Belmont University Academic Center
Nashville, TN 

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New Building Becomes Belmont U’s New Cornerstone

Belmont University, located two miles south of downtown Nashville, has a proud history dating back to the 1890s when it offered elementary through junior college education to young ladies. But with changing times, the school became a co-ed college in 1951 and has since then grown in both size and quality. Additional space had become a dire need when, in early 2012, the school announced the construction of a new 188,000-square-foot, five-story building to house the College of Arts and Science and the School of Religion.

And since Belmont’s general education and core curriculum requires liberal arts classes, every undergraduate will take classes in the new academic center. In addition to the academic offerings, the center houses a 280-seat chapel, a dining venue, 30 classrooms, state-of-the-art laboratories and conference room space. A five-level underground parking garage spanning 160,000 square feet provides almost 500 new parking spaces, and the facility connects on three floors to adjacent academic buildings.

“The building establishes a new cornerstone for Belmont University and provides a true reflection of who we are,” said Belmont President Bob Fisher when they announced the new building.

The school enlisted the services of general contracting firm Nashville-based R.C. Mathews Contractor, engineering firm IC Thomasson Associates and architectural firm Earl Swenson Associates. R.C. Mathews Contractor has completed several Belmont University buildings over the last several years, and they were excited to pursue this project with a LEED®-Platinum certification. The $65 million project includes a chilled water beam HVAC system, the first of its kind in Nashville.

Lee Company in Franklin, TN was the installing contractor chosen for the plumbing and HVAC installation. With a long history in construction, Lee Company follows dozens of energy-saving practices that are focused on reducing environmental impact, including water conservation, energy-saving practices on construction sites and meeting strict requirements for measuring and tracking energy performance in commercial buildings.

The engineering firm, who originally specified copper for the project, changed the design to allow for Uponor AquaPEX® crosslinked polyethylene (PEX-a) pipe after Lee Company’s design/build department offered the cost benefits of PEX-a over other products. “Lee’s design/build department specifies Uponor whenever possible,” Wayne Garrett of Pulley and Associates, an Uponor rep firm, said. Garrett spent time on site during the construction, but found that Lee Company installers, who have long-standing experience with Uponor, did not need much guidance or support during the installation. “They have learned the time- and money-saving features of using PEX-a over CPVC or copper in commercial installations,” Garrett said. “And as budgets are always a concern in these types of projects, it only makes sense to take advantage of the savings provided with faster, easier and quicker installation times.”

Richard Brewer was the project manager for Lee Company for the Belmont expansion. “We would not have been able to meet the installation schedule if we had not used PEX,” he said. “The installation goes so much faster with this product, and moreover, we would’ve had to double the number of guys doing the job if we had used copper.” They had 30 workers on site during the peak scope of the project.

In addition to the installation of Uponor’s plumbing system, Lee Company also installed a chilled beam system designed to heat and cool the large building. Two-inch Uponor AquaPEX piping was used to transport water through the heat exchanger causing a constant flow of heating and cooling. ”Chilled beam lets you run higher temps on your water which decreases the size of your equipment and services,” Brewer said. This served as one of several components for a green build, and was partly the reason for the LEED-Platinum certification.

Brewer said the installation was somewhat complicated due to the sheer size of the project. “We used 14,500 feet of PEX piping for the domestic water and 24,000 feet of PEX piping for the chilled beam ,” he said. “It takes a bit of experience to organize an installation as big as this one. With PEX you need to allow for hanger spacing; sometimes double the amount of a conventional installation; and you need to adequately prepare for that part of the job.”

Lee Company is already on to their next big job using Uponor. “PEX helps us stay within budgets and maintain installation timelines while minimizing the number of crew on site,” Brewer concluded.

Project Highlights:

• Belmont University College of Arts and Science
• System: Uponor PEX-a Plumbing System and Chilled Beam System
• Engineer: IC Thomasson Associates, Nashville
• General Contractor: R.C. Mathews Contractor, Nashville
• Architect: Earl Swenson Associates, Nashville

Project Details:

• 14,500 feet of ½"-1" Uponor AquaPEX® Tubing for Uponor Plumbing System
• 24,000 feet of ½"-2" Uponor AquaPEX® Tubing for chilled beam
• ProPEX® Engineered Polymer (EP) Fittings
• Milwaukee ProPEX Expansion Tools