No Cavalier Design

06/01/2006


When Thomas Jefferson first drew up the plans for what would become the University of Virginia, it's safe to say he didn't anticipate that the Charlottesville school would one day be crazed about a sport involving a ball being thrown through a hoop. Yet it's fair to say he would be proud that the new home of UVA basketball would be one of the most unique and innovative facilities in the country.

And nearly 200 years after the first cornerstone was laid, the school will be able to boast such a facility, as the John Paul Jones Arena (JPJA) is scheduled to open in July.

Named for the father of a major financial contributor to the project—not the Revolutionary War hero or the bass player from Led Zeppelin—the 15,000-seat arena will serve as not only the new home to the Cavaliers men's and women's basketball teams, but also as a true multipurpose facility, with approximately 70 of the projected 100 annual events to be other than basketball games.

A better view

Before breaking down the M/E/P systems in this cutting-edge arena, it's important to look at the unique seating design, a major driver of the project. Where most basketball arenas spread their seating around the event floor/court in a "doughnut," the facility employs a horseshoe design typical of many outdoor college football stadiums. One reason was to maintain consistency with other campus elements; Scott Stadium, UVA's football facility, has an open end, as does The Lawn, a central expanse of green space surrounded by buildings that serves as the heart of the campus.

But more importantly, the arena's unconventional design and seating configuration were driven by the goal of maximizing audience experience in multiple configurations. Bob Moje, AIA, with project architect VMDO Architects, Charlottesville, explains that basketball arenas that double as concert venues typically lose 25% to 35% of seating behind a stage during musical performances. By contrast, the horseshoe arrangement allows the arena to actually seat more people during musical performances than at basketball games—not only because seating behind the stage is minimized, but also because the entire floor can be filled with seating at concerts, where the basketball floor seating is limited to retractable bleachers. And to create a more "intimate" atmosphere, a curtaining system can section off the arena for concerts.

Besides the horseshoe setup, the seating bowl itself is also unusual. The main concourse actually routes people to the upper seating deck instead of the lower. Where multi-deck areas typically have a larger lower bowl and smaller upper seating levels, the opposite is true at JPJA. Moje notes that the closer seats are to the court, the more space is required between rows, which can push a lot of the lower-level seats back and away from the court. Keeping JPJA's lower seating area—considered more exclusive—smaller allowed the seats to stay closer to the court. The design ends up being more vertical, but Moje points out that it actually brings more people—on both levels and in the 20 suites between the levels—closer to the court.

Mechanically speaking

So how did this affect the M/E/P design? In keeping with the spirit of an audience-first philosophy, the design team wanted to reduce the impact of equipment in the seating areas. According to Brent Billau, a former Ellerbe Becket employee now with Lankford + assocs. Consulting Engineers, Inc., Kansas City, Mo., and the mechanical and plumbing engineer for the project, the HVAC designers tried to use the building's distribution system as much as possible for smoke control in order to minimize equipment that might sit unused except for smoke-evacuation situations. As such, the seating bowl air-handling units, which consist of four custom air handlers with a capacity of 85,000 cfm each, are double-stacked and provide makeup air in multiple smoke control zones. The bowl is one zone, and there are also two concourse smoke zones: one for the lower concourse and suites, and the other for the upper concourse. There are eight fans located at the top of the seating bowl in the catwalk that serve as building pressure-relief fans during normal operation and also as smoke exhaust fans in the bowl zone. Separate exhaust fans are in place for the two concourse zones. All units are controlled through a central building automation system, which also controls the fire alarm system. In turn, the arena's BAS is tied into a campus-wide automation system.

Heating and cooling would come from an in-house plant that would consume roughly 6,000 sq. ft. of the arena and house a pair of 1,200-ton chillers and one 400-ton unit, as well as four 12,500 MBh flexible tube-design hot-water boilers. But halfway through the game, the university called for a line-up change.

In contemplating future construction on the northern part of campus, university officials felt it would be wiser to construct a separate plant that could serve the needs of a number of new buildings that will eventually come on-line, including dorms, a performing arts center and academic buildings.

While the change occurred somewhat late in the project, it wasn't a major drawback, according to Kevin McMichael, senior project manager with Barton Malow, the project's construction manager: "We were able to catch it early enough where it was just a matter of taking the equipment out of the mechanical space into this new structure that they had to design."

The resulting plant resides in its own 10,600 sq. ft. of space attached to the 900-space parking garage adjacent to the arena. Half, or 40 ft., of the arena's height is also below grade. The total chilled water capacity of the plant is 6,000 tons. Beyond the original plant equipment specifications, two more 1,200-ton chillers can be added, and the 400-ton chiller can be replaced with another 1,200-ton unit. For heating, there is room for four more boilers.

Medium-temperature hot water is circulated from the boilers to the arena, which employs a bank of shell-and-coil heat exchangers; Billau says that Ellerbe Becket had been successful with this exchanger type on previous utility-distribution projects. The arena also has its own hot-water distribution pumps.

New firms, same goal

As if the plant change wasn't major enough, the design team itself would hit a significant speed bump. In the midst of the project, the Kansas City office of Ellerbe Becket dissolved its engineering division, something Richard B. Laurance, P.E., Director of the JPJA project with UVA's facilities management office says he hasn't seen in 40 years in the business. (However, separate contracts were developed to keep the contractual design effort in tact through VMDO and the architectural segment of Ellerbe Becket.) Billau, now with Lankford Engineering, Kansas City, says that there simply wasn't enough of a work backlog to support the engineering group. The firm's Minneapolis office has retained its engineering staff.

While a rarity, this reorganization—which took place after initial design but well before project completion—wasn't as much of a detriment to the project as one might think. "I think there was a little initial concern, especially at the university, but I think their concerns were all addressed pretty easily," says Billau. "We all tried to be very responsive, especially initially, to ensure that it would be a smooth transition."

And by most accounts, it was. "We were able to keep the continuity with some of the Ellerbe Becket engineers, and they were able to get contracts with their new firms to stay on the project throughout the duration, and that certainly helped," says McMichael. "If we didn't have that, it would have been a much rockier transition."

While the project's engineers were dispersed to several different new companies, they were able to retain a good working rapport, according to Billau. "Everybody had been working on it long enough to where we were able to exchange information; plus, we stayed in contact. If any questions came up, if I didn't recall why something was done a certain way, I could call someone up and say, 'Hey, do you remember what this was about?'"

Not official, but efficient

Despite all of these changes, the M/E/P team still delivered a mechanically sound and energy-efficient building. For example, thanks to the BAS, the arena can run in "day" mode when there's no event but arena staff are still in the building. In this case, the smaller chiller is used. For large events during warm weather, the other chillers can kick on to accommodate the associated demand. Elsewhere, variable-air volume systems are in place, and fans and primary/secondary pumps are powered by variable-frequency drives. "The university wanted to do everything they could without making [LEED] a specific goal," says Laurance.

Another "green" technology, waterless urinals, was initially a consideration—there are a couple installed elsewhere on campus—but the university decided against them after an engineering analysis of maintenance and other factors, including the fact that the units wouldn't be used on a regular basis.

Additionally, there is very limited use of incandescent lamps; a majority of the fixtures are fluorescent. Lighting is handled by its own control system, separate from the main BAS. Occupancy sensors are also in place for areas such as corridors and locker rooms.

Final touches

Back in May, the university tested the facility by cutting the power for the whole arena and simulating a fire, both while code officials from Richmond and Roanoke were present. According to Laurance, the backup power and life safety systems performed as designed and met the applicable codes. Specifically, the area of campus where the arena resides is powered by two main circuits from the local utility, and a diesel-generator system provides emergency backup power. "It's like a belt and suspenders, plus suspenders approach," says Laurance. "But that is what we want in the largest indoor venue in the state of Virginia."

As such, it looks like John Paul Jones Arena is plenty ready for its first performance; Cirque Du Soleil's Delerium hits town in August. James Taylor, Eric Clapton, hometown hero Dave Matthews—and even Disney on Ice—are all scheduled for the fall.

While Thomas Jefferson's entertainment tastes might be a bit more old-fashioned than these offerings, there's little doubt that he would appreciate his university's new facility, from its spatial versatility to its unique design to its homage to his original campus aesthetics, classical columns and all.



No Place Like It

The horseshoe design of John Paul Jones Arena provided an excellent opportunity for the facility to differentiate itself, a rare feat for modern-day arenas, according to Bob Moje with VMDO Architects: "Most modern arenas paint stuff on the court, but there's no difference between playing on the courts at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum, which are completely surrounded by seats."

Here, the open end of the horseshoe not only offers a defining architectural feature, a glass fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade with columns, but it also serves as a meeting area including a concourse on the inside and a terrace on the outside (exterior view above). Spectators—even those who spent a little too much time tailgating—will have no doubt where they're at.

No Place Like It

The horseshoe design of John Paul Jones Arena provided an excellent opportunity for the facility to differentiate itself, a rare feat for modern-day arenas, according to Bob Moje with VMDO Architects: "Most modern arenas paint stuff on the court, but there's no difference between playing on the courts at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum, which are completely surrounded by seats."

Here, the open end of the horseshoe not only offers a defining architectural feature, a glass fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade with columns, but it also serves as a meeting area including a concourse on the inside and a terrace on the outside (exterior view above). Spectators—even those who spent a little too much time tailgating—will have no doubt where they're at.

No Place Like It

The horseshoe design of John Paul Jones Arena provided an excellent opportunity for the facility to differentiate itself, a rare feat for modern-day arenas, according to Bob Moje with VMDO Architects: "Most modern arenas paint stuff on the court, but there's no difference between playing on the courts at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum, which are completely surrounded by seats."

Here, the open end of the horseshoe not only offers a defining architectural feature, a glass fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade with columns, but it also serves as a meeting area including a concourse on the inside and a terrace on the outside (exterior view above). Spectators—even those who spent a little too much time tailgating—will have no doubt where they're at.

No Place Like It

The horseshoe design of John Paul Jones Arena provided an excellent opportunity for the facility to differentiate itself, a rare feat for modern-day arenas, according to Bob Moje with VMDO Architects: "Most modern arenas paint stuff on the court, but there's no difference between playing on the courts at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum, which are completely surrounded by seats."

Here, the open end of the horseshoe not only offers a defining architectural feature, a glass fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade with columns, but it also serves as a meeting area including a concourse on the inside and a terrace on the outside (exterior view above). Spectators—even those who spent a little too much time tailgating—will have no doubt where they're at.

No Place Like It

The horseshoe design of John Paul Jones Arena provided an excellent opportunity for the facility to differentiate itself, a rare feat for modern-day arenas, according to Bob Moje with VMDO Architects: "Most modern arenas paint stuff on the court, but there's no difference between playing on the courts at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum, which are completely surrounded by seats."

Here, the open end of the horseshoe not only offers a defining architectural feature, a glass fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade with columns, but it also serves as a meeting area including a concourse on the inside and a terrace on the outside (exterior view above). Spectators—even those who spent a little too much time tailgating—will have no doubt where they're at.

No Place Like It

The horseshoe design of John Paul Jones Arena provided an excellent opportunity for the facility to differentiate itself, a rare feat for modern-day arenas, according to Bob Moje with VMDO Architects: "Most modern arenas paint stuff on the court, but there's no difference between playing on the courts at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum, which are completely surrounded by seats."

Here, the open end of the horseshoe not only offers a defining architectural feature, a glass fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade with columns, but it also serves as a meeting area including a concourse on the inside and a terrace on the outside (exterior view above). Spectators—even those who spent a little too much time tailgating—will have no doubt where they're at.

No Place Like It

The horseshoe design of John Paul Jones Arena provided an excellent opportunity for the facility to differentiate itself, a rare feat for modern-day arenas, according to Bob Moje with VMDO Architects: "Most modern arenas paint stuff on the court, but there's no difference between playing on the courts at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum, which are completely surrounded by seats."

Here, the open end of the horseshoe not only offers a defining architectural feature, a glass fa%%CBOTTMDT%%ade with columns, but it also serves as a meeting area including a concourse on the inside and a terrace on the outside (exterior view above). Spectators—even those who spent a little too much time tailgating—will have no doubt where they're at.

Eleven Goals for John Paul Jones Arena

Early in the planning process for the John Paul Jones Arena, the University of Virginia—and subsequently, the Board of Visitors—formally established 11 key goals for the multipurpose project:

Build a connector road to route automobile traffic between the stadium area and a major traffic artery.

Create 1,500 new parking spaces.

Create seating for 15,000 spectators for multiple event types.

Include 2.5 on-site practice courts.

Provide comprehensive storm-water management.

Include training rooms.

Include basketball coaches' facilities.

Provide a "Jeffersonian" exterior to blend with the campus' red brick and white columns.

Provide premium seating including 20 suites.

Stay within the budget of $129.8 million.

Complete the project by summer 2006.

The first nine goals have already been met. The 1/2-mile connector road was completed in January, five months ahead of schedule; the new parking area includes a 900-space garage and 600 surface spaces; the planned seating capacity was achieved, comprised of theater-style seats and 1,200 student bleachers; a storm-water retention pond was built one-half mile from the arena and incorporates a park area; the practice courts (left) and training and coaches' facilities, along with a full dining facility that seats 350, a full weight room and a full academic center for tutoring, are included in the building; Jeffersonian columns adorn two ends of the red brick facility; and the 20 suites are already sold out.

"We've had to have four years of meetings with a central theme of reducing costs, just to stay within the budget," says Richard B. Laurance, P.E., Director of the JPJA project with UVA's facilities management office. It's been a challenge, but he notes that the project will be finished next month—and under budget.



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