Penn State’s Berks Campus experienced tremendous success and growth under the 16-year leadership of the late Frederick H. Gaige, the college’s former dean and CEO Emeritus. The small, rural campus expanded from 1,000 students in four major buildings on 135 acres of land to 2,100 students in seven major buildings and 13 smaller structures on 240 acres of land. This expansive growth put incredible pressure on the campus’ existing academic facilities, challenging the institution’s ability to grow. However, the addition of the new Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building in 2011 realized a long-held dream for the school in terms of its expansion, development, and innovation. The excellent planning and management of the project also won Penn State COAA’s 2012 Project Leadership Silver Award.

Project Description

As the largest building on campus with more than 60,000 square feet, Gaige houses three amazing new facilities: the Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement, the Learning Factory, and the Emerging Technologies and Business Intelligence Laboratory. The Gaige building will help to make the campus an important leader for growth and innovation, as well as make it possible to deepen partnerships with businesses and communities throughout the region.

Featuring nine new classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art communications technologies, the campus can now offer new courses and enhance existing ones. Gaige has nine new computer labs, including innovative systems and private networks for the Information Science & Technology program. It also has dedicated laboratory space for sustained and sophisticated investigations. Further, a kitchen area serves as lab space for the Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management degree program. A café, lecture hall, 50 faculty offices, conference rooms, a design studio, student study areas, and an installation by world-renowned sculptor Ray King round out this incredible facility.

In terms of construction materials, the building features a structural steel frame with a white terracotta rainscreen façade. The roof construction is metal deck with a reflective, white TPO roof, and the majority of the façade is curtainwall. A significant portion of the building budget lies buried underground, with more than $1 million of mini-piles and pressure grouting supporting the concrete foundation footings and walls. The interior design is minimalistic to enhance the engineering and technology image. The 20,000 square feet of exposed colored concrete floors provide attractive but practical flooring for the engineering labs and the main arteries of the building. A large two-story atrium floods the building with natural light.

07-Penn_State3Project Management

One of the main factors in project management success was Penn State’s comprehensive and well-communicated Project Management Plan. PSU clearly communicated to all stakeholders the expectations for Quality, Cost, and Schedule. The university then implemented the plan and ensured that all team members adhered to it. A construction website helped to guide all team members through every phase of construction. As a result, the building was completed early and under budget, and it has become a benchmark for quality on all of their campuses.

A second factor in project management excellence was the ability of PM Tom Wojcik to understand Penn State Berks Campus’s programming needs and to develop a building that not only satisfied, but exceeded, the end user’s expectations.

Scheduling: To complete construction as quickly as possible, PSU hired a Construction Manager with the best schedule plan at their interview. Preliminary schedules that Penn State was using showed project completion in December of 2011, so the building could be used for the winter/ spring semester of 2012. Alvin H. Butz, Inc. presented a schedule plan that showed a completion date of early Fall 2011. This schedule became the benchmark for the duration of the project, and all activities and plans revolved around a final completion date of October 2011.

During construction, the team faced several challenges in order to maintain schedule. The first challenge was the compaction grouting and micro-pile installation. Initial design requirements were for the grouting to be completed before the micro-piles began. Through discussions with the geo-technical engineer, the team was able to phase the building into two sections, performing an additional tensile test on the piles to ensure their integrity. This allowed for additional drilling rigs to be brought on site to begin the pile installation on one side of the building, while grouting was completed on the other. This recovery plan for micro-piles also allowed the team to begin installing steel on one half of the building while micro piles and foundations were being completed on the other end.

Throughout construction, the team monitored the schedule on a bi-weekly basis. At every team meeting, three separate benchmarks were used to evaluate schedule and construction progress. A summary was done to show elapsed time vs. schedule time, the percentage of the project billed, and the architect’s assessment of percentage complete. The average of the three percentages was used to determine an accurate assessment of the project schedule. This helped Penn State and the entire team to determine when it was most appropriate to spend money on overtime.

Another challenge was working through the winter weather. A change from a fully adhered roof to an asphalt coated system was made to allow the material to be heated and installed during January. This allowed construction to continue through the winter making the building water tight for other trades.

Cost Management: Butz and PSU worked hand-in-hand to manage the costs on this project. The team developed custom financial reports to address the three pots of money (Contractual, Allowances, and Contingency) that required monitoring. The reports tracked contractual allowances, contingency requests, and scope increases that resulted in change orders. Butz took great effort to identify costs that were known but unquantifiable at bid time, and they tracked these costs as allowances, so PSU could use this valuable financial information for future projects. PSU and Butz made a commitment to meet every week to review all of the costs and to develop the following Cost Management Strategy:

Butz, PSU, and the architect collaborated to discuss each cost change and to determine if there was a means to achieve the same result without incurring any costs. If the team could not find an alternate method of resolving the issue, they would work together on bargaining strategies with the subcontractors. For example, the team was able to reduce the extra rock costs by more than $75,000 by enforcing a clause in the contract to remove the rock time-and-material instead of unit prices.

This Cost Management Strategy was extremely successful. While the total construction change orders were $1,948,125 or 9.8 percent of the final GMP of $19,846,475, more than 6.0 percent was necessary scope added to the construction contract to achieve the latest information technology equipment systems for the facility. The other 3.5 percent of the change orders were unforeseen subsurface conditions.

Quality Management: The exterior rain screen façade is both the main architectural feature of the facility and the system that received the most attention from day one. Visits of existing similar systems were conducted prior to finalizing construction documents. In addition to bringing aboard a design firm experienced with rain screens, a construction manager and façade consultant with experience with this specialty system were hired.

The team utilized Submittal Exchange and grouped contractors into categories, so all contractors within a category had access to all the current information. Before any major work was started, a pre-installation conference was hosted with the contractor, the design professional and Penn State. The team met and reviewed all of the details and had the manufacturer’s representative in attendance. Key issues of wet curing the floors and saw cutting the joints within the first 10 hours resulted in quality, exposed concrete floors with very few cracks. The mock-up was utilized to water test all details before they were approved for the building.

When the team started the exterior façade, the entire team did a visual inspection of every square foot of the substrate before it was covered by the terra cotta using a checklist developed by the exterior façade consultant. Butz and Penn State developed a Field Issue List, where all concerns and deficiencies discovered by any team member were documented and tracked. This list was reviewed weekly at the foremen’s meeting and bi-weekly at the Project Management Meeting. This enabled the management team to track all items in one convenient log.

Project Success

The communication between members was excellent, and the use of the Web-Based Project Management Site allowed all members of the team access to all project information in real time. The results of this team synergy was a building of superior quality, change orders that amounted to less than 1.7 percent of total project costs, a schedule that was completed four months early, 17 percent WBE/MBE participation, and a LEED Gold Certified Building.

Before the project team was selected, Penn State went through an extremely focused interior programming process. Since the building needed to integrate four educational units into shared spaces, it was important to have all department heads and faculty represented. The group had to define the vision that would meet the budget and work collaboratively together. The selection of each member of the Project Team was not a chance occurrence but followed a well thought-out process.

Selection of Architect: One of the key factors in selecting RMJM as the architect was they were the most comprehensive team in all phases of the project, including building systems, site, and interiors. The building had to fit into a campus setting, so the landscape design was critical. RMJM rose to the top with their extensive portfolio and their sensitivity to sustainable design.

Selection of Construction Manager: What distinguished Alvin H. Butz, Inc. from their competitors was their responsiveness to Penn State’s criteria. Butz had an extensive portfolio of similar projects and a track record of success; they also presented the best schedule, which would ultimately save Penn State money through reduced management fees.

Selection of Subcontractors: Butz and Penn State developed a comprehensive bidder’s qualification process, so only qualified and competent bidders would be allowed to bid. Butz held a very detailed pre-bid conference that explained the project and bidding project to the subcontractors in great detail. For a total of two weeks, Penn State and Butz interviewed the two lowest bidders in all major bid categories. Price and project scope were not the sole determining factors for selection; the team reviewed safety performance, schedule, and references to ensure the best team of subcontractors was selected.

Project Complexity

The Penn State Berks Gage Technology and Business Innovation Building was challenged by three major complicating factors:

Design Team Turnover: The architectural firm of record went through a transition in ownership during the project, as Hillier merged with RMJM. This resulted in staff turnover, as the Project Architect and support staff changed three times during the construction period. Penn State and Butz took the lead and assumed many of the roles and responsibilities of the architectural firm during these transitions.

Schedule Challenges: Mother Nature challenged the team during all phases of the construction. There was a six-week delay in the subsurface preparation due to an unanticipated amount of grouting and mini-pile work. This delay was followed by an extremely hot summer, a record amount of snowfall in winter, and one of the wettest springs in years. During the month of April, there were only 10 good weather days to work on the building’s exterior.

Building Complexity: The building was an extremely complicated and sophisticated structure. The rain screen construction required absolute precision in all dimensions and details. The building design did not have the traditional air space between the façade and the building substrate, so the Z-plane of the building became critical, which challenged the layout and façade construction. Waterproofing the façade also became crucial, since the skin of the building actually introduces water into the system. The underground gray-water detention system and energy saving strategies for the MEP system required extra effort from the team. The ductwork as designed would not fit into the ceiling space because of the floor to ceiling windows in most classrooms. The team spent countless hours mastering the mock-up details before applying them to the building.


The project was recently awarded LEED Gold certification by the USGBC. It was submitted under LEED version 2.2 for new construction and earned 39 points on its way to certification.

The procurement phase of the project was managed using an electronic submittal tracking service called Submittal Exchange, reducing the amount of paper used. As a result, additional points were awarded in the LEED submission.

One of the building’s unique sustainable features include two, 35,000-gallon underground rainwater harvesting tanks. These tanks minimize storm water run-off, and the gray water is used for flushing toilets, washing the exterior of the building, and watering plants.

Near the project’s completion, members of the team met with students enrolled in a technical writing class. Their project for the semester was to create the building’s LEED signage highlighting the green features incorporated into the design and construction. At the completion of the semester, team members helped judge which signage would be installed in the building. The resulting signage was spectacular and enhances the sustainability awareness of all those who enter the building.

For more information on the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building, visit