Southpointe project packing a heavy punch

Latest project at successful business park packs big punch

September 22, 2013
The Ansys building under construction at Southpointe II on Sept. 16 - Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Southpointe has developed into a heavyweight among business parks in the eastern U.S. And it is getting heavier thanks to burgeoning development in Southpointe II.

The Zenith Ridge project, just outside the rising Town Center, will be a significant part of that equation. When completed – and construction is in the nascent stage – it will comprise three large commercial buildings: the new headquarters for Ansys Inc., and Zenith II and Zenith III.

Frames of these structures will consist of a series of concrete panels that come in two sizes: massive and mega-massive. Each is 70 feet tall, 20 feet wide, 12 3/4 inches thick – and 70 tons-plus.

“We call them tilt-up panels,” said Ken Iberg of Clayco, general superintendent of construction at Zenith Ridge. “Most of the panels are 143,000 pounds. A couple of them go 176,000.”

Although Clayco has a formidable amount of labor ahead on these buildings, the completion of the first concrete skeleton provides a clue to the physical enormity of what is transpiring at Zenith Ridge, which is being developed by Burns & Scalo Real Estate Services Inc. of Green Tree.

The fourth and final concrete wall of Ansys’ new home was put into place recently, panel by panel, for all Interstate 79 commuters to see. And what they see is a framework that may be unlike any other in the nation.

Iberg said the combined weight of the panels – in the ballpark of 200 tons – “is pretty much a U.S. record” for a five-story building.

Buildings II and III likely won’t match that heft. At 150,000 square feet apiece, they will be smaller than the 186,000-square-foot Ansys structure. But they won’t be your standard 7-Eleven.

Rapidity and efficiency are major advantages to this type of construction, one that, Iberg said, is new to Southpointe. A massive crane, a 300-ton Mantiwock, lifts the panels into slots.

“One thing about this process is you can turn a building over to a client a lot faster,” said Iberg, who works out of the St. Louis office of Clayco, which is based in Chicago.

The panels have a prefab look, replete with window spaces. They assuredly are not.

“They’re all constructed on site,” Iberg said. “We put casting beds around the building, put all rebar and brick and steel in beds, then pour them on site. Once they get to 75 percent of cure time, we bring a crane in to put them into place.”

Ansys’ building is the farthest along of the three; structural steel will start going up today. It will be the new headquarters for the company, a global provider of engineering simulation software that is based less than a mile away, on Technology Drive in the original Southpointe development.

The new facility will accommodate all 400-plus Ansys employees, some of whom now work in an office on the South Side of Pittsburgh. It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.

Bill Sember, director of operations for the Washington County Authority, said the Ansys roof should be on before Thanksgiving, enabling work to be done inside.

He said Zenith II is about two weeks behind Ansys. Clayco, according to Iberg, will start pouring concrete for the panels Oct. 1.

Kelley Hoover, leasing agent for Burns & Scalo, is marketing Zenith Ridge as “a three-building campus. It’s not in Town Center, but it’s within walking distance. And it’s within walking distahce of two hotels, the Holiday Inn Express and Homewood Suites.”

She said Zenith II will be a multi-tenant building, which, according to Sember, is targeted to open in late 2014.

“We’re taking to a handful” of potential tenants, Hoover said. “I cannot disclose names and how far along we are.”

Zenith III, she said “is more of a headquarters building for a large tenant. That tenant will have the naming rights for the building and the street in front of it.”

For Iberg, Zenith Ridge is something old, something new. “I’ve been doing this type of construction for 29 years,” he said. But even though Clayco has undertaken other projects around Pittsburgh, none has been a tilt-up.

Until now.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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