Building The Scarlet Hotel from the Ground Up

Celena Shepherd, Communications

October 08, 2021

As Olsson senior engineer Tom Kettler likes to say, “Your building is only as good as the foundation you put it on.” This advice is put into practice every time Tom investigates soils and recommends the best foundation system for different structures.

Tom used his geotechnical expertise to recommend the ideal foundation for The Scarlet Hotel, the only hotel on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus. Every room at the 154-room, six-story Marriott hotel will be named in tribute to towns across the state of Nebraska. The property is scheduled to open in February 2022 and will feature a rooftop bar, fitness facility, and full-service restaurant.

The hotel structure and features are something Tom considered when selecting a safe and economical foundation for the hotel. Based on geotechnical investigations and his expertise in the area, he recommended an auger-cast pile foundation, which is a type of deep foundation that carries large loads. He said the building is supported by friction when set upon deeper soils like Dakota sandstone and shale.

“Everything that’s on top of the foundation is what everyone sees, but the work below ground is really what helps carry the project,” Tom said. “I feel good that we did our due diligence to ensure the building is supported in the safest, most economical way for the client.”

Olsson was selected by Tetrad Property Group to perform geotechnical, special inspections, and materials testing for the hotel. Tetrad owns and operates the hotel and partnered with the university to include space for academic purposes. The joint public-private partnership will benefit the community, students, and visitors.

After the foundation design was selected, our special inspections and materials testing team oversaw its construction. Travis Anderson led the team and ensured the materials were installed safely and correctly, meeting necessary requirements.

“The Olsson team did a great job of coordinating their onsite inspections to keep the schedule moving,” said Bart Thomsen, senior project manager at Tetrad Property Group.

Our team also provided site preparation services and observed the installation of the hotel’s foundation system. Materials like concrete and rebar were also continually inspected and observed to make the building as safe as possible.

Travis said The Scarlet Hotel is classified as a post-tension concrete structure because each floor is supported by concrete columns that have reinforced steel cables and rebar inside. The cables and rebar require specific inspections and placement before being pulled tightly to support the concrete structure.

“To ensure the safety and structural integrity of the building, we test the concrete and measure how far the cables are stretched to make sure they meet the required tolerance,” Travis said. “It was really neat working with a post-tension structure because it’s not common in Lincoln.”

We also offered a special quality assurance test that saved time and money during the construction of the hotel. The test is known as thermal integrity profiling and assesses whether the foundation properly supports the building structure. So, how does it work?

Travis said the team attached thermal sensors on every 12 inches of rebar for 95 feet. The rebar is placed in a sample of auger-cast pile concrete, and the test reveals whether the pile is the correct size based on concrete cure time and thermal measurements.

“Thermal integrity profiling provides important information that you can’t plainly see and confirms the effectiveness, quality, and safety of the structure,” Travis said. “This test showed us that the concrete foundation did what it was designed to do and offers everyone good information and assurance.”

Our engineers worked to help The Scarlet Hotel stand strong through high-end inspections and innovative technology to produce a solid foundation and sound structural integrity.

“We had many well-trained employees who are pleased to have worked on this project,” Travis said. “I think the hotel will be a huge benefit and will positively affect the economy and community of Lincoln.”

We are proud to be a part of the beginning of a unique community amenity that boasts Husker pride and Midwest hospitality to visitors. Our engineers expect The Scarlet Hotel – and its foundation system – to flourish for years to come.