facility will be able to accommodate 850 students at any time. The renovation also rectifies one of the biggest shortcomings of the original building by providing for full ADA accessibility. New meditation rooms and lounges will also be created.

The project will preserve the character-defining features of the original building (the historic red brick exterior), while gutting much of the interior, where generations of students have lived in various stages of discomfort in recent years. The new housing component increases the number of beds to 756 and incorporates study and community spaces to enhance the experience of first-year students.

Once completed, Pioneer Hall will comprise 257,000 square feet, which includes 85,600 square feet of renovated space and 171,400 square feet of new construction. The renovated Pioneer Hall is slated to be open in time for fall semester 2019. Wells Concrete is producing and erecting more than 55,000 square feet of precast concrete to the project, including 280 members of 12” insulated wall panels.

The majority of Wells’ work was done in the expansion of the south and north courtyards, with a great deal of ingenuity put into producing the architectural precast panels to match the historical look of the building. Each of the panels has two windows with architectural precast frames and an intricate cornice, all surrounded by cast-in brick. The brick itself is laid in a Flemish bond, and is a blend of three brick colors chosen to best match the color of the original brick. The frames around the windows were made using 3D printed molds, and the updated look is all brought together with rollcast panels made using the tilt table in the Albany, MN production facility.

Wells also did work on the entryway renovations on the west and east sides of the building, and in addition to the architectural wall panels; hollowcore, solid slabs, double tees, and beams were used to create the floor and roof of a loading dock area.

Advantages of 3-D printing for this project and others in the construction industry:

  1. Complex designs – 3D Printing allows complicated, complex models to be developed and used in our manufacturing process; whereas wood and plastic would have been used in the past and limited the possibilities of designs. 3D printing can build curvilinear structures (rather than rectilinear forms).
  2. Durability – the amount of scrap from wood and plastic would be significantly reduced as a typical mold can be used over and over whereas wood and plastic have to be replaced and repaired every few uses.
  3. Improved Project Planning – an important part of every project plan is the design. With 3D printing, companies will be able to quickly create models to have a visual representation of the project as well as help pinpoint problem areas and avoid delays.
  4. Economical – as the technology continues to improve, 3D printing costs will continue to decrease allowing for wide spread use of this technology. As labor is a limited resource, 3D printing can eliminate some of the labor required on creating elaborate forming buildups.
Products Sq. Ft. #
Arch Insul Wall 56,058 277
Arch Solid Wall 179 5
Hollowcore 649 20
Inverted T Beam 84 3
Solid Slab 828 10
 Totals 57,798 315

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