ENR Midwest's 2015 Owner of the Year: University of Notre Dame
Having kicked off $500 million in building projects from 2009 to 2013, University of Notre Dame was only warming up for a bigger game day. The 1,250-acre Indiana school picked up the pace in 2014 with more than $700 million in projects under design or construction, including the $400-million, 750,000-sq-ft Campus Crossroads, a trio of academic and student life facilities that will adjoin 85-year-old Notre Dame Stadium. Crossroads, which also involves stadium enhancements, marks the largest project ever undertaken by the 173-year-old school.
Timing has been everything, says university architect Doug Marsh, who notes a recent succession of endowments prompted Notre Dame, a private, Catholic institution, to "stack" projects that otherwise might have been executed over a period of years. In addition to Crossroads, which broke ground in November, construction has begun on $88-million McCourtney Hall, an interdisciplinary research center, while plans are underway for a new $39.6-million school of architecture, a pair of $40-million residence halls and the $80-million Jenkins and Nanovic Halls, a 175,000-sq-ft complex dedicated to social science and international studies.
Its projects have helped sustain local trades during lean years for the region, even as they scrambled to maintain pace with the school's ambitious agenda. "We've had to cast a wider net," says Marsh. "We've not only recruited from Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, but Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis." To do so, members of facilities and design operations, a staff of 120 that Marsh oversees, took to the road, conducting roll-out events across the region to attract bidders sufficiently skilled to execute an unprecedented array of projects, says Doug Schlagel, Notre Dame's director of construction and quality assurance.
Back home, facilities and design has sequenced and staggered key milestone design deliverables to avoid overwhelming staff with document reviews. "We've also planned for staggered bid periods to allow invited, prequalified bidders the time required to prepare complete proposals, and to avoid the sense of 'competing against ourselves' had projects all been bid at the same time," Schlagel says.
To expedite work, facilities and design has begun the transition from paper deliverables to electronic reviews that utilize Bluebeam Studio Sessions, a program that Schlagel says facilitates real-time feedback critical to accelerating preparation of construction documents and issuance of subsequent bids.
Virtually all facilities and design professionals, from designers to maintenance to utilities, are involved in project planning. "There are no territories," says Marsh. "We all operate under a single roof as campus stewards. Our belief is we're better planners and builders if we're involved in maintaining our facilities and that we're more informed as maintenance and utilities professionals if we're involved in facilities design. So, they're all involved every step of the way to ensure we design and build with durable and lasting materials and systems. I try not to use the term '100-year-old building.' Rather, the intent is develop timeless facilities with regard to structure, facade and curtain wall."
The sentiment extends to a prescribed palette of colors, materials and forms, in addition to sitings and orientations that maintain the scale of the compact, pedestrian-oriented campus, as outlined in Notre Dame's 2008 campus master plan.
As such, large expanses of glass and metal are in short supply on campus. Forms and materials instead honor the tenets of Collegiate Gothic architecture for which Notre Dame is renowned, from slated arched roof lines and narrow, elongated windows to brick and stone facades, as evinced in each of its current spate of projects. "We even have our own proprietary brick supplied by Belden Brick Co. in Ohio," says Marsh. "Its blend of color and clay best represents the best of our heritage."
The approach represents a return to form after post-World War II "bridge style" buildings on campus sought to reconcile classic and modern forms, to the satisfaction of few. "They were functional, but didn't take full advantage of what the campus provided us," says Marsh, who joined Notre Dame in 1995 and consulted on the matter with then-New York City-based John Burgee, a former partner with Johnson/Burgee Architects "who guided us in recommitting to Collegiate Gothic," Marsh says.
The university is no less particular in its selection of architects, casting a far wider net than for the trades that execute their plans. "We believe every project should be led and staffed by an A team," says Schlagel. "To fulfill that desire, we realized we needed to expand our searches across a broader geographic range." Two East Coast architects, Glastonbury, Conn.-based S/L/A/M Collaborative and Boston-based Goody Clancy, are executing Campus Crossroads and new residence halls, respectively, while London-based architect John Simpson, a proponent of New Classicism and New Urbanism, has been tapped to design the 60,000-sq-ft Walsh Family Hall of Architecture. In addition to RFQs, RFPs and short lists, candidates undergo rigorous review, from consultations with former clients to project tours and office visits. "I like to observe how a firm works, how it collaborates, where a president or principal sits relative to other staffers, how their teams respond to stress points," Marsh says.