Public projects review: a billion dollar summer.

Author:White, Rindi

According to the state of Alaska, about $800 million worth of vertical construction projects are underway this year. The 172 projects around the state are in various levels of completion, from the initial planning stages to final close-out and include construction of new buildings, renovation of existing buildings, and energy efficiency projects for existing public buildings.

And that's just the state projects. Municipal, federal, and nonprofit projects add millions more to the tally.

Construction Spending Reportedly Up

Scott Goldsmith, Mary Killorin, and Linda Leask, of the University of Alaska Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research, compiled the 2014 Alaska's Construction Spending Forecast this year. It's a report prepared yearly for the Construction Industry Progress Fund and Associated General Contractors of Alaska. This year's report estimated that construction spending this season would be up 18 percent over last year, at $9.2 billion.

While the report states that much of the increase comes from increased activity in the oil and gas sector, public construction spending alone is estimated to be up by 6 percent, to $2.9 billion. That number includes roads and highways, ports and harbors, and other non-vertical construction. Splitting out construction spending for public buildings alone is difficult because the various municipalities, nonprofits, and other public entities receive funding from multiple sources, making tracking projects difficult.

Archives Museum Tops State Project List

The largest facility on the list for the state of Alaska is the $138.9 million State Library Archives Museum, or SLAM building, located in Juneau. A 160,000-square-foot building, the facility will consolidate three existing state facilities: the State Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums. PCL Construction Services, Inc. is the general contractor on the project.

The new building is in the middle of its construction timeline; the thirty-two thousand-piece collection at the State Museum was transferred this spring and early summer to a two-story vault in the new building through a specially built tunnel between the two facilities. The vault was the first major piece of the building built. Project manager Kim Mahoney says the next step, which began in June, will be to remove hazardous materials and demolish the old State Museum so the rest of the new building can be built in the space.

The consolidation was needed to protect irreplaceable state artifacts, as well as provide more exhibition space. Previously, the three arms of the division were housed in five different offices and warehouses.

"At its heart, SLAM is about protecting the existing collections. Many of our treasures, if damaged, are irreplaceable, yet they are housed in buildings that can no longer adequately protect them. Existing hazards to the collections include: overcrowding; flooding; water damage; friable asbestos; insect infestations; and uncontrolled or inadequate systems for humidity, fire protection, heating, and lighting," says a project synopsis on the state Museum's website.

According to the state, the new building will have double the exhibition space as the old state museum, and it will triple the museum's collection storage area. It also roughly doubles the amount of space previously allocated for the whole division.

Mahoney says the project includes both operating and energy related efficiencies. Although the new building has roughly double the existing space for the division, energy-efficient features will keep energy consumption flat. The facility will also have built-in seawater wells for dehumidification and desiccant cooling. Essentially, that means the building will be cooled and dehumidified by using seawater.

Construction is ongoing-the project is midway through a four-year phased project, and this year and next mark the most significant portions of the project, building the core and shell of the building. Also on the project task sheet this summer is demolition of the existing state museum building to allow continued construction of the new facility.

The new building...

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