National Historic Site Gains New Inn
Precision Walls Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina, recently designed, manufactured and installed TrusSteel trusses on an inn on the property of the largest private home in America: historic Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
The trusses support approximately 34,941 square feet of roof on the inn. Because of the unique design of the building, framing had to be formed to shape radius roofs in several areas, requiring curved overhang extensions manufactured from C-shaped stud framing. The trusses were spaced at 5-feet 4-inches to maximize the use of the structure roof deck span.
“It was a big job in beautiful surroundings. I’m glad our company was chosen as part of the construction of such a unique building,” said Pete Greer, general manager of the panelization and truss division of Precision Walls.
The concept of building an inn was conceived more than 100 years ago, shortly after George W. Vanderbilt finished his 250-room French Renaissance estate, which took six years to build and is considered the most famous complex building in the world.
Records show that Vanderbilt sketched plans for a 50-room inn and estimated the cost at $17,509.20, excluding wallpaper, plumbing, heating and electrical work, but the idea never came to fruition. However, it was the seed of today’s modern, upscale, enlarged inn.
The recently opened Inn on Biltmore Estate has 213-rooms and cost $31 million. It was designed to give guests an idea of what it would have been like to stay on the lavish estate around 1900. The 165,000 square foot inn opened in 2001, with rooms in season ranging from $160 to $195 per night and an additional nine suites available from $900 to $2,000 per night.
Once convinced that the inn would be financially sound, Biltmore official spent 18 months interviewing architects and contractors. Selected for architecture was the prestigious Atlanta firm; Thompson, Ventulett & Stainback Associates; and landscape architecture was awarded to the Design Workshop of Aspen Colo. Hughes Design Associates of McLean, Va., is the interior design firm; and construction is being done by W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company of Philadelphia, Mississippi.
Yates & Sons is number one in the nation in the construction of hospitality buildings, such as, hotels, motels and condominiums. For economical reasons the company decided to change the roof from a steel design to trusses, and Precision Walls was one of three subcontractors that submitted a roof truss system, one was stick-built.
“We hadn’t used Precision Walls before,” said Tom Maddray, Carolina Division Manager for Yates & Sons. “Even though Alpine designed trusses cost a little more, you can see the benefits by just walking underneath and looking at the span. They (Precision Walls) did something with these trusses I didn’t think could be done.”
The trusses were manufactured at Precision Walls’ Raleigh facility, trucked to the job site, hoisted to the roof by crane and installed.
“In the past we have transported trusses manufactured using traditional shapes and they looked like spaghetti when we got to the site,” said Greer. “We don't have that problem with Alpine trusses.”
Maddray said groups of architects had come to the site to review the job because it has the most complicated roof design trusses that have ever been built.
“They were amazed,” said Maddray. “Because it was difficult to take something shaped like an upside-down pointed ice cream cone and flare it out into a radius. There’s one example that says a thousand words about what can be done with those trusses. That includes a round roof coming into a 12-12 pitch and going into a curve. I’m thoroughly impressed with what Precision Walls did.”
Truss designers who were involved in the project include Donnie Kirkland of Alpine TrusSteel Engineering, Rob Munich of Excel Engineering, and John W. “Bill” Canipe and Michael Amerson of Precision Walls.
“They did a good job,” said Maddray. “We appreciate them.”
Beside guest rooms and suites, the facility will include a ballroom, banquet rooms, board and meeting rooms. There will also be a full-service 150-seat restaurant, a library, lobby bar, an exterior swimming pool and a fitness room.
“We’ve looked at this project for 20 years,” said Richard T, Pressley, chief financial officer and executive vice president of the Biltmore Company.
The designers took some cues from the work of the distinguished team that designed Biltmore House in the late 1800’s. Those involved included Richard Morris Hunt, who designed the house, and is noted as the architect for the center part of the Fifth Avenue façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The landscape plan was created by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park along with Calvert Vaux.
Chief architect for the inn, Scott Sickeler, said, “The intent was partially to create a building that didn’t compete with the house but gave guests a sense of staying at the house. What caught me by surprise was the influence Olmsted had over the estate.”
Landscaping of the inn’s grounds were influenced by Olmstead’s work of more than 100 years ago and is already completed to allow a year’s growth before the inn opens next March.
From the inn, guests will be able to see the Biltmore House framed by woodlands and mountains, downtown Asheville in the distance and Mount Pisgah National Forest, which was once part of Biltmore property.
“It’s 270 degrees of uninterrupted wilderness,” said Sickeler.
Although George Vanderbilt died in 1914 during an emergency appendectomy, Biltmore Estate and 8,000 acres of property have remained in the family through four generations. The Estate was opened to the public in 1930, closed during World War II, and reopened in 1945. The house was placed on the national Registry of Historic Places in 1963.
Known worldwide, last year the Biltmore House was visited by 900,000 people. Also popular with visitors were the outbuildings, which include a conservatory and a winery. Over the years the house has served as a location for numerous movies.
On a hill two miles from the Biltmore House, George Vanderbilt’s century-old vision of an inn is taking shape, incorporating some of the signature features of the house. Limestone, like that used on the exterior of the house, will cover the lobby floor; oak for the library and black walnut for the floors of the private dining room came from trees on the property; and the roof is slate like that on the House.
Underneath the inn’s roof will be trusses that visitors will never see, but engineer-turned-general manager Greer will always be aware of his company’s contribution to what is destined to become an historic building.
“As a North Carolina native,” said Greer, “I’m especially proud of this project.”
Authorized TrusSteel Fabricator
Precision Walls, Inc.
Architect : Thompson, Ventulett & Stainback, Atlanta, GA
General Contractor : W.G. Yates & Sons Const., Philadelphia, MS
TrusSteel Fabricator : Precision Walls Inc., Raleigh, NC
Project Description : Addition to Historic Landmark
Area Under TrusSteel : 35,000 SF
Photos of completed project courtesy of the Biltmore Estate.
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