Barton Malow – University of Maryland, Baltimore County Event Center

Barton MalowBarton Malow has an environmental focus at the University of Maryland.

By Tim O’Connor

On the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) campus, just a few feet away from the footprint of the school’s new event center, is a massive pile of dirt crews affectionately call “Mt. Charles,” named for the 72-year-old excavator who put it there earlier this year. “When you start naming them, you know the dirt’s been around too long,” says Steve Herckner, senior project manager for Barton Malow, the construction manager-at-risk on the project.

Soil management has proven to be the biggest challenge in the early phases of the project, which began construction this past February. The new arena and event center is located on a hillside with a grade difference of three-and-a-half stories from the top of the hill to the ground elevation. “The first half of this job is all dirt, concrete and steel because of the logistics of cutting into a hill,” Herckner says.Barton Malow info box

About 31,000 cubic yards of soil was excavated from the site and reused as fill, meaning it had to be stored on location. Another 6,000 cubic yard of soil was exported. If Barton Malow could do it over again, it would transport all of the soil off site instead of repurposing it. In the end, moving the dirt around has saved money but increased time. 

New Home for Varsity Sports

The event center and arena is replacing the school’s Retriever Activity Center (RAC), which has served as the home of UMBC’s varsity basketball and volleyball programs since it opened in 1973. The RAC will continue to be used for recreational and intramural sports, but it will no longer act as a singular facility to serve all UMBC’s functions. Moving varsity sports and events such as commencement and concerts into the new arena is intended to allow both venues to better serve students and the community.

Architectural firm Cannon Design developed the new 172,000-square-foot building to have three floors and a partial basement. The arena will have a seating capacity of 5,000 people in the bowl and another 1,000 on the floor with folding chairs. The total project budget is $85 million, of which $70 million is for construction. About 1,300 tons of structural steel and 170,000 square feet of metal deck will be incorporated into the final structure.

Once it opens in late 2017, the new arena will be among the most modern sports venues in the America East Conference, an NCAA Division I non-football conference. “UMBC’s event center is a state-of-the-art athletics venue and multipurpose facility designed to support the recruitment and retention of high-quality student-athletes, host student life activities and programs, and create a new home for many of the institution’s academic and institutional events,” says Joe Rexing, director of facilities management for the university. “It will also provide a welcoming experience for all campus visitors and will continue to strengthen UMBC’s support of the surrounding community.”

Staying Sustainable

Environmental considerations play a large role in the project. UMBC and Barton Malow are targeting LEED Gold certification for the building and the arena will have a partial green roof in accordance with a campus-wide sustainability effort. Several micro-bioretention ponds also were built near the future event center to help with stormwater retention.

When looking at the campus from afar it may appear that crews have plenty of space in which to work; however, in reality, the job site is just as space-constrained as if it were built in downtown Baltimore. The work zone is bound by 200-year-old heritage trees to the north, a stream restoration to the south, and the campus’ main ring road to the west. That left little room for crews to spread out and made it even more challenging to find space for the dirt. As a result of those physical obstacles, material deliveries can only approach the site from the east. “We’re basically building this building from the inside out, starting from the west heading east,” Herckner adds. “It takes longer and is more costly in most cases to get the material to the point of the work than it is to install it.”

The heritage trees near the job site added to those complications because UMBC required their preservation. To minimize the disturbance, Barton Malow erected an earthretaining wall to hold the soil around the heritage trees in place while the rest of the site was excavated. A portion of the retaining wall was not originally part of the plan but became necessary because the soil within the hill was sandy and difficult to keep in place as crews excavated the hillside.

Similar environmental efforts exist on the south side of the site, where a stream runs through the campus. UMBC in tandem with Cannon Design has been working with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment on a stream restoration project running parallel to the event center construction.

Despite those challenges, progress on the event center continues. Barton Malow’s extensive experience with sports arenas and its past work with the University System of Maryland means it has the know-how and the relationships in lace to keep the project on track. As of early September, crews were finishing the site work and preparing to erect the steel structure for the facility.

According to Barton Malow Project Director Jody Latimer, the team is using building information modeling software to coordinate all of the structure as well as the interior spaces, including mechanical and electrical work, with the subcontractors. Utilizing BIM software will ensure the build can move rapidly once the structure is in place. “When you work on a successful project and you know it’s a team effort with the subcontractors, you’re eager to work with each other again,” Latimer says of the cooperation between Barton Malow and its subcontractors.

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