Several university projects in Maine have been moving forward with design and construction despite pricing escalation and labor shortages the industry has faced throughout the pandemic. Here’s a look at how these projects are faring:

Project: Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center

Location: University of Maine, Orono

Cost: $78 million

Despite launching construction at the start of the pandemic in April 2020, the project recently reached 50% completion and is slated for completion in August 2022. Matt Tonello, project executive at Consigli Construction, says the team entered “into a market with little materials purchasing…when there were worries there was not going to be much work in 2021 and 2022.” He added, “Now with enormous escalation of steel prices, the steel price of this project would probably be 30% higher than when we bought it.”

The 108,000-sq-ft. Ferland center will house the Biomedical Engineering Program and the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and teaching laboratories for the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program, in addition to collaborative learning classrooms for the entire campus, and workspace for UMaine engineering majors.

Because biomedical engineering requires dedicated outside air, the team built mechanical systems that bring in air and exhausts 100% of the air, Tonello notes. To assist with this process, crews are installing a sophisticated heat recovery system, which pulls heat out of the exhausted air and returns it to the building through thermodynamic exchange using a refrigerant system.

In designing lab space for the facility, Thornton Tomasetti’s structural team considered what type of equipment and design criteria to use to mitigate vibration concerns. “Depending on the area of the building, this impacted our structural steel support sizing,” says Jessica Kandel, Thornton Tomasetti business development manager.

In mid-May, “the team got final sign off on all above-ceiling coordination, a process that took six and a half months and is motoring ahead to install prefabricated systems as soon as our slabs are in place,” Tonello says.

Project: Portland Campus Development Project

Location: University of Southern Maine, Portland

Cost: $99.4 million

The 580-bed hall will be the first student housing on the Portland campus designed to international passive house certification. The project includes “a high-performance thermal exterior envelope and low-energy use mechanical systems,” says Mike Leonard, vice president of construction operations, PC Construction.

Expected to use 50% less energy than a building built to code, the project is “on track to be the second largest university passive house building in the U.S. and the seventh largest passive house building of any type in the country,” according to a university spokesperson.

Construction of the 218,000 sq-ft LEED-silver targeted residence hall began on May 20, with substantial completion expected by June 2023. The building will include four wings, two of which will be five-stories high and two of which will be eight-stories. The wings will form a parallelogram enclosing a half-acre semi-private residential courtyard. 

The team is currently demoing existing facilities and working on concrete foundations, including pile caps and a variety of footings and ground improvements, such as rigid inclusions, stone columns, rock anchors and auger cast piles.

In work on the adjoining 42,000-sq-ft Career & Student Success Center, “intense building information modeling coordination for the in-slab conduit” will allow it to be concealed in the exposed mass timber section of the center, Leonard notes. The coordination will also “allow the cross-laminated timber decking to be fabricated with troughs and cutouts to lay conduit and install junction boxes,” he says.

Elkus Manfredi Architects is serving as the design architect while SMRT Architects & Engineers is the architect of record. John Martin, principal at Elkus Manfredi, says “USM’s vision as conveyed to the development and design build team, was to have two new buildings that would manifest the university’s commitment to all three aspects of holistic sustainability – environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic prosperity. As such, the team worked diligently to make the student rental rate affordable by leveraging PC Construction’s intimate knowledge of the subcontractor market and efficient materials sourcing in a pandemic-challenged economy.”

Project: College of Osteopathic Medicine Medical Building

Location: Portland, Maine

Cost: $70 million

Plans for constructing a new four-story, 116,000 sq-ft college of Osteopathic Medicine Medical Building are underway at the University of New England that would unite all UNE medical faculty and students together on one campus in Portland. “This move will create a lot of efficiencies to create a new home for the college,” says Nick Vaughn, director of education at SMRT Architects & Engineers.

Currently in schematic design, the project is expected to begin in 2022 and last more than 18 months on an occupied campus. “We understand the challenges that will arise and how to overcome them to ensure the construction has the least amount of disruption for the faculty and the students,” says Peter Reynolds, project manager for Ledgewood Construction in Portland.