Building on excellence

The University of New Mexico’s Physics & Astronomy Interdisciplinary Science Facility, or “PAIS.” (Courtesy of NAIOP)

The star of the NAIOP New Mexico 2020 Awards of Excellence rests at the “front door” of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

It includes a $3 million, one-of-a-kind electron microscope for particle physics, optics labs, neutron lab and a living room.

Informally, it’s a 139,000-square-foot building that goes by the acronym of PAIS. In Spanish, said Christopher Carian, senior project manager with UNM Planning, Design & Construction and project manager for the building, “país” means “country.”

“That is a great name, since the facility brings together so many University of New Mexico science departments and outside science entities,” he said.

Formally, the name of the building is a more scholarly Physics & Astronomy Interdisciplinary Science Facility.

The building won the Chairman’s Award, which honors the project judges believe will have the most impact on the state’s economic development. It has already had an impact, drawing attention from researchers and scientists worldwide and setting a new standard for science buildings.

Albuquerque-based Bradbury Stamm Construction was the Design-Assist Comprehensive Construction Contractor.

The University of New Mexico’s Physics & Astronomy Interdisciplinary Science Facility, or “PAIS.”

Building and designing the facility were loaded with obstacles, including getting rid of a long-dormant water reservoir. The building had to meet intense criteria for vibration, electromagnetic fields and temperatures.

In the basement, the building includes a microscope that can view things as tiny as an atom.

“Next year, there may be a building that has better criteria than ours, but right now that building is absolutely incredible,” Carian said.

Other top award winners included Gary Tonjes, former head of Albuquerque Economic Development, who won the Chuck Gara Community Leader Award.

“It means a great deal to me because I’ve seen others throughout the years be recognized by an organization that I consider among the most important in the state with regard to business,” Tonjes said.

Tonjes, who retired July 31 from his position as Albuquerque Economic Development president, has since opened Gary Tonjes Consulting and has contracted with AED.

All this in a world so marred by COVID-19 that the event was moved online.

Indeed, the pandemic “put a lot of wrinkles into what we do as an organization,” said Joe Farr, outgoing NAIOP chair. Farr is founder and president of Duke City Commercial.

“We had to really pivot once COVID took over and switch to a lot of Zoom meetings as opposed to the usual luncheons, breakfasts and dinners that we do as an organization,” he said.

Nonetheless, NAIOP “succeeded in giving members value for their memberships and working on legislation,” Farr said.

NAIOP was part of a group that was involved in efforts to delay action on recent paid sick leave and energy conservation code measures in Albuquerque.

Incoming chair is Scott Whitefield, Colliers International senior vice president.

The process kicked off in June as local judges were given lists commercial projects, said John Gallegos, NAIOP New Mexico vice president.

Entries were judged on such things as challenges that had to be overcome and success of the project, in addition to overall design and construction.

“We send out the nomination forms and judges get between nine and 11 weeks to return them,” Gallegos said. “We then get those back and have a big meeting in a ballroom, except this year it was done virtually on Zoom.”

Categories, he said, change each year, depending on the market. This year there were two education categories, one for buildings above 50,000-square feet and one for below 50,000-square feet.

Scott Whitefield

Whitefield identified the pandemic as his biggest challenge.

“We don’t get to interact with each other as we normally do,” he said.

There are workarounds, however. Working at home is one of them. Zoom is the other.

“The goal I have is to clearly express the value of being a NAIOP member,” Whitefield said. “We will make it through this year. The industry is still strong, and we will see this to the other side.”

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