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Deciding to address the distressed dome of Harry A. Gampel Pavilion at the University of Connecticut was the first step. But before work could begin, Feinglass and Robitaille had to address a series of challenges. The first involved the project’s timing, which had to fit into a window set by two key events.
“Our timeline ran from the second week of May to the end of October, when we started playing basketball,” Feinglass says. “As a result, there were many seven-day weeks and 10-12-hour days.” Next came the issue of money.
“Initially, they presented a couple of different options,” he says. “One was to redo Gampel to get rid of the iconic dome structure completely and change the roof structure altogether, which had a much higher price tag. Then we tried to figure out what we could do inside the existing structure, which is where we settled. As a state entity, the sky was not the limit.” The issue of cost was closely tied to the final repair strategy.
“We did a series of facility mock-ups, and we had a construction manager help us with some cost elements,” Robitaille says. “This included literally scaffolding the entire interior of the building in order to get men close to the underside of the dome. We also considered making repairs to the exterior of the dome and doing all of the repairs from above.
“As with similar types of projects, everything was engineered to the most narrow of parameters to save money on the structure and the materials. It became apparent that with any materials, we were constrained by the weight. We had no desire of adding any additional weight to the dome because it didn’t have that excess capacity, when you take into account the snow loading and the wind loading that the structure receives.
The repair strategy Feinglass and Robitaille selected addressed the challenge of finding equipment to provide access, and it addressed cost concerns.
“We determined that the best approach was to repair the interior and the exterior at the same time, putting in new gaskets and battens and screws on the metal panels from the outside,” Robitaille says. ”The iron workers would drop the panels down to the court, where they were disassembled, rewrapped and hoisted back up to the roof, and they would reassemble it from the exterior and seal up the roof. That approach reduced the amount of interior scaffolding that we ended up needing tremendously. It saved the project about $1 million overall.”
Several challenges remained, however, and they would put the project’s schedule to the test.
“The original dome was designed, manufactured and installed by another company,” Robitaille says, adding that the university had anticipated being able to buy material from original manufacturer. “We had been in communication with them, and they provided a bid during the bid phase and were interested in doing the work. The first challenge was that they told us they wouldn’t sell materials to our awarded contractor.
“So the (contractor) had to take pieces of the original dome and make meticulous shop drawings of the profiles and find another manufacturer who could make it. That threw the project into mayhem for about six weeks while we were waiting on materials. That created the need for six- and seven-day weeks and 10-12 hours a day in order to try and catch up.” Once the project began, workers also uncovered another issue.
“We had done some mockups of panels from the lower portion of the dome because that was the easiest to access from the exterior,” Robitaille says. “But they started at the top, the high point. What we started to notice was that after 25 years of the sun baking the dome was that the insulation and the adhesives used to adhere the insulation to the backside of the metal panel had baked and dried off. When the panels were being moved, this insulation was dropping down to the floor below.
As basketball season gets under way for the University of Connecticut, workers are putting the finishing touches on the roof repair project on Gampel Pavilion.
“We’ve just finished the exterior work,” Robitaille says. “The interior work has been completed for about a month or so. There’s a big gutter that rings the dome, and they’re doing final repairs to the area.” Robitaille points to the project management structure as an essential element in completing the project within the available window.
“With this particular project, it was critical that we did it with a delivery system using a construction manager,” he says. “They were essential in helping us locate qualified companies, besides the original dome manufacturer. As a state institution, we felt that if we only had the original manufacturer available to do this major repair, we would be stuck with whatever kind of providing they wanted to give us.
“The construction manager did a countrywide search for companies that do similar work. They were able to test them out during the mockup phrase and work with them on the logistics of how all the panels would come down and how they had to number every one of more than 2,000 panels and then put them back in the exact same location. It would have been a disaster if we had tried to put this out as a traditional design-bid project and just have a general contractor.”
UConn Roof Project Offers Management Lessons
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