Physical Sciences Building Construction On-Site Observations and Research Journal

The project is located at UMass, Amherst and includes construction of a new Physical Sciences Building, housing laboratory and office space. The project will provide labs, lab support, and offices for 20 faculty and approximately 130 bench positions. The building will include 44,255 nsf, consisting of lab and lab support space, offices, conference space, and building support.

  • UMass Project Manager: Joe Balzano
  • Designer/Architect: Wilson Architects
  • Contractor: Whiting-Turner


July 2015 Construction Fencing & Early Package Activities Start.

January 2016 Sitework and Bulk Excavation Activities Start.

March 2016 Concrete Foundation Activities Start.

June 2016 Structural Steel Erection Activities Start.

September 2016 Structural Steel Substantially Complete.

December 2016 PSB Exterior Envelop Substantially Complete.

February 2017 WES Exterior Envelope Substantially Complete.

February 2017 Site Improvements & Landscape Activities Start.

January 2018 Construction Activities Substantially Complete

April 2018 Final Completion & Occupancy



As an alternative to being assembled on site, the walls can be assembled in a factory and delivered to the site in panels. Advantages : fast assemble, precision, good quality

Temporary wall bracing, supports wind and construction loads on the building
Reinforcement, Rebar
Foundation wall
Foundation wall and footing

Additional research infomation


Safe bearing capacity and soil testing

Since the weight of the building rests on the soil (or rock), engineers have to study the properties of the soil very carefully to ensure that it can carry the loads imposed by the building. It is common for engineers to determine the safe bearing capacity of the soil after such study.

To study the properties of the soil before designing foundations, engineers will ask for a soil investigation to be done. A soil investigation engineer will drill a 4" or 6" hollow pipe into the ground, and will remove samples of the earth while doing so. He will then send these samples to a lab to find out the detailed properties of the soil at every depth.

Foundation settlement

Settlement in a structure refers to the distortion or disruption of parts of a building

Uniform Settlement causes no harm because all parts move in uniform.

Differential Settlement does cause damage to slabs, floors, walls, doors and windows. Variability of soils can cause differential settlement

Foundation design according to building codes

  • Amount of rebar and its location are determined
  • Typical foundation wall are 8’’ thick
  • Good construction practice- Elevate the slab above grade by no less than 8’’ to isolate the wood framing from rain splash soil dampness and termites

Foundation types

  • Full basement
  • Crawl space, (Slab not required but must have moisture/vapor barrier)
  • Slab on grade (Must have insulation to prevents cool slab temperature causing condensation and lead to mold/moisture problems.)

Foundation insulated

Most building codes require thermal insulation of the foundation. These are three different ways of adding insulation to a cast-in-place concrete or concrete masonry basement and one way of insulating a crawlspace foundation. The crawlspace may alternatively be insulated on the outside with panels of plastic foam. The interior batt insulation shown in B is commonly used but raises questions about how to avoid possible problems arising from moisture accumulating between the insulation and the wall.

Different types of slab


Concrete has high compressive strength but low tensile strength; therefore, reinforcing steel is often embedded in the concrete to provide additional tensile strength and ductility. In the rare event that the capacity may be exceeded, the reinforcing steel begins to yield, eliminating an abrupt failure that may otherwise occur in plain, unreinforced concrete. For this reason, a larger safety margin is used in the design of plain concrete construction than in reinforced concrete construction.

Steel reinforcement is available in Grade 40 or Grade 60; the grade number refers to the minimum tensile yield strength of the steel (Grade 40 is minimum 40 ksi steel and Grade 60 is minimum 60 ksi steel). Either grade may be used for residential construction; however, most reinforcement in the U.S. market today is Grade 60. It is also important that the concrete mix or slump be adjusted through the addition of an appropriate amount of water to allow the concrete to flow easily around the reinforcement bars, particularly when the bars are closely spaced or crowed at points of overlap. However, close spacing is rarely required in residential construction and should be avoided in design.

The most common steel reinforcement or rebar sizes in residential construction are No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5, which correspond to diameters of 3/8-inch, 1/2-inch, and 5/8-inch, respectively. These three sizes of rebar are easily handled at the jobsite by using manual bending and cutting devices. Table 4.1 provides useful relationships among the rebar number, diameter, and cross-sectional areas for reinforced concrete and masonry design.



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