The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 11, 2010

Trades building modern science complex at Eastern Michigan

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

YPSILANTI – The largest single construction project in the history of Eastern Michigan University will transform both the look of the Jefferson Science Complex on the exterior – as well as the education and research on the building’s interior.

The first phase of the $90 million project, which is ongoing, is the construction of a new three-level, 85,000 square-foot addition on the western face of the building. “We’re in good shape, we’re on time and we’re on budget,” said Ron Huck, project manager for AECOM, the program manager acting on behalf of Eastern Michigan. Christman is acting as construction manager. “We have a really good group of subcontractors and tradespeople out here.”

Completed in 1969, the Jefferson Science building is, in a word, obsolete. Exhaust hoods, counter space and work-flow areas are all inadequate for modern research and instruction. A new mechanical system for the entire renovated complex will save big money on heating and cooling costs.

When the entire addition and renovation is complete, 36 new science labs will be created. The building will be renovated to advanced LEED specifications, including a “green” roof, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and a rain garden to help filter and detain storm water runoff.

“This will be enhanced teaching space,” said Marianne Laporte, head of the biology department at EMU. “Interdisciplinary labs are the wave of the future. To be able to solve an environmental problem, you can’t just use one discipline. This design really breaks down the walls.” The revamped building will house biology, chemistry, geography and geology, physics and astronomy, and psychology departments.

Phase one of the project is expected to be complete Oct. 1. Phase 2 will include renovation of the existing building’s basement and floors 1 and 2 (due to be complete in September 2011) and Phase 3 (the renovation of floors 3, 4 and 5), expected to be complete and wrap up the entire project in September 2012.

Huck said it took some additional foundation engineering to work around the poor soil conditions at the site.  Beyond that, he said construction has proceeded pretty much as planned. Approximately 120 Hardhats are working on the project.

“The big challenge we have here is that we’re coexisting with the user groups” – faculty and students, Huck said. New construction is ongoing just the other side of a cinder block wall where teaching and research is taking place in the existing building. “We have to be respectful of the noise and vibration we create,” Huck said. “We realize that the vibration from a power tamper is going to affect somebody looking through a microscope on the other side of that wall, so we’re trying to do things during times that work with their needs.”

Some of the unique features of the new complex will be a spherical shaped classroom; a pedestrian bridge that will connect the west parking lots to the science complex, and an entry atrium will serve as a gateway and pass-through from the west parking lots to the campus center. Huck said 75-80 percent of the space in the existing Jefferson building would be gutted during the renovation.

“This is a historic project in several respects,” said Susan Martin, EMU president, at the Nov. 18 groundbreaking. “First, it is the largest single construction project in the history of the University. But, more importantly, this science complex will help EMU meet the national need for more teachers in science, technology, engineering and math. EMU is a leader in science education.”

THE ADDITION to the Eastern Michigan University Jefferson Science Complex will eventually blend in with the existing building at right, which was completed in 1969. Here Carpenter Jason Roof of Local 687 removes nails from a concrete wall.

IRON WORKER Katrina Kudzia of Local 25 welds stainless steel frames for a new curtain wall on the addition of EMU’s Jefferson Complex.