Stories

Inventive Solutions Create “Worlds Ahead” FIU Academic Health Center

Completed in February, the 137,000-sq.-ft., $43 million space is the most high-tech project ever delivered for Florida International University. (Photo by NY Focus Photography)
With the school's mission to be a ‘Worlds Ahead’ university, this progressive learning environment provides premier research and classroom space. (Photo by NY Focus Photography)
The center includes 12,000 sq. ft. of advanced research laboratories as well as wet and dry labs. (Photo by NY Focus Photography)

Proactive problem solving and long-term relationship with Perkins+Will result in completion of award-winning, complex university project

Team Players

Project: FIU Academic Health Center 4

Customer: Florida International University (FIU) is Miami’s first and only public research university, offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. FIU emphasizes research as a major component in the university’s mission to be worlds ahead. For more information, go to: http://www.fiu.edu

Architect: Perkins+Will

Project Highlights:

  • This is the university’s first project on campus to fully incorporate BIM.
  • Pre-glazing panels and pre-installing punched windows into the panels shaved seven weeks off the schedule, saving an estimated $343,000.
  • With 10 work days lost in the first six weeks due to record rainfall, DPR still completed the project on time and on budget.

Florida International University (FIU)’s new ultramodern 137,000-sq.-ft., $43 million Academic Health Center 4 (AHC4) was successfully completed in Miami this February. The project is a showcase for teamwork, quality and schedule control—come rain or shine. The most high-tech project ever delivered for the university, FIU AHC4 is marked by creative solutions and bolstered by a long-term relationship between architect Perkins+Will and DPR. The two companies have partnered together on more than 40 projects throughout the country.

“The strength of the project team stems from a team approach and constant communication,” said FIU Senior Project Manager Oscar Irigoyen. “The team performed with a high level of professionalism and a proactive attitude in problem solving.”

Set amidst the main FIU campus and located just 50 feet from another active construction project that was built concurrently on the busy site, AHC4 stands out for interweaving technology into the design and construction process and within the facility itself to create a progressive learning environment. The space will provide premier research and classroom space for multiple disciplines.

“This will be one of our key research buildings on our main campus, promoting our mission and commitment to research in our aim to be a ‘Worlds Ahead’ university,” said Irigoyen.

Prior to completion, the project already won awards for design excellence from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Society of American Registered Architects (SARA).

The six-story, cast-in-place concrete facility is on track for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Gold certification and features:

  • exterior skin of architectural precast curtainwall;
  • punched window openings and metal panels;
  • a mix of classrooms and staff offices;
  • 145-seat auditorium;
  • advanced research laboratories spanning 12,000 sq. ft.;
  • wet and dry labs and flexible research space; and
  • associated electrical and mechanical support rooms and systems.
OVERCOMING RECORD RAINFALL

With a notice to proceed in August 2011, DPR had just 547 calendar days to complete the project by February 5, 2013. That end date never changed despite an estimated 117 inches of rainfall over 18 months. Ten work days were lost due to rain in the first six weeks alone.

“Despite the record rainfall and storms that contributed numerous lost work days, we completed the dry-in on schedule, and there have been zero leaks to date,” said DPR Project Engineer Ryan Romanchuk. Compounding the extremely wet weather was the site’s geographic location at just above sea level. Digging and pouring concrete footers in that saturated environment required mitigation measures, including the continuous use of dewatering pumps. The team also noted that they used the lunar calendar to determine when the tides were at the lowest level; all of the deepest footers were poured only when the moon was in the new moon lunar phase.

CONSTRUCTION PROCESS CREATIVITY

Beyond the weather-related hurdles, additional challenges were met with a host of inventive solutions. Perhaps most notable was the decision to pre-glaze the 120 architectural precast panels comprising the building’s exterior skin at the manufacturing facility, rather than onsite—an approach rarely used in Florida.

The savings were substantial. “Float” time between fabrication and installation of the panels was used to pre-install the 1,020 punched windows into the panels, which shaved seven weeks off the dry-in critical path and translated into a schedule savings of about $343,000 during guaranteed maximum price (GMP) budgeting.

In addition, there was a buyout savings of $64,000 for the reduced labor and equipment by installing the windows at the precaster’s yard, which also facilitated better quality control and promoted safer installation.

Another inventive approach involved the epoxy flooring installation. A plan was devised to install the first two coats of epoxy prior to closing in the building and framing walls.

“I think we saved about 13 days off the critical path by that approach,” commented DPR Project Manager Peggy Fischer. “It resulted in significant schedule savings and a higher quality product.”

LEVERAGING BIM

This was the first project on the FIU campus to fully incorporate building information modeling (BIM). The team leveraged BIM not just for mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) coordination and clash detection, but also to improve the field processes. After fully modeling all MEP systems, the team used Trimble technology and Get the Point (GTP) Total Station Solution to lay out all the insertion points and penetrations.

Through these and many other imaginative measures, the project team met all schedule, budget and quality goals. The end result is a project that will advance FIU’s reputation as a research university, while also demonstrating DPR’s ability to weather any storm.