Lynchburg University Westover Hall

Loadbearing Block and Precast Plank Flooring Deliver for Lynchburg University

Load-bearing concrete block is delivering a cost-effective, fire-safe solution in Lynchburg, VA for the University of Lynchburg’s Westover Hall.  Named for the school’s first building and for the Westover Honors College, which it houses, Westover Hall — the university’s largest building — was dedicated in October of 2019.

At nearly 90,000 square feet, the four-story building is constructed with load-bearing concrete block walls and precast concrete plank flooring. Westover features 140 bedrooms, 92 bathrooms, four balconies, a rooftop terrace, classrooms, and faculty offices. It also houses two residential learning communities — one for Westover Honors students and one that allows students to explore spirituality, mindfulness, and wellness together.

Kristen Cooper, associate dean of students, said the design of the building focused on flexibility, collaboration, accessibility, and student needs, including private study space, active learning classrooms, and an outdoor classroom.

Robust, Durable, and Structural

Block was chosen because it is “robust, durable, and structural,” according to architect Jason T. Burger of Dominion Seven Architects, Lynchburg, the firm that designed Westover. “The university wanted a longstanding building — something with a lifespan of 50 years or better. With college students living in the facility, they wanted surfaces that would stand up to the abuse of the residents. Fire containment was of paramount concern. We wanted to use hollow-core precast plank flooring. So it made sense to use concrete masonry because of its structural properties.”

Students provided input on the design.  Davion Washington, 21, a Westover Honors student and president of the Student Government Association, said he was invited to sit in on a meeting with the architects to envision the facility. “My peers and I provided suggestions and feedback. Our input was accepted. We felt included.”

The building is clad with a combination of red and gray brick veneer, accented with two different colors of fiber cement siding, allowing it to blend with the older buildings on the campus while projecting a welcoming, modern feel. Many interior walls also feature exposed masonry, some with precast concrete coping. The block for Westover was supplied by NCMA-member Boxley Materials in Lynchburg. The mason contractor was Holman Masonry, Farmville, VA. The general contractor was Jamerson-Lewis Construction of Lynchburg.

A Cost-Effective Solution

William Cook, president of Jamerson-Lewis, was the project manager for the Westover construction.  Cook said he wishes more buildings of this type were constructed with load-bearing block and precast plank flooring. “It’s a very cost-effective system for a building of this type. It goes up relatively quickly. It’s a strong, durable system that provides unrivaled fire protection. It’s really simple to deal with.”

“For this type of building — a residence hall — having floor-to-floor fire separation was critical.  Almost all of the block is 12-inch, which worked well. The larger units went in almost as quickly as standard units. They allowed for easier grouting and provided greater tolerance in terms of placing the precast flooring,” Cook said.

University of Lynchburg President Dr. Kenneth R. Garren said Westover is “not just a dormitory.” Even ‘residence hall’ fails to fully describe what we hope it will be. It will be home to thousands of students over the coming decades.”

Published April 8, 2020
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