From textbooks to trailers: Plano-Coudon internships prepare students for careers

Plano-Coudon Intern Rishabh Jain completed a Civil Engineering degree in Mumbai, India in 2015 and is on track to complete a Masters of Project Management from University of Maryland in spring 2018. This summer, Jain is helping Plano-Coudon with the Animal Care and Rescue Center project at the National Aquarium.

After years of studying technical and theoretical aspects of civil engineering and project management, Rishabh Jain suddenly found himself juggling submittals, RFIs, materials tracking, and communications with subcontractors and client representatives on a $13-million project to create a new Animal Care and Rescue Center for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Those duties were part of Jain’s summer internship with Plano-Coudon Construction.

“This is hands-on experience with things I have only learned about in class,” said Jain, a civil engineer and graduate student in project management at the University of Maryland College Park. “Learning about something in class and implementing it in the field is really different, so it is really good that I am getting my hands dirty.”

Every year, Plano-Coudon attends multiple university job fairs to recruit engineering and project management students for its summer internship program. During the eight- to 10-week program, project managers mentor the students and provide them with experience in managing project documents, closing out punch lists, developing estimates, handling communications with clients and subs, and working with teams in construction site trailers, said Cliff Milstead, Project Executive.

“I spent some of my summer doing project management, some of it doing estimates, some of it helping out superintendents. I got exposure to the whole business,” said Michael Junkin, who completed two summer internships with Plano-Coudon. When he graduated from the University of Delaware in 2015 with a mechanical engineering degree, Plano-Coudon hired Junkin as a project engineer and recently promoted him to assistant project manager.

After completing two summer internships with Plano-Coudon, Michael Junkin joined the company as a project engineer and was recently promoted to assistant project manager.

The company’s internship program provides more than practical education about engineering and construction management, Junkin said. It also fuels passion for the industry through a combination of interesting assignments, real-world responsibilities and opportunities to have impact.

For example, Junkin, who is a devoted Marylander and a huge Orioles fan, was delighted that his internship duties included traveling around the city to job sites, including one at Under Armour, and “running bids to cool locations like the warehouse behind right field at Camden Yards.”  Those duties also involved representing Plano-Coudon at contract-award event at the University of Maryland.

“It was a closed-bid competition but they opened the bids in front of us so I was able to stand in the room and represent Plano-Coudon among the other contractors,” Junkin said. “We didn’t win the project, but I was able to see where the numbers came in and report back to the estimators that this is how our numbers compared to other contractors. It was also an interesting way to see how competitive the construction industry is.”

As part of their introduction to the construction industry, Plano-Coudon interns joined Baltimore City Council Member Robert Stokes for a tour of the new National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center which Plano-Coudon is currently building.

“At Plano-Coudon, they really give you responsibility,” Jain said. “If a company gives me a responsibility, I will put all my focus into that job. I am much more passionate if I have some important work to do and I feel like I am making a difference in a project.”

The summer program generates benefits for Plano-Coudon too, said Founder Brett Plano. It creates opportunities to assess engineers and other construction professionals as they prepare for their careers, and sometimes recruit talented graduates into permanent positions within the company.

The program also ensures that interns “are much further along the spectrum of understanding the industry when they graduate,” Plano said. “They have worked on projects and learned how to apply some of the theory they learn in class to the realities of a construction project. So when they graduate and start their careers, they hit the ground running.”

The industry, he added, has improved the quality of internship programs. For example, one summer Plano-Coudon partnered with two engineering companies to offer joint internships to several students. By working two to three weeks with each company, students got exposure to structural engineering, mechanical/electrical engineering and construction.

“This industry,” Plano said, “has really figured out how to make internships work for everyone – the students, the companies and the industry as a whole.”



Diageo taps Plano-Coudon to build Guinness Blonde in Baltimore County

Diageo – a global leader in spirits, wine and beer – has selected Plano-Coudon Construction to build the first Guinness brewery in the United States in 63 years.

Early this year, Diageo announced plans to transform the former Seagram’s buildings in southern Baltimore County into a Guinness Blonde brewery and entertainment/tourism destination.

As soon as they learned of the project, principals at Plano-Coudon teamed up with Baltimore-based Design Collective and launched into an effort to land the contract. Both companies realized that the project would attract large, national competition, but “we brought a really strong, truly integrated team to the table,” said Brett Plano.

Headquartered in Baltimore, both companies have strong local knowledge and connections. The two companies have put in place more than $115 million of construction together over the past 15 years. That work has included complex adaptive reuse developments, construction of laboratories and high-tech facilities, phased and fast-track renovations, multi-use facilities, and high-visibility projects for branded clients.

“Plano-Coudon has always been a great partner with Design Collective,” said Matthew Herbert, Principal at Design Collective and lead architect for the Guinness project.

Plano-Coudon, Herbert said, brings extraordinary value engineering to projects, ensuring that clients can realize their vision within their budget.

Both companies “pride ourselves on being good listeners,” Herbert said. “That is really important with a branded client. You need to listen and learn how they cultivated their brand, what’s important to them and understand how architecture and construction can support that brand.”

Team members were eager to bring the Guinness development to Baltimore County and excited by the fact that the project site on Washington Boulevard in Relay is in their neighborhood. A map generated by the companies showed that the offices of Plano-Coudon and Design Collective as well as the homes of Plano, Coudon, Herbert and the senior project manager all sit within a five-mile radius of the Guinness site.

“I literally drive past that site on my way to and from work every day,” Plano said. “I did not want to drive past another contractor’s sign every day while this facility was built.”

Some project team members had deep interest in breweries and micro-breweries, which included knowledge of brewing systems, equipment and processes. And one member had a documented passion for Guinness.

An avid Guinness drinker since college, Herbert long ago added a clause to his will, stating that his ashes must be scattered at the original Guinness brewery at St. James Gate in Dublin.

Pre-construction work on the design-build contract is starting immediately. Site work is expected to begin in late summer so that Diageo can open its Guinness Blonde destination in Baltimore County in the summer of 2018.

“Landing this contract is a culmination of several years of hard work to establish Plano-Coudon as a best-in-class contractor in this area,” said Ryan Coudon. “It feels like a coming of age. We have grown and matured. We have shown that we can compete head-to-head with large national builders and win work with sophisticated, global clients.”

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.”


Challenging sites, schedules and technology typical in industrial projects

At the Port of Baltimore’s Dundalk Terminal, Plano-Coudon Project Manager Travis Bartlett is pleased to be “out of the mud and working on a building.”

Bartlett and Superintendent Ryan Morton are managing the construction of a 21,240 SF prefabricated metal building for the Maryland Port Administration.

Before construction could begin, Bartlett and his team had to demolish an existing 15,850 SF warehouse. The 75-year-old metal, timber and concrete block building contained asbestos, which had to be remediated by a hazmat team. Additionally, one wall of the building stood just a few feet from the terminal’s security wall and had to be demolished by hand. But demolition proceeded at a good pace.

The project got complicated once crews began working in the ground beneath the former warehouse.

“The biggest challenge here is when they built the port, they used a lot of backfill that had chromium in it. These days, chromium is considered a hazardous material,” Bartlett said.

Testing showed that one-third of the site was contaminated, prompting Plano-Coudon to bring in a second hazmat team to perform remedial excavation. The site’s high water table delivered an additional complication. Water flowed into areas excavated for utility lines, requiring crews to pump water out to a holding tank.

Work got easier once construction of the actual building began. Following meticulous planning, crews used a crane outfitted with a diesel hammer to drive 89 helical piles 81 feet into the ground to support the foundation for the new warehouse.

“The structural foundation is very beefy,” Bartlett said, but added that sturdy design is prudent in an area where some older buildings have subsided.

Crews have since made swift progress completing the new building’s foundation, erecting its steel frame, and beginning to install insulation, metal panels and a concrete wall. When completed, Building 91C will include offices, some conditioned storage space and a large, open warehouse with a clear span ranging from 20 to 26 feet.

Warehouses, distribution centers and other industrial buildings may look basic, but their construction often involves challenges with the site, schedule or mechanical systems, said Mike Kovacs, Project Executive at Plano-Coudon.

“Industrial clients have a different set of priorities. They are most concerned with how fast can you deliver this building so they can start storing or producing their product,” Kovacs said. “If you look at a 500,000-SF industrial building, the expectation is completion within a year or less. The same sized retail building could take several years.”

Modern distribution centers often involve automated racking systems and other advanced technologies. Meanwhile, food-handling facilities can require extraordinary systems, such as high-volume water handling infrastructure for fresh produce distributors or specialized building envelopes and mechanical systems in cold-storage facilities. 

“An ice cream storage facility, for example, needs to be minus 20 degrees,” Kovacs said. “That requires refrigeration systems and a facility that is air tight. If any warmer, outside air got in, it would start snowing inside.”

Plano-Coudon has completed assorted industrial projects in the past, including a 215,000-SF warehouse with 42-foot ceilings and no interior columns, a 60,000-SF produce-processing facility, and an automobile import facility outfitted with a high-speed car wash. And the company expects to tackle more projects in the market sector.

A recent study, Kovacs said, listed Baltimore among the four most sought-after locations in the country for new distribution centers. “Our proximity to I-95, a major port and other major cities makes Baltimore a prime area for this kind of construction.”

From teddy bears to I-beams: Senior living projects present varied challenges

Part way through the renovation of a senior living community, a Plano-Coudon superintendent discovered that a wandering teddy bear could be a valuable construction tool.

Bob Butt was overseeing demolition of a dining room at Buckingham’s Choice, an Integrace community near Frederick, when he found the abandoned stuffed toy.

Residents were keenly interested in the renovation project which included remaking the dining room, multi-purpose room, several offices and corridors. They monitored progress through the plexiglass windows that Plano-Coudon had installed in the temporary walls around the dining room construction site. They questioned Butt and other workers about each day’s activities, and sometimes seemed disappointed if a few days work didn’t generate dramatic changes.

After finding the teddy bear, Butt got the idea that the toy could become a new point of interest in his closely watched construction site.

“I put the teddy bear inside the dining room and, for the six or eight months I was on that site, I would move it to a new location at least once a week,” he said.

Residents began avidly looking for the bear, which spent time hanging from the ceiling or doorknobs, taped to windows, or sitting atop a 25-foot-high arch. A few residents regularly photographed the bear as they documented the renovation process.

Those interactions fueled a warm relationship between Butt and some seniors who were contending with a renovation within their home.

“He knew them all by name,” said Andrew Hooker, Project Manager on the Buckingham’s Choice renovation. “It was funny as we were demobilizing at the end of the project to see how many residents came up and gave him hugs because they just loved talking with him and they were going to miss him.”

Successfully handling renovation projects within senior living communities requires contractors to make some extra efforts.

“At pre-bid meetings, I tell general contractors that they need to be thinking that they are working in their grandmother’s home,” said Robert Albright, Vice President of Facilities Development for Integrace.

Plano-Coudon, he said, has done “some very nice things to engage residents” and develop good relationships during several renovation projects.

“That’s important because if you have 300 residents, you have 300 sidewalk superintendents,” Albright said.

Senior living projects also require many of the same rigors exercised in healthcare renovation projects.

“One of the first things I do at a senior living site is identify all the air conditioning/heating ductwork,” said Tom Lotz, the Plano-Coudon Superintendent on several senior living projects. “We need to isolate all the air from our work area and create an envelope between us and the residents. If we are making a dusty mess, we don’t want that to get sucked into the air handling unit and then blown into a dining room.”

Lotz instructs all workers on site about extra precautions they must follow, including securing all tools and materials away from residents, ensuring they firmly close doors to sensitive areas such as memory-care wings, and taking extra care in removing any possible trip hazards.

“Some people can be disoriented or less mobile, so they trip more easily,” said Adam Bell, Project Executive. “You have to think about the person who is using a walker and maybe dragging their feet. A loose piece of carpet could be a tripping hazard for that person.”

Scheduling and phasing work on a senior living renovation can be especially complex.

“There is a lot of different things going on in a place like that,” Lotz said.

Construction crews need to work around the schedules of business offices, commercial kitchens and dining rooms, healthcare services, special events and the daily life activities of residents. To minimize disruption, contractors need to do extensive planning and preparation before beginning any site work, and collaborate with facility maintenance staff to plan, minimize and provide long notice of any outages. That coordination sometimes involves dividing work between day- and overnight-shifts, or temporarily securing work within a kitchen so that staff can continue to serve residents mid-renovation and inspectors can access essential installations.

Builders also need to be prepared to handle the occasional structural challenge in the midst of those conditions and in front of a large audience.

The Buckingham’s Choice renovation, for example, included major structural work in order to expand the multi-purpose room.

“We had to move a number of steel beams which meant going through the floor, down through the slab and into the earth below. That’s the kind of thing that keeps guys like me awake at night,” Albright said. “Plano-Coudon gave me a feeling of comfort because I know they have done some very large and complicated projects… I also like how methodical Plano-Coudon is. They don’t rush just to get something done. If they are doing a project, they are doing it safely and very professionally.”

That process eased Albright’s concerns as Plano-Coudon worked through the structural changes and executed the most dramatic piece of the work.

“They had to bring in this huge, 20-foot-long I-Beam,” Albright said. “They had to take out an exterior window, bring it across the resident corridor and into the dining room, maneuver it into place and get the old beam out. It was difficult and it was quite a show for the residents.”

Plano-Coudon hands out Ownie Awards

Each quarter, Plano-Coudon recognizes a few employees for exemplifying the company’s ownership culture. At our Quarterly Update meeting in May, Plano-Coudon presented Ownie Awards to Project Manager Andrew Hooker and Carpenter Foreman Charlie Nagale.

Andrew Hooker

Charles Nagale

Coworkers described Hooker as a positive, knowledgeable, honorable and funny person who is always willing to help out, even when he is juggling multiple projects. “He will help with a computer question, a project-related question. He will help unload a truck, build a temporary wall, sweep a floor or get into a mud hole to clean out a drain so the job site is not a muddy mess.”

Coworkers recalled how Nagale’s skills became evident during his work on the Cardinal Shehan School. “A library renovation resulted in a relationship of trust with the school principal. As a result, Cardinal Shehan has looked to Plano-Coudon to help with small renovations each year, but with one requirement that ‘Mr. Charlie’ is involved.” 

Congratulations again to Andrew and Charlie!

On the Job Site

Recent Contract Wins

  • Helping Up Mission Kitchen Renovations – Renovation of existing kitchen and structural improvements.
  • Diageo Project West (Guinness) – Three level renovation of an existing manufacturing building into new tap house, restaurant, and museum area.
  • Riderwood Town Center – Two phase renovation and expansion to the Riderwood Community Town Center Clubhouse and Patio.

Projects in Preconstruction

  • Diageo Project West (Guinness) – Three level renovation of an existing manufacturing building into new tap house, restaurant, and museum area.
  • Helping Up Mission Kitchen Renovations – Renovation of existing kitchen and structural improvements.
  • Northbay Educational Building – Ground up 12,000 SF building for Northbay Adventure Camp.
  • 10 E Pratt Street – Preconstruction services for 10 E. Pratt Street.

Projects in Progress

  • Riderwood Town Center – Two phase renovation and expansion to the Riderwood Community Town Center Clubhouse and Patio.
  • Johns Hopkins University Levi Hall Biology Lab – CM services for renovations to the Levi Hall Biology Lab.
  • 100 S. Charles Street – 1st and 2nd floor lobby renovation at 100 S. Charles Street while building is occupied.
  • National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center – Renovation of an existing building into off site support facility for Aquarium operations.
  • West Annapolis Office Building – Renovation and expansion of existing three story commercial office building in West Annapolis.
  • University of Baltimore Langsdale Library Renovation – $17,000,000 renovation of existing library.
  • University of Maryland Baltimore Medical School Teaching Facility HVAC Upgrades – HVAC upgrades of the MSTF building over a 4 phase project and 6 years.
  • Towson Residence Tower Renovation – $27,000,000 full renovation of a 14 story multi-family building at Towson University.
  • Maryland Port Administration New Warehouse – Demolition and reconstruction of existing Building 91C warehouse.
  • University of Maryland College Park Eppley Center – Includes replacing three existing 28,000 cfm pool air handling units.
  • Seasons Supermarket – Interior fit-out for a new kosher market.

Small Projects Division

  • BGE Electric Operations Building Renovation – $3,000,000 interior renovation of the entry level with stacked restroom renovations on the lower and upper level.
  • Loyola University Ahern Hall – Implementing wet pipe sprinkler system into two campus housing buildings.
  • Loyola University Gardens Apartments – $1,500,000 student housing renovations including bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Loyola University Boulder Café Dining $1,160,000 conversion of existing book store into food service café.
  • Baltimore County Storage Shed Pikesville – Modifications to existing Baltimore Highways shed.
  • Baltimore County Storage Shed Brady Avenue – Modifications to existing Baltimore Highways shed.
  • Horseshoe Casino Phase 2 Improvements – Selective renovations of four areas around the casino.
  • TierPoint Generator – Installation of a new generator.
  • Howard County Mendenhall Court – $161,000 site work for Howard County building construction.
  • Baltimore County Maintenance Building Construction – Design/build site development with pre-manufacturer buildings.
  • Baltimore County Drumcastle Center Renovation – Renovations to Drumcastle building.
  • Medstar Boxhill Pediatrics – Complete build out of a pediatrics doctor’s office.
  • Medstar Neurology Rehabilitation Center – Complete build out of a Neuro rehabilitation center complete with MEP’s, millwork, and finishes.
  • Constellium 17th floor – Interior renovation where we are adding a conference room and two offices.
  • National Aquarium Hospital Tank – Installation of RFP railing, stair platform and hoisting assembly around hospital tank.
  • Baltimore County Northeast Regional Center Wall Damage – Repair wall damaged by a car accident.
  • Baltimore County Westside Shelter Improvements – Furnish new shower stalls.
  • Baltimore County Oregon Ridge Grading – $30,000 grading for positive water flow area of Oregon Ridge Park.
  • Fairhaven Unit Renovations – Multiple unit renovations.
  • Howard County Old Columbia Wall Repair – Furnish and install new shore wall along Tiber River in Ellicott City.

The case of the sinking building

Deep foundation stabilization saves recreation center

The neighborhood recreation center had developed an obvious and worsening problem.

After just 20 years of use, the Hillendale/Halstead PAL Center in Parkville began showing signs of severe settling. Baltimore County, the center’s owner, asked Plano-Coudon Construction to investigate the problem and propose a remedy.

“The building was essentially sinking,” said Blair Radney, Operations Manager of Plano-Coudon’s Small Projects Division. “It was differential settlement so the building was not sinking at the same rate all the way across the foundation and that was causing cracks in the building.”

“There were cracks in the slab in unusual places,” said Cheryl Zaron PE, a structural engineer with Columbia Engineering. “Where there was a column going up through the middle of the building’s interior, there were cracks all around it which meant that the column hadn’t moved, but the slab had sunk.” 

Those foundation cracks were also growing.

During visits to the site over the course of several months, “I could tell just by looking at them that the cracks were getting bigger, which is really rare. With some cracks, I could stick a pencil in them,” Zaron said.

Plano-Coudon, Columbia Engineering and geotechnical engineers from KCI Technologies, Inc. began investigating the source and the severity of the structural issue. Team members tracked down the original plans and specifications for the center.

“We were even able to dig up some field reports made during construction,” Radney said.

To stop the Hillendale/Halstead PAL center from sinking, Plano-Coudon Construction installed new foundation piers at 94 locations around the perimeter and interior of the building.

The team took borings both outside and inside the building to assess the condition of the soil, exposed some of the building’s footing to ensure it was installed according to the original plan, and established a monitoring system to determine if the structure was still moving and how fast. 

“It was still moving, but not at a catastrophic rate,” Radney said. “However, if you didn’t do something to stabilize it, you would eventually lose the building.”

Replacing the building would have burdened the county with a large expense and left the community without a recreation center for an extended period.

Instead, Plano-Coudon and project partners proposed to stabilize the building by installing 94 helical piles around the perimeter and within the interior of the building. Crews used a hydraulic drill to insert each pile into the ground between five feet and 12 feet until it reached a specified torque, ensuring that each pile could support sufficient weight. Workers – operating in trenches that exposed a limited portion of the building’s footing and piers at any one time – then bracketed each pile to the footing.

Work progressed smoothly, despite some challenges and unexpected complications, said Ed Wasilewski, Plano-Coudon’s Small Projects Foreman. At the outset of the project, crews had to spend considerable time hand digging around the building’s perimeter to expose every utility line and drain “because if we had started drilling without that precaution, we would have drilled right through them.”

Once drilling began, crews periodically hit especially hard soil and had to get revised specifications from project engineers for larger drill bits and different sized piles for those locations.

Each new helical pile was drilled 5-12 feet into the ground until it reached a specified torque, ensuring it could support enough weight. Workers then bracketed each pile to the building’s footing.

When operations moved inside, workers faced a new challenge. The space was too tight to accommodate standard equipment and, to save the county money, Plano-Coudon wanted to avoid tearing out any walls, ceilings or other interior components. Consequently, the company sourced specialized, hand-held equipment from the pile manufacturer. The interior machinery took three times as long to install a single pile – sometimes as long as half a day. The choice, however, saved money. And Plano-Coudon still completed the project on schedule.

“The guys wanted to work six days a week and I’m not going to stop anybody from working,” Wasilewski said with a chuckle. “These guys worked long days from sunup to sundown to get this project done.”

After installing the piles, crews drilled more than 300 holes in the building’s slab and pumped specialized concrete beneath the slab to fill any negative spaces and provide a completely solid foundation.

“That building isn’t going anywhere now,” Wasilewski said.

Workers then gave the center new interior finishes “so that it looks like a brand new building,” Radney said. 

Ultimately, the solution to the sinking building “was a reasonably easy fix from the owner’s point of view that cost much less than replacing the building,” Radney said. “This is an important community resource that gets used for a lot of after-school activities, so it was great to be able to fix the problem and let people start using the center again within four months.”

For more photos

Vision of library becomes reality through design-assist process

Plans for a four-story atrium made from glass panels set at irregular angles and supported by a slender steel frame convinced partners in the Langsdale Library project to embrace a less-conventional approach to construction.

Located on the corner of Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street, the redeveloped site will serve not only as a state-of-the-art academic library but also a striking, gateway building to the University of Baltimore campus. Designed by Behnishch Architeckten of Boston which also designed UB’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center, the rebuilt Langsdale Library will feature a modern facade of undulating, metal panels and large, irregular windows; open-concept interiors with an industrial style; and that soaring glass atrium.

“This is an amazing project in the heart of Baltimore and at the core of what we have always done – higher-ed work. And the design of one of a kind,” said Brett Plano, Founder.

That complex design and the need for builders to accurately execute its vision while remaining on budget convinced UB to make Langsdale Library atrium a design-assist project. It contracted Plano-Coudon to manage that process as well as complete the entire library renovation.

For a year, Plano-Coudon collaborated with the architect and TSI Exterior Wall Systems to develop a complete and constructible design for the library.

“It’s a great process. We’re an advocate for it,” Plano said. “If the project had gone a traditional path, the architect would have designed the glass for the atrium, then had a structural engineer design the steel and hoped those components would marry together. Then a subcontractor might come in and say my manufacturer doesn’t like the way you designed the glass, so I’m altering it to match what my manufacturer can do. Then you might have to tweak the structural steel. So you might end up with a different end result than what was envisioned. You can’t take that chance with the focal point of such a unique building.”

Detailed analysis of the atrium plan enabled Plano-Coudon, TSI and the architect to develop a final plan that meets the original vision and addresses both the structural limitations of the project and the desire to minimize the steel frame. It also averted a budget overrun.

“We were advised not to let the project price creep up,” said Cliff Milstead, Project Executive. “So we value engineered the entire building.”

That process identified multiple opportunities for savings, such as rehabilitating one staircase rather than replacing it, and those savings financed the cost of executing the full vision for the atrium.

Construction of the atrium is slated to begin later this spring. Meanwhile, renovation of the existing 58,000-square-foot building is already underway. Plano-Coudon and subcontractors have gutted the interior, removed the exterior veneer and demolished the previous auditorium. By the end of the year, crews will transform the space into a modern, high-tech library with an industrial feel, including large open spaces, glass partitions, polished concrete floors, and exposed ceilings.

“Coordinating the mechanical and electrical to work well in that space is challenging,” said Darryl Richardson, Project Manager. “We have to carefully route everything through bulkheads so that it works right and gives that industrial feel.”

Creating onsite mockups of items ranging from concrete walls and floors to millwork and paint colors has been essential to efficiently and accurately advancing the highly customized project, Richardson said.

“A lot of little details require mockups because nothing in this job is a standard, off-the-shelf item,” Milstead said. “By creating the mockups, we can make sure that we can actually build each component and in the way that the architect and the client are expecting.”

PC FAITH: A simple solution to a business challenge

Think of it as the power of simplicity.

For years, Plano-Coudon had described its company culture and values through thoughtful, extensive language developed through company-wide consultations.

“The concepts were good,” said Brett Plano, Founder. “But like typical engineers, we wanted to put everything in everything. The mission tied to the vision and both incorporated the core values and each value had a statement explaining it. It was too detailed – so detailed that it wasn’t memorable.”

So during their most recent strategic planning meetings, Plano-Coudon leaders discussed options to simplify those core statements of company culture.

At the fourth quarter company update meeting in February, Founders Ryan Coudon and Plano unveiled PC FAITH – the condensed expression of the company’s core values of Positivity, Community, Fire in the belly, Accountability, Integrity, Teamwork and Health.

Spending time identifying, distilling and clearly expressing core values delivers tangible benefits to a company, Plano said. Those values guide day-to-day decision making, prove vital to making particularly tough decisions and help individuals “do the right thing even when no one is looking.”

They ensure that clients, project partners and subcontractors consistently have the same kinds of interactions with Plano-Coudon staff and consistently see work completed in the same manner and to the same standards.

Simplifying the expression of company values helped company leaders better understand and reinforce certain values.

In PC FAITH, for example, company leaders selected the word Health to show that Plano-Coudon is committed to more than job safety. It is also committed to the overall wellness of employees, work-life balance and being a caring organization.

Clearly identified values has also helped Plano-Coudon with recruitment.

“We consciously look for people who demonstrate a cultural fit, who demonstrate our core values before they ever get here,” Plano said. “We have gotten much better in the past five to six years at hiring with those values in mind. Ultimately, we are a better company for it.”