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SUNY Stony Brook – Marine Science Center

Introduction

Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) is on the forefront of marine research on the east end of Long Island with its new 15,000-square foot, two-story Marine Sciences Center located on its Southampton campus. Already home to cutting edge and internationally recognized research on harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, seagrasses, shellfish, and ocean acoustics, this new facility has greatly expand the research capabilities of SoMAS in Southampton. These expanded abilities ultimately benefit Long Island and its coastal ecosystems as a majority of the research in Southampton focuses on local bays, harbors, and estuaries.

The central feature of the new facility is a computerized, state-of the-art 2,500-square-foot indoor seawater lab, which is capable of supplying three different seawater scenarios; ambient, temperature control and a closed recirculation system. In addition to this impressive indoor wet lab, the Marine Science Center has an additional 2,400 sq. ft. of outdoor wet lab space that can accommodate larger experimental chambers or those experiments that would benefit from a natural sunlight cycle.

Research and education go hand in hand at the Marine Sciences Center. A classroom, analytical lab, and a prep lab that supports two teaching laboratories not only enhance one of the nation’s top ranked marine science graduate programs, but strengthens the increased growth of Stony Brook Southampton’s undergraduate Semester by the Sea program. A large entrance lobby, hallway with a view of the wet lab and conference room allow Stony Brook Southampton to bring awareness of our marine environment to the local community through lectures, tours, and trips aboard our research vessels.

The Marine Sciences Center is also home to a fleet of research vessels including the R/V Paumanok, a 44-foot ocean-going vessel used for coastal research, the R/V Shinnecock, a 35-foot platform craft used for sampling local bays and estuaries and the R/V Peconic, a 45-foot catamaran, houseboat-style vessel for operation in protected bays and rivers. Many small, outboard crafts equipped with winches, davits and metering wheels for sampling instruments such as oxygen analyzers, CTD-probes, and trawls.

Excellence in project management

In 2009, $6.9 million was made available in the State University of New York (SUNY) capital budget for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art marine science laboratory at the site of the current Marine Station on the waterfront at Stony Brook Southampton. The present facilities were not adequate to support the explosive growth of SoMAS’s undergraduate marine science and environmental science programs, which now enroll more than 500 students. Moreover, new facilities are needed to support cutting edge marine research of regional and national significance.

When EW Howell was first awarded the project in early 2012, it was essential that this project would be a challenging one. Creating a team atmosphere with the other project members was essential to the success of the project as well as our subcontractor outreach program to find highly specialized contractors who were familiar and competent in this type of work.

MSS-2Clear communication was established with the Owner, which was facilitated by the fact that we have an excellent working relationship with SUNY Stony Brook already. This familiarity and “trust factor” were essential to the project’s success.

Responsiveness to client needs — financial, scheduling and other

The Marine Science building project had a 14-month schedule. While we encountered some delays early in the project with unforeseen ACM abatement and additional controlled fill work for the foundation we held to the schedule and the Marine Science Laboratory was able to open for the fall semester of 2013. The biggest schedule hurdle occurred at the end of the project. At the commission stage of the project in late June of 2013 we encountered complications with the intake lines on the seawater intake that extended in to the bay. During initial start-up of the system, sand and other material was being pulled into the system and bypassing the screen that stop debris and sand from fouling the circulating pumps. Troubleshooting the problem involved diving and observing the intake, additional screens, relocating intake, and jetting out the system. EW Howell worked closely with the sea water engineer and throughout the commissioning process, and completed the work in time for the fall semester to begin. Contributing to the success of the project was the collaboration of EW Howell, our Plumbing subcontractor the A/E and consultants. This collaboration was born out of mutual trust developed over the years where EW Howell has completed multiple projects with Stony Brook.

This project was issued as a public bid to Stony Brook University so there wasn’t an opportunity for a value engineering process with the Owner. The initial contract value for the project was $7,185,000 with $277,927 in change orders works out to less than 5% of overall contract value in changes.

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Innovation in construction techniques, materials or equipment and state of the art advancement

The central feature of the new facility is a computerized, state-of the-art 2,500-square-foot indoor seawater lab, which is capable of supplying three different seawater scenarios; ambient, temperature control and a closed recirculation system. The ambient seawater line allows researchers to mimic the seasonal temperature changes of Shinnecock Bay by pulling water directly from the bay to supply various research tanks. With temperatures fluctuating between approximately 1°C during the winter and 26°C in the summer, a temperature control line is able to instantly heat or chill incoming water to any temperature desired by a researcher. For research requiring very specific water quality parameters, the closed recirculation system allows for greater control of not only temperature, but salinity and various other aspects of the water chemistry.

To keep with Stony Brook Southampton’s environmental mission, the Marine Sciences Center was constructed with many “green” features. Sustainable design innovations such as energy recovery of ventilation air, day lighting of all normally occupied spaces, a low static pressure ductwork system, high-efficiency lighting and a super-insulated exterior wall assembly all work together to bring a silver LEED rating to the Marine Sciences Center.

Overcoming challenging and unusual or unique circumstances

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One of the challenging aspects of this project was the seawater system. Projects of this nature are few and far between. Finding subcontractors with experience to do the work also presented a challenge. While our plumber WHM plumbing had installed marine seawater systems in the past, this was unique system that required procuring very specialized equipment from multiple vendors and a complex control system.

Another challenge on the project was a result of some bad timing. We began our buyout of the 3 piles that needed to be driven on the existing dock in the months after Hurricane Sandy. Every marine pile company we called was busy and backlogged with work for months ahead. By chance we found a marine pile barge working close by paid 5x the going rate, but we kept the job on schedule.

By setting up pre-construction coordination meeting early in the project between the Seawater system engineer, the controls vendor, electrician and plumber we were able to get questions answered in an expedited manor and allow the Seawater engineer to walk through all the details of the system and the equipment. This proactive, hands-on approach taken by the EW Howell project team proved vital in the establishing positive rapport and communication that persisted throughout the project.

MSS-5Exceptional service

There were EEO/MWBE participation goals for this project and EW Howell made a good-faith effort to achieve these goals with our extensive MWBE subcontractor outreach process.

To keep with Stony Brook Southampton’s environmental mission, the Marine Sciences Center was constructed with many “green” features. Sustainable design innovations such as energy recovery of ventilation air, day lighting of all normally occupied spaces, a low static pressure ductwork system, high-efficiency lighting and a super-insulated exterior wall assembly all work together to bring a silver LEED rating to the Marine Sciences Center. A LEED AP assistant project manager helped managed this process to facilitate the rating and make sure that maximum LEED credits were achieved.

Excellence in project safety

There were a total of 7,005 hours worked during the 18 month duration of this project. EW Howell is proud to report that the project was accident free, resulting in a zero incident rate.

This excellent safety record can be contributed to the full-time Superintendent Charlie Badagliacca who was responsible for ensuring safety on the jobsite at all times. The superintendent monitored and responded to all safety issues on the site on a daily basis throughout the project. Weekly safety meetings were conducted using Safety Toolbox Talks, where any project specific conditions were reviewed and safety talks were held daily with the men in the field. In addition, EW Howell took the following proactive steps to ensure the highest level of safety on the Marine Science Center jobsite:

  • Periodic luncheons were held for the subcontractors, where giveaways were distributed to those who demonstrated exemplary safety techniques. By using this approach, the subcontractors were motivated and eager to follow and exceed the safety standards at all times. As a result, hundreds of dollars’ worth of gift cards and prizes were given away throughout the course of the project.
  • EW Howell’s in-house safety committee did a walkthrough of the job, and made recommendations to increase safety at the jobsite. This was not required by the owner but was a proactive step taken by our Safety Director.

Overall, excellence in project safety was achieved by the incremental, day-by-day, creation of a culture of safety.

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BONUS – Contributions to the community over and above what is specified by the Owner in the contract documents

The facility features a computerized, state-of the-art 2,500-square-foot indoor seawater lab, which can recreate and maintain the seawater of any marine ecosystem on the planet. It also serves as a hub for public meetings, summer camps, diving and sailing programs and allow for expanded K-12 outreach programs which greatly benefits the community.

This new facility has greatly expanded the research capabilities of SoMAS in Southampton. These expanded abilities ultimately benefit Long Island and its coastal ecosystems as a majority of the research in Southampton focuses on our local bays, harbors, and estuaries. This project was a success for Long Island as a whole: the condition and health of the marine environment surrounding Long Island is vital to our future. It is with great pride that EW Howell was able to be a small part, by producing the quality building, that will do research that serves such a vital role in protecting our environment.

The Summary

For EW Howell, every project is unique and the Marine Science Center was certainly no different. From the onset, this project presented challenges that were overcome through the strength and experience of the personnel on the project. All of this, of course would not be possible if the owner, architect, and engineers did not work as a team with EW Howell. As a result, the Marine Science Center has greatly expand the research capabilities of SoMAS in Southampton.

At EW Howell we pride ourselves on the number of repeat clients in our portfolio. EW Howell has completed many projects for SUNY Stony Brook over the years and hopes to continue this mutually beneficial relationship for many years to come. This project merits a Build New York Award because of the unique features and highly specialized equipment used in this state-of-the-art space.