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University of Notre Dame: Raclin Murphy Museum of Art Innovating Despite Adversity

Situated at the edge of the University of Notre Dame’s campus in north central Indiana, Raclin Murphy Museum of Art stands as a pivotal element in enhancing Notre Dame’s architectural legacy and its connection to the greater community.

Construction for this seminal project began in April 2021 with construction costs totaling approximately $42 million. Spanning over 70,000 sq. ft., the museum is a dynamic addition to the campus and local arts scene, featuring performance and exhibition space, a cafe and community learning areas in addition to classrooms, storage and office space.

The project began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Navigating the complexities of the local trade market amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic proved formidable. However, the team, led by Peter Kuhn, Jason Stonchus and John Loucas and supported by Jackson Kamp and Austin Kelley faced adversity head on.

With material shortages and a deficit in manpower as constant obstacles, it became evident that a conventional construction approach would not suffice. In response, B&A embraced an innovation-centric mindset aimed at anticipating challenges to overcome them.

Proactive Material Sourcing
Securing essential materials was critical. The team took proactive measures and spent significant time visiting material manufacturers specializing in components such as glass, cast stone, millwork and limestone. These visits weren’t just about procurement; they focused on understanding aspects of production and ensuring meticulous quality control. By engaging directly with manufacturers and cultivating relationships, the team navigated material shortages and secured the supply chain for the project.

Addressing Labor Shortages
The local labor market presented its own set of challenges, with shortages impacting several trades essential to the scope of work. To counter this, B&A offered supplemental labor in carpentry, general trades and concrete restoration. This strategic intervention was key to helping the team overcome challenges associated with the limited availability of skilled labor, enabling us to keep the project’s schedule on track.

Transparent Communication
The fluidity and uncertainty of the local trade market experienced during the pandemic required top-tier communication. To maintain transparency, the project team instituted weekly and monthly check-ins with local trade partners. These sessions facilitated in-depth discussions on critical project matters, fostering collaboration and addressing emerging issues promptly. Active engagement with partners allowed them to navigate market dynamics and keep the project progressing. Perhaps the best tribute to B&A’s level of performance on this assignment is that the team’s closeout procedures have set a new standard for precision, efficiency and transparency. The University now encourages all project teams tasked with similar construction assignments on campus to provide the same level of detail and documentation, aiming for standardized practices across projects.

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) Techniques For The Win
Tapping into the power of innovation, the team leveraged B&A’s VDC capabilities to conduct an exhaustive Building Information Modeling (BIM) effort for critical mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems. This level of coordination, akin to those designed for hospitals and labs, minimized potential delays on-site. Virtual walkthroughs provided stakeholders with insights, facilitating timely decision-making and mitigating construction delays in the field.

Finishing As Strong As We Start
As part of the project closeout/transition process, B&A’s VDC team delivered a fully coordinated as-built model. The comprehensive model is supplemented by a digital walkthrough featuring tags of all equipment and materials. Detailed information about the building and its systems ensures those responsible for its care and maintenance have all the information they need for facility management and to ensure the building’s legacy.

B&A’s proactive project management approach and innovative techniques were the bedrock of the team’s successful project delivery despite formidable challenges. Raclin Murphy Museum of Art is a testament to not only overcoming pandemic-related challenges in the trade market and material procurement but also raised the bar for what efficiency and success looks like for Notre Dame’s building projects.