For its $163-million Marsico Hall project at the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus, Choate Construction Co. and its team of specialty contractors went above and beyond the competition with its commitment to safety. That was the opinion of ENR Southeast's Best Projects safety judges, who selected the project from a field of more than 50 other projects for this year's Excellence in Safety Award.

The project's safety record was undeniably strong, with zero OSHA recordable incidents over the course of more than 1.3 million worker hours.

Marsico Hall, which also received an Award of Merit in the higher-education/research category, is the university's premiere research facility, bringing together the School of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine.

Designed by Perkins+Will, the 343,000-sq-ft building contains five interdisciplinary functions, including the Biomolecular Research Imaging Center and the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery.

The largest construction manager-at-risk project ever completed in the state of North Carolina proved challenging from the start. Adjacent buildings, utilities, pedestrian spines and roadways constrained the tight site. Extensive rock, trapped water and groundwater required underslab drainage and waterproofing systems. Deep excavation for two below-grade levels required extensive shoring systems on all sides as well as multiple ramps to accommodate removal of earth and rock.

To protect the facility's sensitive equipment—some of which could not experience any vibrations—the project team installed German-made vibration-prevention mats to eliminate any tremors in or around the structure.

However, it was Choate's safety program that really stood out. The contractor's partnership with the North Carolina Dept. of Labor's extended consultative review program especially impressed ENR Southeast's safety judges.

In this program, all contractors individually participate in a consultative jobsite inspection, where the state reviews each firm's safety and training programs and monitors work in progress via site inspections. Additionally, Choate's project-dedicated safety manager performed unexpected inspections, which helped keep safety in the forefront of the workers' minds at all times.

For the entire project's four-year construction duration, contractors experienced zero time lost to accidents, injuries or safety violations.

The project was designed to LEED-Silver standards.

Excellence in Safety, Award of Merit - Higher Education/Research — Marsico Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Key Players

Contractor Choate Construction Co., Raleigh

Owner University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Architect Perkins+Will, Durham, N.C.

Structural and Civil Engineer Mulkey, Raleigh

MEP Engineer Newcomb & Boyd, Atlanta