Shooting For the Stars

When plans for Mesa Community College’s 62,000 square foot Southwest Physical Sciences building were drawn, the planetarium was an iffy proposition. “In the early phases of the project, we didn’t believe we could afford it,” said Mike Sims, MCC physical science department chair. However, with focused estimating and value engineering, the budget was stretched to fund the 53-seat planetarium.

With the use of OnScreen, a graphical estimating software, Barton Malow’s preconstruction team provided the owner and SmithGroup, the project architect, with visual quantity and cost information in great detail. “Graphically, the on-screens are a great representation of the numbers. This method of estimating allows us to clearly understand the estimates,” said Joseph Bartlett, project manager for the Maricopa County Community College District.

Using OnScreen information, the entire project team collaborated to select alternative finishes. This yielded savings while fulfilling design and function requirements and the college’s mission to provide a responsive, adaptable, and inclusive learning environment. Bids came in approximately $300,000 under budget – which covered some of the cost and enabled MCC to include the coveted planetarium.

The 2,100 square foot planetarium boasts an IMAX quality, Digistar 3 projection system and is coupled with a rooftop astronomy observation platform for telescopic viewing of the night sky. The planetarium is the crown jewel for the Physical Sciences Building, which includes labs, classrooms, and support spaces for the 5,000 students that enroll in astronomy, chemistry, engineering, geology, and physics courses each semester. The sun will help power the planetarium, thanks to solar panels contributed by Salt River Project, a local utility provider.

For students at MCC and throughout the region, the planetarium will challenge the imagination – a pathway to the stars.

Alex Ivanikiw, AIA, LEED AP

“'Boredom' does not exist at Barton Malow for me. I continue to enjoy and learn from the diversity of our staff, our projects, the delivery methods we utilize, and our broad base of clients - everyday is a new and great experience!”