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New home for medical school is taking shape in downtown Buffalo

Jennifer Kuhn has been overseeing the medical school construction project for the university. Photo: Douglas Levere

By GROVE POTTER

Published October 28, 2016

If you haven’t been to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus lately, you’re in for a surprise. Construction of the new home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has moved along and the eight-story building now looms over Main Street at the end of Allen Street.

The dramatic structure — built over an NFTA Metrorail station — will align UB’s medical education, research and clinical care with the region’s hospitals and research partners. It also stands as an example of the university’s large-scale return to downtown Buffalo, along with UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences; the eight-story Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC), which was built in partnership with Kaleida Health and also houses a UB Biosciences Incubator; and the Educational Opportunity Center, connected to the UB Downtown Gateway building.

The medical school construction project has coincided with the building of the neighboring Conventus building and the Oishei Children’s Hospital, raising the complexity of all three projects.

Overseeing the work for the university has been project manager Jennifer A. Kuhn. She recently spoke to UBNow about the project.

Where does the construction stand now?

JK: We are at the start of drywall installation, priming of drywall, atrium glass installation, mechanical, and electrical and plumbing system installations. We hope to start floor finishing soon. When the floors are done, building out the laboratories will begin. Installing ceilings should start on some floors within a month. They should be done with the inner atrium by the end of the year, but it may be early 2017.

We’re weather-tight, which means the building is sealed up, and the exterior facade will be completed by the spring of 2017.

Is it on schedule?

JK: We are on schedule to open in the fall of 2017.

Are there specific milestones you have in the construction schedule?

JK: We completed the weather-tight on Sept. 2, and the NFTA Metrorail station opening was Oct. 10. The initial floor turnover — which means UB can go in and start installing furniture — will be the third floor, scheduled for April 5.

When will people be moving in?

JK: We plan to start moving in early fall of 2017. The dean and the class-related faculty and staff will be first. The bulk of the researchers will move in after the semester starts in January 2018.

How will the move be done?

JK: They did an inventory of all the lab equipment, and we placed all of the larger equipment on the drawings to make sure everything fit and that we have the proper infrastructure for it, like water, electricity, ventilation and compressed air.  The move contract will be out to bid before the end of 2016.

What have been the biggest challenges?

The NFTA's newly configured Metro Rail station opened Oct. 10. Incorporating the station into the medical school building posed the project's biggest challenge, Jennifer Kuhn says. Photo: Douglas Levere

JK: Definitely building up against the NFTA station and encompassing it into our building. We had to adjust the design of the building to make sure we were not interfering with the train tunnel and to ensure vibrations from the train were mitigated. We had to provide a fire separation between the station and the building. We also had to demolish part of the station and modify part of it and finally build the new station with minimal closings and interference with ridership.

How many sub-contractors are on the job?

JK: About 60.

Is building a facility for a medical school different from building another type of building?

JK: Yes. I think with most buildings you are either building all offices or all labs. In this building we are building both. In this one we have different air-flow and exhaust requirements, depending on if it’s a lab or office.

Have the two neighboring construction projects — Conventus and Children’s Hospital — created unexpected challenges?

JK: Not unexpected, but coordination of road closures for deliveries and crane locations has been a challenge. We’re all building curb to curb, so there is no room for staging. Deliveries are just-in-time. Deliveries are constant and they have to be coordinated.

Trucks have their time slots and if they don’t make it, they have to wait.

We always have to keep ambulance access. Based on the projects, that access changes. We have twice-a-month meetings to schedule all the deliveries. They even had to reroute Mercy Flight because of the cranes.

What’s next?

JK: The backfill of all the buildings on the Main Street campus that are being partially vacated by the medical school.

READER COMMENT

I'm sure there is a well-thought-out solution that will be implemented regarding medical student parking. I would love to see an article on this topic.

 

Bob McEdwards