The Anderson Student Center at the University of St. Thomas (UST), St. Paul, MN, is considered the “living room” of campus – a 225,000-square-foot facility with state-of-the-art amenities that welcomes the campus community and encourages interaction.
Featuring underground parking, a three-story atrium, bowling/dance center, hair salon, clothing store, art gallery, recreation areas, meeting spaces, and food service venues, this new student center meets and exceeds the expectations of UST administrators.
“Buildings are magnets for prospective and current students,” says Mark Vangsgard, CFO and vice president for business affairs. “The recently completed Anderson Student Center is not only important for marketing the university and driving admissions, but also an important part of currently enrolled student development.”
The fully integrated design-build team at Opus Design Build LLC, Minnetonka, MN, collaborated with UST officials throughout the process. Weekly meetings on scheduling, budgets, construction updates, and sustainability were integral to delivering a successful, cost-saving project within a tight timeline.
“Design-build best practices were applied starting with the contracting approach and continuing through design, construction, and occupancy,” says Jeff Mertens, senior project manager at Opus. He describes the best practices as both a “spirit of partnership” between Opus and UST as the project details were established, and a result of having regular meetings with the project team to develop and analyze building design, systems, and material options.
The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) also aided the process. “This was the second St. Thomas project designed and managed by Opus to utilize BIM, enhancing the client’s experience and decision-making ability by providing early conceptual massing and 3D images of complicated building volumes and spaces, interior material selections, and system layouts,” says Mertens.
In another cutting-edge move, the center is slated to be the first LEED Silver- certified project on the UST campus. Sustainable strategies like installing water-efficient plumbing fixtures and energy-efficient glass, and using local and regional construction products, will help the project attain certification.
Mertens notes the student reaction to the center has been “very favorable,” and the owner’s expectations were exceeded. According to Vangsgard: “We had a vision for ‘best in class’ venues and unparalleled experiences for our students. The Opus thought leadership allowed that vision to become a reality.”