Village of Bratenahl community leaders and personnel, neighbors, and the design/construction team gathered recently for the ribbon cutting celebrating the completion of The Village of Bratenahl’s new Service Garage & Salt Dome – the first building project the Village has undertaken since the 1930s.
Project Manager and Architect Jen Kalin, RA, NCARB, LEED AP was happy to report to the management team that this project was an all-around success. It was completed two weeks ahead of schedule, on budget, and fulfilled or surpassed the client’s objectives. Furthermore, the design and construction process went smoothly with no major issues requiring resolution.
The Village of Bratenahl is a very small “bedroom” community located just east of Downtown Cleveland. Encompassing 1.6 square miles and home to 1,200 residents, the municipality has few public buildings and seldom initiates construction projects. Thus, it was a big deal when in 2015 the Village commissioned a facility assessment for its service garage and salt dome, which discovered the facilities to be in such poor condition and in need of such costly repairs that a new facility was recommended.
The journey to complete the Village’s first major building project in nearly 90 years began. The Village opted to complete the project via the Design/Build delivery method, selecting Van Auken Aikens (VAA) as the criteria architect to help them prepare to undertake the project and develop the conceptual design. VAA’s plans called for a new 1,600-square-foot salt dome, a new 10,000-square-foot service garage, a secure vehicle storage area, a secure above ground storage tank area, and all associated site work as well as demolition of the existing service garage.
When R.E. Warner and contractor Cold Harbor Building Company were selected to be the design/build team in the spring of 2017, we immediately began our due diligence to develop the final design and construction documents. Through our review of the conceptual design, the site, and interviews with stakeholders, we ended up making several changes to accomplish the client’s objectives. Spurring these changes was the client’s desire to store more salt than originally discussed with VAA in order to obtain bulk purchasing savings. This meant our designers had to find a way to accommodate a larger salt dome on the site. Complicating matters were the site’s small size (1.26 acres), shape (a sort-of trapezoid), and other functions – an impound lot and fueling station are also located at the location.
After sketching a few different layouts, we found that by rotating the service garage 90 degrees on the site, we were able to not only fit a larger salt dome, but also improve the flow. With the change, the impound lot became tucked away from view and the front entrance (the most aesthetically pleasing part of the building) became the “face” of the site, which was important to the residents of Bratenahl.
Another change to the criteria plans was the project’s phasing. Because the site serves multiple purposes, it had to remain accessible throughout construction. We adjusted the phasing to ensure that day-to-day operations would be minimally impacted. The salt dome was constructed first since it is located out of the way. It then became contractor storage so that the site was not cluttered with construction items impeding truck traffic. Next came the service garage, and finally the stormwater pond, demolition of the existing building, and installation of the fueling station and impound lot.
Constructing the pond, completing the demolition, and building the site amenities near the end of the project enabled that land to be available as “swing space” for construction or Village operations’ needs. We credit the success of this project to having top-notch team members to work with. The criteria architect - VAA - provided clear direction with the documents that were provided in the RFP as well as support throughout design and construction. In addition, Cold Harbor is experienced in the construction of municipal buildings, including service garages, and we have completed several projects with them. As a result, we all knew what to expect and our past experiences helped us to avoid potential hiccups in the process.
In fact, only one issue came up in the field and we were able to resolve it without bothering the client. Communication was another key to success. As with all our projects, we took care to communicate frequently and fully with all applicable parties. For this project, that meant daily phones calls with the mayor, standing meetings with all relevant design/build team and client representatives, and as-needed meetings with sub-groups for specialized topics. It also meant taking and distributing comprehensive meeting notes. Further, since this client was not as experienced with public design/construction, we frequently served as an advisor for navigating the process and permitting/reviews logistics, providing education and helping to plan and strategize to shepherd the project along to completion. In particular, we had to work very closely with the client to gain community buy-in and Architectural Review Board approval. The community felt strongly that the aesthetic of the facilities should be in keeping with Village’s existing buildings; however, there was not enough budget to include the desired details. With our creativity and the client’s knowledge of their citizens, we were able to develop a compromise satisfying all.
By far, we are most proud that we were able to save our client design and construction costs, resulting in a small project savings that the client was able to put towards FF&E expenses they otherwise would not have been able to afford, including equipment such as lifts in the maintenance area as well as shelving in the storage area, and furniture for the break room and office. We achieved this savings by working efficiently and carefully selecting materials/processes that made sense and were cost effective. Further, we eliminated extensive RFIs and minimized downtime through close collaboration with the team. This attention to detail as well as the ability to work with a proven contractor with whom we had worked before, and who prequalified all subcontractors, resulted in cost effectiveness on all aspects of the project while still achieving or exceeding the overall goals for the new building.