Building Materials

Coldspring implemented grand measures to ensure a quality and efficient fabrication and delivery process for the Davis Barracks at USMA, West Point.

Sitting on high ground overlooking the Hudson River in upstate New York — 50 miles north of Manhattan – United States Military Academy (USMA), West Point is one of the four U.S. military service academies and the oldest
continuously occupied military post in America. According to a statement on the Academy’s website, “West Point’s role in our nation’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America.” The United States Military Academy was established in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson, and today the entire campus is recognized as a national historic landmark and home to numerous historic sites, buildings and monuments.

The Norman-style architecture on the 200+-year-old campus is impressive, with most buildings constructed of gray- and black-colored granite. Most recently, a new cadet barracks, which was named after General Benjamin Davis Jr., a former Tuskegee Airman honored as the first African-American General in the U.S. Air Force, was added to accommodate the growing number of men and women entering the Academy. The architecture and design was a joint venture between New York-based STV/URS. After a search by the design team to find granite varieties that were complementary of the granite used for the exterior facades of the existing buildings, it was determined that the best choice would be ANSI/NSC 373 certified Charcoal Black® and Mesabi Black® granite from Coldspring of Cold Spring, MN. Nearly 200,000 square feet of custom-cut and hand-crafted pieces were used for the exterior, site wall, stair treads and paving of West Point’s newest cadet barracks, which stands 107 feet high.

“The U.S. Military Academy wanted a 21st century barracks building that looked like it was originally designed to fit in with the other historic buildings,” said Shiroy Ranji, AIA, a senior associate at STV. The introduction of well-lit spaces and a non-institutional look was preferred for the 650 cadets. The 288,000-squarefoot, six-story building was designed to accommodate five companies, with each company occupying a single contiguous floor. Sustainable design and energy efficiency were also high on the priority list.

“The original historic buildings were made of all hand-cut granite, which was the basis of the design for the Davis Barracks,” Ranji went on to say. “Due to time constraints and volume of granite required, the stone was machine cut into blocks and then the edges were hand chipped,” he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Amesse Photography

Choosing Minnesota Granite
According to the architect, in addition to Coldspring’s quarries, the design team visited four other sites located in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. “The original granite selected for the building was from a quarry in Massachusetts, however, the quarry could not produce the quantity required within the allotted schedule,” he explained. “[Coldspring’s] quarry in Minnesota was identified and the team visited the quarry in winter to approve the granite selection. The user group and stakeholders visited the quarries as well and were closely involved with the stone selection.” During the visit to the quarry, topics such as schedule, layout of the random ashlar pattern and delivery systems were discussed. “It was decided to have the quarry layout the random pattern, number the stones and deliver each crate to the site with a layout plan,” said Ranji. Charcoal Black® granite from Coldspring’s quarry in St. Cloud, MN, was chosen for the new barrack’s exterior facade and Mesabi Black® granite from the company’s site in Babbitt, MN, was used for the building base and grand stair. “This created a visual podium or base for the building and provided some contrast to the building,” explained the architect. “The stone sizes were varied. Larger pieces of 36 x 18 inches are at the lower levels, while smaller stone sizes of 18 x 12 inches are at the higher elevations to give the building a monumental scale.”

Through continuous communication by all those involved, Coldspring was able to provide the colors, quality, coordination and schedule needed for the prestigious and immense project. When discussing reasons why their Minnesota granite was selected for the Davis Barracks, Dan Rea, vice president of sales and marketing for Coldspring said, “They were able to visualize the project by visiting the quarry and specific vein the granite would come from, as well as visiting a local project that used a similar style they were looking to achieve. The granite also fit within their budget.”

Meeting Project Demands
Coldspring worked efficiently and brought on extra manpower to assist in meeting the deadline. The stone producer said that for this project they took out of the Charcoal Black® quarry more granite than they typically do in a year. Rea explained that with a tight deadline, it was essential that they had complete control over shipping the 200,000 4-inchthick, split-face pieces of granite – totally 15 million pounds — from central Minnesota to upstate New York. “It’s not typical for pieces this size to be shipped in their finished state to the jobsite, but the puzzle-like process for installation made it possible,” he said. “Each piece was hand-crafted and numbered to fit into a specific spot, and once on site was easily assembled. This cut down time and onsite work significantly.” To be more specific, Rea explained that by fitting the pieces together at their facility beforehand, manpower on site was reduced by so much that it would have taken another 18 months to complete otherwise. Additionally, it minimized the amount of waste on the jobsite.

“By completion, 310 trucks made the trip across country, on time, and at times, ahead of schedule,” said Rea, adding that one of the unique aspects of the project was the fact that they were going for a pattern without looking like a pattern. “This was achieved by the hand finishing technique on each piece.” In total, it took one year for the STV design team to finish the design of the Davis Barracks and four years for the design-build team to complete the project, including construction. STV incorporated sustainable design features to meet the project’s goal of LEED® Silver certification and used Building Information Modeling (BIM) software to create the bid documents and renderings. Renewable energy components include passive solar design principles, transpired solar collectors and hot water solar panels on the roof.

A dedication ceremony for the new building was held on August 18, 2017 and it has been fully occupied since the fall of that year. The Davis Barracks has also won many awards, including ENR Best of the Best 2018, as well as an internal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers award. “Creating a unique award-winning building at the historic U.S. Military Academy campus was a great honor for us,” said Ranji. We receive compliments every time we visit the campus as we continued working on other projects at USMA, West Point.”

General Contractor: Walsh Construction Company
Architect/Engineer of Record: Clark Nexsen, Inc.
Design Architect/Engineer: STV/URS Joint Venture
Stone Producer/Fabriactor: Coldspring
Stone Mason: Acranom Masonry

Article C/O Building Stone Magazine, Spring 2019

Contact Us