Skanska USA Building – University of Washington Life Sciences Building

SkanskaThe University of Washington’s Life Sciences Building being built by Skanska will provide the latest lab and research facilities to attract world-class talent while increasing campus and civic connections to science.

By Russ Gager

Oftentimes value-engineering a construction project after it is designed is too little too late. Therefore, to provide the best value management for the University of Washington, Skanska USA Building and its prime subcontractors have become involved at the design stage, working closely with Perkins + Will, the architect for the new Life Sciences Building in Seattle, providing valuable input to deliver an accurate budget for the project as it is designed.

“This is a general contractor/construction manager project, so through the state-mandated selection process, the bid was successful last March of 2015,” Project Manager Kirk Brewer relates. “We have been brought on early to work with the architect and owner.”

The Life Sciences Building is the new front door for the University of Washington Biology Department, welcoming the community from the nearby Burke-Gilman trail and attracting world-class researchers, all while exceeding student demand.Skanska info box

Mechanical and electrical prime subcontractors were selected through the mechanical contractor/construction manager and electrical contractor/construction manager bidding process to provide additional feedback on budgeting and constructability throughout the design process.

“It’s a very heavy design/assist role which these subcontractors are providing upfront,” Brewer points out. The subcontractors hold weekly meetings with Skanska personnel to flag significant changes made in the design and notify the owner of any budget revisions.

The prime subcontractors are providing design/assist utilizing building information modeling services to advance the construction documents developed by the design team to fully integrated, contractor-produced construction documents. After a design review, the drawings are incorporated into the building’s plans. “It’s been our goal to do everything one time,” Brewer emphasizes. “A lot of times, designers do all the detail, and then the subcontractor will want to have a different, proprietary system. They want to change the details, which causes rework.

“So our approach is to minimize as much rework as possible and do everything just once,” Brewer resolves. “We bring the designer on in a design/assist role. We’re trying to do that as much as possible. When we do bring other subcontractors onboard, 90 percent of all conflicts will be resolved upfront, saving the university time and money.”

Skanska was selected through a lengthy process of responding to a request for proposals, an interview with the university and Skanska’s assembly of an anticipated contract value. The final selection was made through a points-based process.

July Start

Perkins + Will has been working on the design of the Life Sciences Building since fall 2014. The construction of the five-story, 200,000-square-foot building is scheduled to begin this July with completion two years later. The construction documents for the project – which include the structure – are halfway done and will be completed as construction proceeds and the interior of the structure is built out.

The site for the new building is occupied by a greenhouse built in the mid-1900s and a smaller, taller greenhouse attached to a separate building. Both outdated structures will be demolished to make way for the new Life Sciences Building, which will have a concrete foundation with a steel structure.

The building’s exterior finishes will vary. Some facades will feature a structural glass system, while others will incorporate wood and cement panels. The building is situated on glacial till, so a traditional lagging and shoring system with tiebacks will be installed until the concrete foundation is placed.

The extent of work Skanska will self-perform has not been finalized yet. However, Skanska employs the manpower to pour the foundation, the two below-grade levels and the first floor; erect post-tensioning decks and the steel that extends from the second to the fifth floor; and manage the landscaping. The rest will be performed by an estimated 45 subcontractors.

Energy-Efficient Features

The University of Washington Life Sciences Building will make extensive use of energy-efficient features, including natural light. On the south side of the building where researchers’ offices are located, sunlight will extend through floor-to-ceiling windows and glass walls into the middle of the building where the labs are located. At the south side of the building, the photovoltaic exterior glass fins produce energy and provide shading.

The open-ceiling areas and large rooms of the Life Sciences Building will utilize chilled beams to heat and cool the space. These chilled beams hang from the ceiling like fluorescent lights and will have chilled or warm water circulated through them from the university’s new central plant. Active chill beams will have a fan blowing air over them, and passive ones will use natural convection to circulate heated or cooled air. The entire system will be controlled by the building management system, and the offices will have operable windows for additional ventilation.

The floors of the main first-floor lobby will be heated and cooled by radiant tubes in the concrete floor. The main lobby also has an integral louvered system on its roof to act like a chimney, allowing air heated by the sunlight to escape.

Water for lab use in the building will be purified by reverse osmosis. “When you make reverse osmosis water, you dump roughly 75 percent of the water, which goes down the drain,” Brewer says. “We will capture and use it to water the plants in the greenhouse.” The university has mandated achievement of LEED Silver certification, but the project is currently projecting Gold status.

A Hub for Research and Learning

Significant research will be done within the new building. The two levels below grade will be used for plant and aquatic research. The second, deepest basement will have a series of chambers in which different plant species will be grown in varying conditions of humidity, temperature and light. The first basement above it will be used for aquatic research with zebra fish and will house the mechanical and electrical rooms and loading dock.

A 13,000-square-foot greenhouse will be built with a low roof peak so students can look down into it from an adjacent deck. The facility has a unique civic connection with the campus and community by engaging with the Burke-Gilman Trail, a popular regional biking and walking path drawing thousands of students and public users through the campus daily. Tours and teaching opportunities will be available for all levels, from grade school to graduate school, as well as for the public.

A biology department professor is donating to the new structure old growth timber, which needs to be thinned from his family’s land to allow sunlight to filter in and support the ecosystem. The wood will be used for a project not yet decided upon, such as making a topographical map of the region or showing how the rings of the tree developed.

Skanska has built many structures on the University of Washington’s campus, such as the student center and facilities at the medical center and hospital. A wing to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on the campus will be under construction at the same time as the Life Sciences Building. Brewer is enthused about this newest, cutting-edge project.

“This project will unify the biology department, and it will just be such a beautiful building with the different finishes,” Brewer declares. “Its location will bring the student and community together. This cool new building is a great way to bring in new talent to the department, which will then bring in new grants, money and research that will further strengthen the biology department for the university.”

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