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

The construction of educational facilities is Bacon Construction’s “bread and butter,” and the company’s experience in that sector is the primary reason it was chosen as the general contractor for the University of Rhode Island’s (URI) Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, Project Manager Chad Hawksley says.

“This is what we do,” Hawksley says. “We sell ourselves that way.” The company was founded in 1967 and performs educational construction at all levels, from elementary schools to state and private colleges and universities. “We have a long list of good references, which is helpful,” Hawksley says.  

Bacon Construction’s experience in the education sector means the company is knowledgeable in working with the state government agencies that play a role in the construction of public institutions. “There’s a process,” Hawksley notes. “The state and the university both have authority. Change orders, for example, can create problems with scheduling.” But Bacon Construction is accustomed to resolving those difficulties by working closely with partners on the project, including the university and the state, he says.

East Providence, R.I.-based Bacon Construction was awarded the URI project in December 2013. Ground was broken on the $68 million project in February 2014, and the center is scheduled for completion in December 2015. Doors will open in 2016.

Work has gone smoothly for the most part, but construction workers faced an obstacle when rock was hit during excavation, setting the job back about one month, Hawksley says. “We had to do some rock blasting,” he recalls. “We did some hammering initially, but there was too much rock to get out of there.” The blasting is a relatively quick process, but the subsequent removal of the rock and debris was time-consuming, he says.

State-of-the-art facilities  

The center is designed to strengthen URI’s leadership position in health and life sciences. It 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 country’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 135,000-square-foot center will serve more than 7,000 chemistry students in total and replaces a facility built in 1953 that accommodated 800 students, according to the university. “They were outgrowing their old space,” Hawksley says.

The main level of the five-story, 135,000-square- foot structure will include eight general chemistry teaching labs with support space, a 240-seat lecture hall, 105-seat lecture hall, study room and administrative offices. Level two will feature five organic chemistry teaching labs, an advanced chemistry teaching lab, an instrumentation lab, a 35-seat classroom and offices for faculty and lab managers. Levels 3 and 4 will feature 18 faculty research labs per floor with administrative/ support space. The lower two levels of the building will feature a brick veneer while the upper levels will have phenolic paneling. “It’s a new look,” Hawksley says. The structure’s half basement will serve as a mechanical room. 

Collaborative partners

The architect is Wilson Architects, and the owner’s representative is Ray Keough Construction. Delta Mechanical Contractors LLC is the mechanical contractor, and J.J. O’Rourke as the electrical firm. Hawksley says the interaction with the project team members has helped the job go smoothly. “It’s a good team,” he says. “It always helps to have a good team that can work together toward a common goal.”

He adds that ongoing collaboration with the university also has been important. “We had to do some roadway construction,” he says. The work was scheduled during the summer when fewer students were on campus. Additionally, URI let construction workers use employee parking and provided room to store equipment, he says.

Established in 1967, Bacon Construction, and its sister company, Agostini Construction, have a proven reputation for building various types of commercial, industrial and educational facilities in both the public and private sectors. The company was founded by John Agostini and has been under the direction and primary ownership of John’s son, George L. Agostini, since 1984. The company is among the 400 largest construction firms in the country.

Bacon Construction has been recognized for its work on numerous occasions. In Massachusetts, for example, it earned the label of “excellent” by the state’s Appraisal Division of Public School Contractors. 

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