Case Studies

Bridgewater State University’s Science and Mathematics Center: Triumph for All

  • Written by: Bridgewater State University's Science and Mathematics Center: Triumph for All
  • Produced by: Bridgewater State University's Science and Mathematics Center: Triumph for All
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Bridgewater State University (BSU) is one of the only Massachusetts public institutions with a fully functioning observatory. Perched atop the campus’ cathedral of science is The Marshall Conant Science Building (MCSB). BSU built the state-of-the-art MCSB in 1964, but five decades of evolving teaching styles, technology and an increasing student enrollment rate left the building outdated and bursting at the seams by the early 2000s.

BSU needed a space capable of accommodating a full-time student body that had increased tenfold since the MCSB was built. The university wanted to make sure a total overhaul of the building would do more than just provide students with a larger space and new equipment. BSU tapped Boston-based architecture firm Payette to redesign the space to facilitate interdepartmental collaboration and better reflect the kind of research faculty and students pursue within MCSB’s four walls.

In addition, the university understood that undertaking such an extensive renovation and expansion project at the heart of a densely populated campus would require the help of a highly experienced and results-oriented construction management firm. The university’s search ultimately led to construction firm Barr & Barr Inc. (Barr & Barr). The choice was easy, as Barr & Barr has over 85 years of experience. The Barr & Barr team was also recognized as one of the Top 400 contracting corporations in the country, according to Engineering News-Record.

The employee-owned company works across the Northeast and possesses a long history of successfully completed institutional projects. The company approaches each project with a 100-percent commitment to minimizing the owner’s risk, and the approach seems to be paying off, as the firm boasts a cost estimating track record with 95-percent accuracy. Barr & Barr’s secret lies within the team’s emphasis on preconstruction planning and open communication. The project’s team consults closely with a project owner to anticipate any special concerns and ensure that progress moves swiftly, smoothly and with minimal disruption to its surroundings.

A New Home

Furthermore, Barr & Barr’s emphasis and experience with sustainable construction and LEED certification made it a natural fit for the MCSB project, as BSU and Payette aimed to create a space that would be equally state-of-the-art and sustainable. The new MCSB not only houses a $1 million microscope capable of revealing the structure of a cell section by section, and almost $900,000 worth of equipment for the chemistry department, but it also includes a $1 million greenhouse for the university’s biology program.

“We wound up phasing the project so that we were never working very close to any occupied space on campus,” expands Matt Jacobs, project manager at Barr & Barr. “Of course, the site is located adjacent to a few occupied buildings, but we worked with the teams and the university to ensure everything was clearly delineated and also to give BSU staff enough time to vacate the spaces to be renovated.”

All in all, Barr & Barr oversaw the renovation of roughly 43,000 square feet of space in the existing MCSB, as well as the construction of a 168,000-square foot addition. The firm opted to construct the building’s addition first, with construction breaking ground in June 2009. The team reached substantial completion by August 2011, just in time for students to move into the new space for the 2011 – 2012 school year. Crews then moved to demolish an older wing of the existing structure, completing a gut renovation, as well as the construction of a connector between the original and new structures.

The new MCSB adds 35 teaching laboratories, 17 classrooms and 19 specialty labs to house the university’s biology, chemistry, earth science, geography, computer science, math and physics departments. The impressive building offers specially designed classrooms where professors can simultaneously conduct lectures and oversee lab work, as well as plenty of communal study spaces.

The building incorporates sustainable features like a storm water reclamation system, a solar hot water heater, locally sourced materials and plenty of indoor daylight. A metal, wood and terracotta sunshade system wraps around the building’s exterior glass curtain wall system to unite the older wing with the new addition, as well as minimize heat gain during the warmer months.

Moving Forward

The addition opened to students for the 2011 – 2012 academic year, and crews immediately shifted gears to begin gutting and renovating the existing wing. Because of the building’s age, Barr & Barr anticipated it would need to budget some time to remove any hazardous materials from the original building and planned accordingly. Even so, the B&B team understood that no amount of preconstruction planning could eliminate the possibility for a few surprises.

“Very early on we came across some major dewatering issues,” adds Mike DiBacco, vice president of Barr & Barr. “There was maybe five or six feet of water standing in the building’s basement mechanical room, which was a critical component of the project’s scope so coordination was very much emphasized from the get-go.”

The project team, with Barr & Barr leading the coordination effort, managed to resolve the basement’s water issue, as well as successfully install a new electrical, mechanical, medical gas and laboratory gas systems for the building, albeit at the price of compressing the construction schedule.

Nevertheless, the Barr & Barr team committed to delivering the building on time and on budget. The firm’s highly detailed preconstruction estimates made it easy for BSU officials and the project team to identify cost-savings early on. A mild winter in 2011 also helped crews continue working, making up some of the lost time from the initial dewatering challenge.

BSU celebrated the completion of the MCSB project with a grand opening ceremony in October 2012. The new Marshall Conant Science Building represents a $98 million investment in Bridgewater State University’s future and also contributes to Barr & Barr Inc.’s 85-year track record of successfully completing projects.

Published on: April 4, 2013

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