Coming Together

With the major structural elements completed, work shifts to complete the exterior and the finer details of the interior of the new building

May 1st, 2015

It is snowing as I write this on May 11, 2015 – unusual weather even for Grand Forks, and unfortunate timing since this latest update on the status of the new University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is for the Summer issue of ND Medicine. With the cold hopefully on its way out, you will start to see even more activity out on site as the trades push hard to stay ahead of schedule to prepare - believe it or not – for the upcoming winter months, which I am told by the project team are only seven months from now.

We are now 56 weeks to completion, and on schedule (and on budget) to open in May 2016. Since the previous issue of this magazine, much of the mechanical and electrical infrastructure has been put in place and framing complete. Door frames have also been hung, making it look much more like a school and less like a roller rink. Tuesday, May 5 was a banner day on site, as it was the 25th and final concrete pour for the project.

For students and faculty, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences has completed Phase 1 of the Transition Management plan, so be on the lookout for the "Coming Together" logo on information about upcoming events and news on the move to the new space. Norby’s and Gaffaney's/Hannaher’s have set up furniture mock-ups in the lower level of the existing school to allow people to test out some of the desks, chairs and other furnishings that will be in the building. At the same time, PCL constructed a full-size office mockup for people to envision the finishes and layout within some of the office and workstations.

A few facts from PCL and Community Contractors, the Construction Managers on the project:

  • As of Friday, May 8, the project has completed 155,035 man hours with zero lost time. PCL has created an on-site safety program called "Stop the Drop" in order to minimize objects being dropped by the trades. While this may seem like a no-brainer, with dozens of people working on multiple open floors, something as simple as a loose grip on a tool handle can accidentally injure someone working below.

  • Over 533 submittals have been issued. In our industry, documents like specifications and drawings are the peanut butter and jelly of the project. Submittals are the project detail information that is outlined in the project specifications and created in tandem with the construction documents to verify the specific building products that the sub-contractors will install in the building. Submittals range from light fixtures and stair fabrication to mechanical louvers and carpet. When you have hundreds of people working on a building, you need documents such as these as one of many forms of checks and balances to ensure that what is designed, gets built.

  • We have received many comments from passersby interested in the choice of yellow for the exterior shell of the building. Not to worry; the color is a result of the air barrier spray that is applied to ensure a tight seal before the brick is laid.

  • There is 70,783 square feet of exterior masonry on the building, equivalent to 15 college basketball courts.

  • The elevated decks poured to date contain enough concrete to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools. The first deck was poured on August 26 and was equal to the weight of five Boeing 747s.

  • There is enough interior framing in place to run the length of a hockey rink more than 37 times.

The grand amphitheatre stair recently arrived and will begin fabrication and installation soon. This staircase is a central point in the building for both circulation and gathering, and will be made of terrazzo and wood. With the concrete structure complete the main tower crane will shift focus to construct the mechanical penthouse that occupies a large portion of the roof, after which the crane will have done its duty and will be removed from the site. With the interior and exterior framing nearing well underway, the Learning Halls will also start to take shape over the next few months. Most visibly, the brick, metal panel and glass will be installed on the exterior.

While JLG, Steinberg, Perkins+Will, PCL, Community Contractors, and the SMHS students, faculty and staff directly influence the new building project every day, the SMHS has given everyone the opportunity to leave their mark for future generations. I hope you had the opportunity to sign one of the two steel beams that were placed in the penthouse. Even if not, please know that your support and interest are as important and long-lasting. Have a great summer, and I look forward to updating you again as the next school year begins.

Source: Lonnie Laffen, JLG Architects

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