The members of the building team charged with landing what appears to be a winged flying saucer at Florida Polytechnic University's new campus would have had enough on their plate if they were all huddled in the same place, scratching their heads over design architect Santiago Calatrava's futuristic forms. But they weren't. The designers, builders, fabricators and other material and product suppliers were scattered around the globe.

The geographic divide made an already difficult job even more so. For the 162,000-sq-ft Innovation, Science and Technology Building, "every corner we turned, there was something that required close attention," says Joey Ottman, project manager for architect-of-record Alfonso Architects.

Whether it was Calatrava's demands for special white bathroom tiles from China or obtaining custom components for last-minute installation from vendors in Canada and Mexico, the Skanska USA Building-led construction team never backed away from realizing Calatrava's vision. At the same time, Skanska had to maintain the university's $60-million budget and construction schedule.

"The intent was to fully integrate space, form and structure into a beautiful, functioning structure," says Frank Lorino, the designer in charge in Calatrava's New York City office.

Judges were impressed by the extensive safety planning, training and field oversight. Further, they noted the design and construction team's use of building information modeling to ensure drawing coordination and the component's compliance with tight tolerances. And they lauded Skanska for delivering the challenging project on time and on budget.

The building's curvilinear roof is topped by a 250-ft-long, bilaterally symmetrical skylight shading system-a pair of kinetic wings comprising 94 aluminum fins of varying lengths up to 62 ft. The kinetic shading system is the crowning touch of the building. The wings move, depending on the best position to shade the roof skylight from the sun. Each fin can rise up to approximately 65° above and 48° below the horizontal plane, for a total articulation of 113°.

Subcontractor MG McGrath worked closely with structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti on detailed design and fabrication of the wings. They switched the original concept from massive steel wings to the aluminum fins, each operated by its own hydraulic cylinder, to reduce weight and minimize maintenance.

Other, less dramatic design elements presented global headaches for the project team, says Chuck Jablon, vice president and operations manager for Skanska. At the end points of the curvilinear roof system, for instance, a relatively small number of sharp-turned glass panel sections could be shaped only by heat bending. That limited suppliers to European companies or, as it turned out, Cristacurva, in Mexico.

To get the glass panels formed perfectly, Cristacurva required a template created from the finished structure. That meant delaying the final order for the glass, Jablon says.

Further, only one vendor in the world could deliver the required hardware for a giant, wall-like door that divides a meeting space in two.Vancouver, British Columbia-based Slung Door also required actual field dimensions before beginning to manufacture the component.

"Almost all of the finishes had to be complete before [Slung Door] would manufacture the pieces and the parts," says Jablon. As a result, final installation occurred roughly one month prior to substantial completion.

Calatrava himself used technology to motivate the building team. From his office in Zurich, he conducted 20 videoconferences. "It was like having him in the room," says Jablon, adding that Calatrava would use his drawings to explain difficult-to-grasp details.

The goal, says Calatrava, was to erect a monument to education. "The Innovation, Science and Technology Building aims to be, itself, a tool to achieve the highest level of education for young people," he says.

Project Team

Owner: Florida Polytechnic University


Design Architect: Santiago Calatrava/Festina Lente LLC


Architect of Record: Alfonso Architects


General Contractor: Skanska USA Building Inc.


Engineers: Thornton Tomasetti; Anderson Lane; TLC Engineering for Architecture


Specialty Contractors: MG McGrath; Baker Concrete Construction; Atlantic Industrial Technologies


Owner's Representative: Lighthouse Advisors Inc.