AACC building combines high technology with bold design
A $117 million, 175,000-square-foot, LEED Gold, state-of-the-art health and life sciences education center is an enormously complex construction project on its face. Add in signature architectural elements, expansive common areas and unique, sustainable features and the science facility also becomes a work of art.
The 22 BC&E member companies that helped build the new Health and Life Sciences Building at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC), channeled their varied expertise and ingenuity into meeting the project’s hefty and even extraordinary requirements.
The technology requirements alone were enormous. Determined to create a leading-edge, interdisciplinary learning center for health and life sciences professionals, AACC’s design included 18 biology labs, 20 health sciences labs, greenhouse and aquaculture labs, space to expand the college’s nursing program, an environmental health center and simulator labs for multiple clinical rotations, including surgical suites, radiology and mammography labs, an ambulance simulator for Emergency Medical Technician training and computer-controlled manikins that mimic patient conditions.
The project team had to “source and install medical-grade equipment so that those labs looked and functioned like hospitals because that is where you are training surgical technicians and nurses that will be caring for us in clinical settings one day,” said Jeff Hossfeld, Senior Project Manager at The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
Several aspects of the project proved so complex that they also won individual craftsmanship awards.
Craftsmen from Snap-Wall executed a stunning transformation when shipments from the sole-specified manufacturer of acoustic fabric wall panels for the project repeatedly provided poor-quality products. The panels were improperly manufactured, out of square and they bubbled.
Extensive discussions and field visits convinced the project team that the problem could not be corrected by the manufacturer so Snap-Wall craftsmen devised an inspired solution. They removed the acoustic cores from the substandard panels, modified and blocked them, then reupholstered them with an alternate fabric and liner that matched the architect’s specifications for acoustical performance and aesthetics.
Installing the panels in the building’s large lecture hall/event space, the craftsmen met the project specifications of tight seams and tolerances of less than one-sixteenth of an inch and ultimately created a high-performance acoustical product with a beautiful, seamless look.
“The crew from Snap-Wall was presented with a really difficult situation, but they took it upon themselves to propose a solution and handcraft that solution in the field,” Hossfeld said. “What they achieved was really impressive. It exceeded all expectations.”
Meanwhile, the crew from Walls and Ceilings Inc. tackled the installation of panels that would comprise an expansive, heavily textured wooden ceiling. In addition to the challenge of installing pieces 20 feet above the floor, craftsmen had to work with panels of varying sizes, precisely field measure each panel and plan an intricate installation over an expanse of 300 linear feet.
A large expansion joint running through the space required the crew, mid-project, to alter the plan and complete a custom installation over a 60-foot section. Due to the floor-to-ceiling glazing that created sightlines from inside the student commons area to the exterior, craftsmen also had to ensure that the interior ceiling panels lined up with the wood panels that were being attached to the building’s soffit.
“That was a very difficult process because they were two different panel systems with two different suspension systems, but they had to look like one seamless surface,” Hossfeld said. “Crews had to do a lot of very precise layout to get everything to align perfectly.”
Elsewhere in the building, craftspeople delivered extraordinary results, including several million dollars of high-end millwork. Whiting-Turner worked with experts to harvest, reclaim and reuse old-growth willow oak that had to be removed for the development.
After the trees were cut into boards and the boards were kiln-dried for more than 18 months, craftsmen used that product to create slat wood paneling and assembled it into a feature wall. Crews created custom-radiused benches and installed custom acoustical wood-veneer panels in a complex design that set panels at many different angles and required craftspeople to make numerous, perfect compound miter cuts.
Crews also completed an exquisite installation of 30-foot high, decorative, glulam columns. Each column weighed over 1,000 pounds, so craftspeople used a 3D laser scanner to precisely locate mounting holes in the structural steel columns then engineered a custom rigging system to move the massive pieces into place.