A Pristine Gem for Portland’s Pearl District
Portland’s Pearl District isn’t the place it used to be. Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the district began to emerge from a bygone industrial era. Abandoned warehouses and rutted rail yards became artisan bakeries, craft breweries and indie boutiques – symbols of the urban renaissance that has transformed this corridor into a neighborhood as walkable as it is whimsical. Despite this growth, the Pearl, as it is affectionately abbreviated by locals, could not count a single hotel among its growing commercial ranks.
That was until Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company, built an award-winning*, LEED certified Residence Inn to complement the trendy district. The six-story, 223-suite hotel offers guests 17 different room configurations as well as amenities including a 16,000-square-foot courtyard with a fire pit, indoor pool, fitness center and a formal conference room among others. With experiential materials and textures such as metal-brushed floor tiles and a rustic accent wall comprised of staggered wooden logs, the hotel captures the spirit of the Pearl – adventurous, artsy, avant-garde.
From Obstacle to Opportunity
Hotel construction may seem formulaic, but this project defied convention from the start. Tests revealed the presence of soil contaminates, which required the development of site-specific safety plans for the removal and relocation of tainted material and capping of the remaining earth. To proactively ensure worker health and safety, Howard S. Wright monitored all employees with pre and post-blood screening – a measure that went above and beyond the requisite provisions of protective clothing and training.
Based on the soil report, driven grout piles were selected for the hotel. Once the first piles were installed, the team quickly discerned that the required depths were significantly greater than originally engineered. To avert emerging issues, the construction and design teams partnered to create an alternate means of reaching the load bearing capacity, ultimately developing a solution that mitigated schedule risk, met budget goals and under-ran the original exposure estimate.
Beyond tackling unforeseen obstacles, the project team applied innovative building practices that achieved the following three goals: (1) minimize the impact of construction activities on the local community and environment; (2) accelerate the owner’s time-to-market; and (3) create cost savings opportunities.
Designed with five levels of wood frame over one level of post-tensioned elevated slab, the hotel’s concrete columns are supported on a grout-driven pile foundation system. Compared to other systems, Howard S. Wright’s use of the grout-driven pile helped save time and money. The grout driven system does not produce soil spoils as would a similar auger cast system. Further, the process of driving the grout mandrel is faster and more efficient than driving steel or concrete piles while resulting in less noise and vibration impact. Contributing to the owner’s sustainability goals, this method also reduces material waste, as piles can be installed at varying depths with no material unnecessarily discarded above foundation grade.
As the project went vertical, the Howard S. Wright team discovered additional opportunities for differentiation, specifically with regard to the roof system. The framing contractor worked closely with the joist manufacturer to engineer all the required roof slopes, crickets and structural reinforcements for the fall protection system into the joist top chords. When compared to traditional built cricketing, this provided two weeks of schedule savings between the start of joist erection to the commencement of roof membrane installation. It also eliminated the need for up to 16” of tapered insulation that would have been required to create the roof crickets, thus reducing the roofing installation duration as well. Facilitating a more rapid installation of the roof membrane system enabled the finish and electrical trades to tackle their scopes at an earlier juncture of the schedule.
Located just down the street from Howard S. Wright’s office, the Residence Inn Pearl District is a project as special to the Portland community as it is to the people who were entrusted to build it. And just like each pearl is an oyster’s unique creation – taking years to form, unique in color, luster, size and shape – this project is a true work of art, assembled by a team committed to building a hotel as precious and pristine as the gem in its very name.
* Engineering News-Record (ENR) 2014 Award of Merit-Safety
Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) Oregon 2015 Top Project finalist