Zero Room for Error – The Challenges of Urban Campus Expansions


Zero lot line construction is becoming increasingly common as urban campuses expand, presenting obstacles for logistics, safety, site control, and delivery. See how building on the edge of an occupied campus can increase construction challenges. 

What is Zero Lot Line Construction? 

Zero lot line construction is any construction project that comes up to, or very near, the property line. 

For commercial projects, building to the edge of the lot line is useful when it comes to planning for future building projects. As University of Colorado Boulder Project Manager Rachel Stonecypher says, “As we look for new locations to build on the main campus, we give serious consideration as to the available area in that location to ensure that there is as much site available to construct, even though it would still be considered zero lot line.” However, sometimes that room is just not enough to accommodate the construction needs, which is when serious planning and coordination needs to begin. 

What are the Biggest Challenges of Zero Lot Line Construction? 

“The biggest challenge from an owner’s perspective is the significant planning and logistical considerations that are taken into account as soon as the project scope is identified,” Stonecypher notes. “This includes what we are able to use for staging, truck access, if there is space for construction trailers, parking availability, how to maintain safe access around the site, etc. This also has a large impact on cost of the project.” 

Proper communication to the campus community about construction activities and timeline is key. To reduce congestion, the college may wish to schedule construction for summer months, when the campus is less crowded. 

Zero lot line jobs can also affect equipment storage and delivery. With a large lot, there’s plenty of room to store things and still put up the building. With zero lot line jobs, there’s not as much room and thus many materials may need to be stored offsite, which requires lean construction practices, such as just-in-time deliveries (meaning materials show up at the exact time they are needed for installation) and pre-fabricating materials offsite. 

Deliveries also need to be coordinated around campus activities to avoid passing period for students, yet not too early to disrupt nearby dorms. Additionally, major campus activities, such as sporting events, must be considered on the delivery schedule. 

Using flaggers and traffic control are a must when working around a bustling campus.  “We don’t want to see trucks for the site blocking campus roadways or parking lots, or along city streets just waiting to enter. Ensuring safe access for pedestrians and vehicles while deliveries are taking place generally requires an individual to be paying attention to the trucks and people in the area. Owners rely on the GC to ensure they are coordinating all of this so the construction site doesn’t get congested and it doesn’t spill out into the campus,” says Stonecypher. 

Safety Considerations With Zero Lot Line Construction 

The congestion aspect of zero lot line jobs means there are more safety considerations for the crew to take into account. With a larger lot, pedestrian and car traffic may not pass near the active construction zone. With a zero lot line job, the crew must take extra measures to keep cars and pedestrians away from the active zone. Jersey barriers, fencing, and traffic signage are often used to ensure the separation and safety of pedestrians and traffic. By controlling car traffic or rerouting pedestrians — which may mean providing ADA compliant sidewalks with overhead protection tunnels — the crew can maintain a safe job site. 

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