The Art of the Occupied Renovation
Above: Common space at Maplewood at Weston, a recently completed senior housing occupied renovation project by South Coast Improvement Company.
While all development projects require careful consideration of a legion of complex factors, project management becomes all the more convoluted and complex when coordinating an occupied renovation. Foremost consideration must be placed upon creating the least disruption to occupants’ and users’ quality of life. Facilities such as offices, retail stores, government and educational institutions and senior housing complexes must meet satisfactory standards of operation during renovations, despite not being operational to full capacity. Furthermore, occupant safety and convenience are both paramount, and must be prioritized during any occupied renovation project.
Many institutions publish strict and thorough regulations and standards for work in occupied buildings, not leaving occupants vulnerable to compromise and ensuring utmost health and safety. Construction work must all take place while paying close attention to maintenance of regular quality of life and keeping the building clean. In order to do so, construction managers must work with building owners in occupied renovation projects to designate appropriate laydown areas for equipment, establish a construction phasing schedule that allows for unencumbered building operations, establish safe alternate routes during construction and maintain building conditions that are healthy for residents and users.
Acceptable indoor air quality is essential to workplace safety on any renovation job site. But, air quality maintenance becomes substantially more complicated when taking on the renovation of an occupied space. The State of Massachusetts has enacted stringent guidelines to uphold the safety, health and well being of those occupying spaces during construction, preventing dangerous risks in indoor renovation and construction such as dispersion or off-gassing of health-hazardous particulates into the air. Airborne contaminants are easily transported beyond work areas via heating, ventilation and air conditioning vents, potentially exposing occupants to these volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The free movement and dispersal of VOCs into indoor air is problematic on any worksite, but is especially endangering to vulnerable elderly populations. Renovation of occupied senior living facilities, therefore, requires more than the typical end-of-day “broom clean” to suffice for overall cleanliness. Air scrubbers, HEPA vacuums and dust control measures must be employed to minimize occupant exposure to VOCs. And cleaning, on this broad scale, cannot only be an end-of-day or end-of-shift occurrence. Rather, it must take place on an ongoing basis throughout the entire day to ensure protection of assisted living residents, who are more sensitive and susceptible to illness and injury caused by VOCs than the general population. Some elderly residents may already be immunocompromised or have respiratory deficiencies before work begins, so the most conscientious attention to proper clean-up procedure is wholly necessary.
Moreover, subcontractors brought onto occupied renovation jobs have to be fully aware of the sensitive environment that is a senior living facility. Factors such as noise control assume a level of necessity not characteristic of other job sites. Accordingly, subcontractors must be well-versed in techniques such as muffler use, careful equipment placement and noise enclosure, and construction managers must effectively coordinate and oversee subcontractors. Wet methods for drilling and cutting masonry surfaces, which create excess dust, must also be employed in order to restrict as much dust emission as possible.
Low VOC emitting caulks, sealants, coating, adhesives and so forth are utilized in senior living occupied renovations in order to preserve the highest possible indoor air quality. And relatedly, ducts in work areas must be blocked off to avoid VOC transport to occupied areas. Furthermore, subcontractors must possess a general understanding of the physical environment of senior living facilities. Access routes may be improvised, but foot traffic in occupied corridors cannot be inhibited or cluttered in any way, whether it be by equipment or otherwise. Well-planned phasing in a senior living environment is especially imperative, as work affects both residents and staff. The job has to be broken down into workable areas to minimize adverse impact, and tight schedules must be met to complete work as soon as possible for minimal disruption to residents.
New England-based design, construction and construction management firm South Coast Improvement Company has performed a number of occupied renovation projects, all of which required careful planning and coordination throughout. South Coast recently completed a $2.5 million renovation of Maplewood at Weston, a 22-bed luxury senior living community, in which common areas were thoroughly updated with new finishes, lighting, flooring and electrical systems, and the existing community’s facade and roof were both redesigned and refaced. Consecutively, a new two-story foyer was constructed, and a waterfall was installed in the community’s main lobby. All this was done while implementing a comprehensive construction management plan that resulted in efficient completion of the project, and limited interruption to the community’s day-to-day operations.
Above: A newly constructed communal kitchen area at Maplewood at Weston.
South Coast also recently concluded the first phase of a $3.1 million occupied renovation of common spaces at the 167-unit New Pond Village Walpole retirement community, newly acquired by Benchmark Senior Living. The first phase entailed a full renovation of the community’s main and formal dining areas, including installation of new finishes, painting, electrical work and demolition of pre-existing walls to create a more open floor plan.
In order to create the new state-of-the-art dining area, a section of the original dining area was kept open throughout construction so as to ensure all meals were served to residents. The dining area section will be renovated as part of the project’s second phase, which will renovate the remainder of the ground floor, remodeling the existing hair salon, auditorium, country store, bank and physical therapy room and adding a new bar area and massage room. During the first phase, electrical system replacement requiring a shutdown took place in the middle of the night for residents’ convenience, a practice that will continue during the project’s second phase.
Above: Dining space at New Pond Village Walpole, renovated by South Coast Improvement Company while the senior living community was occupied.
In the education sector, the constant movement of students and professors around campus and constant event programming also require careful construction coordination during an occupied renovation. During South Coast’s recently completed $240,000 renovation and expansion of office space at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, which was performed during the academic year, South Coast had to be mindful of busy staff and students and accommodate their schedules. Accordingly, South Coast performed most major work, including framing, concrete pouring, drilling, cutting, coring and fire alarm installation, off hours between 5 PM and 8 AM. Daytime hours were used for quieter tasks such as painting and electrical work, delivery of construction materials and measurements.
Above: Office space at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, renovated by South Coast Improvement Company during regular school operations.
As more existing real estate assets change hands and undergo renovations, and longtime landlords upgrade their properties to the latest specifications, occupied space renovations will continue to be key methods of improving properties and creating 21st century real estate for housing, work, education, retail and other uses. While occupied renovations are complicated undertakings that require significant consideration, planning, arrangement and execution, in the long run, an occupied renovation can be a better, more efficient and more moral option than evicting or relocating tenants, or halting programming. With due attention paid to details, occupied renovations ensure that facilities are able to continue to operate, and business as usual is not inhibited, while improvements are made.
Above: A senior living unit renovated in an occupied renovation by South Coast Improvement Company.
South Coast Improvement Company (SCI) offers a range of design, construction and construction management services. We are engaged in projects across a wide variety of sectors including office buildings, interiors, healthcare, education, commercial, assisted living, and planned communities/residential.
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