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Experiments in Construction Get Scientific at Berry College

Wed February 09, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Tonya Layman

Most college campuses are pretty quiet during the summertime, but not Berry College in Mt. Berry, GA. That is where the college’s first major construction project in more than 30 years began this past summer on the historic main campus outside of Rome, GA.

Winter Construction Company won the open bid on the $20-million project.

Winter Construction Company began the $20-million project in June of 1999. The new three-story, 13,470.9-square-meter (145,000 sq. ft.) science building, will consolidate the school of mathematical and natural sciences into one location. The project is scheduled for completion in November of 2000, but according to Project Manager Jonathan Clay, the crew is expecting to be complete in late September or early October.

That is if the conditions at the site don’t turn up more challenges for the crew. Shortly after construction began, the crews discovered several caverns were under the building site. These caves had to be filled with a flowable grout, which is a lightweight concrete material that was pumped into the voids to fill the cavern.

Also in preparing the sight, about 125 caissons had to be put in the ground using a drilling rig that drills through the soil to rock. This rig, which is specifically built for drilling through rock and soil, allowed workers to drill until they hit rock and form a solid base. Crews then fill the drilled shaft with concrete and steel reinforcing to complete the deep foundations system.

“This provides a foundation for the building system,” Clay said. “It was a very important stage for this project.”

Because the college officials and O’Neal Inc., the architects on this project, are trying to preserve as many as the trees on the site as possible, a Pekko SK170 tower crane was brought in.

“We are trying to keep as many trees on site as possible, which doesn’t allow us to have a mobile crane around the building. The tower crane is the best option in this case,” Clay said.

The crane has been used for hoisting materials and several Lulls have been used to move materials around the site. In addition, a Schwing concrete pump and a Daewoo pump have been used at the site.

One most interesting piece Clay has used at the site is a conveyor system used for moving aggregate graded base. Conditions at the site forced the crew to use innovative techniques to place the graded base. Many of the pipes, including electrical conduit, plumbing lines, storm sewers, acid waste piping, and chilled water line, were below grade and had to be strapped to the slab using stainless steel rod or stainless steel aircraft cable. This protects them from falling into sinkholes or caverns that may open in the future.

However, the wires used to tie these pipes down were sticking out of the ground so they could be tied to the steel reinforcing as construction continues. Typically construction crews don’t have to contend with hundreds of wires sticking from the ground, so they can use skidsteers to move the gravel in place. In this case, the usual methods did not apply so the crew used the conveyor system, which was rented from Nichols Concrete Equipment.

The Putzmeister system has a hopper at one end. The user can convey the materials to the hopper, then operate the machine with a remote to place the material directly above the area where it needs to be placed.

“You normally don’t need to convey the stone into place but it was difficult to move it along the ground, so being able to raise the stone in the air and drop it where needed was beneficial to us,” Clay said. “It made the job easier and quicker.”

The alternative would have been to place the graded base by hand using wheelbarrows to move the materials and small handheld equipment to spread it.

Everett Construction Inc. based in Rome, GA, completed the grading and some of the site utility work at Berry College. In completing these portions of the project, they brought in several pieces of Caterpillar equipment including D5HXL and D6M dozers, 320L and 330L excavators and a 416 backhoe.

But perhaps the most useful piece of equipment used during the site clearing state was a tub grinder that allowed for the brush and stumps to be ground into mulch on site and reduced the amount of truck traffic at the pedestrian-heavy college campus.

According to Darrell Everett, owner of Everett Construction, his crews stockpiled the trees, brush and stumps and then brought in the tub grinder, feeding the materials into the top-loading tub.

He then took the mulch to a paperboard mill in Rome, where it was used as a source of electricity to run the mill.

“This was a faster, cheaper and safer process rather than hauling the trees off the site,” Everett said, adding that special permits are needed in order to dump trees in landfills. Additionally this eliminated the constant flow of trucks removing the trees, stumps and brush from the site.

Everett’s crew was even able to salvage some of the hard wood pine from the trees at the campus, some of which he sold to a local lumber mill. The remaining pine was made into lumber and donated back to Berry College for them to use in other facilities on campus.

The new science building will consist of high-tech laboratories, general-purpose chemistry and biology labs with exhaust fume hoods, animal holding rooms, classrooms, lecture rooms and an auditorium. The building is designed around modular laboratory units and vertical service chases, which allow for economical service runs and the ability to modify laboratory arrangements over time. The scope of the project includes extensive site work and a parking lot that accommodates 100 cars.

According to Clay, this is a complex laboratory building and the owner has requested the use of a head recovery system allowing the system to be more efficient and save the owner money over the life cycle of the equipment. In addition, the college wants to provide each student with cable modem and network systems at each classrooms seat creating a state-of-the-art learning environment. The plans also allow for upgrading capabilities as technology advances.

Clay said he is pleased that Winter Construction won the competitive bid for this project. He believes value engineering was the company’s ace in the hole.

“We were the low bid, but there was a small spread between us and the other finalists bidding on the project,” Clay said. “They started working with us through a value engineering effort and, I think they got comfortable with our team.”

The crew recently finished the concrete work for a majority of the structure and began steel erection. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing work has begun along with some of the HVAC placement and brickwork.

“I think they are going to love it. Now that the structure is up and the brickwork has started, they are able to visualize the space and are very excited about it,” Clay said, when asked to predict his client’s reaction to the finished product.

Winter Construction Company is an Atlanta-based general contractor and construction management firm headquartered at 1330 Spring St., Atlanta. They have branch offices in Orlando and Tampa, FL. Their Web address is

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