NORTH ADAMS -- Although construction crews have been diligently working at the site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Center for Science and Innovation since the early spring, little of the work has been visible to the public. That will change this week, when the first shipment of steel beams for the three-story structure arrive.
"Once the beams arrive, they'll begin construction on the frame," James Stakenas, vice president of administration and finance, said Friday during a tour of the Blackinton Street site. "They'll begin on the west end of the site and put up the steel panels, which will double as a sound barrier for our neighbors."
He said the building is scheduled to be enclosed by Thanksgiving, allowing crews to work on the interior throughout the winter months.
"We're on track for the science center to be completed in August 2013," Stakenas said.
In October, Gov. Deval Patrick helped break ground for the $30 million center, which upon its completion will be the most expensive state-funded building project in Berkshire County.
Since then, crews have been preparing the site for the arrival of the steel.
"All of the conduits for the interior plumbing are in place. All of the sewer and water pipes are in place," Stakenas said. "We've installed new sewer lines on Porter Street and added a new manhole on Montana Street. We feel we're in excellent shape. We feel really good about where we are at
Two weeks ago, crews poured the cement foundation for the 65,000-square-foot building, which will become the home of the college's science majors.
"One thing that is really neat is that the construction team created this mock up of the exterior," he said. "It's a composite of all the parts and pieces being used."
The building's super-structure, or "shell," will be comprised of component parts -- wall panels, roof trusses and windows -- that are built off-site and then brought to the building site for final assembly.
"The type of panelized construction we're using will make it possible for the project to come together in the time that we have," Stakenas said.
Once the Center for Science is completed, the college will focus its attention on renovations to Bowman Hall, which was included in the $54 million construction bond.
While Bowman Hall will primarily remain a classroom building, plans call for art labs, student art studios, an art gallery and robotics lab.
The college's math and computer science departments will take over the lower level, where the robotics lab, along with software and hardware labs, will be located.
"We're also putting in a high-end digital graphics lab on the top floor," Stakenas said.
The top floor of Bowman will also be home to the college's visual arts department, with specialized labs and classrooms and a gallery.
While the renovations of Bowman Hall won't begin until 2013, the campus is currently benefiting from an energy-efficiency upgrade to 3,000 of its lighting fixtures -- one result of an energy efficiency study conducted by the state Department of Capital Asset Management in 2009.
"The upgrade is expected to save us $70,000 a year," he said. "It's a phenomenal savings. With a new building coming online next year, we have to anticipate an increase in utility costs. This savings will negate part, if not all, of that new expense."