Going Underground

One of the features in the original lodge is underground heated parking for guests. The owners determined resort parking for “day guests” should be increased and added a third level of parking to the new building after the new wing's design process was already well under way.

The added underground parking level would require a challenging 35-foot excavation. The construction site was bounded by elements that could not be disturbed. The pre-existing lodge and driveway to underground parking were located on the west side; an aesthetic tree grove stood to the east; the resort's golf course was situated on the south; and a slope and another structure remained on the north. Nothing was expendable, which meant the only way to excavate was straight down.

A 35-foot vertical cut without sufficient support invites a crumbling wall with potentially catastrophic safety consequences, along with crippling delays and other financial setbacks. The design team knew to avoid any complications it had to create a safe, secure work environment. It also knew even after crews had secured the cut's earthen walls, they would still have a significant challenge in building a 35-foot high basement wall alongside the vertical cut. In addition, the terrain was filled with underground springs. Water sources under the new wing would have to be controlled in order to ensure long-term stability. The design team — the architect, structural engineer, civil engineer, soils engineer, shoring designer, and the owner and builder — came together to identify and address the problems.


The team's first solution was to design a vertical shoring wall constructed with soil nails and a shotcrete shoring finish. Soil nailing effectively braces excavation walls by inserting untensioned steel reinforcing bars at a slight downward angle into pre-drilled holes in an earthen wall. These are then grouted into place. This process is followed by the pneumatic application of shotcrete, in which compressed air forces concrete through a hose and nozzle into the ground at four-foot to five-foot intervals, building from top to bottom of the excavation. The soil-nail process provided a safe and secure work setting, eliminating the need for a large footing below and behind an ordinary concrete retaining wall.

In order to waterproof the underground foundation, the design team specified a sodium bentonite clay material. As sodium bentonite absorbs water, it swells to 15 times its original volume and pushes itself into cracks and voids, permanently sealing against water intrusion. The sodium bentonite was applied on the form line of the foundation wall in commercially available four-foot-square corrugated cardboard panels, which come with bentonite particles that fill the cardboard flutes. After the walls were poured and the foundation backfilled, the cardboard panels deteriorated upon exposure to water, and the sodium bentonite expanded to form a waterproof seal. Prior to concrete placement, drainage board was placed to collect and route spring water to the foundation drain system.

At the Lodge at Osprey Meadows, as with the Homewood Suites in Salt Lake City, the design team had to deal with below-grade construction issues outside its control. Those issues required initial study, experienced analysis and professional recommendations. The team's members remained engaged in the project throughout the construction processes, providing the owners and on-site contractors with support and expertise. In both cases, the design team's management enabled them to solve unusual problems by “designing beneath the surface.”

Doug Thimm is a vice president of MHTN Architects, Inc., located in Salt Lake City. He has been with MHTN Architects for 15 years. Thimm is the director of MHTN's Resort and Mixed-Use Design Studio and can be reached at Doug.thimm@mhtn.com.


Sheraton Hotels & Resorts introduced a new guest experience last month with the debut of Microsoft Surface in the lobbies of select locations in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Microsoft Surface features easy-to-use technology that puts information at guests' fingertips. The 30-inch display in a table-like form works without a traditional mouse or keyboard by allowing people to interact with the unit using their hands and gestures.

Guests will be able to access CityTips, 360-degree satellite maps and tools to locate restaurants, bars and other entertainment; Sounds of Sheraton, a lobby-based digital jukebox; and Sheraton Snapshots, a photo library of the brand's locations around the world.

Design Elements

Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC's largest convention hotel with 1,316 rooms, recently completed a $100-million capital investment that brought a fresh and high-tech look to the guestrooms, meeting space, lobby, restaurant and bar…The Doubletree Hotel Dayton Downtown completed a multi-million-dollar renovation that earned Doubletree Hotels' “Most Improved Quality Award” for 2008…Architecture and interior design firm BBG-BBGM relocated its New York City headquarters to the Empire State Building and is pursuing LEED Silver Certification in the Commercial Interiors category for the new 25th-floor office space…The Westin St. Francis is undergoing a $40-million restoration project, the largest since the reconstruction after The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake…Hollywood star Brad Pitt and LA-based architecture firm Graft will help design Zabeel Properties' new landmark five-star hotel and resort in Dubai, UAE. Pitt says acting is his career, but architecture his true passion.

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