Door opens via experience with prefabricated framing

By: Jeff McDonald

As The Molasky Group of Companies planned for Sky3 Place – a 15-story building with 195 apartments above ground-floor retail space in Southwest Portland – the team discovered that typical framing materials wouldn’t be feasible.

“Our conclusion was it didn’t make sense to build either a stick-built (structure) or high-rise because steel prices were too high,” said Peter Wenner, vice president of the Las Vegas-based developer.

The Molasky Group found a solution: a prefabricated metal-panel framing system that allows for accelerated construction and reduced costs. That opened a door for Puyallup, Wash.-based Absher Construction Co., which has a long history working with Innovative Green Building System LLC of Kent, Wash. Its internationally patented system is set to frame the $42 million Sky3 Place building at 1101 S.W. Jefferson St.

Now Absher Construction, which has used IGBS in the Seattle area, is bringing it into Portland. “We looked at who’s built with this system before and there were only a couple of contractors who have done this,” Wenner said.

Blaine Wolfe, a project executive for Absher Construction, said that before it began using IGBS it had to find the right system, create a reliable supply chain and grasp how to navigate the licensing process.

“Understanding all the patents and royalties is important,” he said. “Otherwise, you can step in the wrong direction.”

Once Absher Construction hammered out the details of using IGBS, crews put the system to work.

“We were offered an opportunity five years ago to construct an eight-story project above grade,” he said. “We just jumped in with both feet and just figured it out.”

The system can be built twice as fast as a post-tension concrete slab and metal-framed building, said Sean Robinson, Absher Construction’s superintendent for Sky3 Place.

“It’s a pretty simple system,” he said. “We’re basically erecting a panel that’s pre-done and lifting it off the truck.”

The system proved 20 percent to 25 percent cheaper than post-tension concrete would have cost for a similar-size structure, Wenner said. Cost savings come through material costs and labor costs because most of the work is done off-site, he said.

Such savings could convince more project owners to use IGBS or one of several other lightweight-gauge steel systems available in the marketplace. Absher Construction is now targeting commercial and residential projects that are between eight and 18 stories, Wolfe said.

“We’ve actually seen a number of projects in the Portland and Seattle areas that are targeting above five-over-two wood structures to a true high-rise structure,” he said. “This is a product that sits right in between.”

The city is still reviewing building plans for Sky3 Place, which was designed by Ankrom Moisan Architects and received unanimous approval from the Portland Design Commission in March. Demolition and excavation has begun, but new construction has not.

Portland’s Bureau of Development Services will look at the building system over the next several weeks, said Amit Kumar, the bureau’s senior structural engineer.

“As long as they’re designed properly, I don’t think there are structural concerns,” he said.

Swenson Say Faget is pleased to be providing structural engineering for Sky3 Place, teaming with Ankrom Moisan Architects and Absher Construction.


Ankrom Moisan Architects


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