University of Michigan North Quad

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
370,000 square feet
Einhorn Yafee Prescott / Robert A.A. Stern Architects
Construction Management

North Quad not only occupies an entire city block on the campus of the University of Michigan (U-M), but its impact on student living and learning is monumental.

The award-winning North Quad was the first new student housing facility built at the University of Michigan since 1967. It combines modern academic spaces with adjacent residential suites and enhances learning both inside and outside the classroom. And its international programming makes it a popular spot for students to connect with others from around the world.

Living Up to Higher Expectations

The doors of North Quad opened in the summer of 2010, introducing students to a new kind of living-and-learning experience. From the latest technology to stand-out furnishings, the architecturally distinctive complex is a fitting example of state-of-the-art design and construction among higher education facilities. Walbridge and the project team took extra steps to ensure its work would meet the university’s expectations for quality, going so far as to produce brick mockup walls which could be viewed against the exterior of the historic Michigan Union Building. It may sound like overkill, but accuracy with brick finishes on campus is critical for delivering lasting enhancements and meeting the university’s high expectations.

North Quad’s L-shaped layout puts modern living spaces and state-of-the-art academic facilities side-by-side, intentionally encouraging casual interaction among students and faculty. The 177,000-square-foot, 10-story residential tower provides housing and a dining center for 450 students; its adjacent 190,000-square-foot, seven-story academic structure accommodates classrooms, studios and offices for the U-M School of Information, Screen Arts and Culture, and Communication Studies. The $175 million project leverages an assortment of sustainable features, including a 35,000-square-foot green roof and energy conservation equipment that reduced facility energy costs by 30 percent.

For its work in creating a University of Michigan paragon for eco-friendly design and sustainability, Walbridge received the “2010 Build Michigan Award” from the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Michigan.

Delivering Safety and Precision with No Room for Error

Three major challenges were:

  • Managing Complexity: Building a large complex in a tight urban location while keeping everyone working on the site safe and minimizing disruptions to nearby businesses.
  • Managing Expectations: The site was the original location of the 100-year-old Carnegie Library and Ann Arbor High School, both scheduled for demolition. Both buildings were beloved by members of the community.
  • Managing Change: Mid-way through pre-construction, a new design firm was brought on to the project, significantly changing its scope. The architectural shift also added a year to the construction schedule.

Safety in Numbers

North Quad’s constricted site (on the edge of campus) required the use of two tower cranes for steel erection and the delivery of other heavy building materials. This meant additional safety measures and required effective communication between Walbridge, its subcontractors and university administrators. During the project, in which 1.1 million work hours were logged, Walbridge conducted more than 24,000 daily safety huddles and other safety-related activities.

Walbridge meticulously coordinated demolition of the old Carnegie Library in a way that preserved the library’s façade; allowing it to eventually be incorporated into an entrance of North Quad.

The project team made significant adjustments to floor plans, layout, materials and logistics to accommodate the new design created by the architectural switch.

Setting a New Standards for Student Housing

Students want attractive, functional facilities for living and learning. The University of Michigan not only wants to attract students, but also make the most of its spaces – which made North Quad a win-win.

The facility boasts beautiful interior and exterior spaces that provide living, learning and gathering to take place interchangeably – a concept that supports the university’s Residential Life Initiative program. North Quad has both the infrastructure to support today’s technology and the aesthetic comforts of home.

By collaborating, utilizing problem-solving skills and remaining keenly focused on quality, Walbridge built a living-and-learning benchmark with North Quad.