By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the June 2006 issue of Facility Executive
Over the past decade, Georgia Military College (GMC) in Milledgeville, GA has undergone significant improvements to its campus facilities. Among these projects is the restoration of its Old Capitol Building, which was the center of Georgia government from 1807 until 1868. Prior to that project was the construction of Zell Miller Hall, an academic facility located across the Old Capitol Parade Ground, a grassy quad which serves as a campus centerpiece. Through these projects runs a common thread of retaining the college’s history while providing students with modernized facilities—all part of a master plan.
Lieutenant Colonel Edward T. Moore, director of facilities engineering at GMC, plays an integral role in master planning for the campus. Since joining the facilities department in 1994, much of his work has centered around the ongoing upgrades at the institution, a junior college and prep school. “When the current GMC president, Major General Peter J. Boylan, arrived in 1992, he developed a master plan for the campus,” explains Moore. “There was a lot of deferred maintenance, and the General implemented a plan to begin renovating the facilities.”
The most recent addition to the GMC master plan is the New Academic Building (NAB), a 60,000 square foot, multipurpose facility containing academic spaces, faculty offices, and social areas. Connected to Zell Miller Hall, the NAB has created a complex which has quickly become a centerpiece of campus life since its opening in May 2005.
“Ten Pounds Into A Five Pound Bag”
After the Old Capitol Building restoration was completed in 2000, the NAB was next on the list of campus improvements. The college had several goals for the new building. “First, we needed additional classroom spaces,” says Moore. “Our enrollment continues to grow at both the college and high school levels. We also needed an upgraded auditorium and cafeteria.” Additional elements in the plan were the Academic Dean’s suite, faculty offices, a computer lab, and the campus bookstore.
At the time, the bookstore and snack bar (known as “the canteen”), as well as a small maintenance building, were located in standalone structures on the site of the former Old Capitol Parade Ground. By consolidating these disparate facilities into the new building, the college would be able to restore some green space on these grounds.
In 2000, GMC hired the Atlanta office of Lord, Aeck & Sargent, an architectural firm that had done work on the Old Capitol Building. Prior to being hired for the NAB, the firm created a conceptual design for the building, which was then used to secure funding for the project.
Says Moore, “The initial plan was to have two distinct buildings—the existing Zell Miller Hall and the NAB—with an underground corridor to connect them. An open air courtyard would occupy the space between the two buildings.”
That plan changed during the design phase, as the team discussed how all the desired elements would fit into the footprint allotted for the building. “We were trying to fit 10 pounds into a five pound bag,” Moore recalls.
“Then, Joe Greco [AIA, Lord, Aeck & Sargent project design principal in charge and principal designer at the firm] came up with the idea to have an atrium to provide additional space,” continues Moore. “As a result, we decided to connect the new academic wing with Zell Miller Hall via the atrium.” The underground tunnel remained part of the plan.
Says Greco, “It didn’t take too long for us to figure out that to fit all the desired components into the space, we would need to place all the classrooms, labs, and the auditorium—the academic spaces—into the architecturally ‘solid’ wing. In the more open and transparent connector area, we would put the ‘softer’ program space—the cafeteria and student union—and let that functionally and symbolically ‘connect’ the two solid wings.
“We looked at a lot of different options at how the atrium would be resolved and how to express it,” Greco explains. “In the end, the option we went with we believe resulted in the most distinctive and memorable solution. There are clerestories that bring light into the center of the building and below ground to light the interior. Wood timber trusses support the atrium roof, warming the space and giving it an exciting, dramatic feel.”
Today, the atrium space serves as a place for students and faculty to gather, whether it be to eat a meal, to study, or have a conversation. “The atrium is one of the high points of the building,” says Moore. “It gives the campus a focal point, and it provides a place for people to mingle.”
From The Bottom Up
That high point could not be achieved without considering all the building elements from the ground up. For one, the auditorium and cafeteria were placed on the underground level, which freed up space above ground for the classroom and faculty spaces.
However, the team also needed to address some challenges posed by the site. “There’s a great deal of topographic change on the site,” says Greco. “As a result, the NAB is two stories above ground on the two sides facing the Old Capitol Building and football field, and it is three stories on the opposite sides facing the street and parking area.” This sloped construction helped to maximize space.
Since the auditorium would not require natural light, its underground location was ideal. However, bringing this light in the cafeteria was desired, and the atrium design addressed that. “The clerestory lighting in the atrium was used to bring light down to the lower levels in order to reduce the need for artificial lighting in those spaces for much of the day,” says Greco.
Moore adds to this point: “The cafeteria gets lots of that light, which prevents the occupants from feeling like they are in a basement.”
This was part of an overall strategy to incorporate the presence of natural light wherever possible. The faculty offices and classrooms are all located along the perimeter of the building, guaranteeing some level of this light to all of those spaces as well.
While the design team had flexibility in how it would achieve all the goals set for the new building, one element that was not up for debate was its facade on the side facing the Old Capitol Parade Ground. In keeping with the master plan—which includes retaining the school’s history—GMC wanted the building to look similar to the existing Zell Miller Hall and Old Capitol Building.
“In designing the NAB, we took our cue from the Gothic Revival architecture of the Old Capitol Building,” says Greco. “But while we created a structure that is complementary to adjacent architecture, we also designed it to be much more open spatially, with more natural light.”
Keeping An Eye On The Ball
Moore’s past experiences with construction projects, along with his knowledge of campus operations aided him in steering the NAB project to fruition. A combination of funding circumstances, site issues, and human considerations required him to coordinate many moving parts at once.
“As a state agency, we cannot start a project until we have all the funds in hand,” explains Moore. “We had $14 million to build both the NAB and an athletic complex, and the NAB was estimated to cost $18 million on its own. We needed to move ahead, so at the outset we ordered a lot of the building as a shell.”
Working in this manner, the cafeteria and auditorium were initially built as shells and would be appointed as the funding became available. “We bought back pieces of the project until we eventually bought back everything,” says Moore. “This approach enabled us to begin the project about two years earlier than if we had waited until we had all of the money.”
There was also a different approach to project management. Traditionally, GMC had deeded its capital projects to the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission (GSFIC), which meant that agency oversaw these undertakings. “In those scenarios,” says Moore, “we would hire a project manager and essentially divorce ourselves from the process. This caused problems.
“Following the Zell Miller Hall project, beginning with the renovation of the Old Capitol Building, we decided to hire a construction management firm,” he says. “So, instead of hiring a project manager, I took on the role of on-site engineer representing the state, and we took this approach again for the NAB.”
Moore’s familiarity with campus operations helped him in this multifaceted position. At the project’s inception, the site upon which NAB now stands was occupied by another building. The operations that the previous facility housed were crucial to campus life, including classrooms and some athletic facilities.
“As soon as we razed that building, we needed to get that classroom space and the athletic facilities in place somewhere else for the next school term,” explains Moore. A new athletic complex was already under construction to meet some of those needs in time for the next season.
However, once the NAB construction began in spring 2003, there was another factor that required attention. The football field is adjacent to the site, and the team would continue to play games there during construction. In addition to putting safety measures in place to protect people travelling through the area, the project team needed to address the close proximity of the new auditorium to the field.
As a solution, the construction team used an innovative shoring system to keep the field intact during construction activities. Greco explains, “The auditorium is burrowed in a hill adjacent to the football field. It is 35′ below ground at its deepest point. Large steel rods were inserted horizontally into the ground to shore up the soil. These rods extended well beneath the football field.”
Continuity for students and faculty was another important concern. To minimize interruption, major moves were scheduled around school breaks throughout the year when fewer people would be on campus.
A milestone in the construction was realized at the end of the 2003-04 school year when the bookstore and snack bar were moved into temporary facilities, and those buildings were then demolished. When the new spaces for those operations were completed in August 2004, the equipment and inventory were moved just in time for the new school year to begin.
Since those areas were put into use before the entire building was complete, another issue was safety and security. “We worked closely with the fire marshal to ensure proper means of egress and access for those areas,” says Moore. “We also had to tie into Zell Miller Hall eventually. Keeping everyone informed was key to a successful transition.”
The team began to see the fruits of its labor coming together in early 2005. “In January, I accepted the classrooms, and in February, the cafeteria was done,” recalls Moore. “We served our first meal in the cafeteria on March 1.”
The faculty members who teach in the building are happy with their new surroundings, says Moore. He cites one example: “The art classroom has many windows, including a northern exposure. The teacher tell us that he loves all the natural light.”
Another point of satisfaction is the state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment in the classrooms and the auditorium. “We asked teachers what equipment would be useful to them, and we tried to accommodate their requests,” says Moore. “Then, we worked closely with the Dean and our IT department to ensure the equipment would be installed to run correctly. Recently, representatives from the U.S. Naval Academy visited us, and they were impressed with the capabilities of our equipment.”
While the construction management firm, The Beck Group’s Atlanta office, oversaw the purchasing for construction materials, furnishing the interior spaces of the NAB was a team effort. “Both the architect and GSFIC were involved in the FF&E [fixed furniture and equipment] purchases,” says Moore.
The exception was furniture purchasing for the Dean’s suite and faculty offices. “For the most part, our Academic Dean made those decisions, since this was going to be his facility,” Moore explains.
While occupant satisfaction was an important goal, financial savings have been a welcome result of the project. Moore has found that the NAB has garnered energy savings when compared to the previous building on the site.
“Prior to implementing our master plan,” he says, “there had been no significant campus renovations since the 1960s. A lot of the air conditioning and lighting equipment was outdated. We now specify energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems for our projects.”
Another Piece Of The Puzzle In Place
When the new building was dedicated on May 1, 2005, Moore was able to check one more thing off the master plan list. “I enjoy seeing the facility play a part in the continual improvement of our campus,” he says. “We keep moving ahead to make the campus better. Currently, we’re building barracks for our cadets along with a maintenance facility.”
Says Greco, “The building is right in the heart of the campus, and it’s a hub of activity. It’s nice to see how well it is being utilized.”
The larger community of Milledgeville is also benefitting from the new building, since GMC makes the atrium and auditorium available to citizens for various cultural and other area events. This is the continuation of a practice that had been in place in the previous GMC facilities as well.
In striving to meet the needs of its growing student body, GMC made the grade with the new building. With another piece of its master plan in place, this historic institution continues to thrive.