Winner: 2010 Construction Excellence Awards: Silver (Ceilings, West Region)

Integration and Interaction: The DNA of Future Building

Located in the redeveloped Mission Bay district of San Francisco, the new Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is a stunning project with “integration" and “interaction" in its design and construction DNA. The themes are woven into the building's layout with its open network of labs, conferences spaces, and offices for 500 researchers.

The design firm — the longest continually-operating A&E firm in the US — utilized two new innovative approaches at the same time. The CVRI was the architect's first major project incorporating both Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). The result of this pioneering effort was a building delivered two and half months early. Throughout the five-story building are suspended wood ceilings that demonstrate our ability to rise to the challenge of “integration" from design to delivery.

During the design phase, our independent rep interfaced with the architect and ourselves to provide a wave of samples, AutoCAD details, and budgets that met the stringent LEED Gold requirements, the city fire rating codes, and of course the budget. The hands-on design team had several members that engaged with our rep and us along the way. This sheer number of designers involved made the communication and integration of proposed solutions tricky and complicated to assure all were on the same page. But the most challenging aspect during the design development was finding the right assembly.

The project required FSC-certified wood that would carry a Class 1A fire rating and have no added urea-formaldehyde (NAUF). At the time, the only option to meet this combination was a solid (and very expensive) FSC White Maple from the upper Midwest, with a Class 1A FR topical treatment. The budget-friendly standard option was to use an architectural veneer with non-FSC-certified, NAUF Class 1A fire-rated core. Not willing to give up easily, the design team pressed us to go back to our supply chain network and see if another solution could be found. As if it were somehow meant to be, a new product had just been released on the market: an FSC-certified, NAUF, Class 1A fire rated MDF core. This core had the “trifecta" of benefits required, and with an architectural White Maple veneer, the design team loved it while it met the budget. The integration of supply chain to the customer had prevailed.

Once the project turned to production and installation, the power of integration took another step: the use of “the Big Room" — a 10,000 square-foot space just a block from the jobsite. In it were housed representatives from the architect, GC, subs, and the owner's rep. This expedited the RFI process and really streamlined the project. One server in the trailer housed the continually-updated 3D architectural models.

Despite such cutting-edge technology, contractors understand that rooms are never truly square; trying to “space" the panels apart to make up for slight variations in walls and angles is truly an art. The installer was presented the unique and daunting challenge of taking large, contiguous spaces and installing nearly 20,000 square feet of Panelized Linears down corridors, across large meeting areas, and around numerous columns and fixtures while maintaining the appearance of ¾" reveals at every joint. Through careful calculation and slightly “growing" the reveals, the installation looked seamless wherever the wood came into view in the 236,000 square-foot facility.

The project also posed another challenge for production during install. Some of the waiting and reception areas required our Acoustic Plank in large sizes, with veneered edges. This diverged from the original spec of 8" wide planks, without edge banding. One of our distributors recounts, “[The manufacturer] did a nice job of rising to the challenge of the project just before it was to ship. They were flexible and adapted their products to meet the project requirements." To boot, we provided matching panels for the elevator cabs so the light wood finish would translate to those small spaces.

As you walk along the freshly-poured sidewalks in Mission Bay and see the White Maple veneer Panelized Linears and Acoustic Wood through CVRI's large windows, it is hard to believe that this ceiling literally would not have been possible a couple years ago. Developments in sustainable wood products — sparked and fueled by the demand of LEED program — made the product assemblies possible. Ultimately however, it was the integration from design to delivery that produced a successful project.

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