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Liebherr Tower Crane Oversees Cornell University Project

Tue July 16, 2002 - Northeast Edition
Mary Gelling Merritt


The new “man” on Cornell University’s campus in Ithaca, NY, these days is a 154-ft. (45.7 m) Liebherr 316 EC-H 12 tower-crane.

The crane is playing a commanding role in the construction of a brand new, state-of-the-art, $58.5-million nanotechnology research facility called Duffield Hall.

St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies is providing construction management and general contracting services on the project and is working alongside the construction firm, Welliver McGuire Inc., of Elmira, NY.

The building was designed by an award-winning architect — the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership of Los Angeles. The project began with site preparation and excavation by Paolangeli Construction last June. The first concrete was hoisted into place last November.

The rented crane is essential to the project. Building a nanotechnology research facility requires reinforced-concrete with a design to achieve the lowest amount of vibration.

Nanotechnology is an important new area that is critical to future developments in the fields of information technology, materials science and biotechnology. Nanotechnology means constructing and looking at things that are on the scale of a billionth of a meter (nanometer). When being produced, nano objects must be motionless within nanometers (approximately 3 to 4 atoms wide).

“The implications of this research are enormous, from building faster and more powerful computers and the evolution of cleaner manufacturing methods, to the development of mechanical devices that can fight disease within the human body,” said John Hopcroft, dean of Cornell University’s College of Engineering. “Construction of Duffield Hall will allow us to bring together many of the various nanotechnology and materials-development groups that currently work independently in various parts of the campus.” Hopcroft added that the creation of nanometer-scale structures require extremely stable environments with rigorously controlled temperature, humidity and electromagnetic interference. The clean room and electron microscopy suite on Duffield’s first floor will contain the most stable environments, including six isolated slabs for ultra-low vibration requirements.

The Liebherr 316 EC-H 12 tower-crane can more than handle a few slabs of reinforced concrete. The crane’s jib is 213 ft. (64.9 m) long and the counterjib is 74.5 ft. (22.7 m). The crane can lift up to 7,715 lbs. (3,499 kg) at the end of the jib and overall it can lift 26,455 lbs. (11,999 kg) a maximum distance of up to 76 ft. (23.2 m).

The building’s foundation is designed to keep the structure from settling and cracking. To achieve this, spread footings were drilled 14 ft. (4.3 m) down and filled with reinforced concrete. The concrete footings rest on bedrock.

According to Ken Hover, a Cornell University professor of civil and environmental engineering, exterior concrete surfaces in Ithaca are particularly vulnerable to degradation and fracturing due to the area’s harsh climate. Duffield Hall will not be as vulnerable because it is an enclosed concrete building. However, strict quality controls will be applied to the project. Hover said the amount of water in the concrete and the quality of the aggregates added to the mix will be monitored extensively to assure the stiffness of the concrete.

But there is another concern for contractors, they must ensure that the surrounding area is still enough so that sensitive nanotechnology research can continue nearby.

“This project requires that the current Cornell Nanofabrication Facility in Knight Laboratory be fully operational with very limited disruptions during construction of the new laboratory,” said McCarthy Project Director John Heidbreder. “This is especially difficult considering the facility’s strict vibration requirements and that heavy-construction work on Duffield Hall is taking place close to the existing building. To minimize construction impacts, we’ve installed extremely sensitive vibration-monitoring equipment, alarms and work protocols. We also are controlling interruptions to the day-to-day activities at the engineering college by using our scheduling and phasing abilities to coordinate construction around the existing facilities and student traffic.”

When the new 150,000-sq.-ft. (13,935 sq m) Duffield Hall is complete, it will be one of the nation’s most sophisticated nanotechnology research and teaching facilities. In addition to the many laboratories and clean rooms, the project will include a large atrium where students and faculty can interact in a relaxed and attractive environment.

The lead company on the project, McCarthy Building Companies averages $1 billion in annual revenue and is ranked among the top 10 U.S. general builders and top 100 global construction firms. The company was founded more than 137 years ago by Irish immigrant Timothy McCarthy as a small lumber company outside of Ann Arbor, MI. Now the company has grown to include seven offices nationwide with more than 2,500 employees. Some of its bigger projects include the $615-million new 1.9-million-sq.-ft. (180,928 sq m) Hollywood & Highland entertainment/retail complex, which included the new theater to house the Academy Awards, a $57-million laboratory and learning center at Sigma-Aldrich Corp., in St. Louis, and a $44-million psychology building at the University of Texas.

“McCarthy did a remarkable job of leading the project team through several iterations of value management to keep the project within budget while maintaining the highest levels of quality and functionality. Now that we’re under construction, the joint venture also is demonstrating they can stage the project in ways that minimize the impact on teaching, research and the busiest pedestrian and vehicle intersection on campus,” said Robert Stundmer, Cornell University’s project manager for Duffield Hall.

When the building is finished, architects EDAW of Alexandria, VA, will perform a $4-million landscaping make-over on Cornell University’s Engineering Quadrangle. The plans call for the planting of more than 100 trees, 1,500 shrubs and thousands of ground-cover plants.

To make way for the building project, one of the world’s most accurate sundials had to be placed in temporary storage. The sundial, designed by President Emeritus Dale R. Corson and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Emeritus Richard M. Phelan, has called Cornell University home since the early 1980s. It will be reinstalled when the building and the landscaping project are complete.




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