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UB’s new medical school construction speeds up

Construction crews with the help of four cranes have begun erecting the structural steel for University at Buffalo’s new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in downtown Buffalo, marking the third project underway simultaneously within two blocks on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Over 125 workers from various trades, under the direction of general contractor LPCiminelli, are working two shifts from 7 a.m. to midnight, in the first phase of building the eight-story school atop one of the highest points in the city.

The initial concrete work, including pouring the foundation, is 85 percent complete, and more than half of the structural steel is fabricated and waiting to be delivered from storage. Brownish steel columns and beams have already been put up around and over the top of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Allen Street Metro Rail station – which will be enclosed within the larger building. So attention is now turning to the rest of the steel frame, said LPCiminelli vice president William J. Mahoney.

The first three floors will be erected over the next few months by a giant red Manitowoc crawler crane, capable of lifting 625 tons. That crane, which came on 27 different trucks, will be replaced by June with a bright yellow tower crane that will be fixed in place in the middle of the hole, to finish the rest of the steelwork and to lift heavy equipment and materials up and into the building.

Steelwork will continue through yearend, but crews will start installing metal decks and pouring concrete floors by the end of May. Other workers will install construction hangers, sleeves and other equipment, to hold the pipes, wires and duct work that feed into the building. That will be followed in late June or early July by the exterior facade to enclose the building, and then the framing, studs, and interior drywall.

“As we continue to bring that building up, you’re going to see a number of contractors and trades starting work,” Mahoney said. “We’ll chase the steel guy up the building and everyone will follow us up pouring the decks... It’s going to be very segmented chasing the steel erection around to maximize the available time and sunshine in Buffalo, so we don’t have to deal with another of those winters.”

In all, more than 7,300 tons of steel will frame the 628,000-square-foot building, designed to house more than 2,000 faculty, students and staff when they relocate from UB’s South Campus to be part of the medical cluster in downtown Buffalo. If laid end to end, that’s enough steel to stretch 25 miles, from the building’s location at the intersection of Main and High streets to the village of Lewiston in Niagara County.

The building will also use tens of thousands of yards of concrete for the slabs and floors, and some 23 acres of drywall, or more than 1 million square feet. Four thousand gallons of paint will be needed. And it will contain 1,300 interior doors.

Mahoney said it’s a complex project because of the confined location, the 45-foot-deep hole and the need to work around the NFTA station, which will mostly remain open during construction except for brief closures when shuttle service will be provided to the Summer-Best station. The entire project, which will employ between 400 and 500 workers daily at its peak, is slated to finish in spring 2017. “We’re all very diligently working toward that goal,” Mahoney said.

The $375 million project – the largest medical education facility under construction in the country and the largest construction project in UB’s 167-year history – entails two L-shaped buildings wrapped around each other, connected by a central atrium spanning the building’s height from the second to the seventh floors. The second floor will be connected directly to Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.’s newly built Conventus project next door, and from there directly to the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital that is now under construction.

Those connections are a key piece of the collaboration, said Dr. Michael E. Cain, UB vice president for health sciences and medical school dean. “It’s designed so you can take advantage of the three buildings and not have redundant, unused space,” Cain said.

The two basement levels will contain the building’s mechanical systems, as well as administrative space and the entrance to the Metro Rail station. The ground floor and second floor will host general educational space, the student lounge, a medical library, and “things that are common for anybody in the building to take advantage of,” Cain said.

“Wet-lab” research space will occupy the third, fourth and fifth floors, followed by “very advanced, sophisticated educational facilities” on the sixth and seventh floors. In particular, UB will relocate and nearly triple the size of its Behling Simulation Center, named for alumnus and donor Ralph Behling, from the South Campus. The rest of the sixth and seventh floors will contain more educational and administrative space, while additional building mechanical equipment will be located on the 8th floor.