Case Studies

J. Kokolakis Contracting Inc.

Renewing SUNY Stony Brook's Old Chemistry Building

Recent census figures for the state of New York reveal that the population has grown by over 400,000, and with it so has the State University of New York (SUNY). Some SUNY campuses have seen enrollment grow by upward of 15 percent, including SUNY Stony Brook, a public research university and one of four university centers within the SUNY network. A wave of capital improvement funding followed shortly after, including an historic gift of $150 million by Jim and Marilyn Simons and the Simons Foundation, along with $35 million allocated by Governor Andrew Cuomo through the NY-SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program, which will fund critical programs while mitigating tuition increases.

This need for facility enhancements led to the involvement of J. Kokolakis Contracting Inc. (JKC), a locally owned and operated general contracting company celebrating 40 years of construction excellence in 2012. JKC landed the contract to oversee the renovation and expansion of the university’s Old Chemistry Building, one of the campus’ earliest buildings that will be transformed into a state-of-the-art classroom facility for use by the entire university. JKC has amassed a long track record of successfully completed projects for the SUNY system, including many of the earliest LEED-certified buildings, and the company’s inclusion in the SUNY developments helps ensure success.

The emphasis on green building practices within the SUNY system amplified in 2009 when Governor Paterson signed the State Green Building Construction Act into law, requiring that all new construction projects and major renovations to state buildings adhere to green building standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council’s various LEED rating systems, among others. The Old Chemistry Building has been designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, but the project’s coordinators haven’t ruled out a higher level of certification just yet.

“We’re most likely going for LEED Gold,” expands Steve Affelt, project manager at JKC. “The new LEED requirements haven’t really changed our approach. It just means we need to be extra careful about tracking our progress.” In fact, JKC began incorporating material recycling into its projects as early as the 1970s. The company has traditionally focused on work in the public sector, so JKC began preparing for the anticipated widespread acceptance of the LEED system by encouraging its team members at all levels to become LEED Accredited Professionals.

Brick by Brick

JKC’s instincts continue to pay off as the company has positioned itself at the forefront of green building with a portfolio of completed projects for the SUNY system, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. JKC’s work on the Old Chemistry Building will be an impressive addition to the company’s already reputable track record, while also proving that high-performance buildings can be highly sustainable as well.

The project begins with the renovation of 45,000 square feet of existing space and the addition of 25,000 square feet to accommodate three 250-seat multimedia presentation rooms. Renowned design firm EwingCole came onto the project as engineer of record, working with Belson Design Architects as architect of record. The pair’s design emphasizes the creation of a multiuse building that aligns with the campus’ aesthetic and preserves the historic façade of the Old Chemistry Building.

In contrast, the building’s interior will be greatly changed for the better. The design team aims to maximize interior daylighting. Skylights will be installed to flood the building’s new atrium and lobby, which will separate the existing structure from the addition. “Pretty much everything inside the existing building will be stripped down so we can transform it into a really high volume assembly area that meets modern fire, energy and building codes,” adds Affelt.

Setting a New Standard for Unprecedented Success

Furthermore, the building’s interior has been thoughtfully laid out to encourage a sense of community and foster group learning. Widely ranging meeting areas, study areas and gathering spaces have been integrated throughout to encourage formal and informal interaction between faculty and students. The new building will also house a 68-seat testing center that provides one computer for every test taker, ensuring each student the ability to prosper.

The State University Construction Fund – the organization that oversees all construction projects for the SUNY system – projects the Old Chemistry Building to exceed the state’s Energy Code by 17 percent, boosting the building’s performance on the LEED rating system as well. The new building relies on state-of-the-art heating, cooling and lighting systems that adjust to meet the building’s needs. Low VOC-emitting materials will be used throughout as well, and crews will coordinate to ensure minimal waste is generated from construction.

“This project is one of our most successful projects to date due to the fact that we’re under budget and roughly six months ahead of schedule,” states Affelt. Affelt is quick to give credit where credit is due, attributing the team’s early success to a heavy amount of foresight and planning with all of the project’s teams, without minor hiccups could have become major problems.

Whether or not the Old Chemistry Building will open well ahead of schedule, the project is sure to be one of many that JKC completes for the SUNY system as it continues to grow. JKC will also lend its expertise to the construction of a new agricultural sciences building at SUNY Cobleskill, a $42 million project to provide consolidated space for the institution’s plant science, animal science and fisheries and wildlife programs.

JKC continues to prove its mettle in the public arena even in the wake of increasing competition, though it will ultimately be the team’s focus on keeping communication lines open that ensures projects are successfully completed to a tee. In the process, J. Kokolakis Contracting Inc. celebrates 40 years of teamwork and a company culture built on integrity, experience and an unwavering willingness to innovate.

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Spring 2018



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