C+S May 2022 Vol. 8 Issue 5 (web)

A New Home for the Performing Arts in Orlando

By Luke Carothers

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts recently celebrated the grand opening of its second phase. Located in downtown Orlando, Florida, the $200 million expansion is the culmination of a project that began when plans were announced in August 2008. The Dr. Phillips Center has been a two part project with the first phase of construction beginning when the project broke ground in the summer of 2011. The project involved the construction of a two-level, multipurpose facil - ity in the heart of Orlando. Phase I included the construction of a $201 million, 250,000-square-foot cast-in-place concrete and structural steel framed building that includes a 2,700 seat Broadway-style theater as well as a 300 seat multi-purpose hall for smaller performances and a 300 seat banquet room. Phase I was completed in November 2014, and it marked the grand opening of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The $200 million Phase II expansion broke ground in March of 2017. Phase II featured the construction of 127,680 square feet of new space including Steinmetz Hall and a 3,000-sqaure-foot performance space called Judson's. On top of seating 1,700 and boasting world-class acoustic engineering, Steinmetz Hall is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery that allows for the reconfiguration of both seating and the stage. This high-tech machinery allows the space to transform and accommodate a wide range of performances. The project’s location in downtown Orlando, as well as the weight of the structure, placed a particular emphasis on the geotechnical aspects of the project. Universal Engineering Services (UES) spearheaded all geotechnical exploration, design, and testing services. As the lead geotechnical engineer for both phases of the project, UES played a major role in the construction of the nine-acre facility. Headquartered in Orlando, UES has demonstrated expertise through a high quality approach to geotechnical problem solving and value engineering on large, complex projects. UES also provided threshold inspection and test pile services for both phases of the project. The biggest challenge to the design and construction process in Phase I was that the most important part of the work was done below ground, in- stalling 700 grout displacement pilings to support and stabilize the build - ing. Ken Derick, a Senior Vice President at UES, led the geotechnical side of the project. According to Derrick, the team overcame many of these challenges because they were able to add enough weight to “avoid structural tie-downs due to the buoyancy effect of the water table on the basement.” Derick has been with UES for the past 30 years, work - ing as a licensed professional engineer, building official, plan examiner, and standard commercial inspector. His expertise was key though the project’s multiple iterations of foundation analysis and re-design.

During Phase I, one of the key steps in the design process was ensuring that the foundation settled uniformly. This was complicated by the weight of several walls, which had to be placed on piles. Derick notes that it is extremely important that the settlement of the piles and the shallow foundations match closely, or the differential movement could crack the foundation. The other challenge in this step of the design process was accounting for differences in the depth of the foundation, which varies throughout the project. Accurate planning was paramount at this stage because, as Derick points out, any crack in the foundation so far below the water table could result in significant flooding. To ensure there would be no cracks in the foundation, Derick and his team performed various tests for a foundational support and settle- ment analysis. This included load tests on pilings where the team inserted strain gauges at various pile elevations, allowing the team to record movement and capacity at multiple zones of the pilings. Derick notes that this testing resulted in cutting the pilings down from 95 feet to 60 feet to “get the movement that would match up with the shallow foundations.” This not only ensured uniform move- ment, but also saved the project owner over $1 million. These piles prevented the foundation from settling unevenly, but they also posed challenges to the construction of the foundation itself. Because the piles protruded into the spread mat footings that make up the large



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