With the addition of the first-ever residence hall and a state-of-the-art student center, the University of Southern Maine’s (USM) Portland campus was transformed from a “commuter school” into a bustling university, offering a full campus experience and enhanced quality of life for students. PC Construction completed the Portland Commons Residence Hall, a 580-bed dormitory, and, right next door, the 42,000 square foot McGoldrick Center for Career & Student Success on time and within budget, meeting an aggressive deadline while also helping the University achieve ambitious goals and priorities for the project. USM has pledged to become fully carbon-neutral by 2040, which meant sustainability was of particular importance for this project. PC Construction rose to the challenge and delivered a student residence that meets the energy-efficient Passive House building standards, and a student center that creatively integrates mass cross-laminated timbers (CLT) and has received LEED Gold certification.

In addition to building two large adjacent multi-story buildings within a two-block worksite, PC Construction was simultaneously working on a separate contract to construct USM’s new parking garage within the same two-block area. The three buildings’ close physical proximity made for a tight building site and required a highly choreographed project management approach, creatively planned site logistics, and the sharing of skilled labor resources. With months-long delays of the delivery of essential materials along with other challenges, it was necessary for the PC Construction team to employ precise coordination and innovative solutions so they could maintain a tight schedule and USM students could move into the dorm for the 2024 fall semester. The impact to students was always a consideration for the PC Construction crew, who designed safety precautions and coordinated with USM to minimize construction disturbances for student activities, such as concerts and performances.



From equipment and site logistics to materials, this complex project is a great example of PC Construction’s creative and innovative approach. The two-block building site was limited for space, which was further compounded by the need for a 238-ton crane to support construction of Portland Commons. Rather than use a traditional fixed tower crane, which requires considerable time and effort to shift between work areas, PC Construction utilized a mobile crawler crane, which had a smaller footprint. The mobile crane offered increased flexibility while meeting the heavy-lifting needs, and enabled the crew to remove the crane and bring in additional resources when needed. In order to maintain the tight project schedule, PC Construction utilized prefabricated structural wall panels and precast concrete. This choice allowed materials to be fabricated off site and then dropped into place, expediting the delivery of a weather-tight enclosure. In addition, the integration of mass cross-laminated timbers (CLT), rather than structural steel for the framing at the front of the McGoldrick Center was a unique approach. For USM, the strong design element of the material references Maine’s heritage in forestry and shipbuilding and creates a signature visual expression for the building. For PC Construction, the advantages of the material went beyond visual: CLT can be erected more quickly and has a lighter carbon footprint than structural steel, which helped the project meet both its timeline and sustainability goals.



PC Construction’s approach to the construction process was designed to support USM’s goal of creating buildings with the smallest environmental footprint possible. These new campus facilities embrace renewable low-carbon building technologies, waste diversion, and strategies to maintain healthy living and working spaces. To meet LEED building criteria, the PC Construction team was required to recycle a minimum of 75% of construction waste. Committing to this goal, PC Construction coordinated with all trade partners so waste streams were separated and there was ample space allocated for waste receptacles. In the end, PC Construction was able to recycle, repurpose, or divert 95% of construction waste from landfills. The attention to environmental impact was also evident in PC Construction’s consideration of CLT suppliers. The design team performed an emission analysis to compare the carbon footprint of two suppliers, and selected one that delivered the material with a smaller environmental impact.

The Portland Commons Residence Hall is poised to be a national model for energy-efficient design. The building has a Passive House designation and is projected to use less than 50% of the energy of a standard modern building while providing residents year-round comfort. The building also incorporates low-carbon building materials such as corrugated metal and wood cladding, as well as mass timber.



The tight building site presented challenges for the PC Construction team, requiring a creative and coordinated approach for site logistics. The team utilized the parking garage site, where work had not yet begun, to receive trucks and stage materials. Extra coordination was also necessary to limit the impact of construction on neighbor Oakhurst Dairy, who receives tanker deliveries at all hours, seven days a week. The PC team worked directly with Oakhurst and met regularly to discuss traffic management plans, road closures, and utility tie-ins. Another challenge was the expanded scope required to reroute the campus’s main steam line, which required a redesign of the connections and the installation of a new condensate line. Material delays also impacted the project and required the team to pivot and resequence work on the erection of the superstructure and interior fit out of the building. PC Construction was able to respond to the challenges and keep the project on its tight schedule.



PC Construction’s overall approach to safety for this project was centered on a high level of personal accountability. Constant communication was imperative. Every day, the team designated one craft person and one management person to be personally responsible for overseeing safety, identifying items that needed to be addressed and ensuring that they were promptly corrected. These site safety walks helped the team put fresh eyes on safety every single day. There were also “daily huddles”, where the team would discuss the day’s work plan, any anticipated deliveries, as well as identify any restricted or closed areas on the site due to crane operations. The team also went over findings from the previous day’s safety walk. This approach worked well and PC Construction’s field team worked more than 87,000 hours with zero recordable safety incidents.


View the project video herehttps://youtu.be/2aWgD76Pqas

Project Title: The University of Southern Maine Portland Commons Residence Hall & McGoldrick Center for Career & Student Services

Owner: University of Southern Maine/University of Maine System/Capstone Partners

Construction Manager: PC Construction

Engineer/Architect: SMRT/Elkus Manfredi/Steven Winter Associates