SBC Magazine April 2017 : Page 22

Positive SIGNS “This building is really huge— about 250 by 600 [feet],” says Rich Menge, a truss engineer at Sun State Components of Nevada. “I think the big-gest challenge that we had in this project,” Menge says, “is that portions of it are units that stack and parts of it are units that don’t stack.” The complicated design meant a lot of variation in the truss design loads, which required a lot of close coordination with the project engineer. The concrete podium of the mixed-used Mercer building sat out the recession. Now, the redesigned building is one of a handful of develop-ments creating a new high-rent suburb of Las Vegas. THE LOT ON THE CORNER of West Tropicana and Grand Canyon was quiet for years. As reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the developer who purchased it in 2006 halted the 113-unit condo project two years later, pulling down the wall frames and abandoning the concrete footings and underground parking garage.* In 2012, StoryBook Homes picked up the project, but it was only about a year ago that Sun State Components came on board. “The way we got involved with the project,” truss engi-neer Rich Menge recalled, “was the engineer of record called me and said, ‘Rich, this is a great big project. Do you want to get involved?’ And I took it to my boss, and he said sure.” * Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 13, 2016 “The Mercer brought back to life by StoryBook Homes,” by Jennifer Robison 22 sbcmag.info • APRIL 2017

Positive Signs



“This building is really huge— about 250 by 600 [feet],” says Rich Menge, a truss engineer at Sun State Components of Nevada.

“I think the biggest challenge that we had in this project,” Menge says, “is that portions of it are units that stack and parts of it are units that don’t stack.” The complicated design meant a lot of variation in the truss design loads, which required a lot of close coordination with the project engineer.













The size of The Mercer calls for a few non-standard building features. Ramirez points out that the free-standing elevator shaft will be connected to the building wings by bridges as the project moves along. The bridge supports are still being designed, but the floor trusses for the walkways are ready to go.

The concrete podium of the mixed-used Mercer building sat out the recession. Now, the redesigned building is one of a handful of developments creating a new highrent suburb of Las Vegas.

THE LOT ON THE CORNER of West Tropicana and Grand Canyon was quiet for years. As reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the developer who purchased it in 2006 halted the 113-unit condo project two years later, pulling down the wall frames and abandoning the concrete footings and underground parking garage.* In 2012, StoryBook Homes picked up the project, but it was only about a year ago that Sun State Components came on board.

“The way we got involved with the project,” truss engineer Rich Menge recalled, “was the engineer of record called me and said, ‘Rich, this is a great big project. Do you want to get involved?’ And I took it to my boss, and he said sure.”

A project as big as The Mercer was unusual for Sun State. “This was new for us,” Menge said, and that meant some out-of-the-ordinary challenges. First, there was the design.

“They came back in and redesigned the buildings to accommodate more units,” Sun State Sales Manager Art Ramirez explained. Over 50 apartments were worked into a revised building design, creating a 175-unit complex on top of the existing foundation and including the unfinished commercial and retail space on the ground floor. The redesign created a variety of issues.

“They had to build up the concrete floor with a wood floor,” Ramirez said. The new units also meant additional plumbing and other mechanical runs. “The big thing in a project this big,” explained Ramirez, “is going to be fire safety. Installing sprinkler systems can present a loading challenge with the open web truss.” In Ramirez’ opinion, the project worked out better with trusses than it ever could have with stick framing, Ramirez explained, but many chords needed to be doubled to carry the water load for such a large building.


“The big thing in a project this big is going to be fire safety.” — ART RAMIREZ


Just as out-of-the-ordinary for Sun State as the building size was the building style. The wood and concrete mix of podium-style construction is just starting to become popular in Nevada. “Right now, we have two or three other projects in the works that are basically the same style— podium framing or podium slabs,” said Ramirez. The Mercer was one of Sun State’s first podium projects, so the design team was pleasantly surprised to find few difficulties along the way. Actually, Menge said, “it’s not that different from a project that’s on a slab on grade.” The fact that this building was “four stories on top of a concrete podium” simply meant “that it’s 14 feet in the air to begin with.”


“You may have the plans for the existing structure, but there’s no guarantee that that’s what’s really there.” — RICH MENGE




The bigger problem, Menge explained, was creating a new structure on top of an original foundation and existing supports. “The project engineer had to be really involved— they had more responsibility than you would on a typical one- to two-story house.” That meant every truss design drawing needed engineer approval, and both Menge and the project engineer spent a significant amount of time evaluating the existing support structure and comparing it to the plans they had.



“You may have the plans for the existing structure,” noted Menge, “but there’s no guarantee that that’s what’s really there.” Sun State had the original building designs, but that wasn’t always sufficient, and anticipating potential surprises during installation had an impact on the design. “The reason we have some big loads,” Menge explained, “is the uncertainty about the exact location of the mechanicals.”





Partnering with Gilmore Construction is just what Sun State might have chosen, had the choice of framer been theirs. However, “that was just fortuitous,” Menge recalled. Sun State didn’t know when they took the job that Gilmore would do the framing. Gilmore didn’t know when they submitted their bid that Sun State was providing components. “When they found out we were the truss company,” Ramirez said, “they were even more satisfied to take the job!”

The truss designs incorporated “moving point loads,” stresses that could occur anywhere along a span, “when we weren’t quite sure where a pipe was going to be supported,” said Menge. Despite the challenge, Menge said he probably had the easier time of it. “I think it was, perhaps, a big problem for the project engineer to satisfy himself that all those loads were accounted for.”

Menge said he and the project engineer needed to do a lot of coordinating to figure out “just where all of the hold downs are going to anchor into the podium and how they’re going to be avoided by the trusses and the framing, and get up to the fifth floor.” In some cases, working together even meant determining where the project engineer could specify beams to provide a more economical option for the customer than floor trusses.


Delivering to The Mercer turned out to be pretty similar to delivering to a project in downtown Las Vegas.




“Here in the Las Vegas area, Ramirez observes, “there’s been a rash of four-story buildings done in wood.” In the past, he says, the large, podium construction buildings that are currently popular (and profitable for component manufacturers) would have been framed with red iron or structural steel.

Even the clearest parts of the design were complicated. For example, in some areas of the building, units on the three stories of residential space are vertically aligned. That means very large point loads, but also standard mechanical runs. In other areas of the building, units are differently sized or vertically off-set, which means fewer stacked point loads but more complications designing for mechanical runs and the resulting loads. “The areas where the units did not stack presented some design problems,” Menge said. “It’s important to track the [load] path to the foundation!”

Fortunately, Sun State had good partners throughout the project, from the earliest design stages through the installation.

“The framing contractor, Gilmore Construction, is a company with which we do a lot of business,” Menge explained, “so we work well together.” Collaboration on the construction end of the project turned out to be just as critical as it was for design.

“It was a logistics nightmare, in terms of getting material there!” Ramirez recalled. “They didn’t have a lot of space there, being on a corner.” While The Mercer foundation had started its life as “the only thing in the neighborhood,” Ramirez explained, “that whole little area is now being built up.” Other large apartment buildings are going up near it, and even the empty lots are privately owned and not available for material storage.

In fact, Ramirez said, delivering to The Mercer turned out to be pretty similar to delivering to a project in downtown Las Vegas. Coping with the lack of space and continuously scheduling just-in-time deliveries made a good working relationship with the framer all the more critical. As the Gilmore Construction framing crew worked through each wing of the building, section by section, Sun State delivered exactly what was needed for just that day or the next.

“Good coordination with the project engineer,” and spending “an awful lot of time in planning,” Menge said, meant Sun State avoided problems throughout the massive endeavor of framing The Mercer. “Making sure you have everything scheduled,” Ramirez said, is key to a smooth delivery and installation process.

In the end, Menge argued, “there were bigger loads than you normally encounter in a two- or three-story project,” but aside from a few atypical complications in the logistics of site delivery, the process for this project was the same as for any other. And that’s good, because Ramirez sees more projects like The Mercer on the horizon.


Collaboration on the construction end of the project turned out to be just as critical as it was for design.




“The project is high—very tall—and very long,” Ramirez said, and many other similar apartments are going up near it on a similar construction schedule, creating a brand-new, high-rent neighborhood. There are “quite a few different tracts being built right now,” noted Ramirez, “more than in the past. It’s pretty much a demand market.” And, he added, “They’re not the regular, standard, every-day, mom-and-pop apartments. They’re higher end.” Those who can afford it, he observed, seem to have a lot of interest in buying luxury apartments instead of single-family homes, particularly as second residences.

Whoever the buyers will be, Ramirez said “it was good to see this project start up again.” Driving past an empty concrete slab and watching as framing materials were delivered, only to have the jobsite go dormant, have the materials declared a fire hazard, and have them removed, was disheartening. For Ramirez, seeing more buildings in progress is a good sign—for components in general, and for Sun State in particular.


Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 13, 2016 “The Mercer brought back to life by StoryBook Homes,” by Jennifer Robison


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dale Erlandson joined SBCA staff in fall of 2015 as the assistant editor of SBC Magazine. She has written for a variety of publications over the last decade and thrives on the challenge of learning something new and passing that knowledge along through the written word.

Read the full article at http://digital.sbcmag.info/article/Positive+Signs/2746031/395227/article.html.

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