“On time and on budget!” This is the mantra of Dean Avijit Ghosh and University officials that is keeping construction crews and contractors in step with the new Business Instructional Facility being built on the corner of Sixth and Gregory. It officially opens on the first day of fall semester classes in August of 2008.
PSA Dewberry, the prime consultant and architect-of-record for the new building project, invited world-renowned architect and University of Illinois alumnus Cesar Pelli, of Pelli Clark Pelli, and his son, Rafael, to collaborate with them as the design architects. PSA Dewberry is responsible for the overall management and performance of the project team’s numerous consultants as well as executing the construction documents and involvement during construction.
“It’s not glamorous, but it’s critical to the project’s success and we’re proud of our engagement with this project on campus,” said Ray Lees (’74), principal, PSA Dewberry.
PSA Dewberry is not new to University of Illinois building projects, having orchestrated the planning, design and construction of the ACES Library which opened in 2001, and the multi-phase addition and renovation of the Animal Science Laboratory completed in 1996.
While employed as principal and director for the Peoria PSA Dewberry office, Jim Lemon (’94 EMBA) served as the primary project manager. His role was one of many, united in ensuring that the building was on time and on budget throughout the duration of the project.
Lemon’s Executive MBA degree, coupled with his service on the Executive MBA Alumni Board (1998-2002, Board president for two years) and a career in architecture helped him oversee the unique design elements, especially when it came to the special needs of MBA students.
“We provided MBA student with tiered classrooms with tight U-shaped seating arrangement to facilitate active discussion, case study rooms to prepare for presentations, and an overall stimulating and comfortable environment to support their needs,” he said. “From the time it opens, until the time it closes, the building is essentially going to be their home.”
What Lemon or any other member of the team could not have anticipated in the planning process was hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina hit while the team was in the middle of bidding construction materials. According to Tom Seymour, executive vice president, PSA Dewberry, “We had no idea what was going to happen with Katrina.”
What did happen was that when Katrina hit, suppliers boosted prices, anticipating shortages of building materials across the board. The project management team got busy and initiated a strategy to incorporate as much flexibility into the bidding process as possible through the development of a relatively large number of alternate construction materials and components (about 30, according to Lemon), which gave the College another level of control to keep the project within budget.
When it comes to providing building alternatives, the point is to have possible substitutes lined up, explained George Freeman, director of facilities for the College, who has been involved with the new building project since 2002 and is a three-time alumnus (’82 BS Architecture, ’84 Masters in Architecture, and ’84 MBA).
“Of course we want the best materials that money can buy and we plan for the best,” said Freeman. “Still, with any building project you have to consider what you can afford and still have the building operate and be beautiful.”
“Dean Ghosh had a deadline for seeing it built, and of course, the strict expectation of being on budget,” added Lemon. “The day our bids came in I was very nervous. It was a day like going to finals all over again.”
“For a project with an estimated construction cost of $42.5 million, it was unbelievable how close we came in on our estimate to the actual bids,” said Seymour.
One new feature of the instructional facility is limestone for the outside of the building that has never been used on campus before. “This is a different limestone than the typical stone used on campus from Indiana that has a gray, porous look,” said Freeman. “The Business Instructional Facility limestone comes from Minnesota, and is more finely honed with a buttery, yellow cast to it.”
Since its ground breaking in April of 2006, the building went through quite a bit of review relating to the sustainable design attributes in order to be a green building and meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED standards emphasize state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The certification levels range from certified, to silver, gold and platinum.
“The whole sustainability design profile increased as we got into it because the University realized it was something they should do as a socially-conscious and environmentally-conscious institution,” said Seymour. “Basically, we kicked it up a notch,” he added. “The Instructional Facility is going to be one of the University’s flagship buildings, and is currently slated to achieve a gold level under LEED certification.”
The current construction schedule calls for the exterior walls, roof, and windows to be completed and sealed by late fall, so that the interior drywall and finishes can be completed over the winter.
“We’re following a plan to ensure substantial completion by May of 2008, so that over the summer we can complete the furniture, telephone and computer technology installations, and other technology aspects,” said Freeman. “The plan is to work toward floor by floor completion so that we can get our people in there and they can start working. Classes are scheduled to start in the new Facility in August 2008.”
As a College of Business alumnus, those participants in the building construction are proud to be able to give something back.
“The tools I’ve been given are so great, and I’ve always felt I’ve owed them something,” Lemon said. “I remember at my graduation ceremony, the Dean said ‘when you graduate, we expect more of you.’ I certainly hope I have accomplished that.”