Barr & Barr
- Written by: Neil Cote
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Amherst College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts centers for learning, providing a variety of studies to students from 54 countries. And like any progressive institution, it’s only looking to get better with its planned New Science Center that will offer the ultimate innovative learning atmosphere with the finest state-of-the-art technology.
Construction proceeds on the four-story, 260,000-square-foot multidisciplinary facility designed by the Boston architectural firm, Payette. Upon its expected summer 2018 completion, it will help place Amherst College among the most prestigious undergraduate institutions in research and teaching of the sciences.
It will also mark another great achievement for Barr & Barr, a construction manager that has long distinguished itself in academia, its resume including extensive work at all eight Ivy League campuses as well as at many other private and public schools of high stature.
Having aced those earlier tests, William Aquadro, a Barr & Barr vice president and project executive, says “the company is excited to be part of this milestone building for Amherst College and the academic community of the five-college consortium in Pioneer Valley.”
Abiding by a formula
Aquadro and Matthew Jacobs, project manager of Barr & Barr, spoke with US Builders Review in late April, with the year-old project nearing halfway completion.
It’s likely that project is still on track. Generating 3D models via Building Information Modeling (BIM) gives Barr & Barr near perfect compliance with deadlines and cost estimates, Aquadro said, adding that such expertise here is indispensable, as the New Science Center leaves little or no wiggle room for on-time, on-budget results.
“This schedule is aggressive,” Aquadro and Jacobs said, explaining that when Barr & Barr manages construction projects at state colleges, the company may have a tight time frame, but the school may take the entire next semester to ready the new building.
Not in this case, however. Amherst College is counting upon Barr & Barr to hand over a finished facility by July 30, 2018, mere weeks before it’s put in use for the start of the academic year. The team will work closely with the college’s design and construction team to coordinate the move-in schedules of all the departments when the spring 2018 academic year ends and the space becomes available. Barr & Barr will also work with Amherst’s Building Department to ensure all life-safety requirements are met.
“We’re working closely with the subcontractors to ensure it is done right the first time because there’s no time for going back,” Jacobs says.
Down to a science
On the bucolic campus, there didn’t seem to be many concerns this spring about the project’s progress. Dorms that once stood on the site had long since been demolished, the cast-in-place structure was erected and the steel roof framing started March 27 per the schedule date generated almost two years ago.
In order to meet this milestone, the Operative Advisory Board, subconsultants and the subcontractor base worked through the dead of winter. BIM coordination, shop drawing submittal and review, change management and a team willingness to make changes “on-the-fly” were key to this success. A relatively mild, snowless winter didn’t hurt either.
Exterior envelope work began as soon as the top decks were poured out and shoring for the cast-in-place structure was able to be removed. Interior work began in earnest, although the mechanical subs installed as much as they could with the shores in place. With Barr & Barr’s academic experience partnered with Payette’s design expertise and vision, the team was taking advantage of every opportunity to get ahead of schedule.
Developed in conjunction with a new campus landscape, the New Science Center promotes a strong relationship with the site through the use of material and form. The program is organized into five building elements: two high-energy laboratory bars tucked into the hillside along the east edge of the site and three pavilions of low-intensity programs set in the landscape to the west, toward campus.
The lab wings and pavilions open to a glass-enclosed Commons promoting a community of science. The Commons, transparent and welcoming to the campus with a variety of study and social spaces, links the sciences to the larger campus community. The New Science Center exists below the umbrella of a singular roof form floating above the Commons. It is the symbolic unifying element that provides a quiet datum for the undulating Pelham Hills beyond.
Making the grade
Barr & Barr was founded in 1927 by Joseph R. Barr, who cut his construction teeth while surveying western geography for the railroads. Upon returning east, Barr was entrusted by none other than Nelson Rockefeller Sr. to build the Time Life Building and embellish Rockefeller Center.
“The ways we teach science and conduct research have changed dramatically.”
Celebrating its 90th year as a construction manager, Barr & Barr has a diverse portfolio including academic, commercial, cultural, health care, life science and research, and parking structures in both the private and public sectors throughout New England, the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.
Amherst College’s science heritage is just as extensive and impressive. A 1962 graduate, Gerald R. Fink’s expertise in molecular biology earned him the National Academy of Sciences Award. Barry Bloom, Class of 1958, went on to be Harvard’s Distinguished Service Professor of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Douglas Lowry, an art major from the Class of 1964, developed the technology that underlies the three FDA-approved HPV vaccines.
And there’s a much younger scholar from the Class of 2017, Isaiah L. Holloway Jr., who’s distinguishing himself as an intern at Long Island’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, one of just a few institutions that’s played a pivotal role in the development of molecular genetics and molecular biology.
“The ways we teach science and conduct research have changed dramatically,” says chemistry professor Anthony Bishop. “We’re looking forward to flexible spaces in the new building that allow for innovative and modern ways of teaching science.”
Amherst solicited extensive feedback from faculty and students in planning the New Science Center, and every detail of the building reflects the sense of purpose that emerged.
As a result, the teaching and research spaces have been designed to facilitate the interdisciplinary partnerships that are increasingly shaping discoveries in science. The biology, chemistry and physics departments will share synergies among research labs. Adjacent student write-up spaces create opportunities for students involved in different projects to engage with and learn from one another. The building also contains many highly intensive facilities, including an astronomy observation deck, a biology research and teaching greenhouse, a neuroscience animal facility, and several vibration and electromagnetically isolated research labs.
“Barr & Barr is passionate about building and we are excited to be part of this construction project at this prestigious college that will, for years to come, incorporate a student body of potential future leaders; students that may change the world,” say Aquadro and Jacobs.
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