Weatherford College Wise County building earns honor

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, January 1, 2014
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It’s already been “broken in” by thousands of students, but the still-new Weatherford College Wise County campus recently earned another award for its form and function.

Classy Campus

CLASSY CAMPUS – The Wise County campus of Weatherford College earned a top honor recently. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The facility, located on U.S. 380 between Decatur and Bridgeport, earned its builder, Steele-Freeman of Fort Worth, first place in the 2013 TEXO Distinguished Building Awards. The honor is for projects in the $10 to $30 million range which were completed in 2012.

TEXO, the North Texas branch of the national Association of General Contractors, was to have held its annual awards banquet on Dec. 7, but the event was postponed due to the ice storm. The presentation came Dec. 14 in Dallas.

“This is quite a prestigious award,” said Karen Benson, business development director for Steele-Freeman. “It is for all commercial projects built in North Texas in 2012.”

TEXO is the largest commercial contractors association in Texas and one of the largest such groups in the country, serving a membership of more than 1,900 commercial contractors.

The Distinguished Building Awards program is designed to recognize projects that presented particular challenges due to design, location or materials, and those which involved unusual construction techniques. The final appearance and quality of the finished product, and timeliness of completion are also considered.

The new, main building is 110,000 square feet, with another 20,000 square feet in a second building on the campus that was gutted and renovated. Final construction cost came in at just under $20 million, funded by taxpayer-authorized bonds issued by the county.

Airy Interior

AIRY INTERIOR – In the final stages of construction, it was already easy to see WC Wise County would be an exciting place to learn. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Construction began on May 9, 2011 and was substantially complete by the following June. Classes began in August 2012.

The campus features administration, admissions and registration areas, staff offices, labs for the nursing, biology, chemistry and computer programs, and general classrooms. There is a cafeteria, a lecture hall, a library and coffee bar, game-room, bookstore and workout room. The renovated building provides room for the cosmetology and other career and technology programs.

The 25-acre site presented some challenges.

For one thing, it had no access to any city utilities until the very last month of construction. Water became a major issue when it came to the earthwork, drilling and purging of the geothermal wells. Steele & Freeman was able to utilize an existing water well, but had to drill another well and still bring water from outside sources during the project.

A separate contractor was responsible to bring water and sewer with a pump station to the site. The water was about 1.5 miles away and the sewer had to come from about 1 mile away in order to access the site.

The site also had a major slope from east to west, requiring the contractor to cut and fill 90,000 cubic yards of dirt to balance it. They also had to build a large detention pond to contain runoff from the site.

The main building’s foundation is a slab on a deck, which created a crawl space one can actually walk in. The hybrid design uses both structural steel and Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) walls. The exterior walls are 8- and 10-inch thick concrete, and the second floor and roof are structural steel, joist and deck.

Both the new building and the renovated building are heated and cooled by 347 geothermal wells – which carries a higher initial cost but lowers month-to-month utlity bills by a significant amount.

The building’s exterior fa ade is a combination of Leuders limestone, brick, cast stone and metal wall panels. The roof consists of standing-seam and single-ply white material, high in solar reflectivity. The design also called for the Leuders limestone to continue into the main lobby and encompass the elevator shaft.

The main lobby is a huge space with many areas for students to assemble in small groups for study sessions. Throughout the lobby, cafeteria and all the exterior soffits, a metal-panel ceiling is installed that highlights the exposed structural tubes and beams.

The state-of-the-art building gives the college room to expand in numbers and also address the needs of students by offering new classes with up-to-date technology.

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