Auburn Culinary Center Set to Open in 2021

Thu October 29, 2020 - Southeast Edition #23
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent

The structure will ultimately include approximately 142,000 sq. ft. of conditioned space, with six above-grade levels and one below-grade level.
(Auburn University photo)
The structure will ultimately include approximately 142,000 sq. ft. of conditioned space, with six above-grade levels and one below-grade level. (Auburn University photo)
The structure will ultimately include approximately 142,000 sq. ft. of conditioned space, with six above-grade levels and one below-grade level.
(Auburn University photo) As one of the largest single construction contracts in Auburn University’s history, the $110 million Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is expected to be a game changer in the field of hospitality education when it opens in 2021.
(Cooper Carry (Architect of Record) rendering) A variety of heavy machinery is being used on the project, including a Soil Mec SR-45 to drill piers.
(Auburn University photo) Site prep is mostly complete, with new sanitary and storm force main systems ongoing.
(Auburn University photo) The 142,000-sq. ft. facility will serve the educational needs of students by offering a differential learning environment where they can sharpen their craft to benefit the public at large post-graduation.
(Auburn University photo)


As one of the largest single construction contracts in Auburn University's history, the $110 million Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is expected to be a game changer in the field of hospitality education when it opens in 2021.

"Auburn has a long and proud history of offering a very differential hospitality management education that's earned it a reputation for excellence in all that it does with its undergraduate and graduate programs," said Martin O'Neill, department head, nutrition, dietetics and hospitality management. "The new Rane Culinary Science Center will enable it further to raise the standard of hospitality education, not only nationally, but internationally. It will showcase the very best mix of theoretical and practical learning approaches, providing students with an unparalleled education.

"Serving as a living, breathing and very much commercial service learning laboratory, it will provide students with direct and first-hand customer engagement opportunities at the very top end of the lodging and food and beverage fields. The ability to offer this myriad learning experiences provides a real opportunity to elevate the student experience, and ensure they are truly ready for the world of work upon placement."

The 142,000-sq. ft. facility will serve the educational needs of students by offering a differential learning environment where they can sharpen their craft to benefit the public at large post-graduation.

"It will also serve the workforce development needs of the state's burgeoning hospitality and tourism industries, by offering a variety of training and professional development programs for industry professionals," said O'Neill. "It will serve the needs of the local community through daily service provision at the many food service outlets that will be open to the local community and through a variety of short food and beverage oriented programs that will be available in an outreach sense. These might include wine tasting, food and wine pairing, cooking classes and cooking demonstrations."

O'Neill said the reaction among students is extremely positive.

"The Center offers students the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of hands-on learning opportunities as an extension of their theory-driven classes. These include food production and service in the 1856 Training Restaurant, beverage education through the wine and distilled spirits educational laboratories, the onsite micro-brewery, the artisanal focused food hall and business incubator and our ultra-luxury hotel and spa and rooftop event venue.

"It affords almost limitless real-world learning opportunities for students and practicing industry professionals. Our goal has always been differential job placement, and the new Rane Culinary Science Center will certainly aid in this quest."

O'Neill said the project will stand out as a global center for food and hospitality in the South.

"Nothing else exists like it, regionally or nationally. Most programs are forced to rely upon industry placements to ensure their students have the appropriate amount of work-based learning upon graduation. And unless you have in-house lodging or food and beverage facilities, you are forced to go the internship route. Students will have customer facing laboratory classes factored into the vast majority of their classes during their time at Auburn. This will prepare them better for both their required internship and their first job placement.

"Industry professionals are very impressed with the concept, and the fact that they were consulted during initial and subsequent concept development discussions. This is critical, given the fact that our ultimate goal is to place our students with these very fine individuals. Chef Frank Stitt and others pointed to a real dearth of educational opportunity both in-state and further afield, and worked very closely with us to inform our thinking around the new Center.

The structure includes approximately 142,000 sq. ft. of conditioned space, with six above-grade levels and one below-grade level. According to Matt Jackson, senior project manager, Hoar Program Management (HPM), the main challenge to this project is its complexity of program types, and the level of a detail required to execute it.

"There is no other facility in the world that has combined a world-class culinary school with a five-diamond hotel. It will be the premier culinary and hospitality facility in the country when it opens. As such, the complexity of the systems and finishes inside are just as world-class."

Currently under way is the basement under slab rough-in, basement exterior structural walls and interior basement structure for elevators and the storm shelter. Site work/basement excavation is finished, and drilled pier foundations are complete. Key tasks such as structure vertical construction, interior MEP systems, interior build-out and the building envelope remain.

Jackson said complexity of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems is a chief concern when building a culinary science center.

"This is already a challenge in most buildings where above-ceiling space is limited, but even more so on a building with such complex MEP requirements. We are using BIM to help coordinate much of this on the front end, and ensure fitment prior to install, so as to not incur delays in the field."

The restaurant will be a premier venue with excellent visibility of College Street and Samford Hall.

It will feature high-end architectural millwork, finishes, curtain wall, an open kitchen and a bar. It is also open up to level two, and is visible from the Wine Appreciation Center. It will also feature custom lighting meant to mimic the branches of the Toomer's Oaks.

The food hall will be constructed of cross-laminated-timber and steel, with plenty of curtain wall to provide views of College Street and the event lawn. Each vendor station will have its own unique feel, with a mixture of various tile, wood and other finishes, according to Jackson.

Jackson said crews have encountered the typical summer in the south weather pattern.

"Strong rain every other day, usually, so it slows down the basement construction, especially causing delays on any open trenches for foundations or underslab MEP. A temporary dewatering system, though, has helped get rain out of the basement in a timely manner."

Site prep is mostly complete, with new sanitary and storm force main systems ongoing. Shoring/piles had to be installed in order to enable the basement excavation. Large steel piles were hammered into the ground, then excavation began and wood lagging was used to retain the soil.

"Once at a certain depth, tie-backs were drilled into the shoring system that help pin the shoring back as well, to counter any bending or loading from the adjacent soil," said Jackson. "This process was time-consuming, but eventually the excavation was complete and enabled the basement structure to begin. I believe it was approximately 26 feet deep at its deepest corner."

A variety of heavy machinery is being used on the project. Soil Mec SR-45 was the drilling rig required to drill piers. Komatsu PC88MR mini-excavators are being utilized for under slab trenching for plumbing and electrical piping. Komatsu PC360LCs were used for the majority of excavation and utility work. A Komatsu HM400 off-road dump truck was used to shuttle dirt around the site.

In addition, an American 525 crawler crane was used to drive piles, while a power crane helped move material around the property.

The complete building envelope system will be the most tedious part of construction.

"It is very complex in all the different scopes," said Jackson, "everything from standard framing and sheathing, to steel supports for the precast, then brick, precast, curtain wall, storefront, and the several different roofing types, including a green roof."

Bailey Harris Construction of Auburn, Ala., serves as the general contractor.

"They are a good fit because of their long history of building on campus and long relationship with the university," said Jackson. "They are local, and take pride in building a premier facility in their hometown." CEG