Klohn Commons – UNB's First Green Building

In June of this year, a ceremony was conducted to formally dedicate the $25-million Hans W. Klohn Commons, a student-centred learning and social space on the campus of the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Saint John that, according to a release, will integrate information technology, information services, the computing centre and library in a single, user-friendly meeting place for the entire community.

Key components of Klohn Commons include a student technology centre, tutoring centres, and classroom and conference rooms. The facility will also display artworks from around the world, and feature areas that can be transformed in minutes from seating spaces to guest lecture halls.

 

“The Commons is more than a building; it’s a vision, an opportunity and aspiration,” said Robert MacKinnon, vice-president of UNB Saint John at the dedication ceremony, adding, “It is the cornerstone of a renewed University of New Brunswick in Saint John, and it will offer our students the space and services they need to thrive in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world.”

Klohn Commons also has the distinction of being UNB’s first green building, having been designed and constructed to a LEED silver standard.

 

Although the building features some striking aesthetic features rendered in precast, of further relevance to the precast industry is the fact that the commons is named for the very same Hans W. Klohn who, as President of the OSCO Construction Group, is an Honorary Life Member of the Saint John Construction Association, was recently selected as a ‘CPCI Titan of the Precast Concrete Industry’, and awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from UNB in May 2011, in recognition of his efforts and influence in the construction industry and the community at large. The construction team broke ground at the site in April 2010 with the design and preliminary work for the precast by Strescon Limited beginning the following month, production commencing in late July, and precast erection in mid-November at a rate of seven pieces per day for approximately 30 days.

In addition to the precast architectural wall panels, the new building’s envelope consists of precast column covers and precast logia panels to create the striking entrance breezeway feature.

One of the challenges that Strescon faced, says Project Manager Brendan Clancy, was in trying to get the colour of the aggregate finish just right in order to match the finish of an adjacent campus building (finished in white cement and stone) while still pursuing the LEED standard that required that fly ash be used in the mix, but which also made that mix grey.

“We went and reviewed the old panels,” says Clancy, “and then found some stone that we thought would match that nicely, and so that worked out well. As far as the cement and sand, the mix was originally 25 per cent fly ash on both the front and back faces.”

Clancy explains the extensive experimentation required to arrive at the correct colour. “When we designed these panels,” he explains, “the back panel is usually just the fly ash mix — a shop grey — but the 150 mm (six-inch) panel was 75 mm (three inches) white and 75 mm (three inches) grey, and because they all had the fly ash, they all had that tinge of grey. By the end of it, we were making samples that were still 25 per cent in the back, to give them that volume, but we made a 15 per cent and a 10 per cent as well as a seven, a five and a three percent mix.”

 

Ultimately, Strescon ended up using that three per cent mix in the front, notes Clancy, because it still gave them enough LEED points to meet requirements, but it also gave them the whitest panel possible.

The project required 198 pours to make 165 precast pieces in the Strescon shop. Two- and three-stage pours were used to create “U” and L-shaped panels to fully enclose the steel structure where required.

 

The unique architecture of the building required Strescon’s erectors and engineers to be extremely creative with the connections to the steel, creating multiple connections up to 450 mm (18 inches) long, and utilizing hundreds of pre-welded clips.

As much of a challenge as the precast work presented to the firm, Grant Maxwell of the Strescon sales team credits the vision of the architects for conceiving of it at all. “This project, I think, is going to be an award winner for this architect.” “Sometimes,” he adds, “it’s hard to visualize what they’re envisioning themselves because they are such creative people, and when I first looked at this design, I had my reservations, but now that the design has been realized, it’s just a beautiful building.”

Erection was completed by December 2010, and the Hans W. Klohn Commons building opened officially in conjunction with the start of the fall 2011 term.

 

PROJECT: Hans W. Klohn Commons
OWNER: University of New Brunswick – Saint John, NB
ARCHITECT: B+H Architects – Toronto, ON
ENGINEER: Valron Engineers Inc. – Moncton, NB
CONTRACTOR: Dora Construction – Dartmouth, NS
PRECASTER: Strescon Limited – Saint John, NB

 
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