Caltech Upgrades High-tech Pasadena Campus

Heery International faces several construction hurdles in completing a $120-million new construction and renovation project. Site preparation has been key.

July 21, 2008 |

Since 1891, California Institute of Technology has produced some of the world's greatest discoveries in chemistry, physics and other disciplines. It has produced 31 Nobel winners with 32 awards, as well as dozens more scientific awards.

Now, to keep pace with technological advances, the 124-acre Southern California campus is constructing three new science buildings and renovating an old one. While Caltech's Nobel laureates and others are addressing abstract theories of nanotechnology and quantum physics, Paul Risko, project manager for Heery International, Inc., has more down-to-earth issues to tackle at Caltech.

"Getting the construction sites prepared on this compact campus ranges from asbestos containment and abatement to re-routing utilities, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, removal of trees — even making accommodations for bird species during construction. It's an ongoing challenge," he said.

Asbestos Abatement

The Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI) is located in a 1965-built campus facility. While surveying renovation work, asbestos was discovered in the building's floor tiles, ceiling panels and pipe insulation, and lead paint was found on the walls. These materials were found before work began. Heery had to delay the construction schedule while HazMat teams safely removed asbestos from the entire building — two months of full-time asbestos containment and abatement.

Traffic/Utilities Reconfiguration

The Warren & Katharine Schlinger Laboratory for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (CCE)

Automotive and pedestrian traffic were disrupted while a service road was rerouted to a new road and sidewalk area. A delivery entrance to an adjacent building had to be relocated, also.

Utilities there had to be moved, as well as a 42-inch diameter, 100-year-old storm drain that was placed in the footprint area of the new CCE building some 36 years ago for construction of an adjacent building. Its relocation to the east by 125 yards caused another challenge, as the new placement was beneath the graduation commencement site of Caltech and had to be in place, with grass on grade, in time for the June 13 ceremonies. The deadline was met early by the project team.

Trees and Art Work

Heery oversaw the removal and on-campus relocation (by ValleyCrest Company) of multiple mature trees, including sycamore, oak, jacaranda, and other varieties. Some are still awaiting final placement at other sites.

"The relocation was highly coordinated so that it was completed prior to February, the beginning of bird nesting season," said Risko. "Otherwise, the trees would have had to be covered to prevent nesting."

"Also, some existing artwork — originally built in 1995 — had to be removed," Risko added. "As a city of Pasadena requirement, we had to get permission from the original artist prior to demolition. But we were also able to hire the same artist to build a new art piece that will be located near the site."

Completion for all the projects is scheduled for 2009.


Caltech Construction Program Fast Facts

Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI) renovation

Construction start date: November 2006

Completion date: March 2008

Square footage: 20,000 (half of the first floor and two basement levels)

Project cost: $7.5 million

Architect: HOK

General contractor: DPR

Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics

Construction start date: January 2007

Completion date: December 2008

Square footage: 100,000

Project cost: $41 million

Architect: Morphosis

General contractor: Hathaway Dinwiddie

Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology (IST)

Construction start date: December 2007

Completion date: July 2009

Square footage: 50,000

Project cost: $31.2 million

Architect: Frederick Fisher and Partners

General contractor: Hathaway Dinwiddie

Warren & Katharine Schlinger Laboratory for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (CCE)

Construction start date: February 2008

Completion date: December 2009

Square footage: 60,000

Project cost: $39.8 million

Architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ)

General Contractor: Rudolph and Sletten
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