Golfing for a Cause: 6th Annual Plano-Coudon Golf Classic raises over $60,000 for local nonprofits
Standing around the tee box, players at the 6th Annual Plano-Coudon Golf Classic found their conversations veering from handicaps and business deals to less-expected topics. Messages posted at each tee box provided insights into the situations faced and services provided by the beneficiaries of the fundraiser – Teach for America – Baltimore, Catholic Charities Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland.
United Way, for example, has enabled more than 1,300 families to address financial crises and avoid evictions. Catholic Charities feeds more than 500,000 people each year and shelters several hundred every night. Teach for America’s 1,200 core members and alumni in Greater Baltimore serve 30,000 students every day through public schools and educational organizations.
The Plano-Coudon Golf Classic, which was held at Hayfields Country Club this fall, raised over $60,000 for the three nonprofits, bringing the event’s total fundraising over the years to more than $250,000.
“What is remarkable about the event is it brings together Plano-Coudon’s colleagues and partners to support these philanthropic efforts and the people who attend are genuinely interested in what these organizations do,” said Bill McCarthy, Executive Director of Catholic Charities. “For us, it’s a wonderful opportunity to share our vision, mission and work.”
Representatives of Catholic Charities were able to discuss how their services keep evolving to meet community needs. In recent years, that evolution has included the establishment of gun violence interruption programs in multiple neighborhoods, reunification of children from Central America with family members, and the expansion of substance use disorder treatment services to address the opioid epidemic.
“It is inspiring to see how this event has grown over the years and it is very important to our work,” said Courtney Cass, Executive Director of Teach for America – Baltimore. “We need to keep connecting with more people. We need our entire city and, frankly, country focused on the fact that education and inequity in education is the greatest civil rights issue of our generation.”
Some golfers were surprised to learn that United Way operates a Family Stability Program within just a few miles of Hayfields, said Katie Downs, Director of Development for United Way of Central Maryland.
“This event puts us in front of new companies that may be connected to Plano-Coudon, but not yet connected to United Way, and it gives us an opportunity to explain how we fight for the education, financial stability and health of every person in Central Maryland,” Downs said.
A committee of Plano-Coudon employees works for months to see to it that the Golf Classic is a top-quality event, said Justin Vega, the committee’s co-chair. Employees also seek out ways to keep the event fresh and attractive to golfers and donors.
“This year we brought in a Hot Shot Golf Ball Cannon and put it on the seventh hole which is a Par 4,” Vega said. “It could shoot a ball 300 feet, so it helped a lot of people’s games.”
That commitment to quality and philanthropy has consistently attracted a full field of golfers (even when this year’s tournament was rained out and rescheduled) and a growing roster of generous corporate donors.
“People tell us it is one of their favorite outings of the year,” Ryan Coudon said. “We are really pleased that it embodies Plano-Coudon’s commitment to fun and camaraderie and supporting our community.”
Plano-Coudon crafts showpiece for University of Baltimore
The University of Baltimore’s new Robert L. Bogomolny Library combines the heft of 1960s concrete construction with the delicacy of an angled, four-story glass hall to provide students with a striking, state-of-the-art learning space.
The renovation of the 54,000-square-foot structure, formerly known as Langsdale Library, challenged the project team to master an ambitious and unconventional design, remedy the problems of a 50-plus-year-old structure, and deliver a landmark building within a limited budget. Following several years of close collaboration with the owner, architect and subcontractors, Plano-Coudon completed the $23.8-million redevelopment in time for the start of the 2018-19 academic year.
“This is one of the most challenging projects we have ever done,” said Project Executive Cliff Milstead. “But it created a really impressive, one-of-a-kind building.”
When architects from the German-based firm Behnisch Architekten first assessed the library, “it was kind of mess,” said Architect Matt Noblett. “It was basically in its original state. Not everything had aged well. It was pretty grim inside and very dark.”
The concrete building, however, was made from waffle slab — a ubiquitous technology from the 1960s that is no longer used and was worth preserving, Noblett said. So Behnisch Architekten developed an ultra-modern design to upgrade the original structure with white, angled siding, irregular columns of windows, completely new interiors and the addition of a four-story, angled “Glass Hall” that has sparked some comparisons to the glass pyramid at the Louvre.
Members of the project team acknowledged from the outset that the project would include both known and unknown challenges.
“When you start renovating a building like that, you have to assume you will be surprised, if not shocked, every once in a while,” Noblett said.
Crews discovered that some concrete columns had started to disintegrate, the basement was susceptible to flooding due to outdated infrastructure, and they would have to find a way to work around an enormous steel beam.
“This was probably the largest steel beam that I have ever seen. It was every bit of 80 feet long and 10 feet deep,” said Project Manager Darryl Richardson.
Crews uncovered the beam when they demolished the auditorium that had been attached to the original library. Located on the first story and positioned just 7.5 feet above the floor, the beam would be visible within building’s new, grand entrance at the intersection of the old structure and the new glass hall. It also created a barrier to running pipes and conduit into the glass hall. Project team members revised their designs for running MEP into the glass hall in order to use existing holes in the steel. And since they couldn’t make the giant beam innocuous, they painted it yellow instead.
Building the glass hall itself was the single most challenging aspect of the project. Plano-Coudon, Behnisch Architekten and TSI Exterior Wall Systems collaborated to develop a constructible design. Then Plano-Coudon tailored the construction project for the entire building to meet the unique requirements of the glass hall.
“We ended up closing off that side of the building and only let TSI work there,” Richardson said. TSI – which was the subcontractor for glass hall’s steel, curtain wall and stair – “had to bring in a crane and a couple of different lifts, and they needed lay-down space.”
Work in the rest of the building needed to proceed ahead of the glass hall work, especially while the team awaited the curtain wall shipment from Europe and a glass shipment from China.
“So we built a temporary, insulated wall across that west side of the building so we could seal off the building from outside air and we put temporary heaters on each floor so that crews could work,” Richardson said.
Once the glass hall was constructed, crews removed the temporary wall and rapidly tied the hall into building systems.
The extraordinary collaboration and value engineering on the Bogomolny Library project helped the project team overcome other challenges. Faced with an ambitious design and a limited budget, Plano-Coudon shaved several million dollars off the project’s price tag by locating affordable suppliers for the window systems and the angled-metal exterior panels, value engineering the building’s entire lighting package, developing a cost-effective way of installing 6,000 acoustical tiles inside the coffers of the waffle ceiling deck, and resolving the project team’s search for ways to bring natural light into interior offices.
“Plano-Coudon found a very elegant but very inexpensive glass wall system that we were able to use to frame out all the offices,” Noblett said. “That was a major win because we were struggling to figure out how to maintain as much transparency as possible without spending a lot of money on glass.”
“This project highlights our capabilities,” said Brett Plano. “It involved design-assist packages, an architect based out of Germany and materials from all over the world. This demonstrates our ability to deliver sophisticated projects. In this case for the University of Baltimore, we built a showpiece.”
Expanded Pre-Construction Division offers faster service, deeper expertise
A strategic initiative to expand Plano-Coudon’s Pre-Construction Division is beginning to produce benefits for our clients and opportunities for our company.
“We wanted to become a more valuable resource for owners, clients and others we serve in all our market segments. We wanted to deepen our expertise in those segments and provide owners and developers with quicker, more robust, upfront assistance,” Brett Plano said.
Consequently, Plano-Coudon executed a plan this year to expand pre-construction services. After an extensive, regional search, it promoted Project Executive Mike Kovacs – a 15-year employee of Plano-Coudon – to Director of Pre-Construction. The company hired its first Marketing Manager, Jeffrey Doran, and hired additional estimators.
“We also decided to start cycling young project engineers through the pre-construction division for a year each so they can gain experience in estimating,” said Kovacs. “That’s an important skill that we want to cultivate in all of our project managers. So this practice will both expand our estimating capacity and strengthen the operations side of the company”
The initiative is already enabling Plano-Coudon to provide pricing on more projects and provide rapid assistance to developers.
“A lot of times, developers are working under tight feasibility periods so time is of the essence,” Plano said. “Now, we can jump on those projects. We’re all about helping clients get the answers they need in a quick, efficient manner so they can complete their pro forma work.”
In addition to growing its staff, the pre-construction division is refining its operations to adopt best-in-class business practices and technologies.
“Overall, this is creating more sophisticated front-end operations for the company,” Ryan Coudon said.
The strategic initiative to beef up the pre-construction division also marks a shift in Plano-Coudon’s approach to business development. The division is involving more staff members, especially project executives, in business development. It is also adopting a longer range, more strategic approach to capturing business.
“Part of Mike Kovacs’ job is to look 1.5 to 2 years into the future for opportunities that we can put into the pipeline,” Coudon said. “Our goal for the pre-construction division is to have it drive more steady, sustainable, diversified growth for Plano-Coudon.”
That approach, Kovacs said, can help the company expand its work in existing project sectors, branch into some additional sectors, and fuel the company’s geographic growth in the District of Columbia/Northern Virginia market.
New projects begin at Riderwood and Catholic Charities
Plano-Coudon is pleased to be starting work on two new, major projects.
Riderwood Wellness Center
At the Riderwood Retirement Community in Silver Spring, Plano-Coudon is preparing to break ground on a new, 25,000-square-foot wellness center. The $11.6-million facility will include a two-story section that houses two fitness gyms plus multi-purpose rooms, and a one-story section that contains a swimming pool, hot tub and spa.
“The swimming pool section is dramatic,” said Project Manager Andrew Hooker.
Bent and sloped steel beams will create a wave-shaped roofline over the pool which will be surrounded by a large storefront, curtain glass and a ceiling made of exposed wooden decking. The space will also feature a mix of finishes, including brick facades, metal panels and intricate tile mosaics.
The project team will have to overcome a few challenges. The site is just three feet from a pedestrian bridge and crews will have to make a six to seven foot deep cut in the site for the new building’s foundation.
“We are going to be hauling tons of dirt off that site and putting in retaining walls adjacent to the bridge,” Hooker said. “It’s going to be very tight in there. We will have to make sure we don’t undermine the bridge foundations. We will also have to put up tight scaffolding between the bridge and the new building to do masonry work.”
The site is also adjacent to one of Riderwood’s residential towers. Consequently, crews will start work later in the morning in order to avoid waking the residents.
The project which includes moving utilities and other extensive site work, is set to be completed within 15 months.
Plano-Coudon is currently working through the pre-construction phase for a major renovation of the former Villa Maria Residential Treatment Center on the Catholic Charities campus in Lutherville. The purpose of the project is to renovate and update approximately 50,000 square feet of office and support space to enable Catholic Charities to better meet the demands of its mission. The work will also include upgrading building mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems within the 125,000-square-foot building.
Members of the project team are “helping Catholic Charities determine the most cost effective improvements to meet its needs”, said Craig Pool, Plano-Coudon Project Manager.
For example, decommissioning the existing out-of-date air handling units in the building’s attic would enable Catholic Charities to install more modern, efficient equipment. However, making such a change would leave the attic space unconditioned and would require crews to relocate the top floor’s sprinkler lines out of the attic in order to prevent them from freezing.
Team members are guiding efforts to identify optimal cost-effective solutions to improve the site’s landscaping and upgrades to the building. Construction is slated to begin in January and be completed by the end of the year.
Bright, urban and high-tech: Plano-Coudon builds new office … for itself
After months of design debates, construction noise and muddy parking lots, Plano-Coudon employees are preparing to move into expanded and modernized offices.
Assessing Plano-Coudon’s sustained growth in both project and staffing levels, executives realized the company was poised to outgrow its existing building within one to two years. They developed a plan to completely renovate their 9,000-square-foot office on Washington Boulevard and add another 4,000 square feet to the building.
“We are a Baltimore City contractor. We put our stake in the ground in Baltimore City and we believe in supporting the community by keeping our office here,” Brett Plano said.
Renovating the existing properly also enabled Plano-Coudon to move into desirable work space without incurred excessive cost.
“Our clients don’t want to see us in a flashy, lawyer-style waterfront office because they know we would have passed that cost along to clients,” Plano said. “By staying here, we are conscious of our community, we are conscious of our bottomline and that creates a value proposition for our clients.”
The project may be frugal, but it will still produce impressive and modernized work space.
The 5,000-square-foot addition will include a larger, covered main entrance, new lobby, executive offices, conference area and the beginning of “Main Street” — a central corridor that will extend throughout the expanded, 13,000-square-foot building.
“Main Street is a signature element that organizes the entire space,” said Charles Alexander, Principal at Alexander Design Studio. “It supports Plano-Coudon’s teaming and corporate structure, so it will reinforce how the company operates.”
Alongside that central corridor, each division will occupy a ‘pod’ – a cluster of cubicles, private rooms and open, collaborative spaces.
“There will be a lot more flexibility in how and where people work” said Ryan Coudon.
To support modern work patterns and heightened needs for collaboration, the new building’s assortment of small and large conference rooms, lounge areas and common areas will be supported by technology that enables employees to take their laptops anywhere in the building and connect with adjacent monitors, including several 80-inch touch screens.
The office layout will also be more open (due to collaborative areas and lower cubicle walls) and illuminated by more natural light.
“We are adding skylights and cutting a lot of windows around the perimeter of the building so people can see outside and enjoy more daylight,” Coudon said.
The interior design and finishes will showcase construction materials, including brick, tile, wood, concrete, exposed steel beams and ductwork.
“Along Main Street, there were be mixed media and some large graphics. In the new conference room, we will have the ‘cloud’ – a reclaimed wood feature that goes across the ceiling and down one of the walls. It’s pretty dramatic,” said CFO Janet Delaney.
Outfitted with two overhead, garage-style doors, the conference room will also open onto the employee lounge. Outfitted with multiple large screens, the space will be an excellent venue for all-hands meetings or large training sessions.
Progress on the expansion and renovation project has been admittedly slow “and there are only two people to blame for that and they are named Brett and Ryan,” Coudon said.
Clients’ projects kept taking precedence over work and decisions on the Plano-Coudon expansion, he said. “So we have had a really hard time keeping this project a priority and making the million decisions related to color and furniture and technology.
Construction of the expansion, however, is set to wrap up in November and phased renovation of the previous office space will be complete by spring.
On the Job Site
Recent Contract Wins
- Severn House – Severn House Condominiums – Construction of new roofs covering six buildings over 20 units of residential townhouses.
- Medstar/JLL – MedStar Physician Partners Silver Spring – Minor tenant alterations to include millwork, doors-frames-hardware, finishes and MEP.
- Meridian US Wind – Demolition, minor abatement, millwork, doors-frames-hardware, glass, drywall, flooring, paint, sprinkler, plumbing, HVAC, electric and security.
- Tech Site Services – Indian Head – 18,000 SF interior renovation of administrative and physical training areas of EXU-1 Building 900 at the Naval Support Facility
- MedStar Medical Group – Montgomery Medical Center Olney – Refresh of medical office suite.
- American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities – Interior Fit-Out – Demolition, new millwork, doors and glass. New finishes (drywall, flooring, and paint) modification to sprinkler system. Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical Work.
Projects in Preconstruction
- Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory – MP6 Rear Turnstile – Construct new turnstile and interior storefront at MP6 building rear entrance.
- Southwest Partnership Baltimore – Façade Improvements – Remove form stone and re-point 5 facades, replace 42 windows and paint cornices.
Projects in Progress
- PapGene, Inc. – New tenant lab construction of existing vacant space.
- COPT – Wolf Creek Federal Services – Reconfigure 14,000 SF office suite, replace ceiling tile and paint.
- Erickson Living Development, LLC – Riderwood Calvert Landing Elevator – Construction of a two-stop exterior elevator with interior residence modifications.
- MedStar Medical Group – Medstar PT St. James – New build out for the Medstar PT facility, to include: Millwork, door-frames-hardware, glass, drywall and acoustical, flooring, paint, window treatments, sprinkler, plumbing, HVAC and electric.
- Johns Hopkins University – Krieger Cognitive Science Lab – Interior alteration for new faculty member computer lab and office.
- Johns Hopkins Hospital – Johns Hopkins Community Physicians Germantown – Reconfigure existing medical office suite.
Plano-Coudon opens D.C.-Northern Virginia Office
After spending 20 years in business and establishing a $100-million-a-year operation, Baltimore-based Plano-Coudon Construction has officially expanded its geographic reach and opened an office in Tysons, VA.
“We have been working in the D.C.-Northern Virginia market for a number of years and some of our clients expressed interest in seeing us do more work down there,” said Brett Plano, Co-founder. “We recognized that we had hit a critical mass and we could service our clients better and grow our volume of work if we opened a Northern Virginia office and put more boots on the ground.”
The new operation is strategically positioned to serve the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia as well as Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland.
“I’m very bullish on that market,” Plano said. Both Plano and Co-Founder Ryan Coudon are graduates of Virginia Tech. “We have studied it for years and that market can easily support another quality contractor, especially one with our approach and culture.”
Plano-Coudon was founded in 1998 on a mission to bring big-company sophistication and an engineer’s mindset to projects of various types and sizes. The company has developed deep expertise in higher education, healthcare and a broad range of commercial projects. Its roster of work includes projects in the $40-million range and prominent developments, such as the Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House. In 2011, Plano-Coudon formed the Small Projects Division to deliver the same level of service to all projects, no matter the size.
In addition to continuing to serve existing clients in the D.C.-Northern Virginia market, Plano-Coudon is now working to build its brand recognition in the region to expand its client base.
Plano-Coudon Executive Jared Geary is spearheading the D.C.-Northern Virginia expansion. A long-time Plano-Coudon employee, Geary founded and grew the Small Projects Division which closed 112 projects in 2017 with over $25 million in revenue.
“This area is booming so we are working hard to expand our existing client relationships and build new relationships that can lead to opportunities for us to perform a wide variety of projects that fall within our expertise,” Geary said. “We are staffing our office in Tysons with top-tier construction professionals to better serve the region. The growth and development of our Tysons office is a big initiative for Plano-Coudon.”
From a basement office to world-class projects: Plano-Coudon celebrates 20 years of growth
For members of the Plano-Coudon team, gathering at Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House last week meant more than celebrating the successful completion of a world-class project. It marked how far a two-engineer startup can go in 20, busy years.
“Twenty years went fast,” Brett Plano said as the company celebrated its anniversary last week.
Midway through the summer of 1998, Plano and Ryan Coudon left their jobs at a large contractor and formed a new company in the basement of Plano’s Federal Hill row house.
“Our first employee was Cliff Milstead and his desk was literally the crack between the two folding tables that Ryan and I used,” Plano said. “My dog, Bailey, would lie under the tables and bark to let us know when subcontractors came to the door.”
“We were excited about becoming entrepreneurs and we were also scared to death,” Coudon said. “We literally used our wedding invitation lists for a mailer that we sent out looking for work.”
Although both Plano and Coudon had managed multi-million dollar projects in their previous jobs, their new company had no track record to impress would-be clients. So the new entrepreneurs took on small jobs, competed for lump-sum contracts and won over clients with their sheer enthusiasm. Their first, big wins included a contract to build a new Walgreens Pharmacy and a renovation project at the Women’s Industrial Exchange.
“I remember coming out of the Women’s Industrial Exchange interview and Ryan starts screaming at me, ‘You did awesome! Oh my god, I think we got that!’” Plano said.
The company broke out of its Catch-22 problems (a firm without experience can’t land contracts to get experience) when it secured a few projects and then an on-call agreement with the University of Maryland system.
“We really leveraged institutional relationships in our early years to create a diverse resume of projects” that included residential, restaurant, classroom, laboratory, office and other specialties, Coudon said.
The size and sophistication of Plano-Coudon projects also increased. They included the $16.4-million Canal Street Malt House Condominiums, the 28,000 SF Maryvale Humanities Building and auditorium, and the New Colombiere Community Residences designed by renowned architecture firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.
“By 2007, we were doing more than $20 million in work a year and then we landed a $20-million project – a 215,000 SF cargo shed for the Maryland Port Administration,” said Milstead, Project Executive. “We successfully completed the project and all of a sudden we were a $40-million company.”
Plano-Coudon, he said, has sometimes grown a little faster or slower than desired, but never strayed from its commitment to continuous, thoughtful growth.
“Part of the fun and challenge of this company has always been learning how to take those next steps to advance the company,” said Coudon, adding that he and Plano have always been enthusiastic believers in continuous learning and have always aimed to be a best-in-class company.
“One thing that Ryan and I are very good at is we treat ourselves like we don’t know anything and we talk to everybody,” Plano said. “When we go to conferences, we are almost like the pain-in-the-ass little dog that keeps sitting at the table always trying to get more food. We would go to all the seminars during the day and then at night our mission would be to talk to as many people as possible who were running companies bigger than ours.”
That education combined with a thoughtful approach to strategic planning has generated some bold and successful business developments over the years.
During the recession, company leaders decided they should focus on developing deeper expertise in select market niches in order to be the contractor of choice for clients. The company subsequently launched a highly successful healthcare division which has expanded into the senior living market. It also created the Small Projects Division (SPD), which now employs 25 people and generates almost one-third of Plano-Coudon’s business.
“Brett and Ryan are not scared to take risks, try new things and see where there is potential to grow the company,” said Jared Geary, SPD executive. “If something doesn’t work, they learn their lessons and move on to the next thing.”
Successfully completing projects, growing the company and launching new ventures has always hinged on Plano-Coudon’s ability to attract, retain and develop great talent.
“When you get inside the door, you realize there are a lot of talented people here. We are a stronger company than people might realize,” said Janet Delaney, Chief Financial Officer. “They have very qualified people in key positions and that has affected hiring all through the company.”
Plano-Coudon’s commitment to growth along with its pronounced corporate culture – which focuses on positivity, teamwork, health, family life, community service and a “fire in the belly” to accomplish impressive things – has attracted employees.
In 2006, Adam Bell left a comfortable job for a position at Plano-Coudon because “there was something about this company that made me think I would have regrets if I didn’t give it a shot. Something told me it would be cool to help a smaller company grow into something much bigger.” Bell is now a project executive, leading the company’s healthcare division.
Realizing that talented people enjoy a challenge, Plano-Coudon has also worked to present staff with interesting opportunities to expand their skills, advance their careers and even grow the company.
When Plano-Coudon created the Small Projects Division, “they gave me the opportunity to take the bull by the horns,” Geary said. “Brett and Ryan are visionaries who saw that this could be successful. So they supported me and they pushed me to reach higher and think longer term.”
The company – which has completed several prominent projects in recent months, including the Langsdale Law Library, Towson University’s residence tower and the Guinness facility – now exceeds $100 million in annual business and is expanding into the District of Columbia/Northern Virginia market.
“I think we have created something special and I’m so proud that we have become part of the fabric of Baltimore,” Coudon said.
“We have this 80-person-strong platform of talented, professional, passionate people to springboard us into the next 20 years,” Plano said. “More than ever, I am bullish about this company. The sky is the limit.”
Published August 31, 2018.
Plano-Coudon adds new foreman to Small Projects Division
Plano-Coudon is pleased to welcome Timothy Chandler as the newest foreman in our Small Projects Division.
Before joining Plano-Coudon, Chandler worked as a supervisor of deconstruction crews for Details, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Humanim. Chandler also has previous experience as a tradesman, performing drywalling, framing and other functions.
“Tim had proven his leadership skills at Humanim. He has experience self-performing work on construction projects. And when we met him, we got the sense that he embodies the values of our PC FAITH corporate culture. So we think he’s a great addition to our growing division,” said Blair Radney, Division Manager – Baltimore Region of the Small Projects Division (SPD).
Plano-Coudon which has a long-standing relationship with Humanim, was also delighted to hire an individual from one of its job-training programs. Humanim supports individuals throughout Maryland and Delaware through 40+ programs in the areas of human services, youth services, workforce development, and social enterprise.
Details – Humanim’s deconstruction service — provides individuals with construction trades training while earning a living wage and receiving full employee benefits.
“About 75 percent of Details workers are citizens returning from incarceration and they face a very difficult time finding employment,” said Jeff Carroll, Humanim Vice President. “Our goal is to employ them at a living wage so they can build stability and economic independence, while also providing them with training and helping them build their resume so can eventually land other jobs.”
Workers who stay with Details an average of 18 months, deconstruct large homes and salvage construction materials on sites from New England to Florida. Workers gain skills in using power tools, hand tools and materials handling machinery. They learn about construction processes, building systems and workplace safety “so they get prepared to become part of a team that builds things,” Carroll said.
As a crew supervisor, Chandler handled project management, worker productivity, worker safety and subcontractors on sites with unique challenges “so he became pretty adept at being a problem solver and a leader of a team of six guys,” Carroll said.
Chandler who began work at Plano-Coudon in May, will oversee projects for the growing SPD Baltimore Region.
“We are expanding geographically and landing new projects in Harford County, Howard County and Annapolis, including renovations, facility maintenance and on-call services for government agencies, private sector clients and medical facilities,” Radney said.
That growth has prompted SPD Baltimore to add a project manager, estimator and foreman in recent months. Radney expects to hire an additional foreman later this year.
Towson Tower project team overcomes creeping concrete, failing column and other challenges
Horizontal bands of red and gray paneling paired with vertical columns of windows that stretch all the way to a high-rise rooftop turned a university residence into a dramatic feature on Towson’s skyline.
But creating those precise, parallel lines on a structure that had suffered four decades of “concrete creep” presented the Plano-Coudon project team with a succession of surprises, complications and meticulous project needs.
“Without question, this was the most challenging project I have ever done,” said Project Manager Thomas Koch.
Koch knew at the outset that the total gut renovation of the 14-story, 110,000 SF, 1970s-era residence tower at Towson University would be difficult. The project included a complete renovation of the interiors, replacement of all MEP and data systems, installation of a new roof and new windows, and a complete re-skinning of the building with an Equitone facade — large, fiber-cement panels from Germany. The design would also require crews to remove portions of the second floor, reinforce structural columns and install a two-story curtain wall in order to create an inviting, two-story entry space.
But then things got especially tricky.
While demolishing the interior, crews discovered that the lower portions of one structural column had been encased in a block wall. When crews removed the wall, “we discovered the column had failed,” Koch said. “There were cracks going up and down the column that were a quarter-inch or more in width. This created a significant safety concern.”
Three structural engineers assessed the column and concluded it could be repaired and the project could proceed safely.
The repair, however, meant “we had to shore the building up from the basement level all the way to the roof,” Koch said. “Then we had to open up the basement concrete slab, go down to the caisson foundation the column was sitting on and widen the column up through the first two floors.”
While conducting preliminary work on site, crews discovered another abnormality with the existing building. The concrete tower was supported by interior structural columns “but there were no exterior walls or columns that went down to the foundation,” Koch said. “That created a unique situation. Over time, concrete moves. It’s called concrete creep. So the floor on each level started to sag along the outside, like the edges of an umbrella will droop.”
While that “umbrella effect” didn’t present any structural concerns, it created big architectural challenges. The building – which was set to be clad in uniform rectangular panels, parallel horizontal lines and vertical columns of windows – was not plumb or square “and a lot of elevations and faces of the building were not within current construction tolerances,” Koch said.
Realizing that any uneven windows or exterior panels would immediately become an eyesore, the project team hatched a plan to create a plumb and square facade on a highly irregular building. Workers carefully measured and mapped out more than 300 window openings in the building, determined the best uniform-size window to install throughout the building, then established a baseline across each story to ensure the windows would appear even from the exterior (even if windows were set at slightly different elevations above the interior floor).
“This required a lot of leveling and surveying for each window. Within some window bays, you could have a drop of an inch or two in elevation across a span of three feet,” said Justin Vega, Project Engineer. “But with careful shimming, we made everything look uniform outside.”
The 17-month renovation presented the project team with numerous other challenges.
“Our floor-to-floor height was really tight,” Koch said.
The nine-foot space from the top of one floor slab to the next and slab thicknesses ranging from 8 to 10 inches left crews dealing with a floor-to-ceiling space of just 8’2” to 8’4”. The “oscillating floors” also meant that crews had to adjust the installation of ceiling grids to keep grids, ductwork and piping level, Vega said. Consequently, installers had as little as three inches of clearance to pass MEP systems through some portions of ceiling. The addition of fire shaft walls to certain parts of the building mid-project further constricted some spaces.
All those complications rendered the project’s BIM model for utility coordination and clash detection unable (without time-consuming revisions) to resolve the space constraints.
“Instead, when we got into really tight spaces, we would look up in the ceiling and say, what am I going to do here? If I move this duct over a half-inch and that pipe over a quarter inch, can I make things fit?” Koch said. “It was a pretty fluid process and I am very grateful for the trades we had on this project. They understood the challenges we were facing, they worked together as a team and they found solutions.”
That teamwork, combined with intensive coordination, enabled crews to contend with major scheduling challenges, said Ted LaPierre, Superintendent. Repairing the failed structural column set the project back 6-8 weeks and prevented the project team from executing its original plan to complete all interior renovations on a floor before moving on to the next. (Shoring around the column delayed interior renovations on one-quarter of each story of the residence.) Crews also had to adjust their work schedule to address other structural questions.
To install the new MEP infrastructure, “we had to put about 75 holes in every floor so that floor had to be GPR scanned, documented and reviewed by the engineer,” LaPierre said. “Then if the engineer said we needed supplemental structural reinforcement, we had to put that reinforcement in before we cut the holes. That process took a lot of energy and time, but it had to be done.”
“This was a total team effort,” LaPierre said, adding that crews did outstanding work on their tasks, such as maneuvering 68,000 pounds of mechanical equipment 150 feet up into the air to install it on the tower’s roof. “This team worked really well together on a very tough project. At the end of the day, we were a family.”