Blach Rapidly Transforms Santa Clara University’s Residence Halls

McLaughlin & Walsh Residence Halls

Santa Clara, Calif. – (June 25, 2015) – Blach Construction recently completed a major transformation of Santa Clara University’s residence halls in order to rapidly merge two 60-year-old buildings and construct a new commons building.

The McLaughlin-Walsh Residence Hall project, completed by Blach Construction, is at the heart of the university’s campus, located off El Camino Real in Santa Clara. Santa Clara University ( is California's oldest operating higher-education institution and a comprehensive Jesuit Catholic university that serves more than 8,000 students. This project was developed in order to help the University provide improved amenities to its students and to unify the on-campus housing community.

The improvements included renovations to the existing McLaughlin and Walsh residence halls and construction of a new three-story commons building. The new building merges the two halls and provides leisure, event and study space for students and staff. The unified building will also serve as home for the Unity Residential Learning Community.

The residence halls’ renovation included the addition, replacement and expansion of bathrooms throughout the building, kitchen additions, new finishes, electrical and data systems and reconfiguration of staff apartments.

Blach Construction ( collaborated with San Jose-based design firm Steinberg Architects ( to deliver the renovation portion of the 55,000 sq.ft. project in 11 weeks, just in time for the fall quarter. Construction of the new commons building was completed in five months, with an opening date of January 2015.

Following the selection process in January 2014, Blach quickly began assembling the Design/Build team and budgeting the project as the conceptual design was being completed. Blach’s project team worked collaboratively with Steinberg and its Design/Build mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) trade contractors to deliver the permit submittals for the renovation in 10 weeks and the permit application for the new building in just four weeks.

“This project is impressive as it was designed, permitted and constructed in less than one year from conceptual drawings,” commented Bassel Anber, preconstruction executive for Blach Construction. “The McLaughlin-Walsh Residence Hall project extends a great relationship between Blach and the University, and will help unite the on-campus student community.”

Blach’s project team implemented Lean construction tools, such as pull planning, and Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools as part of its approach to renovating the residence halls on a fast-paced summer construction schedule. The use of these tools was essential to the project’s success.

The three-story commons building was integrated between the two existing residence buildings, which were 26 feet apart and seven inches different in elevation. Adding to the project’s complexity, the commons building included 40-foot drilled pier foundations and unique floor plates at each level. Complex expansion joints separate the new steel building from the existing concrete residence buildings.  Construction for this building was completed in only five months.

The new commons building now serves as a bridge between each wing of the McLaughlin-Walsh Residence Hall and includes lounges, lobbies, conference and program spaces, offices, student kitchens on each floor and a new elevator for ADA accessibility. Additionally, the McLaughlin-Walsh Residence hall’s two main entrances, originally facing out toward Santa Clara Street, were also re-configured to face Kennedy Commons and the middle of the residential quad.

Blach Construction Company builds structures of enduring quality and value throughout Northern and Central California. The company’s experience encompasses a broad cross-section of commercial, industrial and institutional building types, including education, healthcare, technology, life sciences, professional services and civic/community facilities. Blach is also a recognized leader in sustainable design and construction. The company is based in Silicon Valley, with a full-service regional office located in Monterey.

Posted on Thursday, June 25, 2015