2016 Heavy Commercial 1st Runner-Up

Park City, Utah, is best known in the entertainment industry as the location of the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States. Now, the town is also gaining attention for the new cutting edge film studio built just south of town. It is receiving national attention not only for its sustainable features—it’s built to LEED-Silver standards—but also for its remarkable acoustic properties and speed of construction.

The 57,500-sq.-ft. motion picture studio is centered around three enormous sound stages.

From the beginning, the project was designed to LEED-Silver energy standards because of the high altitude and cold winters in the Utah mountains. Additionally, the studio is located adjacent to a busy intersection and near a four-lane highway. Keeping this outside noise to a minimum was another major design consideration.

With walls topping 50 feet and a minimum of windows, the original plan called for tilt-up construction. However, Sahara Inc., a local Utah contractor was familiar with ICFs, and took the lead in educating the owners on the cost savings, speed of construction, and the impressive sound qualities possible with ICF construction.

Crews stacked, braced and poured 58,000 sq. ft. of ICFs in only 30 days.

The owners were favorably impressed, but worried ICF would not be able to match the speed of construction offered by tilt-up. Sahara responded with an ambitious construction timetable: just 10 months to complete the entire 57,500 sq. ft building.

One key to this schedule was Sahara’s ICF installation subcontractor, IMS Masonry. IMS is one of the larger and well known commercial ICF installers in the country. The two firms have worked together on large-scale ICF projects since the late 1990s, and have successfully completed several theaters that are among the largest ICF projects in the country.

Alan Johnson and Heath Holdaway, the principals at IMS, agreed to put the entire ICF scope in place in the unbelievably short space of 30 days—a schedule that would be almost impossible with other systems, such as masonry. Holdaway says, “That schedule, along with the very strict acoustical and energy code requirements were the final deciding factors that helped them choose ICF over tilt up. ”

Sahara, the GC, would gain other time savings, such as eliminating the separate steps involved in insulating and furring-out the walls, and simplifying the exterior finish work.

Cold winters and noise from the nearby highway led developers to seek a highly insulative, sound-absorbing wall system.

Holdaway says, “Between the seismic, thermal, wall height/clear space and clear span needs, ICF was absolutely the best and right choice for the studios. The studio consultant who advised on the original construction needs had never worked with ICF before. He was very impressed with the speed and acoustical properties of the material.”

Fox Blocks, a brand that IMS has used in the past, was the ICF brand of choice.

Even for a contractor as skilled as IMS, the project was challenging. Most of the 60,000 sq. ft. of ICFs were stacked to 55 feet above grade, without intermediate supports. The roof spans are nearly 100 feet, requiring massive steel joists to span that distance. These, in turn, place enormous loads on the walls. Because of the height of the walls and the area’s seismic zone, a 12-inch-core ICF was used.

In addition to the exterior walls, ICF was used for the demising walls separating the sound stages to minimize sound transfer. As an example of the engineering challenges faced, one of those walls has a large accordion sound door that can be closed off for filming. Measuring 32 feet high, the lintel spans 80 feet long and supports 100′ of roof on both sides. Hundreds and hundreds of embeds needed to be placed precisely on both faces of the walls in order to weld on everything from roof joists to window canopies.

The scale, height, embeds, and extremely tight schedule meant lots could go wrong. The team at IMS, however, were consummate professionals. They met their commitments and the shell was in place within the 30 days promised.

The scale of the project is noteworthy. Most walls reach 55 feet above grade, and one lintel stretched more than 80 feet wide (top). Roof spans were typically about 100 feet,
and sound stage doors (below and far right) are more than 30 feet tall.

Mike Kennaw, director of marketing at Fox Blocks, says, “The owners are extremely happy with the cost of the [ICF] walls compared to conventional tilt up walls. The speed in which the walls were set up and poured saved time, allowing the owners to have the building ready for business one month earlier than planned with the original tilt up design. This building has been in the local news several times because of what it is bringing to the area and the Park City Film Festival.”

As of last fall, the studio was busy filming episodes of ABC television network’s drama “Blood and Oil.” Directors are reportedly highly complimentary of the stages’ acoustical properties.

The sound studio expert consults on new studios all over the world and says he will now be advising ICF use on future studios.

For Park City, the film studio has brought mainstream film and television to the area. It is, to quote one newspaper story, “a dynamic draw for new businesses necessary to support the industry.”

For the ICF industry, it ‘s a landmark project that demonstrates how a committed, highly skilled construction team can make a significant and lasting impact in opening a new construction sector to the industry.

Project Statistics

Location: Park City, Utah
Type: Motion Picture Studio
Size: 57,500 sq. ft. (floor)
ICF Use: 58,000 sq. ft.
Cost: $23.5 million
Total Construction: 10 months
ICF Installation time: 30 days


Construction Team

Owner: Park City Film Studio Dev. LLC
General Contractor: Sahara, Inc.
ICF Installer: IMS Masonry
Architect: AJC Architects
Engineer: BHB Engineers
Form Distributor: Fox Blocks Direct
ICF System: 12″ Fox Blocks


Fast Facts

  • Extremely tight schedule
  • 55-foot tall walls
  • Built to LEED-Silver standards
  • Received nat’l attention from entertainment industry


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