Case Studies

Rizzo Conference Center Phase III – Shelco

Creating a world-class executive development venue in Chapel Hill

Owned by the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, the Rizzo Conference Center is an executive development facility featuring world-class accommodations and amenities. First built in 1996 by Shelco, one of the Southeast’s largest privately owned contracting companies, the center recently went through its third major renovation and expansion.

Located on a verdant, 28-acre parcel of land just a few miles from University of North Carolina’s (UNC) main campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the three-building development includes 183 guest rooms, two executive conference centers, 12 classrooms and 38 breakout meeting rooms.

Rizzo Conference Center Phase III – Shelco

The Rizzo Conference Center is surrounded by woodlands and manicured grounds and was conceived as a retreat for meetings, conferences and special events and has earned the No. 1 ranking from Destination Hotels based on overall satisfaction from meeting planners from 2009 to 2014.

Building for the future

In 2016, UNC completed Phase III of the Rizzo Conference Center Project, a development that added 66 guest rooms, two executive-style classrooms and additional meeting space to McLean Hall and incorporated the phased renovation of 112 existing guest rooms in McLean Hall while keeping the facility in full operation. Shelco has been involved in the project since the center was little more than a single large historic home on donated land.

“We’ve done two previous phases out there starting with the renovation of the DuBose Home and building McLean Hall and Loudermilk Hall. Then 10 years ago we completed the second phase, which included expanding both the McLean and Loudermilk buildings,” says Matt Coley, project manager at Shelco.

With offices in Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Shelco has completed a variety of new construction and renovation projects for clients across the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Founded in Winston-Salem in 1978, Shelco has built numerous institutional and higher education projects in the so-called Research Triangle between UNC, Duke University and North Carolina State University, as well as other universities throughout the Carolinas.

During Phase III of the conference center expansion, Shelco added 99,400-square-feet to McLean Hall and renovations to several other facilities. The $34 million expansion also included renovations to a fitness center, as well as the addition of an executive sports lounge and patio, a 25,000-square-foot courtyard with an infinity edge saltwater pool and a 2,000-square-foot pool deck. With an additional 4,000-square-feet of landscaped outdoor seating, a bog garden, a fire pit and a UNC-themed basketball court, Rizzo Conference Center’s facilities offer visitors a place to both work and unwind.

Working with limited space

The continued expansion of the Rizzo Conference Center over the last 20 years has presented challenges for UNC and the project team. Situated on the top of a hill, the facility has now grown to cover most of the useable land on the site. That required the project team to take a creative approach to the latest expansion.

“The owner had limited space available on site for new construction, so the expansion was designed to be cut into the hillside to create the necessary building footprint.” says Coley.

While this approach allowed Shelco to make the most of the remaining acreage, it also required the company to install piles and foundation walls. This was an especially difficult task given the nature of the site’s soil, which Coley describes as Triassic basin sandy clay.

“Triassic basin soils shrink and swell significantly with water, so even passing rain showers created impossibly slick mud which hindered construction activities.  Two tractor trailer loads of logging mats were brought in to help maintain access around the building during wet conditions.” he says.

The project was supposed to begin April 2013, but a delay in funding meant construction didn’t start until October. Pushing back the start of construction six months meant working through two winters, further complicating the process and leading to five total months of weather-related delays.

Construction crews also had to be mindful of the facility’s surrounding neighbors, which are largely homes valued at over $1.5 million that were not there when the Rizzo Conference Center was first developed. “The residents took some convincing that this job wasn’t going to infringe on their privacy,” says Coley.

The development is surrounded on two sides by neighbors whose property lines often extend right up to its borders. To reduce light pollution, Shelco blocked off windows during construction and installed lighting occupancy sensors that will reduce the amount of unnecessary light.

“We also added some custom baffles to the site light poles and once a month talked with the homeowners’ association just to make sure we were addressing any concerns,” he says.

Sustainable features on display

Like many construction projects pursuing sustainable building goals, the team behind the Rizzo Conference Center Phase III expansion decided to design and construct for LEED Silver status without seeking final certification.

Sustainable features of the newest phase include bamboo flooring and reclaimed teak wall panels, keycard-activated lighting and a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system designed to maximize energy efficiency. “With VRF, each individual unit basically has its own heat pump system to increase occupant comfort levels and maximize energy efficiency,” he says.

Shelco worked with a team of experienced subcontractors to complete most aspects of construction and provided carpenters and laborers to assist with activities such as layout, miscellaneous blocking, and clean-up, as needed, in addition to providing the supervision and management for the project.

With construction wrapping up in early summer 2016, the newly renovated and expanded Rizzo Conference Center will be a valuable addition to the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business.

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Spring 2018



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