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Piling: Hitting the jackpot

crop hard rock

Redevelopment of Florida’s iconic Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is now taking shape but has called for some complex ground engineering solutions

The US$1.8bn (£1.37bn) redevelopment of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida, US will definitely be eye-catching when the guitar-shaped 36 storey hotel opens its doors next year. However, the ground conditions below the 137m tall structure has created some foundation challenges that resulted in three of Keller’s US businesses working together using multiple techniques to resolve.

The project is far from simple – alongside the glass-fronted, guitar-shaped hotel is an expansive lake and the complex will also feature what’s claimed to be the largest pool area in the region, an expanded casino and new show venue. Keller’s HJ Foundations, Hayward Baker and Suncoast Post-Tension joined forces under one contract to overcome issues with high groundwater and peaty soils.

The new complex for the Seminole Tribe is being undertaken by main contractor Suffolk, which called on Keller to undertake the ground engineering element after previously working on the Simonole Tribes’ other Hard Rock developments including Coconut Creek, Tampa and Louisiana.

hard rock casino

hard rock casino

Keller’s HJ Foundations, Hayward Baker and Suncoast Post-Tension worked together on the project

Keller’s project scope involved designing and building the foundation support system for all of the proposed new buildings. According to Keller, providing a complete under one contract delivered cost savings for the client and removed the need for multiple contractors but says the team faced significant challenges.

“The area was very swampy and peaty, with deep lakes and poor soils,” explains HJ Foundation vice-president Andres Baquerizo. “A lot of the work also had to be carried out in low-headroom areas.”

HJ designed and installed all of the piling work on the main hotel tower, as well as for a smaller, poolside tower, the Hard Rock Live stadium and for the low-headroom areas of the valet tunnel connecting the garage to the casino.

The latter was located beneath an existing garage in a confined area with just a 4.87m vertical clearance in places. Hayward Baker constructed 4.57m-deep gravity walls (between 1.5m and 3m thick), using wet-soil mixing. Excavation support in open headroom switched to sheet piles. But not only did the team have to contend with low headroom within the garage, they also had to work next to and beneath an US$8M (£6M), 60m-long television screen, curving around the car park.

Multiple techniques were combined to act as one excavation support system.

“Traditional sheet piling couldn’t be completed in the low-headroom areas, so we constructed the soilcrete gravity walls,” explains Hayward Baker senior project manager Jeremiah Filjones.

“We used speciality batching and soil-mixing equipment to create in-situ soilcrete into which we installed driven H-piles. Once we’d cleared the garage area and television, we were able to install a sheet pile earth-retention system using traditional pile driving.”

Sheet pile lengths ranged from 5.2m to 12.2m, with micropiles used under the low-rise structures as deep foundations. Once the tunnel excavation began, the team installed internal bracing along the top of the sheet-pile system.



Other Hayward Baker techniques included using vibro-compaction, vibro-replacement/stone columns and compaction grouting to increase the bearing values on the shallow foundations for the low-rise structures, and augercast piles installed by HJ for the deep foundations of the main tower.


Throughout, the Keller teams had to be mindful of not interfering with the day-to-day operations of the existing casino. Any unplanned disruption or delay would cost the casino thousands of dollars a minute, so the team had to plan carefully to avoid any financial penalties.

While Hayward Baker and HJ were focused below ground, Suncoast Post-Tension was looking up, bringing its expertise to the main hotel tower.

Suncoast supplied over 210,000m of encapsulated unbonded post-tensioning materials and 5,000 Suncoast stud reinforcement system units for the 45,057m2 of 228mm elevated floor slabs. The stud reinforcement system assemblies provide an economical and easy-to-install solution for providing punching shear reinforcement in the thinner slabs that result from the use of post-tension reinforcement.

“The timeframe for the project was very stringent but being able to react so quickly and commit to the schedule is something our competitors couldn’t do,” says Suncoast regional sales manager Raymond J Bontz. “There were two main core areas in the hotel itself where the post-tensioning tendons couldn’t be stressed, so our engineers had to provide a construction sequence that facilitated stressing the tendons from outside of these areas.

“We also had to provide very detailed drawings of our anchor system for the building information modelling (BIM). You can’t have anything that would interfere with the glass facade of the hotel, so we had to create in-depth details of the anchorages which in BIM would show any potential conflicts with the facade embeds, so the anchorage locations could be adjusted if required.”

The team work paid off and much of Keller’s work was completed ahead of schedule clearing the way for above ground work that will see 3,267 slot machines, 178 game tables and 806 more guest rooms added to the complex.






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