EMPAC August 2005
Where Art and Science Will Meet to Challenge Each Other
STURTEVANT, Wisconsin (August 1, 2005) – In 2003, plans were unveiled for eMPAC, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) based in Troy, NY. eMPAC is a new international program and highly customized building where art and science will meet, mingle and change one another.
eMPAC will offer opportunities for interaction and exchange between both artists and researchers in science and technology, and is designed to maximize RPI’s interdisciplinary potential. Today, the $141.7 million construction project is well underway and scheduled for a late 2006 completion date.
To accommodate both traditional performing arts and contemporary media including sophisticated digital technology, eMPAC will feature facilities for artists, students, researchers and audiences not found elsewhere under a single roof. The impressive 221,200 sq. ft. structure will contain a wide and flexible range of major venues – a 1,200 seat concert hall, 400-seat theater, two huge black-box studios – as well as suites for artists in residence, rehearsal spaces, professional recording, editing and post-production facilities, and a broadcast center for the student radio station.
Nestled into the slope of a hillside, much of the building’s bulk is concealed while its impressive interior is revealed through glass walls like objects in a display case.
Another unusual feature of the facility is its ceiling. Made of fabric panels less than one millimeter thick, the visible ceiling is supported on a delicate web of stainless steel cables. Acting as a reflector, the fabric helps achieve an ideal sound quality. In addition, independent foundations, resilient isolation, and cascading level changes within the building are also used to provide acoustic insulation of the major venues from each other.
These specialty features were planned by design architect Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners from London and New York, with Davis Brody Bond LLP of New York City as the architect of record. Albeit unique, these extraordinary design characteristics have resulted in various challenges for construction crews. This is where construction manager Turner Construction Company and general contractor Jersen Construction Group of Waterford, NY come in.
Jersen must precisely schedule all daily work activities to accommodate the extremely congested job site, which is located in the heart of the city and within a steep hillside. With no room available to park equipment and stockpile supplies, materials are scheduled for delivery the day of use, and sub-contractors must show up with equipment at their exact scheduled time.
Concrete Placement The project’s exclusive concrete pumping contractor, Precision Concrete Pumping of Gansevoort, NY, must arrive promptly on site to meet tight schedules. No stranger to the campus, Precision has pumped concrete for the university’s Biotech Center, a huge campus parking garage, and now eMPAC.
In turn, Precision relies on their Putzmeister BSF 52Z-Meter concrete boom pump with its essential 170-ft vertical and 158-ft horizontal reach. To-date, the model’s long reach and quick setup capabilities have been critical in successfully pumping the concrete.
Terry Lounsbury, Jersen’s Superintendent says, “The job includes four plateaus, with the tallest level at a 150-ft height. Due to site congestion and varying plateaus, the boom pump can only set up in four specifically defined spots, and it must still provide enough reach to place concrete for each level’s entire area.”
Although a freestanding placing boom and tower were initially considered, the setup would have taken up too much precious space. A BSF 52Z-Meter was deemed the better alternative.
“The effective reach of the 52Z made it possible to get full concrete coverage from each of the four dictated setup locations,” says Jason Pino, Operations Manager of Precision. “With three larger sized 52Z-Meter units in our fleet, we can send any one of the units with confidence that each will reliably perform to specs, especially with any of our experienced operators behind the controls.”
Lounsbury adds, “Ever since the concrete work began last November, Precision has supplied dependable equipment along with highly capable operators to accomplish each task when requested.”
However, one of the greatest pumping challenges is yet to come, with access to the center of the building required at its widest and highest point. According to Pino, “We’ll figure something out and make it work when it’s time. Things change so frequently on this project that what we plan today may not be possible the next; and that could be due to something as simple as a crane blocking the way that day.”
To achieve superior acoustical benefits, one of the most interesting construction approaches being employed is a special “slab on springs” technique for a studio. First, a six-inch thick concrete slab was placed within a large 3,500 square foot area. Then, 149 heavy duty “jacks” were installed throughout the room. Each perimeter (wall) jack is capable of withstanding a 59,000 lb. capacity, while each floor jack is capable of an 8,700 lb. capacity. The walls were pumped with concrete to accommodate the studio’s total 49-ft, 8-inch height. The entire room, sized 56-ft by 71-ft, will weigh approximately four million pounds. It will be raised four inches after steel erection, prior to the architectural finishes.
Another unconventional aspect for the construction crew is the necessity of highly customized formwork to accommodate the building’s unusual and convex shape. Designed for aesthetic and acoustical diffusion purposes, the structure’s intriguing “giant marshmallow” design is supported by forms specially engineered and built in Germany by Peri Formwork Systems, Inc. that were shipped to Canada for assembly and then delivered to the US.
Over 15,000 cubic yards of concrete are projected for final consumption when the concrete work commences in early 2006. Depending on weather, pumping presently occurs about two to three days a week, and long eight to twelve hour days are common for both Precision and Cranesville Block, the ready-mix supplier of Albany, NY.
A fairly typical day of concrete work includes the pump arriving around 4:00 am to pour a 200 yard slab in the morning, moving to handle a 100 yard wall, and finally repositioning to another designated spot to accommodate 50 yard grade beams. As a result, three pours are accomplished – same site, same day, same pump.
Under the ownership of J.P. Perron, Precision Concrete Pumping began pumping concrete in 1986. The firm operated five pumps until 1996 when the company grew significantly. Today, the aggressive organization features 23 pieces of Putzmeister concrete placing equipment, including 14 BSF boom pumps, four separate placing booms, four high pressure BSA trailer pumps, and a Thom-Katt® trailer pump.
Besides the high profile eMPAC project, the Precision concrete pumping fleet has been actively working on many other prominent jobs. Recent projects include the World Trade Center site, the Jones Beach Bridge, the New York Times, Bank of America, and the Robert DiNero Hotel.
Stone Placement In addition to placing concrete, the eMPAC project also demands stone placement around the grade beams along with backfilling both the exterior walls and piping for the storm water system circling the huge building. Owner Fred Samel of F.T. Samel Construction Corp. in Prospect, NY is responsible for the site work.
To efficiently place 20,000 tons of stone, his company relied upon a Putzmeister Telebelt® TB 130 – the largest truck-mounted telescopic belt conveyor on the market. This versatile model was supplied by Hudson Valley Concrete Pumping of Wallkill, NY.
Samel noted. “To meet all deadlines, Hudson Valley played ball with us. We had never used their equipment or services before, but they showed up right on the money, 100% of the time – driving from 100 miles away to the job site.”
Other alternatives for stone placement were considered, including crane and bucket, a small conveyor system, little LGP dump trucks, and a Stone Slinger. However, none of them “alone” could provide 100% of the coverage needed.
“The Telebelt was the ideal solution,” says Samel. “Without it, we would have been forced to use four different operations with each application, and that would have cost extra time and money. Fortunately, the long 130-ft horizontal reach of the conveyor accessed everything on-site.”
Using what is believed to be the industry’s largest tie-backs at 180-ft into the ground, construction crews relied on them to securely hold the earth while 32-ft high walls were pumped with concrete to a 16-inch thickness. Before and after these walls were built, stone was placed. First, it was needed for the sub floor, and then it was dropped over 30-ft into the narrow confines around the building’s perimeter for backfilling the underground drainage system – a difficult feat for any piece of equipment.
However Samel notes, “The process showed off the unit’s capabilities because with any other approach, it would have been an absolutely brutal task.”
“Plus,” he adds, “the machine’s operator was quite creative in maneuvering the unit into some awkward locations where we often worked at a 45-degree angle; and therefore he managed to reach some extremely difficult-to-reach areas. We had great admiration for both his skills and the unit’s versatility.”
From March to July of this year, Howard Fisher operated the Telebelt for weeks at a time to handle stone placement. He says, “As the site had so much congestion and an unbelievable amount of rebar, the conveyor had to be positioned into some really tight spots; and it wasn’t uncommon to move and set up the unit four times in a day.”
All stone was supplied by R.J. Valente Stone & Gravel of Wynantskill, NY. Samel says, “On a good day, we could place about 400 tons of stone with the conveyor, which is four times faster than with crane and bucket. We know, as we worked with a crane and bucket before using the Telebelt, and it was painfully slow.”
Brothers Van and Larry Smith, owners of Hudson Valley Concrete Pumping, recognize the value of a Telebelt conveyor for a large variety of projects. They first incorporated a TB 105 in their fleet seven years ago and then switched to a larger TB 130 model in 2004. Van said, “The versatility and performance of the unit keeps it busy handling several projects that just can’t be done as efficiently with anything else.”
Safety First Also noteworthy about the high profile eMPAC project is its application for VPP Star status. VPP is a Voluntary Protection Program to promote effective worksite-based safety and health. “VPP involves cooperation among management, workers and OSHA to effectively implement a comprehensive safety and health management system,” according to Sandie Faden, Jersen’s Safety Officer on-site. ”The goal is to reduce workplace hazards along with perfecting existing programs or instituting new and better ones.”
Faden adds, “In particular, VPP “Star” is a very prestigious honor awarded for outstanding efforts of employers and employees who achieve exemplary results. Although VPP Star status is an extremely rare accomplishment in construction, the eMPAC site recently received an OSHA audit with overwhelmingly positive reviews.”
RPI is one of America’s leading research universities with a student body totaling almost 10,000. Founded in 1824, it is known for providing an undergraduate education of intellectual rigor based on exceptional innovation, and earning a reputation for interactive learning along with the application of information technology to education. Although eMPAC should further expand the university’s horizons, it is also meant to serve audiences throughout the New York State Capitol region and the Berkshires in addition to the international arts community.
SPECS General contractor: Jersen Construction Group – Waterford, NY Concrete pumping contractor: Precision Concrete Pumping – Gansevoort, NY Ready-mix supplier: Cranesville Block – Albany, NY Site work contractor: F.T. Samel Construction Corp. – Prospect, NY Material conveying contractor: Hudson Valley Concrete Pumping – Wallkill, NY Material supplier: R.J. Valente Stone & Gravel – Wynantskill, NY Equipment: Putzmeister BSF 52Z-Meter concrete boom pumps and Putzmeister Telebelt® TB 130 belt conveyor