University Commons at Georgia State University


Atlanta, GA


Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA


Niles Bolton Associates, Inc.


Hardin Construction Company, LLC

Project Scope

Sq. Footage:

777,681 (370,000 sf of thermal efficient walls )


• Four buildings: 8-14 stories, 2,000 bed

Architectural Precast Elements:

• 2,500 precast panels

Sustainability Highlights:

• Use of local and regional materials
• Thermal efficient mass wall system—
continuous insulation exceeded ASHRAE Energy Standard
• Large wall panels minimized air infiltration
• Determined “very energy efficient” by infrared
imaging consultant with an effective R-14 value
• 33% energy savings ($411,000) in year one



• Cast-in brick


• Two colors of limestone like finishes
University Commons at Georgia State University
University Commons at Georgia State University
University Commons at Georgia State University
University Commons at Georgia State University
University Commons at Georgia State University
University Commons at Georgia State University

Design Challenges:
Georgia State University’s budget restraints, approaching deadlines and a tight downtown site all contributed to the need for a smarter solution for this 2,000-bed student housing complex project consisting of four buildings ranging from eight to 14 stories.

Unique Innovations:
Metromont introduced the design team to their thermal efficient precast concrete wall system as an alternative to the original design of using exterior walls with brick veneer backed up with six-inch metal studs, batt insulation and a drywall interior.

After some discussion, it became more evident that the precast concrete wall system was more economical to replace the metal stud system and brick veneer with an easy-to-install precast wall panel, finished on the exterior and ready to paint on the interior. Considering that the complex is located in the humid South, there was a major concern that mildew would form in the building – a major potential liability in a place where students would be living. Insulated wall panels greatly reduce the mildew risk because concrete inhibits water penetration. In addition, using the insulated precast wall panels eliminated the drywall, eradicating any potential food source for mildew and mold. The panel's insulation value was attained by four inches of expanded polystyrene sandwiched between two 2.5” thick concrete outer wythes which comprised the panels. The inner and outer wythes were connected using thermal-efficient C-GRID® carbon fiber trusses. Carbon fiber grid, unlike steel, has low thermal conductivity, thereby preventing hot or cold spots from forming. In addition, based on ASHRAE 90.1 the effective R-value of the brick, metal studs and batt insulation was 7.1. An improved R-value of 12 was achieved using the thermal-efficient precast wall panels. The increased R-value enabled the university to specify a less substantial heating and cooling system, saving $700,000. And cost savings will only increase over time as the annual utility and maintenance costs will be significantly less.

Metromont also pointed out that with precast, other benefits would be its speed of erection and dramatically minimizing the staging requirements. The 2,500 precast panels were delivered for installation, erected in 10 months at night with tower cranes and thus eliminated site congestion and material and equipment-storage needs required for field-construction methods.

After one year of observation, verification and measurement of the design case vs. the actual energy cost showed a savings of approximately $411,000 with contributions from the thermal-efficient wall panels. The project was completed on schedule and under budget.

In retrospect, with a tight deadline, precast concrete, which erects quickly compared to masonry set brick, made perfect sense for the project. The panels not only made logistical sense, but are aesthetically pleasing as well. On the street level, a brick veneer was used, achieving the same architectural look as the original plan. Further up the buildings, a buff sandblast finish was used. Finally the buildings were topped off with a white sandblast finish. The panels incorporate half-inch reveals.

“The erection benefits of precast not only allowed the team to meet the deadline, but it reduced the anticipated and indirect costs of field labor that would have been more sensitive to price fluctuations. We are open to using them on other applications, even beyond housing,” - Dale McClain, Senior Project Manager, Niles Bolton Associates

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