How a high-end, loft-style apartment building harnessed new firestopping tech
The property now called Lofts at the HUPP, once known as “The Weber Implement and Automobile Company Building,” has seen a whole lot of changes over the years. Located on the historic “automobile row” of the Downtown West area of St. Louis, MO, at 1815 Locust Street, the building was constructed in 1919, serving as the headquarters of the growing Weber Implement and Automobile Company.
In this space, the company distributed a wide variety of vehicles — most notably, the short-lived Hupmobile from the Hupp Motor Company — through 1940. For many years after this, the building changed hands several times, playing host to everything from phonograph record distributors to radio equipment suppliers. Eventually, in 1982, it landed in the lap of tire wholesaler Tire Mart, where it stayed until fairly recently. In 2004, the building’s long legacy was recognized by being added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Now, that storied history is being lovingly preserved by its latest owners — while simultaneously making sweeping changes to revamp the space for modern expectations — as part of a $21.5 million renovation project to convert the space into 70 high-end, loft-style apartments.
Renovating Lofts at the HUPP
It may be helpful, in this massive renovation project, to first name the elements of the three-story building that aren’t being retouched. The exterior walls all stayed put, as did the elaborate terra cotta ornamentations that line the south- and west-facing sides of the building, intact from their original installation in 1919. The east-facing side of the building has simply been painted a sleek shade of black to place a more modern stamp on the updated structure.
Given that, throughout its long history, the building primarily served as various distribution centers, converting the building's interior has been a massive undertaking, requiring thousands of feet of new steel framing and drywall to turn the space into three floors of luxury apartments. For this, the building’s developers tapped the preeminent St. Louis drywalling contractor D&L Painting & Drywall to bring its magic touch to the project.
Besides the basics of framing, hanging and finishing drywall, D&L Painting & Drywall (the crew who also headed up the drywall finishing on the Front Page Lofts project we previously reported on) chose Trim-Tex to help them solve two challenges: building movement and making the new units fully code compliant to prevent the spread of smoke, fire and sound. Trim-Tex Fire Bead solved both by allowing them to accomplish all of this in one solution.
Trim-Tex's Fire Bead accommodates up to a quarter inch of building movement and its integrated intumescent material stops smoke and fire penetration. It was chosen for all head-of-wall details between units and common areas. For the head-of-wall joints within the units themselves, Trim-Tex's Wall Mounted Deflection Bead was chosen — essentially the same product as Fire Bead, minus the intumescent material. In total, D&L installed around 12,000 linear feet of Fire Bead and 6,000 linear feet of Deflection Bead.
Both of these vinyl solutions were tailor-made for the building’s concrete ceilings, especially because the flexible gasket at the top of both beads maintain perfect seals even in areas where the building’s original concrete assemblies are less than perfectly straight.
Since the D&L crew’s carpenters (who installed the beads in each head-of-wall gap, using 847 Spray Adhesive and half-inch staples) and drywall finishers had already been using Deflection Bead for many years, there was no learning curve to install Fire Bead. And not only is it easy to install, but its integrated intumescent material means no added fire-proofing steps are needed.
Solutions like Fire Bead also take the likelihood of user error in the proper dosage of firestop materials down to almost zero, and can be quickly inspected right after it’s applied (check out the photo below to see how easy it is for inspectors to spot the bead's bright pink hue before painting these areas), so no more callbacks for the installers at D&L, either. Take all this new efficiency and multiply it by all 70 units, and the time savings are substantial.
There was a special challenge in the drywalling and finishing stages of this project, however, posed by the uniquely shaped columns that dot the entire interior of Lofts at the HUPP.
The Lofts at the HUPP column problem
Throughout the space, the crew at D&L Painting & Drywall was forced to contend with numerous concrete columns, all of which are round with wide, flared tops.
Normally, this is the sort of finishing problem that Trim-Tex’s factory-notched archway beads, like the Archway Tear Away L Bead, are built to solve — their ability to flex around a rounded contour make them perfect for a unique challenge like these flared columns. In this case, however, the craftspeople at D&L needed the wall joints on either side of these columns to also be fire rated, as they appeared most frequently in the walls separating units from one another and from hallways, adding an extra layer of difficulty to this challenge.
In the end, Fire Bead and a little ingenuity went a long way here. Since the vinyl Fire Bead does not come pre-notched as an archway bead does, the D&L installers used a pair of snips to cut their own notches into the bead in the areas where Fire Bead is butting up against the flared sections of the columns. This allowed the bead to bend around the columns, with the bead’s flexible gasket compressing to form a seal even in these unique circumstances. And, again here, this solution allowed the D&L crews to eliminate any additional fire rated backing materials.
“This project here, where you got the contour of the columns,” says D&L Painting & Drywall Superintendent Bill VanGels, “normally, we would just use a Flat Tear Away and then notch the back side of it so we get it to go to the contour of the columns. This way, we’re doing it with the fire rated Deflection Bead (Fire Bead), so once again, that saves the step of falling back to fire caulk after drywall is finished.”
From makeover to move-in ready
The completed Lofts at the HUPP apartments are modern and quite classy, while still harkening back to the building’s industrial roots. Their high ceilings, huge windows and exposed-brick walls give off an elegant, contemporary feel.
The kitchens in each unit are going to be of particular interest to tenants, with a full setup of stainless-steel appliances perfect for someone who considers themselves a “home chef.” Much attention was paid to the backsplashes in these areas, with gleaming white subway tile punctuated by splashes of bright orange.
Lofts at the HUPP is a poster child for what renovating an old building in a great American city like St. Louis should be all about — allowing a historic structure to endure and stay relevant for many years to come, without destroying what made the building great in the first place.
Lofts at the HUPP begins moving in tenants as early as July 2021, with all units being move-in ready by August.
Fire Bead was exactly the right solution for this project, but there are several fire rated options to suit just about any code compliance job. Learn more about each of these firestopping solutions by visiting FireBead.com, or just hit the button below!