Austin Commercial – Texas A&M University Central Texas Heritage Hall

Austin Commercial

Austin Commercial’s new project will grow the Texas A&M University Central Texas campus.

By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media 

When clients hire Austin Commercial to build their project, they can be sure that the contractor will use a team of skilled workers. “We’ve had good people in the company all these years, working hard,” Senior Project Manager Cody Risien says.

The company has brought talented employees to Heritage Hall, its latest project for Texas A&M University Central Texas in Killeen, Texas. Austin Commercial is building the campus’ third building, a multi-purpose facility that will cover approximately 65,000 gross square feet.Austin Commercial info box

“They wanted to have a building that engaged the students, kept them on campus and gave them more reasons to stay,” Risien explains, adding that Heritage Hall will provide many reasons for students to stay on campus, including an entry lobby that is a gathering area.

The facility also will have an outdoor terrace on its second level, and be home to the university’s historical archive and its administrative and facility offices. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps also will have space in the building, along with a workout area and locker rooms.

Risien oversaw Austin Commercial’s first project at Texas A&M University Central Texas six years ago, which consisted the infrastructure for its first building. The previous project made the college interested in having the contractor back for Heritage Hall.

“When they got funding for this building, I started getting emails from the CFO at Texas A&M University Central Texas, and even Texas A&M Systems,” he recalls. “We had to win it competitively, [but] they sure wanted us to win it.”

Fine Features

Austin Commercial started work on Heritage Hall in January 2017 and plans to have it finished by this August. Risien is proud of multiple features on the project, including the grand lobby.

“[It] is open all the way up through the building,” he describes. “At the roof level, there’s a monitor up there that allows sunshine and natural light to come through.”

The lobby will feature a grand staircase as well as bridges on each floor. “There also will be a lot of nice finishes, plaster and millwork,” Risien says, noting that the exterior also will provide spaces for students.

Located in Killeen’s hill country, Heritage Hall will have an amphitheater where students can meet with friends and hold events. “The grounds also are going to be heavily landscaped and really nice,” he adds.

Although the university is not aiming for LEED certification on Heritage HAll, it will aim for efficiency. These features include a rain collection system and cistern tank for irrigation. “That’s pretty green,” Risien says. 

Up to the Task

Building a project on campuses while classes are still in session can be challenging, but Austin Commercial has been up to the task. By capturing the whole site with construction fencing, “It hasn’t been a problem,” Risien says. “We’ve always been aware that the students and faculty are there.”

The company also has worked on a site with open spaces, which gives it plenty of room to work while students safely commute to classes. “There’s a lot of room out there,” he says. 

Austin Commercial’s largest challenge on the project has been Mother Nature, Risien notes. The company coped from late winter to early spring with damp weather for that is unusual for Central Texas, he says.

“Contractors all over the state are having issues with that this spring,” he continues, adding that this created moisture problems inside the building. “We had these flights of temperature changes [where it was] 40 degrees on an afternoon,” he says.

“The moisture inside of the building was so great it was like it was raining inside of the building,” he continues, noting that the company coped by using dehumidifiers and fans. 

A Good Group

Austin Commercial has maintained a strong safety record during construction of Heritage Hall. “[We’ve had] one incident and no recordables,” Risien reports. “We have a great safety team that has done a great job for us out there.”

He also praises the work of the company’s subcontractors, which include Bell Glass & Mirror Co. Inc., based in Killeen, as well as Baker Triangle, a drywall and plaster company based in Austin, Texas. “We’re glad to have them on board,” he says.

Plenty to Do

Based in Dallas, Austin Commercial is part of Austin Industries, one of the largest, most diversified construction companies in the nation. The firm, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has more than 6,000 employee-owners and provides civil, commercial and industrial construction services through its divisions. 

Risien, who joined the firm 17 years ago, says Austin Commercial’s home state is thriving. “The Austin area is very busy,” he says. “We’ve got plenty to do but we’re always also chasing some backlog, too.”

SIDEBAR – Setting Standards 

Austin Industries has a safety record that is 85 percent higher than the national average in its industry. “Our management team, both in the field and at the highest levels of our corporate leadership, asserts remarkable accountability for safety – our benchmark for evaluating job performance and project success,” it says.

The company requires safety execution plans and job safety checklists on all of its projects. “Our ability to avoid unsafe conditions and lost-time accidents is largely a result of extensive training and excellent safety practices,” it says.

Austin Industries also has safety professionals and staff members visit its jobsites to ensure its employee-owners have implemented training and safe practices. “Employee-owners are empowered to stop work if they see an unsafe act and correct it,” the company says.

“Safety performance is managed, measured and required on a project-wide basis,” Austin Industries adds. “We recognize and reward excellence among our employee owners, as well as our subcontractors.”

SIDEBAR – Delivering Green 

Austin Industries is dedicated to providing sustainable solutions in its projects. Thanks to its experience with sustainability and LEED, “Austin can provide solutions to our customers rewarding sustainable initiatives on any project,” it says.

“Our LEED accredited professionals and Green Advantage Builders provide solutions for the reduction of goods/materials consumption and waste production,” the company says. “Through continuous research of green building materials, technologies and implementation, Austin delivers high-performance, sustainable buildings.”

The firm adds that it pioneered several prototype projects for the LEED certification program and stays focused on benefits for the environment and the owner. “We provide cost and constructability input for green initiatives during pre-construction, integrating the most appropriate environmental solution,” Austin Industries adds.

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