SETTING THE STANDARD: UF’s Malachowsky Hall for Data Science & Information Technology
The University of Florida (UF) is in the midst of a major endeavor—bringing the Malachowsky Hall for Data Science & Information Technology to life. Spanning 263,000sf, the brand-new academic building will be a hub for all things related to the advancement of computing, communication, and cyber technologies.
Located in the heart of the University of Florida’s main campus, the eight-story structure will house faculty and researchers from a range of the university’s disciplines, including the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Engineering, as well as UF’s Informatics Institute. The project includes more than 30 purpose-built laboratories, office space, an auditorium, common areas, and food services.
To carry out this major undertaking within a fast-tracked timeframe, the University of Florida partnered with Ajax Building Company to build out their vision for the cutting-edge facility.
The interior of the building will feature high-end finishes like terrazzo flooring, intricate millwork, and glass rails—and the exterior design is
even more impressive. The focal point of the structure, and the construction team’s biggest challenge, is the building’s façade—a panelized system that consists of custom designed, pre-manufactured metal panel units with integrated trapezoidal windows. These windows also feature electrochromic glass, or smart glass technology that can be tinted electronically, meaning the windows must tie into the facility’s building automation system (BAS).
The panels, averaging 12ft by 30ft, will be manufactured off site, shipped to the project, and installed onto the building using tower cranes. Since the decorative façade doesn’t fully wrap around the building at all locations, there are several areas within the panelized system that have completely unique angles and joints. The design is so complex, Ajax knew they needed to engage a design-assist partner. After an exhaustive bid process, Florida-based contractor, N-RG Cladding was selected to help execute the façade’s design.
Although construction didn’t officially kick-off until December 2020, Ajax and N-RG Cladding began planning for the paneled façade in August 2020. The process started with regular meetings that included Ajax and N-RG teams, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design team, and the University of Florida’s Facility Services waterproofing expert. “We discussed everything you could possibly imagine that could matter within this system, from detailing
and the overall concept, to engineering, waterproofing, and fire rating,” says James Marini, Ajax senior project manager. “We involved all the stakeholders to make sure that everyone bought into the design.”
With a design this intricate, producing a mock-up prior to fabrication was a given. After months of planning, the mock-up materials arrived on-site over the summer of 2021. From there, the 14ft-wide and 26ft-tall structural framing was assembled, the metal panels were attached, and the waterproofing and glazing were completed.
Next, the Ajax team and their partners put the mock-up to the test. They did an envelope test and water test to make sure the windows didn’t leak, they inspected it for any abnormal reveals or gaps, and even marred one of the panels to determine whether it would be acceptable to repair a damaged panel or if any damaged materials needed to be fully replaced. The University of Florida inspected and approved the mock-up’s finish, and the school’s facilities team came to see how the windows could be integrated into the BAS.
These tests and inspections helped the entire project team reach a level of confidence in how the panel units would be manufactured and constructed. It also allowed Ajax to set quality standards for every subcontractor who will be working on and around the façade.
“The panel system touches almost everything, and it’s completely custom,” Marini says. “The mock-up gives us something to refer back to for any special connections and allows us set expectations for virtually every component of the system that will be installed on the façade.”
In total, the building’s façade will be composed of over 1,400 of these one-of-a-kind panels. Ajax’s next focus is proving the panelized system’s engineering is up to code and securing state approval. The project’s planned opening is slated for the summer of 2023.