Project Profile: New Student Housing at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Firm name: Brinjac Engineering Inc.

Project building name and location: New Student Housing at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney, PA

Type of building and type of project: Student Housing, New Construction

Project completion date and project duration: Project completed: October 2011

Engineering challenges and solutions:


Brinjac provided MEP, fire protection, specialty lighting, telecommunication, audio-visual, and security engineering design services for the demolition of the antiquated existing residence halls and the construction of a new, modern residential complex that will complement the campus’ historic quad.

Specific features of this project include:

  • Modular Construction
  • A geothermal heat pump system designed to reduce energy consumption

The new Student Housing facility will provide approximately 400 beds, consisting of two, three, and four-bedroom suites with private bathrooms and kitchens.

Engineering Challenges:

The engineering challenges on this project were two fold. The first challenge was that the building was going to be constructed in pieces off site and then assembled on the building site, so the design team had to take a different approach from traditional construction methods. The main constraint with modular construction for this project was that the overall height of a specific piece being shipped limited the floor-to-floor height of the building. This lead to the second major challenge, finding an equipment manufacturer that manufactured equipment that was quiet enough to operate in a dorm room environment, was energy efficient, and had a low profile due to the floor-to-floor height constraints. Additionally, the manufacture had to provide a unit with enough capacity so that we could limit the number of units to stay within the budget, while offering each suite comfort and controllability. All of these terms were conditions from the owner.

Solution to the Challenges above:

The Brinjac Engineering design team met with several modular builders while working on the Schematic Design. Once the Schematic Design documents were completed, they were bid to a number of modular builders and the selected builder was brought on board. Working in BIM allowed the team to look at the building in 3D, which allowed the team to model the building and all components along side of the builder. Additionally, the builder’s assembly line construction technique allowed the team to make changes in the design to allow for ease of assembly prior to the modules construction.

The modular process, while allowing the contractors to work in a temperature-controlled environment to expedite the construction process, also allowed the design team a chance to comment on the construction ahead of time. Brinjac Engineering took on the second challenge by finding three manufacturers who met all the requirements of the project. We then met with two out of the three manufacturers to see if their manufacturing process could keep pace with the builder’s construction process since the equipment would be part of the modules being assembled. The builder requested three units ahead of time to see how they could be introduced into the assembly line process as construction started.


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