Frostburg State University Gira Center for Communications and Information Technology

As the first new academic building at Frostburg State University in 11 years, the Catherine R. Gira Center for Communications and Information Technology successfully combines the disciplines of computer science and information technologies, graphic design, mass communication and mathematics under one roof. The three-story, 127,000 square foot facility sits at the heart of the campus and is arranged around an outdoor courtyard, with pathways to the adjacent Performing Arts Center, Compton Science Center and Lane Center.

The site was mined for coal during a period from the late 1800s to the 1950s using room and pillar construction methods. Because abandoned mines can pose an elevated risk of subsidence for any new construction, Schnabel—which had worked on numerous other campus buildings under similar conditions—was hired to conduct a mine assessment study and a geotechnical engineering study. The mine assessment study required review of historic subsurface mining information; test borings; downhole camera surveys; and a stability assessment report and recommendations. The site was stabilized by filling the mines with 3,265 cubic yards of grout and concrete.

The data collected during the geotechnical study informed the recommendations we made for design and construction of the building and related site improvements. Other tasks included development of foundation and earthwork-related specifications, geothermal testing and construction observation.

Designed by Ayers Saint Gross, the $45 million LEED Gold certified Gira Center opened in September 2014.

International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum (SPY) is the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to the tradecraft, history and contemporary role of espionage and intelligence. Open since July 2002, it features the largest collection of international artifacts ever placed on public display.

In 2018 the museum will relocate eight blocks south to L’Enfant Plaza, inhabiting a new $50 million building which will transform SPY, the neighborhood, and the Southwest Ecodistrict. The Malrite Company and The JBG Companies collaborated on plans for the 140,000 square foot facility, which is sited directly in front of the glass atrium on the Plaza. London-based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is the architect.

Proposed construction increased the column loads on the Plaza by up to 2,800 kip (one kip equals 1,000 pounds-force), which necessitated retrofitting the existing foundation. Schnabel was hired by JBG to work with the structural engineer, SK&A, on the retrofit. To increase vertical load capacity, we recommended installing a group of micropiles through the existing footings. The solution was then fine-tuned by comparing 7-inch and 9.625-inch outside diameter micropiles. Each had advantages: better constructability with the smaller one and increased capacity with the larger one. Based on our findings and team discussions, we specified a hollow-core bar system consisting of a 7.87-inch diameter cross bit, T76S DYWIDAG hollow bar with 8.625-inch steel casing for the final design. A total of 70 micropiles with a design load of 200 kip compression and 140 kip tension were constructed in nine column locations.

Construction observation services were provided by Schnabel Engineering DC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Schnabel Engineering.

Renderings courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Dominion Boulevard Improvements

Dominion Boulevard is a portion of U.S. Route 17 which runs north/south through Chesapeake, connecting North Carolina with Virginia Interstates 64/464. Improvements to the four-mile stretch were driven by the desire to alleviate traffic congestion and improve safety.

The roadway was widened from two to four lanes, including three new interchanges at major access points. To create this new $400 million corridor, a total of nine bridges and overpasses were constructed, including the two parallel, one-mile long bridges providing 95 feet of clearance over the Elizabeth River. WSP USA was responsible for preliminary and final design services on the project.

As part of WSP’s team, Schnabel provided geotechnical engineering services for preliminary and final design. The subsurface exploration included CPT and DMT soundings, and more than 500 test borings, some of which were performed in difficult river and tidal wetland locations. Geotechnical recommendations addressed mechanically stabilized earth walls, driven pile foundations for the bridges, and the use of pre-fabricated vertical drains, surcharges and pile-supported embankments to accommodate embankment settlements and project schedule constraints.  We also provided geostructural design for the soil nail walls supporting excavation adjacent to bridge abutments where lanes were added.

Our services continued through construction by providing engineering support and review of RFIs and submittals. The planned 48-month construction phase concluded four months ahead of schedule and $20 million under budget.

Dominion Boulevard was awarded the APWA Mid-Atlantic Chapter 2017 Project of the Year for excellence in the transportation category for projects exceeding $75 million.

Photos courtesy of WSP USA

Virginia Tech Moss Arts Center

Designed by international architecture firm Snøhetta, the LEED Gold-certified Moss Arts Center is the multi-cultural nexus of VT’s campus. Completed in 2013, the $100 million complex houses a 1,300-seat performance hall, a performance lab known as the Cube, a visual arts gallery, research studios and support spaces. The project program encompassed 91,992 square feet of new construction and 55,390 square feet of renovations to Shultz Hall.

The new building structure is a combination of cast-in-place concrete and steel. Due to the high variability of rock depths and quality, and the presence of very soft soil and high groundwater conditions, Schnabel recommended supporting the major structural columns on drilled shafts socketed into the brecciated and hard rock beneath the site.

In response to the presence of relatively shallow groundwater in the area of the 40-foot deep orchestra pit, we consulted on the selection of a ground improvement method for limiting groundwater infiltration into the excavation. Deep soil mixing was ultimately used to control the groundwater flow. Earth pressures for below-grade walls and permanent sub-drainage were among the other geotechnical challenges we encountered and addressed.

During construction, we provided special inspections per state building code requirements, including evaluation of drilled shaft lengths; observation and testing of concrete, structural steel, and masonry elements; and observation of sprayed-on fireproofing, roofing, and exterior insulation finishing system components.

For more information about this project visit the Arts Center website here.

Elizabeth River Tunnels

The Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) project is the recipient of a 2017 Grand Award for Engineering Excellence from ACEC. This $1.5 billion transportation infrastructure initiative has four major components:  a new two-lane tunnel adjacent to the existing Midtown Tunnel under the Elizabeth River; maintenance and safety improvements to the Midtown and Downtown tunnels; extending the Martin Luther King Expressway from London Boulevard to Interstate 264; and interchange modifications at Brambleton Avenue and Hampton Boulevard.  Construction began in 2012 and is expected to conclude in early 2018.

Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC, is the private partner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for the design, construction, finance, operations and maintenance of the ERT project. WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff led the design team and SKW Constructors, JV (a Skanska, Kiewit, Weeks Marine Joint Venture) is the design-build contractor.

Schnabel provided geotechnical engineering and construction consultation services on the MLK Expressway portion of the project. Our work encompassed subsurface exploration, soil laboratory testing, and geotechnical engineering analysis. The exploration program included 206 test borings, 55 cone penetrometer soundings, and 48 dilatometer soundings. Based on test results we also made recommendations for embankments constructed using different fill materials as well as pile-supported embankments.

The MLK Expressway features nine new or reconfigured ramps, and about a mile of the new roadway is elevated.  Construction began in November 2013 and the MLK opened on November 30, 2016. For more information, go to .

Photo courtesy of SKW Constructors JV