Miron Construction – University of Wisconsin Memorial Union Reinvestment

Miron ConstructionMiron Construction brings innovation to the field as it renovates one of Madison, Wis.’s most beloved buildings.

By Janice Hoppe

Miron Construction is implementing industry-leading technology as it completes the final phases of the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union Reinvestment Project. “One of the things that sets us apart from other organizations is the value-added services we provide,” Vice President of Madison Operations Paul Auer says.

The Neenah, Wis.-based company specializes in pre-construction, construction management, design/build, integrated project delivery and general construction services. As the largest general contractor in the state of Wisconsin, Miron garnered nearly $700 million in revenue last year. “Our commitment reaches beyond construction; our passion brings dreams to life,” the company says.Miron info box

Miron says it exists to promote innovation and be the leader in providing and utilizing the best tools, processes and safety measures. The company last year debuted its Construction Innovation Lab, a state-of-the-art simulation and modeling space at its headquarters to promote design collaboration and host interactive client presentations.

To stay innovative, the company continues to embrace building information modeling (BIM) and is using it extensively on the Memorial Union project, which it finds improves coordination and enhances communication, accuracy and efficiency. “We are doing extensive renovations to an almost 90-year-old building and we had to use BIM to make sure the piping, duct work and all the mechanical systems would fit,” Superintendent Paul Opalewski says.

Although BIM is not new, Miron is one of the first companies to use BIM in a Box, which brings BIM technology to the field. “It’s a computer in the field that all the trades have access to in order to view each floor in a 3-D model to see exactly where the MEP equipment needs to be installed so that the remaining products can fit together,” Opalewski explains. “Memorial Union is one of the first projects we have used it on.”

Memorial Union

Built in 1927, the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union has become a beloved building on campus, University Project Manager Julie Grove says. “It is the center of student life as a recreation, gathering and meeting place,” she adds. “We consider it to be the campus living room.”

Planning for the $54.5 million project began in 2005 with a master plan effort to modernize Memorial Union while maintaining its original charm, function and purpose. The project was envisioned to take place in two phases in order to allow some portion of the building to remain open at all times to serve the campus and its students.

Phase I renovated the Theater Wing in its entirety and was completed in 2014. Phase II will renovate the remainder of the building, including the Union Terrace, make wholesale underground utility improvements and create Alumni Park, where a surface parking lot and loading dock used to stand. Once completed, this will be the building’s first complete renovation since it opened and bring an elegant conclusion to the vision for East Campus Mall, a north-south pedestrian mall, which terminates at the Memorial Union and Lake Mendota with Alumni Park.

Infrastructure Development

Phase II will focus on the cosmetic restoration of the many historic spaces in Memorial Union that Grove says are loved by the university and the community, but perhaps more importantly, it addresses needed upgrades to the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems, as well as accessibility. “Miron is helping us create the infrastructure that will be virtually invisible to users,” Grove says. “They won’t see all of the improvements that have been made behind the walls and above the ceilings, but they will certainly appreciate them.”

Using BIM to develop the infrastructure has been Miron’s greatest asset on the Memorial Union project. “We sit down with the team, collaborate together and find a solution as a team for the challenges we need to overcome,” Opalewski says. “We are going out to the field to verify things and work as a team to get through all the conflicts that have emerged.”

Miron’s greatest challenge has been the structural accuracy of the building because of its age. “Until you are in the field and verify what the structure looks like, you really don’t know what you have,” Opalewski says. “We opened one floor at a time and the BIM structure didn’t match what was on site. We have to make all the new installations work around what is in the field versus what is in the model.”

Although unforeseen challenges arise, the company stays on schedule by holding biweekly meetings. “There is collaboration between Miron, the university and the state,” Auer says. “Julie’s team makes sure we have the right people at the meeting. With a renovation job, there are always things that are popping up that are unforeseen, but we have processes in place to make sure we can move forward.”

Memorial Union is expected to be completed in October 2017. “It is our hope that users see Memorial Union as the same building they have all loved for many years, only better,” Grove says. 

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