After having spent more than a year as agency construction manager for Ohio State University's (OSU) planned $126-million Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building (CBEC), Gilbane Building Co., Columbus, learned that OSU was terminating its contract. Soon after, in the summer of 2011, Gov. John Kasich signed the most sweeping reform for procurement of public construction projects in Ohio in 134 years, freeing the Columbus-based university to pursue alternative delivery methods. Shortly thereafter, OSU invited Gilbane to compete for the 235,000-sq-ft project as CM-at-risk. In March 2012, it awarded Gilbane the contract.

"Labs are among the most complex facilities we have on campus," says Bernard Constantino, university architect, who also serves as senior director of facilities design and construction with OSU. "The greater the complexity, the greater the advantage of alternative delivery methods such as at-risk. Here, the university holds only a single contract rather than more than 25."

When completed next September, the six-story CBEC not only will house dry and wet labs, but facilities ranging from computational research spaces and shared core labs to instructional spaces and offices for faculty, administration and graduate students.

Plans were well under way when Gilbane initially departed. "We were excused at a fairly critical time," says Brett Myer, Gilbane project executive.

By the time the firm resumed work, "it was later than you'd normally prefer," says Michael Reagan, vice president with Stantec Inc., Cleveland, CBEC's architect of record. "We were performing final reviews of construction documents."

Nevertheless, "the project would have been more challenging had we remained in our previous capacity," says Myer. "It can be difficult for a CM agent to corral more than 25 subs without having contractural control. As an at-risk CM, we also had the flexibility of prequalifying contractors, which is beneficial for projects as complex as this."

In this instance, a unique curtain wall element threw project team members an additional curve. Earlier this month, glazing contractor Roschmann Steel & Glass Constructions Inc. installed final units for the project's signature element, a transparent two-story "wave wall" that encloses perimeter lobby and lounge spaces at grade level. As designed by New Haven, Conn.-based project architect Pelli Clarke Pelli, the 140-ft-long insulated window wall required prefabrication of hundreds of irregularly shaped glass members, including trapezoidal units that were cold-bent on site to achieve required radii.

"Only a handful of contractors have the expertise to engineer, prefabricate and install an assembly of this complexity and, in this case, none of them happened to be local," says Myer. "As it turns out, Roschmann is a German firm with operations in New Haven. That's an example of the flexibility we had in prequalifying our contractors."

"It's a unique element," says Reagan. "That particular portion of the facade stands adjacent to one of the main pathways leading to the quad, so the thought was to be a little more playful with it."

The wall required about nine months to detail and execute, during which time project team members in Columbus, New Haven and Gersthofen, Germany, engaged in a dozen or so web-based teleconferences. Construction of full-scale mock-ups followed this past spring.