Originally posted Thursday, 11 September 2014

Written by Chris Towery

Project Details

Owner: University of Washington
Architect: Miller/Hull Partnership
Construction Professional: Mortenson Construction Company
Type of Project: Higher Education
Delivery Method: CM at-Risk


Seeing some 10,000 visitors daily, the University of Washington’s Odegaard Undergraduate Library is one of the campus’ most frequently used facilities. Over the library’s 40-year history, however, the building had reached the point where it needed a renovation in order to maximize its use of space and keep pace with changes in learning, technology, and energy use. Funding from the State of Washington provided for a partial renovation, with the requirement that all funding be utilized within two years. The renovation project focused primarily on the first floor, providing innovative and multiuse learning spaces, areas for students to work on projects in teams, reconfigurable casual learning spaces, and individual and group study spaces. The project also significantly altered the existing center atrium in order to create new learning space as well as to improve the quality of the space around it. Following the renovation, the 165,000-squarefoot Odegaard library was transformed from what was once a dark and outdated facility into a new centerpiece for undergraduate education that offered a completely reimagined learning experience.

The project’s major work elements included the following tasks: • Complete demolition and replacement of the existing central stairway to create new learning spaces on the mezzanine and first floor.

• Insertion of a new skylight in the roof area above the central atrium to transform what was a dark and uninviting space.

• Creation of two new innovative flexible learning spaces, which serve both scheduled classes and students seeking space for group or individual study. The spaces were developed on the “Active Learning” approach to classrooms and are technology-rich.

• Creation of new study rooms and areas with different ways to share information, solve problems, or work on team projects.

• Establishing a new Writing and Research Center, not unlike the “Genius Bar” in an Apple Store where one can get help on projects.

• Providing writable wall surfaces liberally throughout the first floor to allow group work on projects.

• Reconfiguration and expansion of the existing mezzanine to provide staff space.

• Enclosure of the existing non-code-compliant atrium on the third floor to both meet code and to enhance that floor’s function as a quiet study area.

Overall Project Management

The university’s project manager, Steve Tatge, instituted two instituted two key measures that directly led to the success of the renovation: 1) establishing that the project would be done in a culture of trust and collaboration among all parties; and 2) managing the determination of the project scope, so all stakeholders understood that early decision-making would be required—and once scope was established, there would be little tolerance for scope changes given the constraints

Tatge knew the project the project would require an Integrated Project Delivery approach in order to succeed, but as a public university, there were a number of constraints involved with how the project could be delivered. To this end, Tatge developed “IPD-ish” contract language, while still complying with public works laws and staying compatible with the portions of the university’s design and construction contracts which could not be modified.

To help ensure effective collaboration among the project team, the university made it clear in the initial Requests for Qualifications that the project would be a collaborative effort, and previous examples of successfully working in a collaborative fashion would be taken into account when the university chose its team. While general expectations about collaboration were conveyed, rather than dictating how the final process would work, the university left it up to the eventual selected firms to determine the particulars. This led the firms to develop a “Collaboration Guide.” Although this guide was not a contractual document in a legal sense, it was signed by the university, Miller/Hull, and Mortenson, and it clearly shaped the behavior of the team.

The Collaboration Guide was wide-ranging and addressed issues deemed critical to the team at a very detailed level, with points assigned to each criteria and the status tracked in weekly project meetings. The broad categories for points, with selected examples of individual goals to be measured, included the following items:

• Meet the Schedule: Milestones were set for completing master plan, construction documents, Owner reviews, substantial completion, and closeout documentation.

• Transition Smoothly: Move seamlessly from design and construction to occupancy, without regard for distinct phases. Examples included issuance of summer work bid packages, mobilization date, re-occupancy of library after summer closure, maximum 14-day resolution of punchlist items, production of electronic version of O&M data, and goals for staff and student satisfaction with the project.

• Maximize Value: Increase building efficiency and assignable area, while having alternates ready if buyout savings allow additional scope.

• Be Safe: Maintain zero recordable injuries.

• Be Thorough: Meet targets for change order rate, responding to RFI’s promptly, and minimizing repunching items on the punchlist.

• Be Lean: Conduct pull-planning sessions for both the construction and design process, minimize rejected or resubmitted submittals, conduct “value streammapping” exercises to make RFI and submittal processes more efficient.

• Showcase the Project: Publish articles and present the project at conferences, publish a white paper on methods used to facilitate use on future UW projects.

• Have Fun: Offer multiple team-building events, including a fundraiser, where the team climbed the 76-story Columbia Center.

The Collaboration Guide became a powerful motivator for the entire team, especially since data was collected and reviewed in front of everyone. And beyond the desire to meet numerical targets, all parties—architect, engineer, contractor, librarians, and capital project staff alike—worked hard to not let each other down. This personalization of the work grew out of the culture that the university had initially established and was fostered by the guide’s detailed criteria.

To manage the development of the project scope, Tatge had the team agree on an overall vision for the newly renovated library and then determine which portions of that vision could be implemented within the project budget and schedule. Further, the vision needed to be phased so that future phases would not require the ‘undoing’ of substantial portions of what had already been completed. While generally successful in this regard, the predesign study submitted to the State of Washington to solicit funding for the project did not have buy-in from the many campus stakeholders who use and operate Odegaard.

Further, the state provided only 80 percent of the funding requested, so it quickly became clear that the vision within the predesign study could not be achieved using the available funding. Consequently, Tatge convened a campus-wide “Working Group” to fully master plan the building and then determine what scope from this plan could be executed with the funds and time available. Tatge knew this could not just be an abstract exercise—real dollars needed to be ascribed to the various scope elements, and there needed to be a real plan to determine the most efficient phasing strategy. This effort took several months, but it was ultimately critical in getting the many stakeholders onboard with the project.

Having the construction partner, Mortenson Construction, selected early on was critical to being able to have realistic price tags for the scope elements and have feedback on how the elements could most logically be built. Mortenson worked with Miller/ Hull to develop distinct options in a “shopping list” format that was conveyed graphically so it showed in a series of images what scope was included and what each option would cost. During this time, Mortenson’s Preconstruction Leader was often colocated in Miller/Hull’s office and was able to provide quick and steady input on strategies for realizing the Working Group’s vision.

For example, when the Working Group settled on a scope of work that was within budget and wanted to add a skylight to the existing atrium, the team quickly analyzed options for a skylight that provided the best combination of cost and daylighting effectiveness. The skylight cost was reduced to the point where the Dean of the Libraries was able to supplement the project budget to be able to provide an element that all agree has been absolutely transformational to the project.

Project Scheduling: Once the project vision was established, Tatge realized that conventional project delivery methods would be unable to meet the schedule, so Tatge instituted a variety of timesaving measures that ultimately allowed the project to finish on time. The key step was holding a pull-planning session in which the full design and review process was planned “backwards” based on several fixed construction milestones. This was vital, since some of the work would require full closure of the library, and it was not acceptable for the closure to occur during the normal academic year.

The university had already planned to close the library during the less busy summer quarter of 2012, and this became the driver for both the design and construction schedule. Working backwards from when the steel needed to be onsite to erect a new stairway and mezzanine floor, the team worked to schedule bidding, shop drawings, design, permitting, and review, with milestones set for when the design team had to meet to complete design. Much of the design needed to be done out of sequence to suit the construction schedule, and Tatge had to ensure that stakeholders understood when and how the review process would work.

This scheduling approach required the use of “over the shoulder” reviews by university stakeholders, such as campus engineering and UW technology, to compress the cycle by which designs are reviewed and comments are addressed. Typically, university technical staff would be allowed two weeks to review milestone documents and provide comments, which would be responded to by the design team and eventually resolved. The “over the shoulder” approach involved giving staff just a few days to familiarize themselves with the documents and then having a face-to-face meeting with their design and construction counterparts to explain the design, review issues, discuss solutions, and document the agreed-upon outcomes. This approach shaved months off of the project development schedule, while still maintaining document quality and allowing technical staff to ensure that the university’s requirements were being met.

Cost Management: Costs were carefully managed, from the overall project level to individual bid packages to scrutiny of change orders and management of contingency. The project had an ambitious scope for the amount of funding available, and the master planning effort was critical in matching scope with budget. The building was master planned top to bottom, and costs were then developed for a number of discrete scopes of work. The resulting data was presented as a shopping list from which the Working Group could choose.

The team worked very hard to execute the design and buyout within the target budgets, and responded quickly when individual bid package results varied from the estimate. For instance, when one of the final remaining bid packages for casework came in substantially over budget, Tatge mobilized a response to review and reduce scope, modify design details in consultation with a casework subcontractor, and rebid the work while still maintaining schedule. Instead of pointing fingers at one another, the team quickly came together to develop a solution.

Another example of effective cost management was exemplified by the integrated process surrounding the design, fabrication, and construction of a reclaimed wood railing in the atrium. The Working Group considered the railing to be an important feature, but when early design options went above budget, it appeared that this signature element was in jeopardy. A collaborative effort on the part of Miller/Hull, Mortenson, and a subcontractor explored ideas for simplifying the fabrication and installation, and ultimately, Miller/Hull incorporated that advice into a design that could be pre-fabricated in sections and featured repetitive elements, all of which greatly reduced cost.

Quality Management: As a firm believer in the positive impact that collaboration has on the quality of the design and construction, the university encouraged the co-location of the contractor’s preconstruction leader in the architect’s office for a significant portion of the early design period. This allowed for quick resolution of issues, advice on constructability and cost, and development of mutual trust and confidence. Similarly, the architect was tasked with providing construction administration staff onsite in the university’s trailer, which was immediately adjacent to the construction team. As in the design period, quick problem-solving, prompt development and resolution of punch list items, and a relationship built on trust all resulted and were a key part in realizing the challenging construction schedule.

Tracking and measuring a wide variety of data was done to a degree not seen on typical university projects, and the numbers were reviewed at the weekly team meeting in the presence of the library client. The regular public display of data was a key motivator for the entire team and drove the quality of many metrics to a very high level. This will become a regular practice on future projects.

Another innovation related to quality involved the design and procurement of the project’s mechanical system. Though the university is constrained by public works law in how it can deliver projects, the project manager sought a way to work with the design and construction team to compress the mechanical design from the traditional design-bid-build approach. The team used an approach in which the design engineer took the mechanical documents to 50-percent CDs, and then those documents were bid for both the mechanical installation and “finishing the design” under the supervision of the design engineer. In this way, the project received a competitively bid mechanical scope, but was able to get coordinated shop drawings in the same time it typically took just to get the construction documents.

Overall Project Success

A number of factors contributed to the overall success of the project including:

1. Creating a culture of collaboration prior to the design and construction teams being selected, and then nurturing and maintaining it as the project progressed.

2. Taking the time, in spite of a demanding overall schedule, to master-plan the library and then selecting scope elements from that vision that fit within the project budget. Integrating cost information with design graphics made choices easy for stakeholders to understand the complex set of options.

3. Establishing a wide-ranging set of measurable goals and reviewing their status with the entire team each week.

4. Taking new approaches on a variety of the “typical” ways the university delivers its capital projects, including expediting project technical reviews and doing early bidding of the mechanical scope to get integrated shop drawings in the time it normally took to complete the construction documents.

5. Having the contractor lead a pull planning session to plan the design, permitting, and procurement process for the portion of the work that had to be completed during the Summer 2012 closure.

6. Working with library staff to minimize the impact of construction in an occupied library, while managing the expectations of library staff, so the construction team would not be overly constrained in their ability to do the work.

Project Complexity

Several significant factors made this project challenging, including:

• Funding provided was just 80 percent of what was requested

• Planned project scope was revamped to include a master planning of the library, with an eye towards future phases completing the overall vision

• Project needed to be master planned, designed, constructed and occupied within two years

• Scope included creating new high-tech “Active Learning Classrooms,” which are suitable for both scheduled classes and informal study, and with which the university had no experience

• The construction—and in turn, the design—needed to address a planned three-month library closure to allow heavy demolition and construction work to take place

• The bulk of the construction took place within a fully open library operating 24 hours a day, four days a week, and the majority of the day on the remaining three days

• A large campus cafeteria directly under the area of work remained open throughout the project


Though not a LEED project, a number of sustainable features were considered for the project, in keeping with the university’s national reputation for delivering sustainable projects. First and foremost, renovating a portion of the 40-year-old structure instead of replacing it is among the highest impact sustainable decisions the university could make. By modifying what did not work well and keeping the ‘bones’ of the building, the university was able to maximize the value of the existing building, while still creating much-needed new program space.

The team performed detailed analysis of options for introducing a skylight into the previously dark center of the library, and this new lighting source is coordinated with the new lighting controls system to minimize the cost of the lighting. Additionally, high-efficiency light fixtures replaced existing lighting within the scope of the project, and this will further reduce energy costs. Concrete rubble produced by the demolition of the existing stairs was recycled, and all of the oak from the existing guardrails that were demolished was salvaged, remilled, stained, and re-used in the new guardrail around the atrium. All rooms within the daylight zone of the building feature occupancy sensors to dim or turn off lighting depending on whether the room is in use. Finally, most interior materials and finishes comply with low or no-VOC standards.

For their superior project management, the University of Washington was selected as the winner of COAA’s 2013 Project Leadership Silver Award for the Odegaard Undergraduate Library Renovation. For more information on this project, visit www.blogs.uw.edu/ouglreno.