Renovation creates better space, special features for Howard County Conservancy

Sometimes a construction problem gives birth to a design feature.

Plano-Coudon and its subcontractors were in the midst of renovating the Howard County Conservancy when an unexpected and all-too-obvious problem demanded an immediate solution. Inaccurate drawings of the original building had forced Plano-Coudon to expand plans to add structural steel to the building, cut out some existing concrete and re-pour parts of the foundation. One joint between the original and newly poured foundation turned into an obvious and unattractive focal point when workers completed the polished concrete floor.  And that joint stretched in front of a major display where children would regularly gather so a conventional fix, such as caulking, simply wouldn’t do.

“It was a last-minute issue that came up and Brett [Plano] came out himself to help us figure out what to do,” said Meg Boyd, Executive Director of the Howard County Conservancy (HCC).

Plano, Project Manager Merissa Detwiler and Superintendent Bob Butt devised an unconventional but creative solution “and now it’s a beautiful feature of the building,” Boyd said.

Plano-Coudon coordinated with a subcontractor to install a river-shaped epoxy floor that would flow across part of the HCC floor and cover the unsightly joint.

“We were able to mix a darker blue and lighter blue to give it a water look,” Detwiler said. “The client had a tree they planned to wrap around an existing column so we put green epoxy at the base of the column to make it look like an island. It looks neat.”

The renovation – which added program space, administrative space, two large decks and an improved layout/flow to the Conservancy – presented opportunities to create special features.

“We had an oops in the lobby concrete slab that we poured,” Butt said. “Someone walked across the concrete after hours as it was setting up and left some imprints that had to be ground out.”

The ‘oops,’ however, gave Butt an idea: Why not simulate animal tracks across the concrete that was about to be poured for the lower deck. Conservancy staff and the concrete subcontractor worked to create and stamp tracks into the wet surface.

“A lot of people have come up to me and said they saw where deer walked across our concrete,” Butt said. “Now, I’ve never seen a deer walk in a straight line and leave perfectly straight tracks. But apparently these look real because a lot of people insist we’ve got deer and fox tracks.”

The project included several challenges. On an already tight work site, crews had to also ensure their tools, materials, bobcats, cranes, lifts and cement mixers didn’t interfere with a steady stream of children’s groups attending programs at the Conservancy. Evening and weekend work had to be timed to ensure it didn’t overlap with parties or other events onsite.

Due to heavy, spring rains, “when we went to pour different areas of concrete, we would have to dig out two feet of earth because the ground was so saturated and replace it with two feet of stone,” Butt said.

And the project team had to compensate for a six-week delay in obtaining a construction permit late last year while still hitting an unmovable completion date in May.

“Plano-Coudon was out here nights and weekends. They managed to get everything done on time due to their commitment to seeing this project through,” Boyd said.

For Plano, a member of the Howard County Conservancy Board of Directors, the job held extra significance. Plano-Coudon donated pre-construction work to the project, helped with fundraising and sponsored the grand re-opening event.

“The Conservancy does such great work for kids, educating them about the environment,” Plano said. “When they decided they needed a capital project, I saw an opportunity to use my construction expertise to help a great organization further their mission.”