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Making scientific breakthroughs can take time. So can constructing the buildings where those breakthroughs occur. At Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, Pepper worked over the course of four years to deliver a Sciences Complex that balances the university’s history and legacy with the needs of modern STEM education.

The goal was to create modern facilities designed to support ongoing growth, facilitate collaboration between dispersed departments and contribute to the talent pipeline in Central Indiana's thriving Science and Technology marketplace.

Overcoming complex challenges with collaborative solutions supported by technology. 

Given the scope of the project, Pepper adopted a phased approach from fall of 2019 through the winter of 2023. Phase One involved the creation of the Levinson Family Hall, which boasts a 100,000 square-foot in-fill addition and a glassed atrium that serves as the literal and figurative bridge between Gallahue Hall and the Holcomb Building, finally bringing them together. Phases Two and Three focused on renovating both buildings.

The renovated and expanded Sciences Complex honors the school’s history and the international influences of the building’s original 1970s architecture.

Using an IPD formula for preconstruction

From the onset, a form of an integrated project delivery (IPD) model was adopted, emphasizing collaboration among all stakeholders. Various lean techniques were employed early to help keep us on budget and schedule. Some notable methods included establishing a clear target cost from the initial Program Estimate, involving major trade partners early and expediting material.


Our preconstruction services also allowed us to proactively maximize diversity participation, despite the project not having formal goals. The team hired 14 minority and women business enterprise (XBE) trade partners, collectively representing $10 million of the project budget.

Existing Conditions Investigation

Before construction began, we performed a thorough investigation of existing conditions, including current foundations, structure, utilities, above ceiling MEP systems and more. This effort eliminated surprises and allowed us to proactively integrate our findings into the plan. For example, our unique Underground Utility Damage Prevention program was used to virtually map the original utility locations and plan reroutes without the risk of a utility strike.


Immediately after demolition we laser scanned the exposed structure. Our findings allowed the steel fabricator to fine-tune their shop drawings, ensuring a perfect connection between the new structural steel and original building. The demolition phase also meant managing exposure to the elements. Our Quality department helped establish a water-intrusion-protection plan that included maps and a checklist at each weather wall, contributing to a cleaner and safer jobsite.

Staying safe at every turn   

Logistically, the new Sciences Complex project rivaled a Rubik’s cube. With student, staff and visitor well-being as a driving force, clear communication and wayfinding were paramount because temporary travel paths needed to keep changing. Effective and simple communication, incorporating QR codes, was added to site signage and allowed new information to be delivered clearly.

Pepper is well-known for safety innovation and this project is no exception. At the Sciences Complex, more than 325,000 manhours were worked, with no lost-time incidents. Proactive safety leadership efforts included hosting an Underground Utility Damage Prevention (UUDP) process meeting, participating in risk assessment analyses and root-cause meetings, walking the project with the safety department and holding a safety discovery meeting, lunches and staff recognition.

Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) Integration

In the architecture, engineering and construction industry, contributing to a significant MEP modernization is considered a bucket-list achievement. For this project, the task was formidable and required specialized solutions.

Laser scanning technology was used to obtain precise documentation of the mechanical systems in Holcomb and Gallahue. This data was integrated into the virtual models, forming the basis for BIM (Building Information Modeling) coordination, clash detection and prefabrication planning. Collaborating with BSA LifeStructures and Butler University, a checkerboard-like MEP phasing plan was developed to minimize disruptions to Butler’s operations during the modernization.


The New Sciences Complex achieved LEED Gold certification, showcasing numerous sustainable features. Perhaps the most notable is Butler’s choice to renovate in lieu of building completely new. In fact, the project reused 91% of the original structures. A local tree company and woodworker even incorporated a black walnut tree that had to be removed for construction into the atrium’s 10,000-foot piece of artwork that mimics a DNA pattern.

The Golden ratio shines in the atrium

The centerpiece of the space is the atrium – a striking curved glass, three-story, natural-light filled study space that is part of the new Levison Family Hall. Like all truly exceptional examples of modern architecture, the atrium was conceived with a nod to the sciences studied there. The design follows the golden ratio of the Fibonacci curve - the mathematical angle used in everything from science to art and modern graphic design. It should be noted that this unique design concept was introduced after the initial estimate, which proved to be a challenge. In addition to exceeding the original target cost, it necessitated a comprehensive constructability review to avoid potential quality issues. Working together with the design team, a series of minor adjustments were made to the curve's angle, layout and window mullions, saving $8 million and relieving any quality concerns without compromising the design intent.