October 15, 2002

Construction continues on science building

McCarthy Construction and Kenny Construction had begun demolition between Ellis Avenue, Drexel Avenue, and 57th Street, preparing the site of the University's new Interdivisional Research Building (IRB), when they were told to stop working on the $130 million project. Last summer the University decided to accept new bids for the IRB and pre-selected three construction companies to submit proposals before finally choosing to continue the project with IRB Construction, a joint venture between Power Construction, Broadway Consolidated Companies, and Louis Jones Enterprises, Inc.

"Let me put it this way, we did not pre-qualify [McCarthy Construction and Kenny Construction] to make a second bid," said Meredith Mack, University associate vice president of facilities services. "This is a huge project and not all construction companies can handle it. I don't think that McCarthy and Kenny didn't know how big the project was when they bid for it."

Neither McCarthy Construction, a St. Louis-based construction company, nor Kenny Construction, a Chicagoland construction company, had worked on projects for the University before. McCarthy Construction's portfolio includes the Duffield Hall - Nanofabrication Research Facility at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, a 59,000-square foot complex expected to be completed in May 2004.

Kenny Construction has worked on similar-sized projects, including construction of Museum Park Tower I. Located in downtown Chicago, the building spans 18 stories with two levels of underground parking. McCarthy Construction and Kenny Construction initially entered their bid for the IRB before the architectural plans were completed.

"We re-bid because we determined that we'd get better prices when we finished the construction drawings," said Mack.

The project, which is expected to be around 430,000 gross square feet, was designed by Ellenzweig Associates, Inc., an architectural firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The final plans include five above-ground floors and two floors below ground that will house laboratories and classrooms for the biological and physical sciences.

"Power Construction and Louis Jones Enterprises had a relationship bidding together on previous projects, but we never actually won a bid together until now," said Michael Jones, vice president of Louis Jones Enterprises, Inc. "The opportunity came up and we jumped in together."

IRB Construction began working on the site during the week of September 9, 2002 and plans to complete the project in 33 months.

"We've been here for a month and it's a little slow, but it's always slow in the beginning," said Linda Williams, an employee of Power Construction and the site secretary.

At present, there are five Power Construction employees on site. "They provide supervision in both the field and office," said Chuck Blazek, the site's senior superintendent.

Blazek described the work that Power Construction will complete as minimal labor. Louis Jones is providing all of the laborers and carpenters onsite - ten people now and 25 by the project's end. Broadway Consolidated Companies will handle all of the work with concrete and will also do much of the public relations for the project.

Because the project takes place on the University campus, there are special arrangements to consider, said Mike McKinnon, an employee of Power Construction and the site superintendent.

"Trucking plays a major role because of the vibration and shaking and noise," McKinnon said. He added that he has not received any negative feedback from people in the surrounding residential area.

The University, according to McKinnon and Blazek, has also imposed certain guidelines on the cultural diversity of the project employees similar to those of public construction jobs. "There are minority requirements on most public jobs and we've had no trouble meeting those numbers. We've actually mostly surpassed them," Blazek said.