M+K Article Published in Structure Magazine

We’re very excited to have had the following article published in the November issue of Structure magazine. It goes without saying that we’re super proud of the M+K staff members who co-authored this piece: Bert Coelho, P.E. [Principal + Dir. Business Development], Kevin Quan, P.E. [Sr. Project Engineer], and Micah Milner, P.E. [Project Engineer].

Steel Stud Bearing Walls

An Alternative to Traditional Podium Levels

Developers are always looking for new and innovative ways to make buildings more profitable and financially efficient. Traditionally, a multi-story bearing wall building over one to two levels of steel or concrete, also known as a podium structure, has filled this need by offering high-density residential units at the upper levels and parking or retail spaces at the lowest floors. For multi-story residential buildings, wood construction is generally considered the most cost-efficient form of construction, followed by cold-formed steel (CFS) bearing walls and then heavy steel or concrete framing. Because of this, developers have sought to maximize the number of wood-framed floors over the podium level before switching to more costly materials.

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Wood bearing wall systems are limited to either 4-stories using Type V-A construction or 5-stories using Type III-A construction. Both types of construction can be supported on grade or a podium structure. Podium structures have been covered extensively in previous articles by STRUCTURE magazine. They are proven methods of meeting not only financial requirements but zoning and regulatory obligations as well. This article focuses on an alternate hybrid system that maximizes the number of stacking levels of residential units by introducing multiple levels of CFS bearing walls to support the wood-framed levels before transitioning to the transfer level or foundation.

The Challenge

Recently, some developers have opted to add additional residential units below the Type V-A and III-A constructed units. This means the stacking residential units from above are carried down below the podium level by minimizing or removing the retail and parking areas altogether. This change increases unit density, thus maximizing more profitable areas by limiting the less profitable retail and parking areas.

The challenge with incorporating stacking units from above with a typical steel or concrete podium superstructure is the interference of regularly spaced columns with residential unit layouts. While the podium column scheme lends itself well to open spaces required for retail and parking, the standard grid pattern presents architectural challenges at residential levels in accommodating columns within the unit layouts. Additionally, non-stacking loads from the residential bearing wall system above inevitably require deep steel or concrete beams or heavily reinforced concrete slabs and may even require drop panels. The ideal column grid may also disrupt stacked window layouts along the exterior of the building below the podium level.

Architecture is not the only discipline to face challenges with this system. Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems are typically accommodated by having stacking mechanical penetrations for the full height of the building. In a wood-framed building, these are commonly located within the wall stud cavity. Therefore, stacked penetrations running down through the steel or concrete podium structure invariably conflict with beam and column locations that directly support the walls above.

To resolve these issues, architects frequently need to create new unit types and floor layouts to work around the traditional podium structural elements. Unfortunately, the new layouts can create spaces that may be inefficient or undesirable to developers or prospective tenants. Continue reading “M+K Article Published in Structure Magazine”

AlfaCharlie | The Architecture Studio

Working on projects in all parts of the country brings the exciting opportunity to tackle the regional design challenges that come with them. Delivering on our commitment to “big-firm capacity with small-firm service” requires the experience and state licensure coverage to get the job done wherever the site may be. Since as early as 2013, working with The Architecture Studio has provided us the opportunity to design structures in multiple regions of the country, including: Ohio, Nebraska, Texas, and Colorado.

One of our more recent design collaborations, the AlfaCharlie Modern Apartments in Denver’s northeast sector, offers luxury apartment living across 5 independent four-story wood framed structures. Our designs provide tenants with a 2-story steel framed community space, private drive-under garages, and a variety of site structures for the outdoor amenity spaces. The regional twist for this project was accommodating the post-tensioned slab on grade supporting the wood framed superstructure, due to the expansive soils native to the Denver area.

M+K Cycling Team Rides in MS Fundraiser

M+K’s mantra is Work Hard. Play Harder. Give Back. These six words sum up our work ethic, our culture, and our dedication to a greater purpose.

There is perhaps no better example of our commitment to this philosophy than the cycling team we formed this year to participate in the MS City to Shore fundraiser. Debuting in 1980, this annual ride starts in Philadelphia and finishes in Ocean City, NJ. Its sole intent is to raise funds to increase awareness and benefit medical research for Multiple Sclerosis, an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that renders different symptoms for each person affected.

Once we decided to put a team together, we had to make it official and design a cycling jersey. That in turn required that we come up with a unique name. We did a lot of research and came across the French cycling term ‘Rouleur’ which refers to a cyclist who excels at riding on flat or rolling terrain. This definition exactly matches the topography of the MS City to Shore ride. Thus, the name ‘Renegade Rouleurs’ was born!

What a GREAT day it was! Under a sunny blue sky, the feeling of camaraderie on our team of 8 riders as well as the energy among the other 4,000 riders out on the course was fantastic! The heartfelt support from volunteers, police, and civil servants along the route and at the finish line was truly inspiring. And what really made the training and participation in the event worthwhile was knowing that the funds raised will help a great cause…namely, finding a cure for MS.

As a team, we’re thrilled to have raised over $6500 – contributing to the impressive total amount raised of $3.4M and counting! We’re looking forward to recruiting more riders and raising more funds for next year’s team…the M+K Renegade Rouleurs will definitely ride again!

Mattie Dixon School Bag Drive

It’s back to school time again! For most kids, August is a month filled with anticipation about the new school year…and shopping for school supplies. But for families in need, it can be a stressful time. Their children want school supplies like all the other kids.

We recently conducted one of our favorite annual fundraisers on behalf of The Mattie Dixon Community Cupboard – M+K’s Annual School Bag Drive for children in elementary school. Every year our employees donate money to purchase backpacks and essential school supplies for kids in need in Ambler, PA. Mulhern+Kulp matches the total amount of funds raised by our employees. Volunteers fill each backpack with binders, composition books, folders, pencils, crayons, glue sticks, ear buds, etc.

We’re super excited that, in addition to the 30 backpacks filled with supplies, we raised an additional $850 which we have donated to Mattie Dixon!

M+K Judges Multiple Regions of Timber-Strong Design Build Competition

We were honored to once again serve as judges for various regions of the Timber Strong Design Build Competition [TSDB]. This competition tasks each team of university engineering students to design and build an artistically creative 2-story wood light-framed building that is sustainable, aesthetically pleasing and structurally durable. The students operate as a design/build firm and develop skills with wood design, BIM modeling, structural calculations, and hands-on actual construction of their structures at the competition.

Our representatives included Ricky Zabel who helped judge the Pacific Southwest Regional competition [hosted by University of California San Diego – UCSD], and Jared Hudson who judged at the Gulf Coast Region [hosted by Auburn University].

Per Ricky Zabel: “It was great to help judge the TSDB Competition, both for the reports and the in-person build. The combination of the technical design and hands-on building process are an invaluable opportunity for students to gain real life structural engineering experience. The confidence and understanding exhibited by the students really makes me excited about the next generation of engineers in the wood-framing industry!”

The Timber Strong Design Build Competition is sponsored by: Simpson Strong-Tie, APA [The Engineered Wood Association], AWC [American Wood Council], and ASCE [American Society of Civil Engineers].

MuCullough Architects & Adam Leland Homes

This exquisite custom home in Clyde Hill, WA, is one of the latest projects developed from our collaboration with McCullough Architects in the Seattle suburbs. Built by Adam Leland Homes, this 2-story 5-bed/6-bath offers both quality and quantity over its 7,000+ square feet. Cathedral ceilings, wide-open layouts, and multiple covered outdoor areas create the perfect backdrop for the inspired architectural touches. While all its bells and whistles would be a marvel in any setting, the direct view of the Seattle skyline across Lake Washington certainly doesn’t hurt.

The expansive indoor spaces and covered deck areas which make these picturesque views possible also create structural challenges for supporting both the vertical and lateral building forces. Supporting 8-foot cantilevers, sometimes in two directions, in a 10-inch-deep roof system required integrating steel beams into the wood framing when engineered lumber wouldn’t cut it. The tall windows make for great views but require careful design of the few remaining exterior wall panels for lateral support, particularly in regions with high seismic demand like the Pacific Northwest.

We always enjoy working alongside the great staff at McCullough Architects and the awesome team at Adam Leland Homes.

M+K Places 2nd In National Marketing Competition

We’re excited to announce that M+K’s 20th Anniversary Branding Program placed 2nd in the Corporate Events category of The Zweig Group’s National Marketing Excellence Awards competition!

In preparation for the company-wide celebration last December, the marketing team developed a brand identity that was applied to a range of materials for the event. The centerpiece of this program was the invitation which featured the brand identity and introduced the venue to M+K employees.

The gala was held in Philadelphia at the venerable Franklin Institute, one of the nation’s oldest centers of science education and development in the United States. By all measures, it was a great night…certainly one for the ages!

The M+K marketing team is very proud of this recognition by our peers in the engineering, architecture, and building industries. As always, we look forward to the development of future projects that showcase our award-winning culture and the exceptional work that we do for our great clients.

Engel Group | Bedford Arms

Just a short walk from the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park, Bedford Arms is a 9-story apartment building completed a few years ago in Brooklyn, NY. Unlike most new multi-family projects which may provide a small percentage of affordable units to meet minimum municipal requirements, Bedford Arms was designed to offer 100% of its units as affordable housing for the surrounding community. Alongside architect John Schimenti, our multi-family team provided designs for mid-rise residential developer Engel Group as both the Engineer of Record and Designated Engineer for the light-gauge metal bearing wall system.

To help keep costs down, hollowcore concrete plank floors supported on light-gauge metal bearing walls were selected for the 8 residential levels as a less expensive alternative to a flat plate cast-in-place concrete system and helped streamline construction for the cramped urban site. While accounting for a partial basement with all the challenges of tight property line margins common to city projects, the foundation design required an intricate combination of eccentric footings, grade beams, and mat foundation slabs.

BCA Architecture and Design | Harvest Pizzeria

While most of our projects with BCA Architecture and Design are high-end custom homes, we took a detour to tackle this adaptive re-use project in the heart of the South Slope Brewing District in Asheville, NC. What is now a contemporary pizzeria serving up local ingredients with a focus on sustainability began as just a shell of the original 1920’s construction.

This sustainable mission began with construction, where an effort to keep much of the existing 2-story masonry walls and steel bowstring trusses made this project an exercise in thinking outside the box from the start. Through a series of slotted connections, over-sized holes, and hand-tightened bolts, our design team was able to thread the needle in detailing a new steel frame to brace the existing masonry from the inside without imparting new load. Our final design incorporated most of the original bowstring trusses, offering a rustic aesthetic for the diners below. In recognition of our innovative design solutions in overcoming these challenges, the project earned a second-place finish at the 2022 DVASE structural engineering awards.

The result was a two-story dining area with mid-height mezzanine, all beneath a partially covered rooftop bar. From the unique history and intriguing finished product to the one-of-a-kind design, this ambitious project was a pleasure to be a part of, no matter which way you slice it.

M+K Teams Up with Habitat for Humanity

Giving back has always been a main pillar of the Mulhern+Kulp culture. While our efforts to lend a hand to those less fortunate takes on many shapes and sizes, it’s particularly meaningful when our volunteer work crosses paths with our professional careers. We recently had an opportunity to put our expertise in wood-frame construction to the test right in our backyard, helping Habitat for Humanity with a build just outside Philadelphia in Hatboro, PA.

Jeannie Sachs, the local Director of Programs for Habitat, noted: “While we appreciate all of our volunteers, it’s really great to have the kind of skilled help that a structural engineering firm like M+K provides.”

The site will eventually be home to 2 duplexes built for local families in need of permanent housing. Seven volunteers from our home office teamed up with a Habitat Project Manager and two veteran volunteer team-leads to keep construction moving, framing out interior walls and exterior window openings. Getting to swing a hammer while supporting a great cause was an absolute pleasure, and helping create a quality product from the other side of the drawings was an experience we hope to do again soon!