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Sikes Brothers Inc. Clears Way for New GSU Facility

Mon January 23, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Peter Hildebrandt

Requiring just about everyone to take a certain course is one way to end up needing a new college campus building. Georgia Southern University (GSU) in Statesboro, Ga., has as one of its graduation requirements for approximately 90 percent of its majors, completion of at least one course in biology during the college careers of students enrolled there. The growth in enrollment also has meant the biology department itself has had to expand to keep up with the needs of the university.

Since the campus population has been steadily growing, with record enrollment levels in the past few years, so has the demand for space for all those students to do their coursework in biology. The new Biological Sciences building on the GSU campus should soon be able to help that space problem. The old biology building will still be used for classroom space so there will be no demolition work involved on this building. Expected increases in enrollment are projected to continue over the upcoming years.

“The building alone will not house the entire biology department at GSU but it will drastically increase the area they’ll have with more advanced classroom facilities and additional research and student labs,” said Bonnie D. McMakin, program manager Facilities Planning, Design and Construction, Georgia Southern University.

“The old biology building will not be torn down. We’ll need it for the classroom space and for the increasing number of students attending GSU. Some of it may still be used by the biology department and anything not used by them will be renovated and made usable for regular classroom space. It has to be in really bad shape for us to tear a building down; we try to renovate buildings whenever we can. We have no room to tear anything down and just do away with it, the need is so great. We are a growing campus we’re proud to say.”

Unfortunately the area cleared for the new biological sciences building was one of the last wooded sites remaining on the GSU campus, according to McMakin. They were, however, able to maintain the trees around the site; they only cleared what they had to clear to make way for the building. The new building and its construction will not impact the student traffic flow on campus either as the building is on the edge of the university grounds in the direction that new growth for the school is moving anyway. This construction will not disrupt any ongoing classes through the end of its completion.

Georgia Southern University’s goal is to attain LEED Silver Certification for the building.

“Our campus standards already incorporate a lot of the energy savings features as far as mechanical, electrical and plumbing features,” added McMakin. “That makes it even easier to achieve the LEED Certification for the building. The roof will be constructed and outfitted for the infrastructure for solar voltaic power at some point. But it will be installed at a later time, due to budgetary constraints. Hopefully in the future we will be able to add solar energy components.”

The building will have three main floors in addition to a fourth floor dedicated solely to mechanical equipment and controls. Total net square footage of the building is 125,595 sq. ft. (11,668 sq m). The building project started out in one building and they were actually designing it for different phases depending upon what funding was available. But now they’re definitely able to get the work completed in one phase.

“The actual building design has evolved, due to value engineering, to stay within budget, into four separate structures,” added McMakin. “The main building will have a separate greenhouse; a field house which consists of the animal care facility and also a central energy plant adjacent to this structure.”

At the moment Brasfield & Gorrie, General Contractors, with corporate headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., is the main contractor on the project, in addition to a grading contractor onsite. Brasfield & Gorrie’s closest office to the site is in Kenesaw, Ga., just north of Atlanta. The grading work is being done by Sikes Brothers Inc. in Metter, Ga., ten miles from Statesboro. John Fulford, project manager of Brasfield & Gorrie, has been onsite since 2009; the entire job is projected to be completed by May 2013.

“The biggest challenge on this job is simply going to be that it’s a very tight site making it tough to move around with the equipment we’ll be using,” explained Fulford. “It’s going to present trials just to be able to work your way around the building.

“As far as site excavation work, all of that work is going to be done before things ever really get tight on this site. The really tricky thing is going to be doing the crane work and especially moving the mobile crane we have onsite, all around the site. We’re going to have to use smaller equipment that can maneuver in some smaller spaces and on some slopes as they go about feeding materials to the places where there are guys up on the scaffolding doing things such as the brickwork.”

Brasfield & Gorrie has its own equipment shop and own all of its power cranes. The excavating equipment is owned by the excavating company involved on this job. There is a Komatsu 350 excavator onsite as well as a Komatsu 220 excavator.

“We’re only moving approximately 14,000 cubic yards of dirt,” said Fulford. “Everything in South Georgia is pretty flat so there isn’t a great deal of excavating or soil removal involved with this project. The soil onsite is sandy clay in composition. The footprint of this building is some 34,000 square feet.”

This is a $32.4 million dollar project, according to Fulford. The job was on hold for a brief period during the summer of 2012. But those issues were worked out and the project is going forth on schedule now.

“This is the type of work we like to do at Brasfield & Gorrie,” added Fulford. “We have several divisions at our company, covering everything from commercial work to healthcare and the research division that I’m in. We focus especially on higher education university work, lab stations and private schools. Our work in the past has featured a lot of university work with a great deal of lab work.

“Labs are actually some of the toughest things building-wise you’d ever want to construct; it’s right up there with hospitals. The mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP) systems are extremely complex.”

On Oct. 31, 2011 Sikes Brothers Inc. started clearing the five acres of the site. They worked for about four days. Once that area was cleared out, during that same week they started the grading work which as of December 2011 was 75 to 80 percent complete onsite.

“At present there are some changes on the utilities of the project involved,” said Tim Lanier, project manager of Sikes Brothers Inc. “We started on that work dealing with changes in the electrical engineering on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011. This wasn’t anything major, just some minor issues with some drainage boxes — such as those for storm water and sewer — and relocations on the site plan. We are simply waiting for the engineers to work those details out so we know what direction we’ll be going.”

Earthmoving work is what Sikes Brothers Inc. specializes in. All the topsoil taken from the site will be moved to their pit which is certified by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

“There have probably been some 800 to 900 loads of dirt that have come out of the site,” said Lanier. “Each one of our dump trucks hold 16 cubic yards of soil. We probably could have done the work faster but had to be sensitive around the utility work involved so we removed the soil steadily over the weeks, probably not as fast as we could have.

“This has been a really good job so far. The safety issues and awareness involved with this project have been very high, something we’re used to because we often work on nuclear bases; we know what to expect when we go onsite. We have backup alarms, fire alarms and oil leak warnings on all our equipment. Ours is required to be up to date to be onsite.”

Sikes Brothers owns all its own equipment including a Komatsu 350 hydraulic excavator, a Komatsu 220 hydraulic excavator, a John Deere 700 bulldozer with onboard GPS and assorted rollers for compaction work. They have all the pads down at this point after excavating to a depth of approximately 6 ft. (1.8 m).

“We will be onsite for the duration of this project,” added Lanier. “This will be in order to control soil erosion which may occur on the site. But the majority of our work will be done — the grading and the placement of utilities — should be completed by the end of February 2012. After that, all the concrete people and other contractors will be working on the site. Our main function however at that point will be maintenance for soil erosion activity happening.

“The weather has cooperated for us so far. Since October we’ve only missed plus or minus two-and-a-half days due to foul weather. Bad weather of course also can back you into a corner right quick.”

Lanier feels his most important tool right now is the GPS on his John Deere dozer and motorgrader.

“The GPS helps us keep the grades and we don’t have to spend a lot of time jumping out and checking if we’ve got everything right,” he stated.

“We build a surface file just like a set of plans with grades on it. What the GPS does is, when the surveyor or engineer builds that surface file it tells the motorgrader to either cut swales, build the building pad, roads or any feature being constructed. You save a lot of time and money with this equipment.

“A surveyor typically costs from 500 to 700 dollars per day to do this work. That work consists mostly of putting sticks in the ground, with another person as the supervisor on site who knows how to read the level and in turn makes sure the building pad is laying out level on the swales.”

You must have good equipment to do the work, according to Lanier. “But the equipment in turn is only as good as the people operating that equipment. We’ve been blessed. I have one good supervisor and two good operators in the trucks used to move the dirt. We have eight to 10 trucks. Our bread-and- butter work is asphalt paving and our crews are flexible enough that if they’re not on a job as part of the asphalt paving crew — when this type of work is shut down because the weather’s so cold — they’re able to handle operating an excavator, loader, dozer or whatever.”

McMakin estimates construction completion to happen by June of 2013.

“This is a very aggressive schedule, especially since we are just starting the project,” said McMakin. “Work should be completed by the summer of 2013 at the very latest. But I don’t think that will be a problem. This is about a 20- month project.

“The new biological sciences building will enhance the biology at GSU and the studies in this department, incorporating new technologies and improve the learning experience for the students. To this we can add that this structure will be as environmentally-friendly as possible, a nice added benefit in the midst of all our growth to meet the needs of the GSU students.”

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