Construction Partners Hold Open Forum

| December 8, 2008

The construction of Sweet Briar College’s Fitness and Athletic Center and eco-friendly Green Village student housing is the object of much anticipation among the Sweet Briar College campus community.

The new Fitness and Athletics Center, under construction.

The initial groundbreaking, the setting of foundation material of cement and steel and the steel framing have been garnering much attention over the campus landscape. Recent staking for the Green Village student housing has begun as well.

To address many curious campus staff and students, architect Hal Craddock, president of Craddock-Cunningham Architectural Partners and Bob Brown, president of C.L. Lewis Construction Company, held an informal question-and-answer session on Dec. 2 at Guion Science Center. Approximately 25 people attended.

Both firms have a long and successful history with Sweet Briar College architectural projects, and both are clear in wanting to preserve, as well as enhance, the campus setting through these projects.

The separate structures require the synthesis of expertise from various engineering groups: mechanical, electrical, structural, civil, geothermal, life safety and various other groups subcontracted for their specialty areas.

As Craddock explained, the synergistic partnership of these various groups is what is making a beautiful and functional addition to our existing campus. The objective is to create efficient and environmentally tolerant structures, within the College’s budget, and there are continual adjustments being made to achieve these goals.

Some of the unforeseen challenges that have put the first phase of the steel and concrete about three weeks behind schedule include colder-than-usual temperatures, above-average precipitation, and some stubborn rock that had to be removed with specialized equipment.

Even though the first phase of the steel and concrete are behind, other phases of the project are being done ahead of schedule which will help meet the fall 2009 completion date.

One of the main concerns was building so closely to the existing Williams Gymnasium without disturbing the existing foundation and the existing steam heating system that is in place. In order to secure the safety of the existing structure, Brown talked about moving away from the existing foundation using a stair-stepping pattern of 2-by-12-foot concrete starting 16 feet below the existing gym.

The technology behind the gym structure, as well as the Green Village, will accomplish a number of objectives, including aesthetically blending the new FAC with its state-of-the-art features with an older building to make it look as if it’s always been part of the Sweet Briar architecture, rather than as Craddock stated, having it look as if the “tail is wagging the dog.”

Those in attendance heard about the Structural Insulated Panel System being used in the Green Village. This system provides for a 50-percent reduction in energy cost over traditional wood construction. The panels are made from an outer skin of OSB sandwiched between 4 inches of Styrofoam insulation. Because of the SIPS panels, a traditional heat pump system is being used and is preferred over a geothermal heat pump system due to the insulating efficiency of the SIPS panels.

There was a rather in-depth comparison regarding the type of geothermal technology options being considered at the FAC. Utilization of a “horizontal field” would require more than 13 acres of land and more than 18 miles of piping.

Another option is to create geothermal wells on the campus which will require less land, but more depth into the ground as the wells are typically 280 to 300 feet deep. Sweet Briar House currently utilizes six geothermal wells. In comparison to standard HVAC equipment, geothermal cost over the longer term is more cost effective with a 20- to30-percent energy savings over traditional HVAC systems, in addition to being more environmentally sound.

Some anticipated features of the FACE include a theater, high-tech sound system, a racquetball/squash court, three indoor tennis courts, a suspended running track and opaque light panels in the metal roof to allow for some natural lighting. In addition, office space has been created for the administration of the physical education, athletics and recreation department.

The building and track are designed to withstand seismic vibrations and can tolerate many different scenarios, including a large number of people viewing an event from the track area. The tennis courts and track will have a concrete base topped with a rubberized composite surface.

For noise reduction, masonry construction will be used from the ground floor level to the track; from the track to the eave of the roof line will be drywall and white painted steel. Duct socks (in Sweet Briar’s colors) will be overhead and will inflate with airflow.

The Bistro will have an open-air covered patio area and in and outdoor seating. The entrance to the FAC will feature a loggia that is architecturally consistent with the other campus buildings and will house the showcase for the Sweet Briar Athletics Hall of Fame.

All of us at Sweet Briar College and our many supporters are anxious to see the continued progress as we approach the opening in fall of 2009.

– By Teresa Boylan, Sports Information Director

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