Bacon Construction – University of Rhode Island Center for Chemistry and Forensic Sciences

When it opens its doors in 2016, the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Chemistry and Forensic Sciences will provide more than just classroom and lab space for a large segment of the university’s student population.

The $68 million center will provide state-of-the-art facilities for faculty members researching technologies and applications to benefit the nation at large, including developing advanced batteries for energy-efficient cars, improving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan machines and creating new early disease detection methods. The center will also house one of the county’s most important research and training resources in the war against terrorism, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center of Excellence for Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response. 

The center is expected to create approximately 1,200 jobs in construction, trades, architecture, engineering, management, teaching and research, according to the University of Rhode Island.

East Providence, R.I.-based contractor Bacon Construction was awarded the project in December 2013, and started work in February 2014. The 135,000-square-foot center will serve more than 7,000 chemistry students total – roughly 1,400 per day – and replaces a facility built in 1953 that accommodated 800 students, the university adds.  Roughly 40 percent of the university’s degree programs require at least one chemistry class, the university adds.  

The center is funded largely by a $61 million bond issue approved by voters in 2010 as well as by private fundraising. 

“We are grateful to the people of Rhode Island for having the foresight to support a project that is directly related to the kind of economy we are trying to build in the state,” University President David M. Dooley said in a statement. “This facility will be a cornerstone of discovery and innovation and, in turn, economic vitality for Rhode Island.”

Making Progress

Work on the center’s structural steel frame concluded in August. The majority of the building features the frame with a poured-in-place concrete slab, with a portion of the building being built on a precast concrete plank. 

Current work includes pouring the concrete slab and roughing in the building’s mechanical and electrical systems. The building’s skin includes metal studs and concrete masonry unit backup with a veneer of manufactured stone, brick, phenolic paneling and curtainwall, Project Manager Chad Hawksley says. The building is projected to attain LEED Silver certification. Some of the LEED friendly project requirements include recycling of more than 75 percent of construction waste materials, the use of finish products constructed with recycled materials, locally extracted and manufactured products, and the use of FSC-certified woods.

The four-story building will include 28 teaching/research laboratories, and two lecture halls. One of the lecture halls is being built partially underground. The hall’s roof will serve as a patio area with seating and planters.

Bacon Construction is providing the laboratory equipment, furniture, fume hoods and exhaust system for the center. “This building’s mechanical system is quite extensive,” Hawksley adds. “This type of mechanical system has required a lot of preparation ahead of time and receiving the MEP bids and submittals early on, in order to stay on schedule.”

Bacon Construction coordinated the placement of the building’s MEP systems using 3-D building information modeling software. The general contractor and other project team members are also coordinating closely on several other aspects of the project. 

The architect is Wilson Architects, and the owner’s representative is Ray Keough Construction. Delta Mechanical Contractors LLC is the mechanical contractor. “The architect has been out here once a week and has been very helpful in the construction process,” Hawksley says. “We have a very good team out here.”

The project team’s close coordination helped it get back on track after the discovery of a large amount of rock on the site. “We spent three to four weeks removing almost 2,000 yards of rock by mechanical means or by blasting it, which put us a little behind schedule,” Hawksley says. “Working with our steel fabricator, erector and steel crews to get back on schedule was a challenge, but we made up much of the time we lost.”

Institutional Specialists

Bacon Construction and its sister company, Agostini Construction, have successfully completed projects in the institutional, commercial, industrial and educational sectors for over 40 years. Most of the company’s work is in the public sector, though it has also completed buildings for private universities include Johnson & Wales University, for whom it recently built a large foodservice facility.

“The institutional sector is what we specialize in,” Hawksley says. “There aren’t too many companies in this region that specialize in institutional work the way that we do.” 

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