This Saturday, Florida’s first STEM-focused college, Florida Polytechnic University, will mark its formal opening and the beginning of the 2015 school year. The Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building that is the centerpiece of the campus was designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and built by Skanska, as part of a collaborative team of numerous design and construction partners.
You might be impressed by the project’s facts: this 160,000-square-foot structure was completed on-time and within the strict $60 million budget. This was accomplished despite such immense challenges as 90 percent of the structure being on a radius and having to find a way to build never-done-before louver arms that rise up to 12 stories above grade, and then hydraulically lower – all to ensure the optimum amount of daylight enters the building. And importantly, there were no lost-time injuries over the four years of work, thanks to each team member staying highly engaged.
But what made this project really special was the intense trust developed between the designers and our construction team, how every craft worker understood they were creating a structure of which they could be forever proud, and how through our team’s hard work to truly understand Calatrava’s intent for the project so they could convey that to our trade partners, the IST building has been delivered exactly in line with Calatrava’s original vision. It’s rare that that happens, even more so on a project like this.
“Completing this project makes my team and I feel extremely happy and at the same time somewhat sad,” said Chuck Jablon, the Skanska vice president who has overseen this project from the beginning. “This Skanska team wishes it would never end. We felt challenged every day and each day brought our team closer together, as everyone had different skill sets that we all relied on to overcome the greatest of opportunities. I am most proud of each and every one of my Skanska team members and look forward to see how they continue with the knowledge and experience gained on this magical modern marvel of the 21st century.”
So before the crowds arrive for tomorrow’s celebration, we invite you to explore this building.
The butterfly-like aluminum louver arms are raised to let in the evening sun. Of the design, Jablon said, “You can’t tell me that this design hasn’t captured you. Calatrava captures your curiosity on the drawings alone. Then, when you start building it and you see it evolve, he gets your heart. And when the building is far enough along so you can see the full design realized, he’s damn sure captured your soul.” (Credit for all photos: Macbeth Photography)
Construction was a collaborative process, in which Skanska focused on engaging all the stakeholders in the construction and design process from beginning to end. As Scott Judy of ENR writes, we worked to “break down traditional silos of silence between the design and construction team.”
Inside, the roof’s exposed underbelly reveals concrete rakers that converge at an apex containing a skylight. A grand staircase takes center stage. Throughout the building, the concrete is clean and crisp – which required tremendous attention to detail and concrete craftsmanship from our team.
The complex rooftop system is supported by a concrete ring beam – 72 inches deep and 30 inches wide – that encircles the interior of the second floor’s grand common area. On the building’s radii, each column rotates on another angle. This building has about 300 radius points, with an incredible 90 percent of everything done on a radius. As Jablon said, “You see the radius – do you feel it?”
Calatrava designed the building to inspire students with a sense of optimism: “My first aim is to make an inspirational environment for the students and the professors and everyone working here.”
Executing this design required forging a sincere bond between Skanska and Calatrava’s team. “This has been one of the best relationships I’ve had professionally with a contractor,” said Frank Lorino, chief architect of Calatrava’s New York office. “It hasn’t been without disagreement, but we know we’re both working for the same goal – the highest quality of project possible for the means that we have.”
The building’s exterior is wrapped by a pergola of lightweight aluminum trellis that covers walkways and gathering spaces. In addition to being visually stunning, the pergola also helps the building function efficiently, reducing the structure’s solar load by 30 percent.
The building’s amphitheater showcases the team’s craftsmanship. So much of the building’s detail is understated: from the rotation of the columns, to the quality of the concrete pours and the challenging patterns cut into the floors. As students embark on their STEM education, they’ll appreciate the work that went into achieving these features even more.
Jablon and the Skanska team relished the building process. “I wanted to do it,” he said. “If you’re a builder, this is what you dream about doing in your career. It’s an opportunity to take your experience and your knowledge and gather people you’ve worked with throughout your career and say, ‘Friends, we’ve got one. We’ve got what we’ve been dreaming about our whole career.’ That’s what it is about.”