Director's note - Building the interior

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It has been a while since I reported about progress on the new building at Itasca. Why? As mentioned before, construction has been slowed because the Itasca campus has been firmly in the jaws of a bitter winter ... and it still is. The photos you see accompanying this blog entry were taken at a temperature of zero degrees. I checked the thickness of the ice on Lake Itasca. It stands at 35 inches with more ice forming. Pretty cold for a spring day in mid-March, eh?

But, I am happy with its progress. The roof is completed and getting shingled. The floor is finished, and all of the interior rooms are framed up. It is starting to look like a real building! The electricians are putting in the conduit for electricity and the CAT-5 cables needed to get our electronic systems/phones up and running. The construction company is having reps from the window company come to Itasca this week. They will instruct the carpenters about how to install the hi-tech windows for our close to zero energy building.

The photos show a bit of the interior. One is a view down the length of the southern side of the building (called the sun corridor) that will allow passive heating of the building through the large windows on its southern wall. The second shows Louis Hammond standing near the middle of our auditorium. He is one of our main computer consultants from the University. Louis looks a little glum, perhaps because it was very cold inside and outside of the building. The last photo shows one of the classrooms. It will have very good indirect lighting from the large window on the north side and the window high on the roof that also allows indirect lighting into the building. Hopefully, by the end of May, we can get into our new digs and use it for a good part of the summer.

- Professor David Biesboer, Director
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Director's note - Raising the roof

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Happy New Year!

Finally, as you can see from the photograph I supplied this month, work has started on the roof of the new building. It was very cold when I was at Itasca in January. Once again so cold, that the building crews had a tough time getting their diesel powered equipment started and operational. However, it warmed up enough on January 11 to fire up a large crane and to begin hoisting up roof trusses on the east end of the building. If you check out the construction cam, you will note that many of the trusses are now up on the main part of the building. Next, they will sheath the roof in plywood. Then, construction can begin in earnest on the interior. I suspect the buildings appearance will not change soon for several months, as all the work will be hidden under the new roof. But, I will try to occasionally document and report on the progress on the interior. Overall, construction of the building was delayed a bit by the long spell of below zero days but it is getting back on track.

Professor David Biesboer, Director, 11 January 2014

Director's note - It was so cold that ...

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It has been cold during this phase of construction at the Station. The foundations and concrete work were completed just in the nick of time before the cold weather set in. Then, as most of you know, it got really cold. On Sunday morning, the thermometer on the construction site said it was 34 degrees below zero.

I met Gary Francisco, the resident construction manager, in the construction trailer. He suggested a tour of the building site. I said OK. It was so cold that all the sentences we spoke outside had to be gathered in our pockets then thawed out in the construction trailer to see what our conversation was about. It was so cold that the photos I took of the building site had to be thawed out in a deep freezer just to get them out of my digital camera. It was so cold that we watched, in amazement, a large flock of penguins migrating south across Lake Itasca.

I include only one photo today for the blog. Two sides of the building are now framed. I took a photo from the inside looking out of where one of the large windows will overlook the playing field. The views from the building of the campus will be fantastic when this building is finished.

Watch the construction camera as more of the framing goes up. The contractor says the roof trusses are on order and may be installed in the next couple of weeks. Then the walls and roof will be covered with plywood to enclose the building. Carpenters will soon begin to frame up the interior after the building has its outer sheath. Stay warm.

- Professor David Biesboer, Director


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Director's note - foundations!

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I was not sure how to present progress on the new Itasca campus center so I shot a video and took a photo to show the current state of construction to give you an idea.

I climbed up on the highest pile of soil present on the building site. It was not easy. The soil was saturated and very muddy. It has been raining torrentially at Itasca for the last few days. In fact, on October 11, a very strong line of thunderstorms moved through the area dumping a few inches of rain on us in just a few hours. It was a warm rain, more like summer, than the beginning of October for the Itasca region.

From the top of this mound of soil, I made a short video. It pans from the west to the east of the entire construction site. At the beginning you will see the poured foundations that will support the entry way and large fireplace. Then, you will see the walls of the auditorium (at the blue tarp) and bathroom that have been backfilled and leveled off for the pouring of the floors. Finally, the camera pans the length of the new building where the labs will be built. They are soon to be backfilled also. As you can see, most of the concrete foundations have now been laid. At mid-point of the video you will see the shadow of the intrepid Director at his vantage point on top of the hill of soil.

The photograph shows a portion of the geothermal system being fitted together for the distribution of tempered air throughout the building. It is along the north wall looking toward the east. The resident supervisor told me that by the end of October, we should start seeing the walls go up, perhaps a little ahead of schedule. Excellent!

Professor David Biesboer, Director

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Are you a match?

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A longtime supporter of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories has pledged to match 10 new gifts of $5,000. So far, 7 donors have met the Itasca Matching Gift Challenge. That's $70,000! Incredible. We only need $100,000 to wrap up fundraising for the new campus center. Three more donors who make a qualifying gift before the end of the year will take us across the finish line.

Are you a match?

Director's note - steady as she goes!

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Itascans! We are seeing some very steady progress on the new building. All the footings are in. All the block work is finished for the foundation. Workers put insulation against the foundations just as soon as the walls were completed.

Two photos are included in this blog entry. One shows the west end of the building where the auditorium is located. It shows the thick foam insulation that has been attached to the block foundation. The second shows some of the very long plastic tubes that have been assembled as part of the geothermal heating and cooling system. They are awaiting installation as below ground connections are made to the main building.

Our geothermal system is a vertical system (i.e., deep wells) used for heating and cooling that utilize the earth as a heat source (to obtain heat in winter) or as a heat sink (to discharge heat for cooling in summer). Geothermal systems simply take advantage of the relatively constant temperature within the earth. In Minnesota, the earth's temperature ranges between 40 to 50 F at a depth of 50 feet throughout the year. Our wells are deeper than 50 feet so have they have more capacity for heating and cooling throughout the year.

- Professor David Biesboer, Director

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Director's note - laying the foundation

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The building blocks of Itasca have arrived and are being rapidly put into place! Since I last reported about two weeks ago, several notable construction events have occurred. The geothermal wells have been completed. The distribution vault for the system has been buried. The vault is a large control box into which all the individual wells are plumbed for distribution into different areas of the building.

The concrete blocks for the walls of the main building have arrived en masse. Some of them are pictured in the first photo in this week's blog entry. The foundations for the wall are poured and, as can be seen in the next photo, bricklayers are hard at work laying the main walls. They are covered in dust because one of the workers is cutting blocks with a concrete saw just upwind of their work area.

More concrete will be poured into forms that are now being constructed for the foundations of the new auditorium, the bathrooms and the entry way for the building. I will report again in two weeks. Perhaps we will see walls being built above ground as construction proceeds.

Professor Dave Biesboer, Director

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Director's note - all's well(s)

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well3.jpgAs of August 28, well drilling for the geothermal wells at Itasca has been underway. Although a day late because of a broken axle, Geothermal Field Systems blew into Itasca late one night and got their equipment partially set up by midnight. By 7 a.m. they erected the derricks on their drill trucks. They got right to work. Photos for this blog entry will show the two drill trucks hard at work, and a short video will allow you to see and hear the rigs as they drill wells.

Twenty wells will be drilled to provide geothermal heating and cooling to the new building. They should be done in short order. I am back on the main campus now to teach classes but will return to the Itasca in two weeks for our Nature of Life make-up session. I hope to report next time that the footings for the new building will be in the ground. It should not be too long before we see framing going up for the new structure.

Professor David Biesboer, Director


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Director's note - we have movement!

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Early this morning a contractor trucked in a very large bulldozer. The operator is hard at work moving earth at a rapid pace. I am in my cabin listening to its mechanical racket and the many 'beeps' the machine makes when moving in reverse. It is music to my ears, the sounds of progress. Photographs for this week's blog show the bulldozer in a cloud of dust and some of the progress of site clearing being made on the playing field.

Professor David Biesboer, Director

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Director's note - the big picture

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PanoramaItasca.jpgThis panorama scans from the northwestern edge of the building site to the southeastern edge of the playing field, about 180 degrees. (Note: you can see a full-size version if you click on the image above.)

Not too much to point out yet. The white tank to the right of the field office is a distribution tank for the geothermal system. A well drilling rig and vacuum truck (to remove slurry removed from the wells) are parked next to the tank. Behind the baseball backstop at the extreme right is a pile of boulders excavated from the site. We are keeping those to use for landscaping of the campus. The earthworks contractor expects to begin moving a lot of earth around this week (fingers crossed).

Late last week I received a note that an order has been given to use the soil present on our playing field for the foundation of the building. It compacts well and should provide a stable platform for the concrete slab underneath the building. Smaller amounts of a different composition of gravel might be imported to place under the patio and sidewalks for proper drainage. Stay tuned.

- Professor David Biesboer, Director