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Academic and Residential Complex at University of Illinois at Chicago Celebrates Opening

Parul Dubey on July 30, 2019 - in Buildings, News

Thornton Tomasetti, Solomon Cordwell Buenz and American Campus Communities Collaborate on Public Private Partnership


(Chicago, Illinois ) – Thornton Tomasetti, the international engineering firm, provided structural engineering services to architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) for the new Academic and Residential Complex at The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The fast-tracked project broke ground in January 2018 and its completion was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis and elected officials on July 18.

The project, designed by SCB, is a public private partnership between UIC and American Campus Communities (ACC), the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the U.S. It is the first public private partnership (P3) assignment for Thornton Tomasetti’s Chicago office.

As part of a master plan to address the university’s increasing enrollment, the new living-learning community features a 10-story, 146,000-square-foot residence hall with 548 beds in traditional dorm rooms and semi-suite-style units. A two-story, 54,000-square-foot academic center holds three large tiered lecture halls, active learning classrooms, several small group study rooms, a tutoring center and collaboration space. The living-learning community also includes shared spaces such as lounges, offices, laundry rooms, a fitness center and a 10th floor sky lounge, along with 1,600 square feet of retail space that will house a Starbucks to be operated by students. The building evokes the original campus design by architect Walter Netsch in its use of concrete panels and geometric shapes in the façade. 

“Thornton Tomasetti’s expertise in working within tight timelines and budgetary constraints was key on this project,” said Thornton Tomasetti Vice President Todd Whisenhunt, S.E., P.E., who served as project manager. “We went from an April 2017 kick-off meeting to delivering construction designs and topping out the structure just over a year later, well ahead of schedule. From streamlined submittal reviews to structural quantities that remained unchanged throughout the process, the path to completion was a model of maximum efficiency and strategic collaboration.”

The residential tower’s structural system consists of concrete, two-way, post-tensioned flat slabs and reinforced concrete columns and shear walls, with staged stressed PT transfer beams. The classroom building features an oval floor plan with a steel braced-frame lateral system, long-span continuous plate girders with an 80-foot maximum span and a curved-steel feature stair spanning 45 feet. The structural systems of the two buildings are separated by an expansion joint. The complex is targeting LEED Gold certification.

“The project team spent a lot of time considering the needs of the university both from an academic and residential perspective,” said Joe Prochot, director of development management at ACC. “Though the overall design duration was compressed, this group of design professionals met the demanding expectations of the UIC/ACC partnership, contributing to successful construction efforts and project delivery.”    

A project that moves at this pace requires timely design input from all members of the design team. To assist in this coordination, Thornton Tomasetti’s internal Issues Tracking log was used extensively during design to track essential cross-discipline items such as MEP openings, exterior wall considerations and column locations required to meet the early package deadlines.

“These logs were extremely helpful,” said Kristy Cubas, associate principal and project manager for SCB. “We appreciate the proactive approach!”


Supporting Materials

Thornton Tomasetti


Thornton Tomasetti Structural Engineering Practice


Todd Whisenhunt Bio



About Thornton Tomasetti
Thornton Tomasetti optimizes the design and performance of structures, materials and systems for projects of every size and level of complexity. An employee-owned organization of engineers, scientists, architects and other professionals collaborating from offices worldwide, we support clients by drawing on the diverse expertise of our integrated practices. We are committed to be a sustainable and enduring organization and the global driver of innovation in our industry.


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