Wilmington, N.C. – Neal Andrew, president of Andrew Consulting Engineers, a structural engineering firm headquartered in Wilmington, N.C., was honored with the 2016 Outstanding Technical Achievement Award (OTA) from the Professional Engineers of North Carolina (PENC) for his work on the Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) Wilson Center in downtown Wilmington.

The OTA award is given each year to an individual in North Carolina who has achieved particular distinction in his area of practice that enhances the engineering profession, contributes to the good of the public and is recognized as being unique, innovative and/or outstanding.

The Wilson Center at CFCC (originally known as the Humanities & Fine Arts Center) offers 45,000 square feet of classroom and rehearsal space and 115,000 square feet of performance hall and pre-function lobby space. The 1,500+ seat performance theater is the largest in the area and is designed to accommodate Broadway touring productions, concerts, symphonic performances, recitals and symposiums. The performance hall will offer professional-quality lighting systems, rigging, acoustics and orchestra equipment, and will boast two tiers of balconies and two levels of opera boxes for a variety of seating options. The building also houses a 108-person capacity studio/black box theater and an outdoor conservatory for performances with a 600-person capacity.

“The Wilson Center is a once-in-a-generation project for the Cape Fear area,” said Andrew. “As a performance venue, the Center had very stringent acoustical criteria and it had to accommodate very heavy loads consistent with theater, concert and stage performances. It also had to accommodate the unique aesthetics of the architecture and its nine-story building height. On the outside, the building looks state-of-the-art, but the inner details are the secret of its innovation.”

Andrew Consulting Engineers began working on the Wilson Center in 2010 and it was completed in late 2015. According to the award application, the firm’s work on the Wilson Center stands out in two ways. First, the amount of structural steel framing needed to support the building is remarkable (2,800 tons). Secondly, there were a variety of once-in-a-career structural engineering details utilized in a single project. The Center is comprised of three separate structures tied together using structural expansion joints that are also acoustically isolated to prevent any transmission of sound and vibration to the performance hall. Other details include the building’s 90’ height, proscenium arch beams that span 60 feet over the stage; custom structural steel roof trusses that span 100’ over the performance hall; 14 steel catwalks suspended from the long span roof framing at multiple levels and a 54’ glass curtain wall in the lobby.

“We are very honored to have been involved with a project as important as the Wilson Center and particularly proud to be recognized by PENC for our efforts,” said Andrew. “The Wilson Center is an exciting new focal point for Wilmington’s cultural arts community. And because of its unique design, it’s also a live example for the public of the very important role that structural engineering plays in architecture. The uniqueness of the curtain wall, the cantilevered balconies and the structural concrete roof are all educational opportunities for CFCC students and local engineers and architects.”

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