Brushaber Student Commons

  • Location: St. Paul, MN
  • Architect of Record: KKE Architects
  • Design Architect: Bruner/Cott
  • Client: Bethel University

Project Highlights

  • Winner of the 2009 Woodworks Wood Engineering Award
  • Glulam wood roof system
  • Skyway connection
  • Steeply graded site


Nestled into a hillside above Valentine Lake, Bethel’s new student center ties into several existing buildings via concourses, skyways, and a new commons area. The main building rises 4 levels from shoreline to hilltop and uses a cast-in-place concrete wide module pan and joist system atop spread footings. Excavation of the site required the removal of 30,000 yards of soil, leaving a grade change of 2 levels from southwest to northeast across the site. To deal with the permanent unbalanced earth pressure created by the steep grade, a cast-in-place concrete framing system with concrete shear walls was deemed the best solution. At the roof level of the student center is an enclosed steel-framed penthouse. The adjacent dining area, the main focal point of student life in the commons building, uses a glulam wood roof system suspended over a perimeter clerestory glass curtain wall system. One of the interesting challenges of this project involved a steel skyway supported by hangar rods in the commons area of the building, which has a wood-framed roof. By creating a short steel cantilever at the skyway level the load path is driven into a steel column instead of depending on the wood roof system to sustain permanent loads.