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Best Overall Project: George W. Bush Presidential Center

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Southern Methodist University is now the home to the country's newest presidential library. Manhattan Construction Co. completed work on the 226,500-sq-ft George W. Bush Presidential Center in February, becoming the only contractor to have completed two presidential libraries.

Photo by Sarah Duke/Manhattan Construction
Urban park featuring native landscaping like a wildflower meadow, a tall grass prairie and savannah and woodland clearings, all designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
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The center includes museum exhibit space, a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, a Texas rose garden, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) storage, processing areas and a presidential suite.

Manhattan was awarded the Bush Center project in late 2008 and broke ground in 2010.

"What makes [the project] unique is just how many different facets there are to that building," says Mark Penny, senior vice president and project executive for Manhattan. "It's a high-end archive storage facility [for NARA], keeping every document and item that was part of the eight years of the Bush presidency, but it's also a museum open to the public. Then it also has a function for the Bush Institute, the think tank that supports continuing efforts of the Bush presidency."

The project team's abilities were tested as they worked to provide an archive facility virtually impenetrable to outside forces but architecturally appealing and inviting to museum guests.

The detail and care taken with the structure, exterior envelope and materials selection to meet these requirements required a lot of coordination between the design and construction teams and manufacturers, says Shelby Proehl, project manager for Manhattan.

"There were so many technical aspects to the building that had to be coordinated to work seamlessly together and not to impact the quality of the interior finishes required by the architect," Proehl says. "The project includes mechanical systems designed for archival storage and LEED-Platinum requirements, security systems to meet archival storage and U.S. Secret Service requirements, full broadcast capabilities and audio visual systems throughout the building, including a 5,500-square-foot video board."

The owner also required the building to last 100 years. "Typical construction these days is not designed beyond about 20 or maybe 30 years in terms of the systems and life expectancy of waterproofing and connections and details," Penny says. "So asking for a 100-year building or longer created some challenges for the trained workers" because the construction required a different approach than on a typical project.

"We joked that you hear the saying that it's belt and suspenders, but this one was belt, suspenders plus somebody standing there holding your pants up," Penny says. "It has almost three layers of protection and almost every type of system to make sure that the building does function without major maintenance for up to 100 years."

The center is blast-resistant and equipped with a redundant structural system above grade, says Peter Arendt, director of design and construction on a consulting basis and the owner's representative on the project. Security walls 100 ft out from the building are also designed to keep anything vehicular from getting close.

Even with the blast requirements, "we stayed well budget-wise, as all of those things add to the cost per square foot to a project," Arendt says. "So we had to take extra care with the structural systems for that reason as well as the waterproofing and crawl spaces and things below the archives because ... they were below grade to make sure we had back-up systems and that there would never be any chance for water penetration."

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