Behind the Scenes with the Northshore Concert Hall at Inglemoor

In our Q&A series, we take a candid look at projects, hearing from the engineers who bring them to life. In the latest round, Structural Project Manager Christen Sanders, and Structural Project Engineer Camie Mamer, share insights from the Northshore Concert Hall at Inglemoor.

Tell us a bit about the project.

Located on the Inglemoor High School campus, the brand new 750-seat concert hall is available for both district-wide and community use. In addition to the main auditorium, the increased classroom and rehearsal space has improved acoustics to support the band and choir programs. It’s a light-filled, inviting new entry point for both students and campus visitors. The phased project was also constructed on a fully operational campus!

What made this project different?

Christen: What other high school has a full-fledged concert hall!? I’ve worked on several high school performing arts centers, and while those facilities need to be versatile in their function, this project’s design required a ton of refinement to hit specific performance requirements.

What are some unique features, how did we support them?

Camie: Primarily steel-framed, the GC/CM project is terraced into the hillside at the edge of the existing campus. To mitigate the sloped site, 15-foot, below-grade concrete walls were designed as temporary cantilevered retaining walls for faster backfill. Sequencing in this manner was especially beneficial for Cornerstone General Contractors.

Do you have a favorite feature? Any engineering standouts?

Christen: My favorite features are the small details like the exposed connections in the lobby. Exposed prefabricated tapered steel pin connections support the lobby balcony while stainless steel exposed pin connections in the wind girts were integrated with the columns at the front of the building to mimic the prefabricated pin connections. The extra attention and coordination that goes into detailing connections that aren’t the “standard” are always fun to me.

Camie: The balcony is my favorite. It’s a sensitive area for vibration, so intensive modeling went into ensuring that it wasn’t too bouncy, which is why we utilized large, cantilevered beams. Whenever I’m on site, I visit it for a few test jumps to see how it behaves. It was also a challenge during construction to make sure that the precast seating was coordinated correctly with the steel. It’s so gratifying to see how great it turned out.

What was the biggest challenge the team faced?

Christen: As Camie mentioned, extensive coordination went into the balcony design which is supported by four flat cantilevered beams. The low-sloped lower seating was designed with deck and topping over steel beams and posts. While the back tiered seating utilizes steel framing with closely coordinated precast segments.

We worked very closely with Hutteball + Oremus Architecture on the precast segments. Originally designed in a curved seating arrangement, we pivoted to segmented seating so that the pieces were easier to fabricate. A lot of coordination went into elevations: what’s over framed, what’s precast, etc.

Were there any examples of issues we were able to identify early that helped the design process?

Camie: Yes! To eliminate ducting, we assisted Cornerstone General Contractors and Hargis Engineers with MEP coordination by creating an airtight plenum space below the lower seating area and punching holes through the floor to create air circulation.

What was one thing you learned during this process?

Christen: How to support acoustic design! To ensure proper acoustics, deflectors and clouds (ceiling panels designed to help absorb sound and provide better acoustics) were installed in the ceiling and along the ribbon walls. Seismic tie-bracing of the catwalks and clouds was thoughtfully placed to limit visibility in the concert hall. Now resulting in amazing acoustics.

Why did you like working on this project?

Christen: I loved the design and construction team. I think we all worked really well together and came up with creative solutions to solve problems (like the structural support and tie in of the front entry canopy!). It was very collaborative and for the number of complexities this project and site had, it went really well.

Camie: I’ll echo Christen, the design and construction teams were amazing. Focusing on our internal team here at Coughlin Porter Lundeen, it was fun to get to do a project with such a small three-person team. It really allowed me to take more ownership of the project and helped progress my skillset as an engineer. It was especially beneficial having Christen at the helm, who is about as good as it gets when it comes to being a teacher and mentor.

I liked working with __ because…

Camie: Both Cornerstone General Contractors and Hutteball + Oremus were great to work with on this project. We benefited from having an experienced team out in the field, which made the construction process much smoother. Marissa Rutler with Hutteball + Oremus was great at keeping everyone in the loop at all stages during the Construction Administration process. She maintained great communication and kept an open flow of information with the entire team.

How does this project impact the city or its community?

Christen: One of the coolest aspects about this project is that the space will be used district and community wide. At the project open house, we got a small glimpse of this in action, catching performances by a local elementary school choir, a high school jazz band, and an incredible solo on the grand piano. The performances were amazing, and it was so great to witness the acoustics in action.

What is it like to see the finished product?

Christen: I care deeply for all my projects, but a project like this one, that really pushed me to be more creative, will always hold a special place in my heart. This concert hall was truly one of my favorite projects to be a part of.

Camie: Looking at the finished building is such a testament to how well the team worked together to create a beautiful space for the community. It feels like a great accomplishment to see something I got to work on from start to finish really come together.

A few quick-fires from Christen:

  • One word to describe this project: Grand.
  • Project team member who needs a free lunch: For sure Camie! She engineered the entire building and saw it all the way to construction.
  • When visiting, the first thing I check out is: The suspended steel catwalks over the concert hall, followed shortly by the cantilevered balcony seating area.
  • This project has the best: Acoustics.
  • Next up, I can’t wait to design: Inglemoor High School Replacement.

And from Camie:

  • One word to describe this project: Technically two words, but jewel box.
  • Project team member who needs a free lunch: Marissa Rutler with Hutteball + Oremus, she was seriously so on top of it.
  • When visiting, the first thing I check out is: The exposed pin connections on the steel members at the entry façade.
  • This project has the best: Structural Project Manager! Christen killed it from coordination all the way down to mentoring.
  • Next up, I can’t wait to design: I also have to say Inglemoor High School Replacement!

Go behind the scenes with some of our other favorite projects: The Astor at The Washington Building, WWU Interdisciplinary Sciences BuildingThe Lodge at Saint Edward State ParkThe Little School Rivers Building, and Mount Si High School.

Project Team: Owner: Northshore School District / Architect: Hutteball + Oremus Architecture / General Contractor: Cornerstone General Contractors / Civil Engineer: Integrity Works Consulting Engineers, Inc. / Geotechnical Engineer: Associated Earth Sciences / Mechanical Engineer: Hargis Engineers / Electrical Engineer: TFWB Engineers / Acoustic Consultant: BRC Acoustics & Audiovisual Design / Landscape Architect: Weisman Design Group

Images © Benjamin Benschneider