With the ventilation stacks in place on the roof and workers fitting the last pieces of glass into the section of the building facing the quad, the Albert Sherman Center is now fully enclosed, marking a major milestone on the path to completion.
“Getting the building weather-tight is a critical turning point,” said John Baker, associate vice chancellor of facilities management, who is overseeing the ASC construction project. “We’ve come a long way since the first bit of dirt was turned on this project in April of 2010.”
Given the progress on the exterior, it may appear to casual passersby that the building is ready to occupy. The reality, however, is that the interior is largely unfinished.
“We are pleased with the progress so far, and we know there is a lot more work ahead,” said Timothy Galvin, project executive for Suffolk Construction Company, the construction manager for the ASC. “Getting the building warm and dry is critical because we can’t go too far with the interior work until it is weather-tight. The tower sections have been tight for a while, and now with the whole building buttoned up, we are able to go forward in a very big way with all the internal systems.”
To build-out the interior means ramping up the number of people working on the project on any given day. For example, the steel erection process last year was large in scale, but required only about 50 ironworkers and one crane operator on a typical day. Now, however, nearly 400 people from varying trades are in the ASC daily, installing the myriad electrical, communication, plumbing, heating, cooling, air-handling, fire-suppression, security and other systems needed for the building to operate.
Working in closely choreographed sequence with the systems’ installation crews, other teams rough out the interior walls, floors, ceilings and fixtures needed for the various laboratory, office and educational spaces. At many steps in the process, all systems and structures must be inspected by the project management team, and, often, by state inspectors, before work can proceed to the next step.
While most of the remaining work at the ASC is on the inside, over the next few weeks some exterior changes will be apparent. As spring begins to warm, the large orange cylinders placed around the building, which are temporary gas-fired heaters, will be removed and chilled water from the campus power plant will begin to flow into the building’s cooling system to control the interior temperature.
Toward the end of April, the external elevators called hoists will be removed, as the building’s interior elevators take over the work of moving people, equipment and materials within the structure. The Suffolk Construction office trailers now between the ASC and school building will be removed so that that area of the site can be finished. For the balance of the project, the Suffolk team will work from offices on the third floor of the ASC.
“In any project as large and complex as this, there will always be a few bumps in the road,” Baker said. “But so far, overall, the Sherman Center project has gone very well, and nothing has come up that would prevent us from finishing on time and on budget.”
Since the beginning of the project, a total of 1,381 individuals have worked on the site in various capacities. When completed, the Albert Sherman Center will add nearly 500,000 square-feet of research, educational and administrative space to the Worcester campus. The $400 million project also includes a 1,440-space parking garage off Plantation Street and an expansion of the campus power plant.