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Spanning two and a half years, the overhaul and replacement of 40-year-old mechanical and electrical systems in Jordan Hall is taking place while the building remains fully occupied. (Photo by David Galen)

Spanning two and a half years, the overhaul and replacement of 40-year-old mechanical and electrical systems in Jordan Hall is taking place while the building remains fully occupied. (Photo by David Galen)

Renovation in Occupied UVA Medical Research Facility

An emphasis on teamwork and communication has enabled a collaborative team to overcome countless hurdles—nearing a successful December finish on one of the most complex renovation projects ever tackled on the University of Virginia (UVA)’s Charlottesville campus.

Team Players

Project: University of Virginia Jordan Hall

Customer: Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia ranks in the Top 25 among the best of all national universities, public and private.

Architect/Engineer: RMF Engineering, Inc.

Project Highlights:

  • This $27 million project included the replacement and overhaul of 40-year-old mechanical and electrical systems.
  • Use of 3-D and 4-D BIM resolved major conflicts before construction even began.
  • The renovation took place with the building fully operational; at peak construction, more than 100 tradesmen were onsite.

Spanning two and a half years, the $27 million overhaul and replacement of 40-year-old mechanical and electrical systems in Jordan Hall (commonly referred to as Old Jordan Hall), the seven-story main research facility for the UVA School of Medicine, is taking place while the building remains fully occupied and critical medical research operations continue. Through ongoing communication and early building information modeling (BIM) coordination, the team minimized disruption to the researchers’ activities, seamlessly tying in new systems even while more than 100 tradesmen worked onsite at peak construction.

Throughout the project, the owner; architect/engineer, RMF Engineering, Inc.; DPR and other key players brainstormed and implemented a variety of measures to keep the project moving forward. Major constraints, typically true of renovation projects, included extremely limited access to get materials and systems into and out of the building, a host of unknown conditions, and more.

A few of the major project components included:

  • replacing 250 individual rooftop exhaust fans with a new upblast exhaust system, comprising 10 large exhaust fans and energy-recovery plenums, all while ensuring minimum downtime (a mere four hours per lab space) as exhaust operations were switched over;
  • sequentially replacing eight antiquated air handlers in the basement;
  • replacing the entire chilled-water and hot-water systems;
  • replacing an existing 400 kilowatt (kW) emergency generator with a new 2,000 kW generator; and
  • replacing the emergency electrical system in the building.

The team used 3-D and 4-D BIM to plan project phasing and perform conflict analysis. BIM enabled the identification and resolution of five major conflicts before construction began. The team also devised a plan for structural improvements that did not impact research operations by performing the work from the shaft side of the beams and columns. That work led to the discovery of unknown asbestos fireproofing in the columns and lead paint that then had to be mitigated.

Despite these and many other challenges, the project is on track for successful on-time, on-budget completion.


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