Steel time

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The first piece of structural steel for the Albert Sherman Center was placed on Wednesday, Dec. 22, marking a turning point in the construction of the nine-story, 500,000 square-foot building.

“This is a major milestone for the project,” said John Baker, associate vice chancellor of facilities management, who is overseeing the project. “Even though a tremendous amount of work has already taken place on the site, it’s been a little hard to see. Now, people will begin to see the building rise from the ground, so that’s pretty exciting.”

The first steel delivery arrived the previous morning. The 300-foot-tall Manitowoc crane now towering over the site unloaded several truckloads of the steel on Tuesday, laying the pieces out on the ground to prepare for the start of installation. “They call it shaking out the steel,” said Jason Lansberry, a project manager at Berry, the construction manager for the ASC. “The steel is loaded onto the trucks in the way that’s best for transport, which is not necessarily the same sequence that will be used for placing the steel in the building. So it has to be laid out and staged.”

It’s a pattern that will be repeated roughly every hour during most workdays for the next six months as a steady convoy of flatbed trucks ferries the steel to campus from the Cives Steel Company in Augusta, Maine.

On a typical work day, between 30 and 50 pieces of steel are expected to be placed in the building. In total, 6,664 pieces of structural steel weighing a combined 4,435 tons will be used on the project. “Every piece is numbered and erected in sequence according to the design for the project,” Baker said.

Steel for the upper, or western, section of the building will be placed first. Bolts embedded in the concrete footings and walls will anchor the steel to the foundation. Ironworkers connect the beams and columns with large nuts and bolts that they first tighten with hand wrenches. Then, once a defined area is assembled, the ironworkers return to the connections and tighten the bolts down to a specified torque reading using a pneumatic wrench. “Then, many of the connections are welded to add rigidity to the building,” Baker said.

To support the Medical School’s long-term sustainability goals, the ASC is being built in hopes of achieving a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Administered by the U.S. Green Buildings Council, the LEED program measures nearly every aspect of a building’s design and operation to gauge its efficiency and environmental impact. Even the selection of the steel to be used in the building, and the location of the steel yard, are part of the LEED calculation. “We will earn LEED points because the steel yard is less than 500 miles away from the construction site, and because nearly all the steel in the building is recycled,” Lansberry said.

Approximately 85 percent of the steel in the building contains post-consumer recycled material, such as old cars and appliances that were melted down for the new steel. More than 10 percent of the steel in the ASC is recycled from pre-consumer material, which is scrap from manufacturing processes that never made it into a finished consumer product.

Long lengths of raw steel beams and plates come to the Cives yard by rail. At Cives, the steel is cut to fit, piece by piece, for the ASC. The Cives team also drills the bolt holes and welds pieces together to form all the steel elements required by the architects’ design.

The James F. Stearns Company of Pembroke, Mass., is the steel erection firm hired by Cives. While steel is placed on the western section of the building, other construction crews will complete the foundation and utility work on the eastern section of the ASC to prepare for structural steel. The ASC is scheduled to open in December 2012.