Project Profile: UMBC Retriever Activity Center
Scope of work: $21.5 million renovation of 95,200-square-foot athletic and recreation center
BC&E Member companies involved: J. Vinton Schafer Construction, James Posey Associates, G.E. Tignall, Hancock and Albanese Siemens Industry
The natatorium, weight rooms, dance studios and indoor courts are filled with light and splashed with bright color, creating a modern and inviting recreation center. But the real work of art in the renovated Retriever Activity Center (RAC) at University of Maryland Baltimore County is the mechanical room.
As part of the two-year renovation, the project team had to complete an extensive and complex upgrade of the RAC’s mechanical systems. The facility which had been built in three sections (in the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s), had a variety of old HVAC equipment and a two-pipe, heating and cooling system that limited the building’s efficiency and comfort levels.
As crews began work, “we found deteriorating sections of pipe and deficiencies within the existing air handling units,” said Kyle Weir, Senior Project Manager with J. Vinton Schafer Construction, a Quandel Enterprises Company.
The project team, which was committed to maintaining operations in portions of the building in case pandemic conditions allowed students to return, steadily executed, refined and expanded their plans to “completely gut some parts of the system, merge old building systems with new, and renovate, refurbish or upgrade other equipment to create a better overall system,” Weir said.
In the process, they created the artful mechanical room.
“What is so impressive is it literally was created on top of the old mechanical room and we kept multiple systems running at the same time,” he said. “But if you look at the layout of our new mechanical room, you would never think that we were working around so much existing infrastructure that we later had to demo. It just looks like a really nice, brand new mechanical room.”
Although creating an efficient and robust HVAC system (which is sized to handle daily athletic activities as well as the much heavier loads of periodic concerts, graduations and other large events) was a major challenge, it was just one component of the renovation. Work also included replacing the roof which had exceeded its useful life and developed multiple failure points, and upgrading electrical service to the building, including adding a new substation to the campus electrical distribution system.
Crews completed aesthetic upgrades throughout the building and converted some areas formerly used for varsity sports into modern fitness facilities for students. They worked through the “hodge podge” of unmarked, low-voltage cabling, Internet and audio-visual infrastructure to create up-to-date systems.
Crews also analyzed the impacts of countless, previous renovations and completed “a lot of structural clarification,” Weir said. Workers uncovered secondary ceilings, repaired or re-supported “penetrations through archaic structural systems,” and corrected assorted other structural and life safety deficiencies.