Building the Unbuildable

Designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, known for the “unbuildable” building, Michigan State University’s new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum pushed architectural boundaries and challenged conventional construction. Constructed of sloped steel and concrete with a pleated metal and glass exterior, carefully piecing together dynamic dimensions and non-traditional materials challenged the team from the very beginning. A typical building techniques were a part of everyday construction.

Iconic and innovative, crafting this complex architecture to life while maintaining design intent came with numerous challenges. In fact, it was noted in The State News, Michigan State University’s newspaper, that contractors were afraid to bid on such a daring structure.

Responding to Design
Given the unique design, Barton Malow carried out an exceptional preconstruction effort to source materials and ensure constructability. Throughout development of the design and modeling process, Barton Malow performed successful BIM integration processes, where we extracted from the collaborative design model information for interactive estimating, value engineering, schedule productivity, and design assist interface.

The most significant challenges faced had to do with the preciseness and placement of 1,000 lb., 15’ geometric custom-cut glass panels only allowing a margin of error of as little as 2 millimeters; controlling the consistency, finish, and pressure levels during the pouring of 40’ sloping concrete walls; the expansion and contraction of custom-designed materials; and, the development of an alternative structural system.

The project utilized BIM in a significant way, as the model provided by the architect was in fact a part of the construction documents. Paper drawings were for reference only and most, on purpose, did not contain dimensional information. Subcontractors derived all dimensional information directly from the model. From that standpoint, all trades needed BIM modelers to assemble the building. Even trades that didn’t normally model had to produce and read the models, including the drywall subs.

With extreme expectations of quality, the highest levels of communication and craftsmanship were required to overcome these challenges. The successful outcome was truly a team effort.

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Todd Ketola

“Barton Malow stands tall above the waves of our industry”