Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University traces its entrepreneurial roots back to December 1925, when businessman T. Higbee Embry and barnstorming pilot John Paul Riddle formed a company to explore the potential profitability of aviation. The Embry-Riddle Company carried mail by plane, sold aircraft and taught “the daring to fly.”
Eventually, Riddle opened the “Embry-Riddle School of Aviation” near Miami. In 1965, it was moved lock, stock and one dismantled hangar to Daytona Beach, Fla. In 1968 university status was granted and in 1970 the name was changed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Today, Embry-Riddle is the largest and oldest aviation-focused university in the world. With campuses in Daytona Beach and Prescott, Ariz., as well as another 120-plus facilities around the world, students can choose from more than 40 degree programs, including aerospace engineering and aeronautical science. The university’s mission is to teach the science, practice and business of aviation and aerospace. It prepares students for productive careers and leadership roles in service around the world.
Taking a note from its founders, the university moved ahead with plans to create and open a research park adjacent to campus. In February 2016, Walbridge began construction of the Advanced Aerodynamics Laboratory, which, along with a wind tunnel, will anchor the new Congressman John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex, or MicaPlex for short.
The lab includes facilities for the study of multi-scale materials, large article testing, smart materials, space technologies, energy, radar and communications, circuits, sensors and instrumentation, drones and computational sciences. Also housed within the facility will be a composites center, structural health monitoring facility, advanced dynamics and control center, and a robotics and autonomous systems facility. Additionally, the lab will offer 10,000 square feet of flexible leased space for companies interested in collaboration and incubating new technologies.
One of the biggest construction challenges came with installation of a curtain wall system, or grid shell, that establishes the iconic globe-like façade of the building. This feature was manufactured by Novum Systems of Germany. It is approximately spherical in form; the horizontal long curve length is close to 120 feet and the vertical curve length is nearly 48 feet. Novum engineers had to account for annual temperature swings in Daytona Beach, from 94 degrees Fahrenheit to 32 degrees, and the potential effect on the glass and framing.
Walbridge set up Skype conference calls with Novum, as well as the steel fabricator and concrete contractor to review the size and shapes of steel plates that would be embedded in a tilt wall structure tied in to first- and second-floor concrete slabs.
Novum utilized 3D modeling software to pinpoint coordinates of the embeds, then transmitted the information to the concrete subcontractor. Novum’s installation crew completed a site survey to confirm that location of the embeds was correct. The curtain wall framing system was fabricated in Germany and each piece of glass was manufactured in Spain. No two pieces of glass in the final wall, which is comprised of 216 pieces, are exactly alike. The system was shipped to the U.S. with tag marks that conveyed their exact location so each piece would be erected in a way that met the approved design.
A second significant challenge was constructing the Large Systems Development Lab, which will be used to test structures under static and dynamic conditions. It required Walbridge to install a “strong” floor and wall system. How strong is strong? The floor is a concrete structure that is 10-feet wide x 20-feet long x 5-feet deep and the wall’s dimensions are 30-feet high x 10-feet wide x 4-feet deep. The two massive concrete structures are tied together with steel. A total of 36 plates were embedded in the concrete and bolts will be used to anchor heavy equipment used for testing. Coordination and erection of the strong wall required special form and bracing systems.
Walbridge completed this first important step in creation of the MicaPlex in approximately 10 months.