Construction Partners Hold Open Forum

| December 10, 2008
SWEET BRIAR, Va. – The construction of Sweet Briar College’s Fitness and Athletic Center (FAC) and eco-friendly Green Village student housing is the object of much anticipation among the Sweet Briar College campus community.

The initial ground breaking, 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 for an audience of approximately 25 inquisitive attendees for the Q & A lunch at the Guion science building on Tuesday, December 2. Both firms have a long and successful history with various Sweet Briar College architectural projects, and both are clear in wanting to preserve as well as enhance the campus setting through this project.

The separate structures require the synthesis of expertise from various engineering groups: mechanical, electrical, structural, civil, geothermal, life safety and various other groups that are subcontracted for their specialty areas. As explained by Mr. Craddock, 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 project 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. 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, Mr. Brown described the underpinning of the existing foundation using a stair-stepping pattern of 2’ X 12’ wide concrete starting 16 feet below the existing gym.

The technology behind the gym structure as well as the Green Village is to accomplish a number of objectives. To aesthetically blend the new structure 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 Mr. Craddock stated, having it look as if the “tail is wagging the dog”.

The audience heard about the Structurally Integrated Panel System (SIPS) being used in the Green Village. This is a geothermal heating system that may possibly be implemented. The main concern seems to be more about ventilation than heat, as the building design and materials used will be better insulated than what was available even five years ago, so the heating and insulation is quite efficient and cooling and air flow seems to be more of an issue.

There was a rather in-depth comparison regarding the type of geothermal technology options being considered. Utilization of a “horizontal field” would require much land and the digging of eight foot deep trenches into the existing fields. 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 280-300 feet deep. The President’s Mansion on campus currently utilizes six geothermal wells. In comparison to standard HVAC equipment, geothermal cost over the longer term is more cost effective with a 20-30percent savings over traditional HVAC systems, in addition to being more environmentally sound.

Some anticipated features of the fitness and athletic center 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 with in and outdoor seating. The entrance to the fitness and athletic center will feature the 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, Sweet Briar College

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