Penn State Builds Green, Enhances Student Education

Reading Station, Pa. — The $25.6 million Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building at Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus in Reading Station earned LEED Gold certification last May and has since earned two awards for design and construction: the Silver Award from Construction Owners Association of America’s Project Leadership Award Program and the Project Achievement Award from Construction Management Association of America. Both recognized the project for its detailed scheduling that allowed for the building to be completed three months ahead of schedule and under budget.

It is the first building at Penn State Berks to purse LEED certification and the first at Penn State (apart from the University Park Campus) to achieve LEED Gold. It serves as the new home for the college’s Business; Engineering; Information Sciences and Technology; and Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional degree programs.

RMJM Hillier, located in New York, served as the architect, while Allentown-based Alvin H. Butz Inc. worked as the construction manager on the project.

“[Being awarded LEED Gold certification] speaks to the knowledge and expertise of the entire project team that we were able to achieve such an accomplishment and obtain the certification in a very short period of time after substantial completion,” said Greg Butz, president and CEO of Alvin H. Butz Inc., in a statement.

The project included several sustainable technologies and materials. The building has one of the region’s first exterior terra cotta rain screen cladding systems, the façade is curtain wall and windows are glazed with eco-insulating glass. Two 35,000-gallon tanks collect rainwater from the roof to provide 100 percent of the water needed to flush the toilets, wash the exterior of the building and water plants. Daylighting controls and occupancy sensors mixed with natural daylight help reduce the building’s energy use.

Another green element: 42,000 square feet of natural habitat were preserved by constructing the building on its current site instead of in the woodlands behind the building. Plus, the wooden doors come from sustainable forests and are certified as such by the Forest Stewardship council.

Not only did the construction team manage to achieve several environmental standards, but they helped make the project an educational experience for students as well. The construction team volunteered their time to participate in student functions and career days, and a curriculum was developed for the spring semester class, in which a competition was held to develop the wording and design of signage that highlighted the building’s green features.

The 60,000-square-foot building was completed in September 2011 and is now the largest building on campus, housing nine classrooms, nine computer labs and 50 faculty offices mixed with a variety of advanced communications technology offerings that will allow the college to offer new courses and update existing ones. A café with 36 indoor seats and 36 outdoors, as well as a kitchen area, were also incorporated into the design to serve as a laboratory space for hospitality degree program.

Using a comprehensive, Project Management Plan allowed the university to communicate the expectations for quality cost and schedule, and a website was used to help guide the construction team though each phase of construction. The project was completed in 369 working days and although working through the winter was difficult for the construction team, they overcame that by changing the fully adhered roof to an asphalt-coated system so that the material could be heated and installed in the middle of January 2011.

“We couldn’t be more satisfied with the quality of work that went into constructing the Gaige Building,” Said Kim Berry, chief operating officer, Penn State Berks, in a statement. “Receiving two national awards such as these is no small feat, and every member of the project team should be honored to receive them.”

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