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2020 Associated Builders & Contractors Houston Excellence in Construction Merit Award

Project: University of Houston Downtown Science & Technology Building

>>> The University of Houston College of Sciences and Technology building is a newly built 105,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art building which is the first and only LEED Gold building in the University of Houston System. The new building offers thirty laboratories for teaching and research, high tech classroom and meeting/study spaces for the disciplines of Biology, Biotechnology, Biological & Physical Sciences and Chemistry. It is also the new home for the Center for Urban Agriculture & Sustainability (CUAS) which focuses on promoting sustainable communities in Houston and beyond. The building itself embodies sustainability in practice with energy efficient lighting, recycled building materials, solar panels and smart design features, such as light sensitive adjustable lumens in large interior areas and a system that collects air conditioning condensation in a 6,000 gallon cistern to be used for watering the building’s urban gardens.

Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd. (CMS) supplied and installed the exterior and interior masonry veneer walls and the site walls for the food truck enclosures. The scope of work called for a combination of seven various types and colors of masonry, utilizing multiple mortar colors. The masonry materials selected and installed provided credits and assistance towards the building’s LEED certification.

The ground level utilizes a rock face modular brick installed with multiple alternating protruding bands with brown mortar. The bands are visible on the perimeter only and consist of three additional colors of rock face modular bricks. At two locations, the exterior veneer wall continues into the interior main entryways, one of which leads into the student café. In contrast, the exterior veneer walls on the tower continue into the interior and wrap around columns on levels 2 through 4. The tower is wrapped with a dark red velour brick with protruding lighter velour modular brick bands set to accent patterns in red mortar. Dissimilar to the continuous brick bands found at the ground level, the protruding brick bands for the upper façade on both the north and south elevations are located either above and/or next to the numerous offset windows. The protruding bands located directly above the windows create an interesting appearance of “eyebrows”. The stairwell located on the northeast side of the building utilized smooth modular brick in the same shades as the field rock face brick with a light tan mortar and 8” Cream colored split faced CMU with white mortar walls were built to create a small “food truck enclosure”. The use of some similar and some dissimilar colors, textures, patterns, along with locating material in and out the main plane of the veneer greatly enhanced the building’s appearance.

CMS furnished scaffolding access to the building skin on all four elevations for three months from level one to the top of the parapet with exclusion of the penthouse. Initially, the proposed phasing plan for masonry would have extended the duration of the scaffolding and equipment due to an assumption that the building would be built in vertical sections. In an effort to expedite the masonry installation, CMS proposed a horizontal wall installation to maximize efficiency and save time on the overall schedule.

CMS provided a solution that benefited all crafts. A massive amount of scaffolding was furnished to allow access for all trades to complete their work on multiple levels while minimizing the need to constantly move work area planking on the north and south elevations. The initial plan was to have only two to three levels fully planked per elevation with a dedicated crew to move planks for other trades; working from the bottom to the top. However, CMS was able to shorten the schedule by having almost the entire scaffolding system decked. This provided flexibility for multiple trade access while allowing the masonry work to proceed in an uninterrupted horizontal flow. Since the north and south elevations contained the most masonry they were prioritized. In addition to welded tubular frame scaffolding, CMS utilized multiple independent swing stage systems on the east and west elevations thus enabling the simultaneous installation of the glazing and metal panels.

While all four building elevations required extensive planning and coordination for the scaffolding, material distribution and installation, the end result is a well-executed, highly efficient state-of-the-art facility which will serve the University of Houston System for decades to come.


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