Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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ACC’s center of excellence envisioned as a ‘beacon’ for the community

Alamance Community College’s trustees recently saw a preview of how the college’s forthcoming Biotechnology Center of Excellence might look once it’s built.

ACC’s leaders envision the forthcoming center of excellence as serving as the college’s beacon to the community, based on concepts that were laid out for the architects when they began the design work last fall.    Construction of ACC’s biotechnology center of excellence is targeted for completion in June 2022.

Chris Brasier of Clark Nexsen, an architectural firm in Raleigh that is designing the center of excellence, told ACC’s trustees last week that the design will create a “lantern-like” presence for the college.  The site of the center of excellence sits near the I-85/40 interchange at Jimmie Kerr Road in Graham. 

Currently, the exterior of ACC’s biotechnology center of excellence would feature mirrored windows and concrete, based on the latest schematic design plans that Brasier presented to the college’s trustees.

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The center of excellence would be ringed by trees and shrubbery that would serve as a buffer between the building and adjacent parking.  “That is all being preserved as a result of the work that is being done on this site,” Brasier told the trustees last week, referring to an existing lot situated near the corner of I-85/40 and Jimmie Kerr Road.  “We have been very sensitive to the investment” that was previously made in developing that portion of ACC’s main campus, he said of the initial work in designing the center of excellence.

The parking area would lead into a “hardscape plaza” outside the center of excellence, where students could sit on the lawn, as well as a terrace, where instructors could hold classes outside when the weather is nice, Brasier explained. 

Brasier presented ACC’s trustees with preliminary designs that were developed from multiple vantage points: the how the 3-story center of excellence might look, traveling west on the interstate toward Graham and/or traveling east on the interstate from Graham; and how it might appear to a pedestrian traveling across campus.

Inside, the first floor of the roughly 33,000-square foot center of excellence would include:  two classrooms, four offices, two conferences rooms, and a greenhouse, as well as three restrooms, a “lactation room,” breakroom, vending area, flex space, and student seating area. 

The second story would have four labs (Histotechnology; agricultural biotechnology; bio-manufacturing; and two general-purpose labs), plus laboratory prep rooms, support spaces, two student seating areas, and restrooms, based on schematic design plans that were presented to ACC’s trustees last week.

The third floor would be a shell with room for future construction of classrooms, labs, and student seating areas, Brasier said last week, adding that he and his colleagues are “anticipating what might be needed 10 or 15 years down the road” as they design ACC’s center of excellence.  Approximately 40 percent (or 13,510 square feet) of the center’s total footprint (estimated at 33,775 square feet) would be used for electrical, data, and other mechanical equipment, based on the architects’ preliminary design plans.

ACC trustee Pete Glidewell asked the architect last week what is being done to mitigate noise, such as tractor-trailers lumbering along I-85/40.    Brasier said that the landscape architecture firm, Cole Jenest & Stone, has been working on that aspect of the design but said his firm has also hired an acoustic engineering consultant to help out with designing the center of excellence. 

The architect said that his team is also looking for strategies to eliminate the glare that would be given off by the mirrored windows, a prominent feature in the latest design plans for the center of excellence.

Center of excellence and parking facility merged into one project

The trustees had originally earmarked approximately $9.1 million for the center of excellence and $8.5 million for a freestanding parking deck when they outlined their plans for the $39.6 million bond package prior to the general election in 2018. 

Citing rising costs for construction and materials, along with increased demand for labor, the trustees agreed last year scale back their plans for the parking deck, in order to gain more square footage in the biotech facility but still accommodate an additional 350 surface parking spaces nearby.  With that change, the budget for both projects currently totals $17.6 million, based on cost estimates that were presented to ACC’s trustees last fall.

The trustees also agreed last fall to hire The Christman Company as the construction manager (CM at risk) last year to ensure both projects are completed on time and at a guaranteed maximum price of $14.8 million.  With about $2.8 million set aside as contingency to cover fees and cost escalation, the budget for the center of excellence and parking expansion are currently estimated to cost a total of $17.6 million, based on the latest figures from ACC.

The architectural design and construction-manager-at-risk services for the center of excellence will cost approximately $1.2 million, based on contracts that ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood recently signed and updated the trustees about last week.

Clark Nexsen will be paid $924,885 for its design services during the advanced planning stage for the two projects, which covers the period up to completion of construction documents.  Clark Nexsen will also be paid $113,509 for programming services related to the project, according to a summary of the contracts that Gatewood provided for the trustees last week.  Earlier this year, he signed a contract for $125,890 for pre-construction services that The Christman Company will provide for the center of excellence/parking expansion.

In keeping with state law, the State Construction Office (SCO) within the North Carolina Department of Administration negotiated the contract with Clark Nexsen.  In June 2019, the building and grounds committee for ACC’s board of trustees interviewed five of the 26 architectural firms that had submitted proposals to build the center of excellence and parking project.  They submitted their top three choices, based on a ranking of qualifications and other relevant details, to the SCO for approval.  That office is responsible for overseeing building projects for state government and its subdivisions, to include the 58 N.C. community colleges.

Clark Nexsen remains on schedule to submit designs for the center of excellence/parking expansion to the SCO next month, based on a report about ongoing capital projects that ACC trustees heard during their latest meeting.  The firm also intends to submit the site and building design plans to the city of Graham for review soon. ACC’s center of excellence will house the biotechnology, histotechnology, and agricultural biotechnology programs when it opens in the fall of 2022.

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