JE Dunn Construction – OUS/OHSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building

The OUS/OHSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB) is aptly named for a variety of reasons. Three top Oregon universities, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Oregon State University (OSU) and Portland State University (PSU), put their funds together for a common goal – to create a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to various disciplines within the life sciences field, such as medicine, dentistry and pharmaceutical. The 650,000-square-foot building with a two-story underground parking garage broke ground Oct. 13 and will be turned over in two phases. The project, which is on track to earn LEED Platinum certification, is still in its early phases as construction manager/general contractor JE Dunn Construction finishes the parking levels and begins pouring concrete for the first level. 

The first phase, including the five-story south tower and lower level lecture halls and atrium, will be completed December 2013. The upper portion of the 12-story north tower, called Skourtes Tower, which will mainly house the OHSU School of Dentistry, will be turned over February 2014. The rest of the campus is truly a collaborative effort between the three schools filled with lecture halls, classrooms, laboratories, specialty research centers and offices.

Bringing Skills Together

“It’s extremely collaborative what they are doing here,” explains Michael Custer, project manager at JE Dunn Construction. “For instance, one of the things they offer here is a simulation center. With the undergrad medical program and dental program and the physician’s assistant and the pharmacy program here, they all can utilize the same patient simulation space together at the same time.

“It used to be that doctors went to a doctor’s school and dentists went to a dentist’s school, but here, the schools can combine curriculum.”

The collaboration between the schools has trickled from the top down to inform the way in which the schools and their third-party representative, Day CPM, interact with the design and construction teams and the way the design and construction teams interact with one another. The close relationships are vital to the project’s success, Custer explains, since the project owners have decided to keep the design fluid and adjust along the way. For a while, even the number of stories was to be determined and the 12-story Skourtes Tower was added three months after the joint venture architectural team, SERA Architects and CO Architects, completed the initial design.

“The word collaborative just keeps coming up on this project,” Custer explains. “The design team created an allocated space within their office prior to construction starting, so not only could all design team members and consultants be in the same space, but they had space for the owner groups and construction team as well. Rather than looking at drawings and sending in your redlined reviews, we simply did over-the-shoulder reviews.”

Now that construction is ongoing, JE Dunn has taken the same setup and transferred it to the jobsite, so that the design and ownership teams have allocated trailers to track progress and finalize plans. The system allows JE Dunn to quickly update its BIM and electronic systems with the latest drawings, requests for information and submittals. It’s available online to everyone on the jobsite.

“At JE Dunn we consider ourselves cutting edge on anything electronic that will make the work go smoother and increases quality and productivity,” Custer explains. “JE Dunn has in-house BIM specialists that work closely with our clients and our major subcontractors for close coordination. We do weekly BIM clashing meetings to work out any conflicts in the systems. As a result of using BIM, we have seen a dramatic reduction in RFIs, change orders, and claims, along with improved quality results on our projects.”

The close coordination between the architectural team and JE Dunn and its subcontractors was crucial during one of its earliest project tasks. In the basement of the Skourtes Tower, is the OHSU Center for Spatial System in Biomedicine. The laboratory will house one of the most sensitive microscope imaging systems in the Pacific Northwest. Because the tool is extremely sensitive to vibration, JE Dunn installed a unique sheet pile system around the entire room that extended 30 feet into the ground to isolate it from vibration.

“JE Dunn and our Life Science staff specialists worked closely with the design team to make sure all the material was available within the time frame we needed,” Custer says. “We ended up putting in a whole sheet pile system that basically built a moat around the lab.”

Another collaborative effort has extended beyond the project team. The CLSB sits on a waterfront brownfield site once home to a shipyard. Next to the building,  a new bridge is under construction to extend a light-rail public transportation line. The neighboring construction site sits on CLSB’s north, east and south borders, and is also the project’s only access point.

“We have to access our site through another jobsite,” Custer explains. “We have to work closely with the other site, and it’s a very tight site to begin with. That’s one of the biggest challenges. But we manage it like the rest of the job – with heightened coordination with everyone that’s involved.”

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