Wheelock Student Center Plaza Receives Honorable Mention at the WACA Awards

Congratulations to Jack Coy, Abbott Field Operations Manager – Concrete Division, and his crew for earning an honorable mention at the 51st Annual Washington Aggregates & Concrete Association (WACA) Excellence in Concrete Construction Awards program for the University of Puget Sound Wheelock Student Center Plaza in the category of Architectural and Artistic (Non-Residential).

The project team included:

  • Owner: University of Puget Sound
  • General Contractor: Abbott Construction
  • Concrete Contractor: Abbott Construction (Jack Coy and his crew)
  • Architect/Structural Engineer: BCRA (Bob Katica/Blake Johnson)
  • Landscape Architect: Berger Partnership (Anna O’Connell)
  • Ready Mix Supplier: Miles S&G (Bob Johnson)

The “Slab” – that’s what the students at the University of Puget Sound affectionately call the new Wheelock Student Center Plaza located in the heart of the campus. The architectural plaza created a destination for students to meet and gather for events that was not available to them before. Previously, the 28,000 SF area was surrounded by grass and had extremely bad drainage making it more like a swamp that was not usable for students.


To solve the drainage issue, a new storm system was installed, and concrete was used for the bigger footprint plaza as it offered the best constructible elevation control for managing water run-off to the storm system. In order to do this, with every concrete pour, calculations were made for the new elevation and grade as each area had to align to the drainage system. In particular, a lot of time was spent calculating the slopes off the concrete elliptical wall that was created to protect a 75-year-old sacred sequoia redwood on the southside of the plaza.

The project started the day after graduation on May 16 and had to be completed on August 17, the day before freshman intake – roughly 65 working calendar days for a large scope of work that included a new plaza connecting Wheelock Student Center to Jones Circle, demolition of concrete curb, gutter and sidewalks, re-widening of the Jones Circle driveway, and other sidewalks that had to tie into the plaza and Jones Circle, as well as infrastructure upgrades to some buildings.

There was an extremely aggressive pour schedule and erecting wind blocks and sunshades every pour day was very labor intensive. There were roughly 4,500 SF of paver inlays that had to be set and tied into the plaza slab. The flatwork was done during the height of summer and was achieved with precision layout formwork and finishing techniques self-performed by the 18 talented tradesmen. A challenge was the daily protection of newly installed flatwork and constant protection of brickwork on an existing building.

The flexibility of concrete allowed for the construction of a 308-foot long by 4-foot tall concrete cast-in-place elliptical wall that would protect the area around the tree from foot traffic. An Ipe bench with cast-in lighting was attached to the wall for the students to sit and relax.

With the elliptical wall, the use of the services of a pre-manufactured form company was initially decided. However, the company could not find a solution within the compressed timeframe, so the Abbott team resolved the issue by using Bluebeam and doing their own calculations. With a 308-foot long wall, it took roughly 30 radius points to create the elliptical shape of the wall. Abbott also did the survey points that were needed. The plan worked and the elliptical wall turned out perfect.

In the end, all the joints in the plaza were in line, grooming was clean and uniform, the slopes worked, and a solution was provided to create the concrete elliptical wall by Abbott. Everyone was impressed with the high-quality work and the ability to solve the many challenges the project faced, completing it all before the new freshmen arrived. The plaza or “Slab” will be enjoyed and utilized by these freshmen and future students for many generations.



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