Skanska USA – Portland State University School of Business Administration

Skanska USA 2Portland State University has started construction of an ambitious renovation and expansion of its business school.

By Bob Rakow

Things are not business as usual at Portland State University’s school of business administration. Instead, the school is undergoing a transformation with the construction of the Karl Miller Center.

The new facility will be three times larger than the existing school and will bring all business classes under one roof. The building also meets the university’s goal of offering spaces that encourage student participation and group discussion.

Skanska USA is the general contractor on the job that features renovation of the existing business school as well as construction of the new building. The project started in August 2015, and construction is scheduled for completion in September 2017. “We’re just about to start foundation work,” Project Manager Brett McCoy says.

Plans call for the complete renovation of the existing school as well as an adjoining space previously occupied by the graduate school of education, McCoy says. The project will add 37,920 square feet in new construction. In total, the university will add nearly 90,000 square feet, bringing the overall building size to 142,875 square feet. “They’re tripling their space,” McCoy says. The new building also will feature four street-level retail spaces.

German firm Behnisch Architekten designed the new facility, working with the Portland office of SRG Partnership Inc. Behnisch Architekten is a leader in sustainable design and has done several academic projects.

The Karl Miller Center will feature two diverse looks to make the facility appear to be two buildings sharing a city block in an effort to provide a more diverse streetscape, McCoy says.

The existing building will be stripped to the primary structural frame, and the exterior will be replaced with a chevron pattern metal panel system, McCoy says. Each fold in the metal will be six inches wide to match the width of the Alaskan yellow cedar exterior of the new building, McCoy says.

A 65-foot atrium will serve as the focal point of the center. It will feature sloped glass, bridges and stairs and will be surrounded by study spaces, he says.

Renovations Underway

Crews are renovating the portion of the building that previously housed the graduate school of education while classes continue at the business school. “The school of education has moved out,” McCoy says.

Working close to an occupied building has challenged the construction crew. “Just the fact that the school is occupied while we’re building is a challenge,” McCoy says. “Every day the students see the temporary walls. We’re treating it like a hospital environment; it does lengthen the project.”

Some of the construction and utility work has been performed after hours or on weekends to avoid disturbing classes. “Pretty much every weekend there’s some work scheduled,” he says.

The campus location is another challenge, McCoy notes. “We’re in the most densely populated area of Portland,” he says. “There are traffic issues and safety concerns when supplies are delivered.” As a result, Skanska USA maintains a strict delivery schedule, McCoy says. “We have specific time slots,” he says. “We tightly manage the deliveries. If a truck shows up and it’s not expected, we send it away.”

McCoy has managed several university construction projects during his career, but few have combined a renovation with new construction. “This is sort of a different project,” he says. “It’s unique.” The university decided to blend new construction with a renovation for numerous reasons, McCoy says. First, officials did not want to demolish the existing building, which is in good condition. Additionally, there would be no location for business students and faculty if the existing facility was demolished, he says.

The new building will feature:

* Centralized activities and classes;

* Twenty one classrooms, three times more than the existing building;

* Ten project and team rooms;

* An auditorium;

* Several common spaces;

* Four industry-specific centers to support the diverse interests of future students; and

* Faculty and staff offices.

The school of business administration has about 3,000 students, making it the largest business school in Oregon. Students currently attend classes in multiple locations throughout campus. The project is part of Portland State University’s efforts to transition into a traditional university, away from its roots as a commuter school.

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