Brinkmann Constructors Wraps Construction on HERE student housing at Penn State

student housing

The 12-story student housing and retail project brings new excitement to Penn State campus


 HERE State College is a student housing facility, but it’s no ordinary student housing.

For starters, the facility includes 30,000 square feet of retail space located on the lower two levels. The retail portion borrows the aesthetic of a European arcade, with shops surrounding a public courtyard with seating and even a grand staircase. When students returned to Penn State University in late August, they enjoyed access to shopping and eateries, but were also close to other retail and entertainment options on College Avenue. And for college students, convenience is key.

Giving students a place to call home

CA Student Living, the student housing division of Chicago-based developer CA Ventures, is known for giving college students an experience that goes beyond traditional on-campus living. HERE State College gives residents a different kind of environment uniquely tailored to its location – for studying, socializing, and relaxing.

With amenities like a fitness studio and yoga room, coffee bar, game room with TVs and a pool table, grills and outdoor seating, and much more, HERE State College, with its 227 fully-furnished rooms, gives college students everything they need – just one block from Penn State University.

But what really makes HERE State College unique is the way the 540,000 square foot building was built.

Prefabricated framing saves time

Brinkmann Constructors, the general contractor on the project, used prefabricated structural framing in the construction process, a method where wall panels are built off site, shipped to the construction site and installed fully intact to erect the structure of the building.

“Because the panels are created in a controlled environment, quality assurance is built into the creation,” said Brett Goodman, Brinkmann Project Director. “Once the panels were delivered to the job site, crews were able to lift them into place with a crane, and because each panel is built directly from a 3D model, the puzzle fits together perfectly.”

Using this method is a big time saver. In fact, Brinkmann was able to get the original 27-week schedule for building erection down to just 18 weeks. And in the student housing world timing is key to getting students back for the start of the semester.

More and more builds are using prefabrication to save time and money. But on this particular job, there is one aspect of the prefab that is out of the ordinary. Before the panels go up, the windows go in. And Brinkmann Constructors chose this method for one big reason.

“Putting in the windows before the panels go up protects the inside from any weather delays,” said Goodman. “This allowed us to start on the drywall sooner as well as get to the finishes quicker.”

Ultimately, by using prefabricated framing and finding an innovative approach to the foundation of the structure, the Brinkmann design/build team was able to save $1.4 million from the project budget.

Bump in the road

Even the best laid plans go awry, and when COVID-19 hit hard in the spring, plans had to shift for the construction of HERE State College. Construction was shut down for six weeks due to state and city mandates, and in the construction industry, time lost can be detrimental, especially for a student housing project.

But the Brinkmann team took this time to strategize for a return to work. The structure was already built, so they focused on some key aspects to increase manpower to get the job done for the return of students. The team also was in constant communication with officials from the borough of State College to make a plan for when construction could resume.

On May 1, that day came and the HERE State College team was ready.

To make up for time lost, manpower was added and city inspections were moved to before work began each day to limit the number of people on the site. The borough’s COVID-19 requirements called for 500 square feet per person of space, and with a building this large, that was easily achievable. Masks were required onsite at all times.

“It took a massive effort to execute on the plans developed during the shutdown and effective communication between our teams was critical coming down the stretch,” said Mac Sellers, CA Ventures Project Manager, Construction Management. “The team showed a tremendous amount of resolve to adapt and overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19. “

In the end, the building was turned over and students were able to move in for the beginning of Penn State’s fall semester.

“It wasn’t if we were going to get it done, it was how we were going to get it done,” said Joe Hesse, Brinkmann Constructors Project Engineer on the project.

And they did.

Brinkmann Constructors is a national general contractor offering design/build, design/assist and construction management services to a wide variety of commercial industries, including student housing, senior living, industrial and retail.