When Mike Fernandez donated $3 million to Miami, Florida-based St. Thomas University for a new student activity and leadership development building, school officials wanted to be certain the generous gift would be used wisely and with extreme care.
Planning for the facility and the meticulous search for the best construction team took more than a year, according to Juan M. Zamora, Physical Plant Director at St. Thomas and a member of the building committee. Finally, the school turned to Lemartec Engineering and Construction Corporation to build the all-purpose structure as well as ensuring that the precious dollars would work as hard as possible.
School officials were not disappointed. The Miami based construction firm, using pre-engineered steel from Varco Pruden Buildings, erected The Fernandez Family Center for Leadership and Wellness, a beautiful 62,000-square-foot facility that is home to the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as the women’s volleyball team. Additionally, it is equipped with a fitness center, an athletic training room, team locker rooms, fitness locker rooms, a concession area, and mezzanine level multi-purpose classrooms and is the home to all Bobcat sports administration offices.
The facility, adjacent to its soccer field and softball and baseball diamonds, also is used for non-athletic events, including graduation ceremonies which are held in the gym twice a year.
Zamora said the decision to use pre-engineered metal was enthusiastically agreed upon by the building committee and the architectural firm of Villa & Associates as well as Lemartec.
“There were two major reasons we decided on pre-engineered steel: cost and timeline,” said Zamora, who now is in his 14th year as physical plant manager. “When I was told it would take only 18 months to build this facility, with all it has to offer, I was skeptical. But they did it. The building was done on time and on budget. We were very pleased–there were no problems at all.”
The pre-engineered steel supplied by Varco Pruden has long been a popular choice for many construction projects when price and time are major factors. Not only can metal building systems be built more quickly than most other types of construction–and at a sizeable cost savings–but steel buildings are extremely durable and, at the same time, offer environmental features that other types of construction cannot.
And while these two factors are of prime importance to building committees, two other major reasons—appearance and environment—are other crucial aspects that weigh heavily in the final decision for most construction projects. An attractive structure, well sited and handsomely landscaped, adds much more than merely providing a new facility to the campus.
“Today’s metal buildings are no longer limited in their capacity to adapt to various wall materials, including architectural metal, glass, brick, block, stone or wood,” said Chuck Haslebacher, President,Varco Pruden, one of the nation’s leading providers of metal building systems and a division of BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc. “The industry now can fully support an architect’s need for form as well as function.”
Steel system construction uses factory made materials with the frame, roof and wall systems produced to exact project specifications to ensure correct fit and to minimize waste. With other types of construction, the building components are field cut, fitted and assembled on site so there is always the matter of wasted wood, steel and concrete. Beyond the unnecessary cost of wasted materials, with today’s environmental concerns, waste becomes an even more important issue.
“In addition to eliminating a large percentage of waste, there are additional environmental advantages in using steel building systems. Steel buildings can provide a thermally efficient envelope. Even when the project has outlived its usefulness and must come down, there is the factor of recyclability of steel,” Haslebacher says. “With today’s advanced insulation technology for metal structures, efficiency can be achieved with a combination of modern insulation systems and cool paint offerings.”
It should also be noted that steel is a highly-recycled material. Typically, 25 percent or more of the steel content in a metal building is taken from post-consumer waste. Steel is non-flammable and completely non-toxic; therefore, it does not have negative impact on indoor air quality.
Metal can be finished or coated to reflect the infrared heat from the sun, which is an advantage both externally an internally. Using solar- reflective coatings, steel roofs and exterior walls can reduce the impact from heat that would increase cooling loads in the building and also increase the local heat island effect.
In addition to all the qualities that metal systems offered, Lemartec also had its own design-build team working seamlessly with the architect to find ways to the cut costs through value engineering.
“I would estimate that our team was able to provide a significant cost savings to the project,” said Manny Garcia-Tunon, president of Lemartec. “We’re pleased that we could deliver the project economically and at the same time provide an attractive building that fits in so well with the rest of the campus. We used a pre-engineered frame and still were able to get the conventional look we wanted.
“The design adaptability of Varco Pruden’s framing system allowed us to give it the architectural look the client wanted. The fact that there was no field welding allowed us to complete the job very quickly and economically.”
St. Thomas officials say the structure brings more to its 140-acre campus than simply functioning as an athletic facility. In addition to its athletic and wellness purposes, the School of Leadership Studies offers specific classes and seminars in leadership training, including the “Lead Now Experience,” which develops high potential students.
Mike Fernandez, chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners, says, “The creation of a leadership and wellness center builds an unprecedented opportunity for STU. The programs offered there can develop students’ leadership skills, mold their minds, shape their bodies and build their spirits.”
Founded in 1961 by the Augustinian Order of Villanova Pennsylvania, the school was originally named Biscayne College, but when it achieved university status in 1984, it changed its name to its present one. St. Thomas, located in northwest Miami, between Fort Lauderdale and downtown Miami, has a diverse student population, representing 35 states and 65 countries. Fifty-six percent of undergraduates are women, and 15 percent of undergraduates reside on campus.
Despite not having a football team, the school still has an impressive football tradition. It was once the pre-season training home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, including the celebrated 1972 team, the only NFL team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. In fact, coach Don Shula’s practice field tower still stands only several hundred feet from the Fernandez Family Center. Indeed The Shula Tower is a source of pride on The St. Thomas campus. As is its Fernandez Family Center.
has been with Varco Pruden Buildings for 28 years and has served in a number of sales and marketing positions. Currently he is National Marking Manager for the company. For more information, visit VP Buildings.