Howard S. Wright - Maier Hall

With its expertise in higher education, Howard S. Wright was a good fit for work at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Wash., Project Manager Paul Cronin says. “We do pretty darn good work,” he declares.

The general contractor recently completed construction of Maier Hall for the college. The three-story, 62,000-square-foot steel building features a ceramics studio, a performance hall, computer labs, and arts and science classroom. Howard S. Wright also renovated portions of the South campus, which included three concrete water features.

According to Peninsula College Vice President of Administrative Services Deborah Frazier, Washington state law sets aside half of 1 percent of the appropriation for a capital project to fund public art. “Peninsula College partnered with the Washington State Arts Commission to select an art project,” she says.

The project, which is called “The Commons” and was created by Peter and Sue Richards, comprises seven basalt columns topped by cast aluminum mountains that are representations of the seven tallest peaks in the Olympic Mountain Range.  “The mountains are placed in three pools of water in the scaled geographic relationship to each other that they have in reality,” she says.

Frazier says the campus has needed Maier Hall for a long time. “It replaced four buildings that were built in the early ’60s,” she says. “They were very cheaply constructed exterior corridor buildings.”

When the four buildings exceeded their useful life, the campus decided to construct Maier Hall, which Frazier is proud of. “I’m most proud of the vast expansion and the improvement of quality [facilities] for the fine arts,” she says.

“Our current music [and art] facilities are very rudimentary,” she says. “There’s an incredible amount of dedicated space for both programs.”

Building the Jewel

The crown “jewel” of Maier Hall, Frazier notes, is its tunable performance hall, which can seat up to 131 people. “It is a fabulous concert hall, especially for the north Olympic Peninsula,” she says. “To have something of this caliber is quite remarkable.”

Cronin adds that he is proud of the space, as well. “It had the most glitz, glamour, and audio and video aspects to it,” he says, but admits that it also represented the largest challenge for Howard S. Wright during the project.

“It anchored the corner of the building,” Cronin explains, noting that Maier Hall is v-shaped. In addition, the hall is formed by shear walls stabilizing the v-shaped structure where all other trade work seemed to either terminate or originate.

Frazier adds that the building has a green roof, but not the kind typically seen. Instead, it utilizes moss, which required special engineering and structural support. A local architect, Roy Hellwig of Tormod Hellwig, experimented with moss to make it a green roofing material.

“He had come up with some very intriguing ideas with how to [build] it and get mosses planted onto fiber glass,” she says. “We got very excited about that idea and chose to go with a moss roof rather than a green roof. We are the only people who have done such a thing, to the best of our knowledge.”

Offering Praise

Frazier says Peninsula College is pleased with the work of Howard S. Wright, as well as the design architects, Schacht|Aslani Architects, based in Seattle. “I’m very happy with the way the design team listened to us and integrated this new building into the college,” she states. 

This project is not the design team’s first for the university. “[The firm] also helmed the replacement of the college’s library and has been selected for the upcoming design of the Allied Health and Early Childhood Education building, expected to be funded in the 2013 [to 2015] biennium,” she says.

Cronin adds that he is pleased with the work of the mechanical and electrical contractors on the project. “[They] did pretty well, considering all they were asked to do with regards to coordination and installation,” he says. Howard S. Wright’s other partners on the project include Millican Crane Service.

Cronin sees a strong future for Howard S. Wright. Balfour Beatty Construction recently acquired Howard S. Wright, which will expand Howard S. Wright’s reach.

“I think that’s going to open some doors,” he stresses. “[We should] do more with base clients nationally.”

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