Kerkstra Keeps Concrete Coming

February 3, 2003
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GRANDVILLE — The Balcom’s Cove condominium complex on the south shore of Muskegon Lake is Kerkstra Precast/Spancrete Great Lakes Inc.’s largest project to date.

The company did such an “excellent precast job” on it, according to judges, that it received special recognition from its industry peers.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, Western Michigan Chapter, awarded Kerkstra/Spancrete the 2002 construction award in the precast concrete category for its work on the nine-story, twin tower condominium project, which was completed in February 2001.

The $1.9 million Balcom’s Cove was designed by JDH Engineering of Grandville and constructed by Triangle Associates of Grand Rapids. Archimedes Group-Balcom’s Cove LLC owns the condo complex.

Kerkstra/Spancrete Vice President Henry Hofman said the biggest challenge was constructing the condos between mid-November and mid-January, which typically aren’t construction-friendly months in Michigan.

But winter weather didn’t hamper Kerkstra/Spancrete’s role in the construction of Balcom’s Cove.

All the company’s products are manufactured in a controlled environment at its new Spancrete Great Lakes plant in Grandville where concrete planks are precast and cut to size, so cold weather doesn’t interfere with either their production or quality.

The pieces are then transported to the construction site where a Kerkstra/Spancrete crew works with the contractor on erecting them.

Spancrete Great Lakes, a division of Kerkstra Precast, is the only Spancrete manufacturer in Michigan.

Precast concrete can be cut, angled and cantilevered to fit a variety of designs and layouts. In addition to its design flexibility, precast is fire resistant and has low sound transmission, Hofman noted.

The company started production on the Balcom’s Cove pieces in October, and construction of the east condominium tower commenced in mid-November. The majority of work on the east tower was finished before construction on the west tower began.

“Going with precast made it a much more efficient project, considering that all of this was done on a 2.8-acre site — one side of it being water,” Hofman added.

Walls of the first three stories of both condo towers were poured in place, while the floors were constructed of precast hollow-core floor planks.

The top six floors of the towers were constructed entirely of precast walls and precast hollow-core floors. Each tower has 26 condos.

He said Balcom’s Cove developer, C. Richard Borgeson of Muskegon, liked the quality of precast, as well as the speed of construction it affords.

“He was looking for a quality building that could be put up quickly and on time,” Hofman recalled.

“We can help get your building up quicker so you can start generating income sooner, as opposed to other forms of construction.”

He estimates the project would have taken at least twice as long using conventional brick and block construction.

The elevator and stair towers of Balcom’s Cove were made of poured-in-place concrete and masonry. Their exterior was done in block to provide a contrast in building materials, Hofman said.

He noted that 10 to 12 masons were working on the elevator towers while a Kerkstra/Spancrete crew of four worked with the contractor on the rest.

“While they were building those units, we were putting up the entire structure almost as quickly,” he recalled.

Kerkstra/Spancrete erected an average of 17 pieces of precast a day, for a total of 1,761 pieces in 109 working days.

Precast balconies were also incorporated into the project, which eliminated the need for scaffolding. Hofman said the scaffolding that would have been required to construct the balconies using the poured-in-place method would have been “enormous and a bit of a safety concern.”

Hofman credits field supervisors Kurt DeKock and Darwin Dykstra with the project’s speedy completion and overall success.

“They know their way around precast, and they know the best and safest way to construct buildings. That experience helps us do that kind of volume in a day.”

The company is supplying precast concrete for more and more school building projects these days, he said.

Hofman said architects and engineers are now seeing the benefits of precast concrete, especially when it comes to tall walls; concrete planks can be manufactured in heights of 43 feet and higher and don’t require scaffolding to erect.  

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