University of Texas – Norman Hackerman Building

The University of Texas is putting the finishing touches on its newest instructional facility. Substantial construction concluded this year on the six-story, 295,000-square-foot Norman Hackerman Building on the Austin campus. The structure was scheduled for occupancy in late October. The building, named in honor of chemist, professor and University of Texas president emeritus Norman Hackerman, is one part of a total $195 million project that also includes the renovation of Robert A. Welch Hall, the chemistry building located across the street. 

The Welch building, constructed in 1929, will receive upgrades to its electrical, HVAC and fire protection systems, as well as laboratory renovations.

Once the Hackerman building opens, much of the chemistry research program housed in the Welch building will relocate to the new facility during renovation. The renovation project is scheduled for 2011, says Jim Shackelford, senior project manager for the University of Texas office of facilities planning and construction.

The Hackerman building replaces the campus’ Experimental Science Building (ESB), which opened in 1952 and was demolished in spring 2008. The ESB initially was targeted for upgrades and renovations needed to meet the needs of a modern chemistry program such as laboratory space. However, the building’s floor and ceiling heights were found to be inadequate to continue housing programs, Shackelford adds.

The construction manager at-risk on the project is The Beck Group, which operates offices in Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth, Texas; Atlanta; Broomfield, Colo.; and Tampa, Fla.

Building Features

The new Hackerman building will include space for chemistry teaching labs, research labs, neuroscience research labs and faculty offices, as well as administration offices for the university’s School of Biological Sciences, Shackleford says.

It also will house facilities and equipment that will provide core support for all research areas. The basement will include a high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facility, an electron microscopy imaging suite, an in vivo optical imaging space, and a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) facility for brain imaging, according to the university. 

Three additional NMR machines will be located on the building’s fifth floor for more routine use. These core facilities will provide support for several other research areas including pharmacy, psychology, biomedical engineering and other natural sciences, the university adds.

The building’s façade features a combination of limestone, brick and glass that is complimentary to the architecture of surrounding campus buildings, Shackelford adds.

The east end of the Hackerman building will feature a glass curtain wall façade facing Speedway Street, the campus’ main pedestrian thoroughfare. This portion of the building will also include conference space, a 150-seat seminar room and several informal gathering spaces, Shackelford says.

These informal spaces include seating and workstations to facilitate study and collaboration, and a student workroom and lounge will provide added informal gathering space for students. The seminar room will feature advanced audiovisual technology that can be easily adapted for future technology, the university says.

The Hackerman building is designed with a number of energy efficient features aimed at attaining LEED Silver or Gold certification. These include solar water heating panels on the building’s roof, an energy efficient HVAC system, and chilled water provided by a pair of 42-inch water pipes that run 40 feet underground and connect to a new 4 million gallon water storage tank.

Logistical Challenges

Constructing the building in the middle of a fully developed urban college campus of more than 50,000 students presented builders with challenges getting crews and materials to and from the site, Shackelford says.

Much of the work including concrete pouring was done late at night or early in the morning in an effort to avoid disruption to students and faculty in nearby buildings. In addition, monitors were set up near the site to gauge vibrations created as a result of construction activity. Crews coordinated with campus police to handle motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow, and scheduled construction around activities occurring nearby, he adds.

“We learned you cannot over-communicate,” Shackelford says. ”Communication with everyone is extremely important, with not only the people who will occupy the building, but the next-door neighbors. It’s much better to inform someone of something than to catch them by surprise.”

Construction crews also followed what Shackelford terms as a “very robust” series of safety specifications. “We believe safety is paramount on all construction sites,” he adds. “As a result, not only this project, but all of our projects are safer.”

The Hackerman project was noted with a number of internal university safety awards, Shackelford says. 

“This building has been a success story, and when it gets delivered this year, I think the campus will be very proud of it,” he adds. 

Award Winning Service

The Beck Group was founded in 1912. The company offers a range of services including development, architecture, construction, sustainability and technology. 

“We are better able to serve our clients’ needs because of this multi-faceted structure,” the company says.

The company has earned more than 500 awards including Fortune  magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work” list. 

“Acknowledgement of our craftsmanship and respectful rapport with clients, subcontractors and industry colleagues is why we cherish our reputation for providing ‘Better Buildings, Better Built,’” the company adds. 

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