The Tallest Building in Austin has Arrived
The Independent is a soaring 58-story tower located in downtown Austin, Texas. At 670 feet, it is currently the tallest residential building West of the Mississippi. Because of its multiple offset tiers, this building is often referred to as the “Tetris building” or the “Jenga tower.” This cast-in-place concrete tower with glass façade offers 370 high-end condominium units with an eight-level, 745-space parking garage.
The Independent provides 20,000 square feet of amenities spanning across two levels of the building. The 9th floor offers a vibrant and energetic amenities deck, including an infinity edge heated pool, a club room with coffee bar, a dog lounge with grooming stations and a dog park, a children’s activity room and playground, and a landscaped outdoor lounge with fireplace.
On the 34th floor, residents can relax in a refined owner’s lounge and fitness center with panoramic city views, a 25-person theater with floor-to-ceiling views of the city, and a business center. Also located on this floor is a wine bar, a chef’s kitchen and private dining space.
The cantilever design and offset floors surrounding the core of The Independent is intended to embody the confident, energetic and entrepreneurial spirit that bolsters Austin’s economy, reputation and success.
The trio of developers behind the Independent, Constructive Ventures, Aspen Heights and CIM Group, selected Balfour Beatty as general contractor for the $180 million project based on their overall body of work. “We view The Independent as a once-in-a-lifetime project, and we needed a contractor with both the proven record and philosophical understanding of what to do,” said Perry Lorenz, principal of Constructive Ventures.
The Independent has a custom, exterior design that consists of six different skin materials. Exterior assemblies with one skin material are controlled systems pretested by the manufacturer for wind and air penetration. However, a complex building envelope design that brings together six different skin types cannot be verified by the material manufacturers. Without tested and verified assemblies, thermal movement and natural shifting of the building could cause air and water to leak into the building at construction joints between dissimilar materials.
To develop an exterior envelope assembly that will allow for a water and airtight building, Balfour Beatty facilitated a collaborative approach with our internal waterproofing consultant, the architect, the architect’s waterproof designer, our subcontractors, and the owner. We also enlisted the services of a construction materials testing laboratory to test the performance of the most challenging areas of the building exterior—the areas where the different materials are joined. This provided a controlled environment to test different assembly methods and eliminate issues prior to construction.
First, we built a mock-up of the exterior skin on a steel substrate to match the configuration of the actual building structure where differing materials connect. The laboratory then attached a sealed chamber to the interior side of the mock-up. The performance tests simulated maximum wind, rain, and structural loading as engineered by the design team to detect any possible design or installation deficiencies. After each test, we worked together to systematically eliminate issues and re-adjust the assembly for retest until the connections passed the simulations with no leakage.
The most challenging part of the design and installation is located at the inside corner of the sidewall inset on the balcony where the plaster meets glass. The project team worked through the mock-up process to resolve final design and installation issues in this area before beginning major installation activities to prevent schedule delay. Once the issues were resolved and the mock-up process was complete, we finished the remaining installations for our tested and certified building. Without this best practice approach, we would have experienced schedule delays and continued leakage issues. By working together to develop solutions, we kept the project on schedule and installed the curtainwall with the certainty of a verified custom assembly plan.
Efficiency of a building is determined by the square footage that generates revenue compared to the overall square footage. Utilizing historical and market-driven data available in house, Balfour Beatty evaluated the efficiency of the building’s structure, producing five distinct solutions with supporting detail to maximize efficiency, and restore budget alignment. Although our solution forced a re-design while still in the conceptual stage, it provided sufficient cost savings to achieve the Owner’s budget goals.
Built to Last
Balfour Beatty is proud of the fact that The Independent is the third project we have added to the beautiful downtown Austin skyline. We also constructed the Austonian, now the second-tallest building in Austin, and Northshore, a residential tower with a stair-step design and stunning river views. Balfour Beatty is proud to have been a part of this project and we look forward to serving the Austin community for many years to come.