Berks' unique Gaige Building wins two more national awards

November 26, 2012

The Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building on Penn State’s Berks campus recently won two new awards for its unique design and construction. The Construction Owners Association of America (COAA) granted a Silver Award from its Project Leadership Award Program at its national conference in Orlando, Fla. Within weeks, the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) granted a Project Achievement Award at its 2012 national conference in Chicago. Both the COAA and the CMAA recognized the steady leadership and detailed scheduling that led to this building’s completion three months ahead of schedule and under budget.

Back in May, the building was awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold-level certification, established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. This was the first project at Penn State Berks to pursue LEED certification and the first at Penn State, outside the University Park campus, to be awarded gold certification. To read the full story on the Gaige Building receiving LEED certification, visit

Penn State’s Berks enjoyed incredible success under the leadership of the late Frederick H. Gaige, the college's former dean and CEO Emeritus, during his tenure from 1984–2000. Known to many as a visionary leader, Gaige helped to transform the campus into a college with four-year academic programs and residence halls. He was also instrumental in significantly increasing student enrollment, the campus’s endowment and its physical facilities. This tremendous growth placed incredible pressure on existing academic space, challenging the institution’s ability to grow and develop.

The addition of the new Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building was a dream long in the waiting that began to take flight in April 2010. As the largest building on campus at more than 60,000 square feet, Gaige houses three extraordinary initiatives:

-- The Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement
-- The Learning Factory
-- The Emerging Technologies and Business Intelligence Laboratory

This building will help make the campus an even more important leader for growth and innovation. The three-story Gaige Building, which house the college’s Business; Engineering; Information Sciences and Technology; and Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management degree programs, was designed to complement the natural beauty and existing architecture of the campus, and the structure is as cutting edge as the learning and discovery that takes place within it:

-- Nine new classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art communications technologies
-- Nine new computer labs
-- Dedicated laboratory space for sustained and sophisticated investigations
-- 50 new faculty offices
-- A café with 36 seats indoors and another 36 seats on the adjoining patio
-- A two-story atrium lobby that links the sky-lit circulation corridors with exterior patio seating areas
-- A kitchen area serving as laboratory space for the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management degree program
-- A lecture hall
-- Conference rooms
-- Design studio
-- Student study areas
-- An installation by world-renowned sculptor Ray King

Ben Franklin once said “If you only have three hours to cut down a tree, I suggest you spend two hours sharpening your ax.” Assembling a team of experts created a synergy that produced an effective process and a highly successful construction project. A partnering session initiated by Penn State at the project start developed an atmosphere of true teamwork so all energies were focused on productive measures resulting in a superior building. The partnering session included Penn State, all design professionals and the major prime subcontractors, which was integral to the success of this project.

The international architectural firm RMJM Hillier designed the facility, and construction was managed by Alvin H. Butz Inc., Allentown.

“We couldn’t be more satisfied with the quality of work that went into constructing the Gaige Building,” says Kim Berry, chief operating officer, Penn State Berks. “Receiving two national awards such as these is no small feat, and every member of the project team should be honored to receive them.”

One common denominator in successful projects is a comprehensive Project Management Plan. Penn State clearly communicated to all stakeholders the expectations for quality, cost and schedule. A website was utilized that helped guide all team members through every phase of construction. The project was completed in 369 working days, from April 2010 to September 2011, more than two months ahead of its original schedule. It came in under budget and has become a benchmark for quality on all of our campuses.

Penn State had to overcome a number of challenges. Project managers had the foresight and good planning to pay for overtime to get the building enclosed by the end of January 2011. A challenge for the entire team was working through the winter weather. A change from a fully adhered roof to an asphalt-coated system was made to allow the material to be heated and installed during the middle of January 2011. That change allowed construction to continue through the winter making the building water tight for other trades. In addition, focus was put on enclosing the building so temporary heat could be provided to increase worker productivity and morale during the winter months.

The team was faced with ordering many specialized materials. The terra cotta tile used for the rain screen was manufactured in Germany, and the aluminum extrusions around all windows were so large that only a specialized die could be used to achieve the size. Materials had to be selected, approved and ordered correctly the first time because the schedule would not allow for a second production run and shipment from potentially half way around the world.

The building features a number of sustainable technologies and materials. It has one of the region’s first exterior terra cotta rain screen cladding systems. The majority of the façade is curtainwall, and windows are glazed with 1 1⁄4-inch ECO-Insulating Glass with Heat Mirror SC 75, which gives the windows an amazing U- Factor of .11 maximum in the winter and .26 maximum in the summer. The building is served with three large Air Handlers with energy recovery. Two boilers produce hot water for the perimeter fin tube and variable air volume boxes. Two 35,000-gallon tanks collect rainwater from the roof with the capacity of providing 100 percent of the water needed to flush the toilets, wash the exterior of the building and water plants. Daylighting controls and occupancy sensors help reduce the lighting load, and natural daylight in most offices and classrooms provide sufficient lighting levels for most days.

Aside from the standard mantra of completing the building ahead of schedule, below budget and with the highest quality, the biggest achievement was the University’s ability to use the construction project as a learning tool for students. The construction team volunteered their time to participate in many student functions and career days. Working with Penn State, a curriculum was developed for the spring semester class that held a competition to develop the wording and design of all the LEED signage. The resulting signage was spectacular and enhances the sustainability awareness of all those who enter the building.

In 50 years, time will erase from memory the grand feats achieved on this project -- the rain screen construction, challenging schedule and the difficult weather conditions. But the quality of the building is timeless and will remain evident to all the students and faculty who will use the Gaige Building in years to come.

  • The Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building opened in 2011.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 29, 2012