New England Finish Systems, LLC, of Salem, N.H., was tapped to install the exterior cladding, exterior and interior framing, and drywall of Riverview Suites, a six-story, 173,000-square-foot, new student residence hall at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Tasked with finishing all seven floors – five of which having 22 units a piece – in less than a year, the contractor was faced with a tight timeframe and budget. While the exterior framing and cladding portion of the project was comparatively straightforward, the contractor needed products that would help them meet the tight turnaround for the framing and construction of the building code-required fire-rated interior wall assemblies.
"Our standard passive firestopping methods would have produced extra work for us on this project, with its non-typical flat metal roof and floor decking," said Frank Murphy, general foreman for New England Finish Systems. "Plus, caulking is not cheap. Using them on a project of this scale and remaining within the project budget would have been difficult." After considerable research, their search led them to BlazeFrame from ClarkDietrich, due to the performance and installation benefits of the product.
New England Finish Systems began the interior framing layout with a crew of three. One carpenter would install the BlazeFrame head of wall deflection tracks on each floor, and after HVAC ductwork was hung, the rest of the framing crew returned to construct the remainder of the wall assembly with 3-5/8-in. ClarkDietrich precut cold-formed steel studs. Stud spacing for interior walls and area separation firewalls was 16 in. on-center.
The crew found that BlazeFrame was easier and faster to install and a better fit for this installation than their typical firestopping methods. On average, the crew was able to complete a floor in a week’s time.
"We found that the BlazeFrame product lends itself very well to a flat decking installation like this, and it saved us plenty of labor and caulking. We also had fewer safety risks because there wasn’t as much time spent on the ladder installing the tracks and sealing joints. BlazeFrame helped us shave several days off our schedule and finish earlier than expected, so we were very pleased with it.
All told, the project required 12,000 lineal feet of the BlazeFrame 3-5/8-in. track, 500 lineal ft. of BlazeFrame expansion joint and 24,000, 4- by 9-foot sheets of 5/8-in. drywall.