Preserving History Through Technology
This is an account of how Sebesta Blomberg & McKew, Inc. (SB&M, Topsfield, MA) worked with their equipment manufacturer and trade contractor partners to preserve the historical value of this establishment, all while introducing it to some of the comforts (and necessities) of the present. The key was keeping the focus on providing technical solutions while remaining sensitive to the final desires of the client - or in this case, nearly 1,000 clients. Faced with this task, the firm introduced their single source solution: a Program Management Process (PMP).
Sensitivity to preserving times past will always add a significant challenge to a facility in need of a fast-track, modernization building program. Essential in undertaking this upgrade was that the engineers and trade contractors work to return a warm and inviting building to its owners.
This goal is best represented in the ambience one experiences upon entering the building: an air of dignity and respect, which has been cultivated by the habitués. Meticulously appointed with cherished legacies from the membership over the years, the ladies of this organization have given thoughtful care and consideration to maintain the long-standing culture and heritage of their facility. However, due to the laws of age and nature, this building and the club had reached a crossroad between investing in another annual maintenance budget fix or in a more long-term solution to a deteriorating infrastructure.
PMP PerspectiveBy keeping things simple while maintaining a focus on the "big picture" (achieving the final goal), the PMP can facilitate projects by catering to "nontechnical" decisionmakers and projects on a fast-track schedule (which, in the current market, seems to include almost all endeavors). One reason the concept has been developed is an attempt to overcome the perceived shortcomings related to traditional "design-build" processes by implementing a complete program management solution.
Simultaneously, this approach incorporates the ongoing development of a preventive maintenance work order system at the end of construction. By consistently documenting the process with digitized photography and various checklists, valuable building history is developed into a project manifest for the client. This allows for a more methodical project closeout as well. At "the end of the day," this client will reap the benefits of the "big picture" solution to their long-term needs, created by a seamless process.
In The BeginningRST, Inc., a mutual business associate familiar with SB&M's abilities to provide PMP, introduced the firm to this client. RST owner Richard Trethewey had been familiar with the building for some time and was well aware of the overdue need to seriously address the deferred maintenance conditions within this historical structure's deteriorating mechanical, electrical, and plumbing system infrastructure.
SB&M was asked to perform an assessment of the facility's infrastructure in the spring of 1999 (Phase 1 of the process). Seeing the need to formulate a master plan for the future of the facility, the executive governing board for the club formed an internal building and maintenance committee to act in unison with this engineering management firm to work toward achieving the target objectives. By using photographs of existing conditions and good engineering practices, a review of the hvac, electrical, and plumbing systems provided a simple and effective "what's wrong with this picture" report. An analysis of the future space needs and goals of the club was also performed and documented.
The facility assessment confirmed the poor and possibly hazardous system conditions over which the club manager had repeatedly expressed concerns. Though this is not an unusual finding in such a building, the situation was hardly ideal. Many changes and modifications had been made over the years, with much of the work completed in piecemeal fashion to satisfy immediate needs and budgetary constraints. While fulfilling short-term fixes, most of these corrective measures had done little to provide for system longevity.
Existing HvacThe existing heating system was provided by a steam boiler, which was in fair-to-good condition and operating at less than 70% efficiency. The existing boiler feed system was undersized, inefficient, and in poor condition. The automatic controls for the boiler and associated building controls were deficient and in need of replacement. The pipe distribution utilized self-contained valves for individual control of steam radiators. This system was in poor condition and had required numerous repairs throughout the years. The individual radiator controls provided marginal temperature control and offered little in the way of energy conservation; by this time, the ladies felt that the cacophony created by the "hammer" of the steam pipes had lost its charm.
Ventilation to the building was provided primarily by opening windows, which hardly provided a constant source of filtered, conditioned outside air into the facility. Since these were at one time two separate buildings, one built first as a standalone and then the second as part of a row of brownstones, toilet rooms that were originally on an exterior wall with operating windows to introduce air were now encased in the party wall. Having thus become interior spaces, such rooms never received exhaust upgrades to meet today's standards.
The facility offered minimal air conditioning with limited supply air distribution via individual packaged direct exchange (DX) systems. Guest rooms and offices were cooled via portable individual window units.
Plumbing And ElectricalThe plumbing system was antiquated and in poor-to-fair operating condition, posing potential health hazards. Plumbing fixtures were obsolescent and did not conserve water. Pipe distribution was failing due to corrosion of material and chronic leaks. There was also a question regarding the integrity of the gas distribution piping, since energy consumption for this utility was high.
The primary electrical system appeared to be adequate to meet existing needs, and it would support the new mechanical cooling equipment. The secondary distribution was deficient and posed potential hazards. In addition, many of the electrical devices were not up to the current electrical code.
Rising Bottom LineAs a result of addressing repairs as they arose in an unscheduled manner, the organization also had to pay premiums incurred for emergency situations. Repetition of this scenario made for constantly escalating operating costs. Further, due to the poor and inefficient condition of the existing systems, utility bills continued to increase each year.
Program ChangesIn addition to the assessment of the infrastructure, the club also had a need to modernize its work environment to improve efficiencies in space usage and building functionality.
Once all existing conditions had been documented, a recommendation matrix was developed for each category outlining the proposed recommendations on the basis of priority. Life-safety or code violations were marked "urgent"; items that would improve equipment useful service life and/or building infrastructure were marked "recommended"; and finally "suggested" was the term for items that would enhance space comfort and energy management.
After careful consideration was given to the facility assessment's recommendations and budget projections, the committee decided to pursue a more defined project scope and pricing to further identify a timeline and costs for the improvements recommended in the facility assessment. A preliminary ideal timeline was discussed, and the tentative plan set the beginning of construction for the spring of 2001. Instrumental in this decision was the club's anticipated centennial celebration in the new millennium. With that as their vision, the mission was to "to invest in the future while preserving the past."
Moving Forward - Phase 2Upon receiving the projected project price in late March of 2000, the committee decided to proceed immediately beginning with the final engineering, rather than waiting one more year. Planning for project implementation this year, SB&M then recommended that the club initiate a partnership with each of the trade contractors to expedite the process.
The basis of this project was to upgrade all plumbing, heating, and electrical systems as well as to install mechanical cooling equipment to provide central air conditioning. Combined with the complete system renovation, it was agreed that the club's much-needed programming enhancements would also be done. These include: redesign of ground floor areas to provide for two new office spaces; a new employees' locker room/shower area; a new men's lounge and unisex ADA-compliant restroom; conversion of administrative space on upper floors to new guest suites; and finally, reparation to the exterior brownstone surfaces.
In addition to the multiple scopes, the program management team faced other hurdles, starting with a lack of accurate record drawings for building structure, architectural floor plans, and mechanical and electrical systems/distribution. The club manager and project team received another plot twist in the form of a window of opportunity, wherein the club ceased all operations between mid-June and the end of August. This was be the only timespan in which the facility's busy activity schedule could be cleared.
The accelerated timeline (considered aggressive by some and impossible by others) had now presented an immediate need for the final engineering and architectural design to be complete in order to garner appropriate permits and approvals by local governing bodies. Careful consideration also needed to be given to equipment location. As this building is situated in a historical area of Boston, the local Architectural Commission also had to approve any exterior modifications in advance.