Rental Equipment at NC State: A Lesson in Economics

Mon August 09, 2004 - Southeast Edition

As enrollment numbers continue to climb at colleges and universities across the country, contractors are enjoying an accompanying boon in campus building projects.

Following the recommendation of experts who are predicting that as many as 18 million students will be attending college in 2013, higher education officials are spearheading numerous construction projects designed to brace their campuses for the predicted onslaught of high school graduates who will soon call these campuses home.

Tom Stafford, North Carolina State University’s (NC State) vice chancellor of student affairs, is working hard to increase the capacity of student housing on the university’s campus. According to Stafford, NC State currently has 7,500 on-campus beds for 30,000 students.

“We are keeping close track of the need for student housing as we watch enrollment continue to climb,” said Stafford. “The demand is here now. We want to meet demand, not overbuild.”

Working with a private consultant to evaluate the need for expanded student housing, Tim Luckadoo, associate vice chancellor of student affairs, and his university housing staff determined that the predicted enrollment levels dictated an increase of 1,200 beds on campus. As a result, NC State has begun the phased construction of Wolf Village Apartments –– an eight-building complex that, upon completion in fall 2005, will accommodate 1,200 junior, senior and graduate students.

Although this is the first housing facility the university has built in more than 20 years, Stafford believes it is not likely the last. As enrollment continues to rise and students spill over into surrounding neighborhoods, the officials at NC State are working diligently with students and neighbors to make sure that student housing achieves the right balance for both groups.

“Our neighbors are very much in support of an increase in student housing on campus,” said Stafford. “Although many students appreciate the freedom of living off-campus, we want to have enough housing to be able to offer those who want it the option to live in a community that offers support and convenience.”

One Year, Eight Buildings, 1.5 Million Bricks

The construction of Wolf Village Apartments is a $66- million project under the direction of general contractor Centex Construction Co. Located on 30 acres of NC State’s main campus, the job site is bustling with subcontractors who will be working over the next several months to erect the eight buildings and an 1,800-ton (1,633 t) regional chilled-water plant.

The project also includes preservation of existing trees, construction of rain gardens, subsurface infiltration beds, outdoor activity/community spaces, paved parking lots and walkways and integration of the walkways into an all-campus path.

No stranger to the special requirements of higher-education job sites, the crew of Raleigh-based subcontractor Brodie Contractors Inc. has been hired to complete the masonry work on the eight Wolf Village Apartment buildings. Within one year, the crew will lay 1.5 million bricks, 500,000 blocks and pour 4,000 yds. (3,658 m) of grout.

Following the university’s timeline is critical to the success of the project, as applications for housing in Wolf Village Apartments are already rolling into NC State’s student housing department.

According to Calvin Brodie, owner of Brodie Contractors, the project is on schedule despite some uncooperative weather.

Telehandlers Prove Invaluable on University Site

Over the past few years, motorized mast climbing scaffolding has become increasingly popular on job sites around the world –– and the Wolf Village Apartments site is no exception.

Commonly used when the work height is more than 30 ft. (9 m), this scaffolding is typically found on job sites, like that at NC State, when the work spans hundreds of feet. Because a generator is used to raise the unit quickly, this scaffolding is especially popular for use on jobs with tight deadlines.

Mast climbing scaffolding is heavier than traditional scaffolding. In fact, its platforms weigh more than 6,000 lbs. (2,721.5 kg) As a result, many masons are turning to 8,000-, 9,000- and even 10,000-lb. (3,629, 4,082 and 4,536 kg) vertical telehandlers.

“We use the 9,000-pound machines because they’ve got more power and can handle the extra weight of the scaffolding, and we need the 42-foot reach because these are four-story apartment buildings,” said Brodie.

His crew currently is putting 12 9,000-lb., 42-ft. (12.8 m) reach telehandlers to work on various masonry job sites; five of the telehandlers are working with the crew at the Wolf Village Apartments project. While six of the telehandlers belong to Brodie Contractors, the other half are on rent from the RSC store in Raleigh, which is owned and operated by Rental Service Corp.

With nearly 500 locations across North America, RSC stores specialize in rental of construction equipment to contractors in several industries, including construction, industrial/petrochemical, manufacturing, government and residential building.

Brodie last purchased a telehandler in 1998. He plans to continue operating his fleet with a 50/50 split between rental and purchase.

In addition to saving the capital expense required by purchasing equipment, Brodie uses rentals to avoid the cost of keeping maintenance personnel on staff. “Hiring a mechanic to handle the upkeep of the machines is not feasible for us –– nor is outsourcing the maintenance. Working with RSC to keep the machines working at top performance is our best solution.

“We purchased a few telehandlers several years ago,” said Brodie. “But it has since become more economical to rent. With the current rental rates, we just can’t own them for what we can rent them.”