Pushing the Limits of Timber Engineering at Idaho’s ICCU Arena

Pushing the Limits of Timber Engineering at Idaho’s ICCU Arena

June 11, 2024
Jordan Terry SE

Jordan Terry SE

Pushing the Limits of Timber Engineering at Idaho’s ICCU Arena

The University of Idaho had a vision to showcase what Idaho timber can do, stretching the typical boundaries of wooden buildings. That vision was recently celebrated at the ACEC National Engineering Excellence Awards where the University of Idaho ICCU Arena won a 2024 Grand Award, securing recognition as one of the top engineering projects of the year nationwide.

The University of Idaho ICCU Arena is the first venue of its kind, implementing engineered wood products to create an organically shaped roofline and highlight Idaho forestry. The new 62,000-sf, 4,200-seat arena is home to the Vandal men’s and women’s basketball teams and provides a gathering place for campus sporting events, concerts, and more.

The ICCU Arena is situated on the west side of campus, just down the hill from the iconic Kibbie Dome. Its construction cements an athletics corridor at the University, positioned near the track and field complex, golf course, swim center, and tennis courts. The facility provides recreation and event space to the University’s 11,500 students and 2,500 employees as well as surrounding community members.

ICCU Arena in front of the iconic Kibbie Dome

Through partnership and funding from Idaho Central Credit Union, the College of Natural Resources, the USDA Forest Service, alumni groups, and the student body, the University was able to make Idaho timber a focal point, despite the challenges of long spans and unique connections. The mass timber featured in this project includes long-span king-post roof trusses, glulam columns, cross-laminated and dowel-laminated timber floors. This made KPFF a natural partner with their history of mass timber research and innovation. University of Idaho Project Manager Guy Esser said, “During the design phase, KPFF’s collaborative suggestions and solutions were direct and practical in response to the project budget while still understanding the level of aesthetic sophistication that was desired by the University.”

The design and construction team, including Opsis Architecture, StructureCraft, and Hoffman Construction, were all integral to the success of the final project. Opsis led the architectural design with support from Hastings+Chivetta, a sports architecture specialist. They developed the concept of the undulating roof, mimicking the hills of the Palouse and paying homage to Idaho’s natural beauty.

The organic geometry and gentle slopes presented a challenge for supporting the long spans. StructureCraft developed the concept of a portal frame with king post trusses for the timber roof structure, which allowed for longer, unobstructed spans without large, bulky beams. The initial massing of the roof would have required two years of fabrication to lay up all the unique curves. The team worked with manufacturers to break up the unique mass timber members into smaller pieces that could be produced using their machinery. Judsen Williams explains, “We as engineers were able to work directly with several manufacturers in Idaho to allow us to do something that had never been done before. StructureCraft took the free-formed surface of the roof and rationalized it into a series of single-curved radius and straight pieces that were manufactured more efficiently.”

King-Post Trusses

MW Engineers tackled the challenge of thoughtfully integrating critical building systems while celebrating the roof structure. Ductwork for arena ventilation was concealed between glulam members of the king-post trusses and portal frame, and pre-installed at StructureCraft’s fabrication facility to allow for expedited erection and safer installation.

Ductwork between Glulam Pairs

Hoffman Construction brought the whole project together as the general contractor and worked with subcontractors to utilize sustainable wood harvesting for the arena materials. As much as possible, they kept their supply chain local, cutting down on unnecessary emissions from transporting materials across states or countries.

Not only does the completed ICCU Arena include new and improved sports facilities to draw premier student-athletes and excite athletics fans, but the space has the capacity and flexibility to host academic events, concerts, lectures, and more. The building provides a permanent home for the Vandal basketball teams for the first time in University history, complete with coaching offices, locker rooms, athletic training facilities, and a practice gym. The new practice gym allows players uninterrupted access to a first-class training facility. Players and coaches are confident that this will help the teams improve their performance in future seasons. The arena solidifies the University of Idaho athletics reputation, drawing in spectators for a one-of-a-kind fan experience that is both intimate and exhilarating.

Ultimately, this building is a home for past, present, and future Vandals. It is a place for students to gather and for spectators to experience what it’s like to be part of “the brave and the bold.”

A spectator’s view through the portal frame
Pushing the Limits of Timber Engineering at Idaho’s ICCU Arena

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