Week of March 18 - March 22, 2013

On Monday this week, I received a call from the owner wondering if the contractor needed to build a wall cutting off open attic space from an unfinished room in the apartment upstairs in the day care facility. This is something that we discussed in the pre-construction meeting, but had not brought up since. I told the owner and contractor that I believed it was going to be necessary, but would contact the MEP Engineer to verify. The contractor replied that he did not believe it was shown on the bid documents or included in what they bid, and the owner replied that he really did not want to have to pay anything additional for the wall. The MEP Engineer was also not entirely sure of the wall's necessity given the odd condition of the space, but noted that it was called out on his sprinkler plans as a one-hour firewall to be built by the general contractor. On Tuesday, I called the contractor to inform him of the note about this wall in the sprinkler plans. Before I could tell him about the note, he informed me that the fire inspector had just completed a lengthy inspection of the building (including the space in question) and raised no issues. Given that the only purpose of the wall if required would be for fire protection of the open attic space, we agreed to leave the wall out for now, and add it later if it was raised by the inspector as a necessary item. He conceded that it would be his responsibility to build the wall if the inspector raised the point. I explained all of this to the owner afterwards, and the owner is content with the outcome of the situation.

In a separate conversation in the same phone call as above, the contractor expressed concern to me that the owner's "friend" who is supposed to be installing new VCT throughout the facility, has been difficult to reach and has not yet come on-site. The contractor stated that this was not yet an issue for him, but that it could become one if the flooring continued to be a delay. We agreed to play it by ear, and I agreed to talk to the owner about the situation if such a conversation becomes necessary in the coming few weeks. The contractor noted that he could probably match the price and product the owner's friend is providing and complete the work faster. This outcome would be agreeable for me, especially from a quality-control standpoint, but I will let the situation play out before raising any concerns with the owner.

No more issues were brought up with the day care project this week. I did, on Friday evening, receive an email in regards to the renovation of a building in downtown Fayetteville. Details in the email were sparse, but it could be a very interesting project. Hopefully more details will be forthcoming after a discussion with the client next week.

As far as lessons go, from the beginning of this post it is key to take away the the importance of good note-taking and distribution of meeting minutes throughout a project. As I mentioned, the wall issue was covered in the pre-construction meeting, but I failed to take and send out minutes from that meeting. I could have saved myself, the contractor, and the owner the initial headache that accompanied dealing with the situation described if I had taken and sent out minutes as I should have.

Week of March 11 - March 15, 2013

I conducted a site visit of the project on Tuesday of this week. With the sprinkler contractor out of the building, things seem to be moving along quickly for the general contractor's crew in the day care facility renovation. Moving through the building, I saw no issues with the construction to this point. Only two minor questions arose during the meeting. First, the general contractor was wondering if it was necessary to box the riser for the sprinkler system as it rose through an unfinished portion of the apartment on the second level of the building. I informed him that the riser needed to carry one-hour protection, even and especially through the unfinished space, and therefore it did need to be boxed, with two layers of sheetrock. The second question was brought up by the owner. In order to make the existing restrooms in this facility handicapped accessible (all are the same layout), we pulled the toilets each forward two feet to clear the sink beside them and allow for access from the side. In boxing behind the toilets after moving them forward, the owner pointed out, we had created dead space that was inaccessible. With the plumbing located in the ground, his suggestion was to cut off the box-out at 4'0" in height, accomplishing the same handicapped accessible layout while creating a large shelf area to be used for the storage of toilet paper and paper towels. I discussed this idea with the general contractor and saw no reason why not to do it, so we elected to take the suggestion and cut the box-out at 4' in height.

Construction is on track to finish before scheduled, and owner and contractor seem to be coexisting happily in the facility. No further issues were brought up with this project this week.

Week of March 04 - March 08, 2013

This week was Spring Break at NCSU, and I was out of town and unavailable for most of the week. Shortly before leaving town, however, I was contacted by the GC's superintendent with a question from the owner and the sprinkler contractor's underground subcontractor. They were wondering if there was any reason to run the pipe from the main at the street to the front of the building as we had shown instead of bringing it directly into the riser room on the side of the building, thus eliminating the need for a box-out for the pipe in a front office of the facility. I reminded the owner that we chose to run the pipe where it was shown to avoid associated complications in the event that he ever chose to add on to the facility, as the side where the pipe would be underground would be the only direction in which to add to the building. We discussed this for a few minutes, and ended up deciding to run it to the side after all. Adding onto the side of the building will still be possible, the pipe would just need to be protected when digging and pouring the footings. With this possibility being a ways off and not being a great concern anyway, I thought that avoiding a box-out in the office by bringing the pipe along the side of the building and into the closet where the riser is was a perfectly acceptable solution.

Upon returning from my trip, there were no new messages for me in regards to this project. I called the GC and the owner and both parties reported that everything was going smoothly.

Week of February 25 - March 01, 2013

We heard back on Monday of this week that the private school in Fayetteville who contacted us about enclosing a walkway between two of its buildings has decided not to go forward with the project based on the projected cost. Given the client and the importance placed on cost-cutting in previous discussions, I can't say that this is a surprising revelation.

On Tuesday I received a call from the owner informing me out of the blue that we would be needing an additional bathroom in the project. This caught me off-guard early in the morning, and I informed him that I would look into the issue and call him back. The owner's reasoning came from an occupancy calculation that he did himself for approval of the facility's changes and increased occupancy from the child care division of the Department of Health and Human Services. He told me that his calculation put the maximum number of children in the facility at 53, and that when he submitted this paperwork he was informed that the maximum number of children per toilet is 15 - this facility having 3 toilets. After this initial phone call I went back through my email to find a conversation with the director of Child Development Services at DHHS. I will relate this story below as an aside: _____________________________________
When we were initially calculating the maximum occupancy for this building and determining whether the existing toilet facilities would be sufficient, we first looked to the building code to determine the number of square feet per children for a day care, then looked to the DHHS NCAC's child care code to verify this number. What we found were conflicting numbers referring to the same type of facility - these numbers being 25 square feet per child in the Accessibility Code "10A NCAC 09 .0206 Capacity of the Center" and 35 square feet per occupant, net in the 2009 NCBC "Table 1004.1.1" for "Function of Space - Day Care".

These numbers, and determining which would apply, were very important to us for two reasons - the first being that the day care, as any business does, exists to make money, and the amount of money it is able to make is dependent on the capacity of the facility. Secondly, these numbers put us at either 53 or 42 children total capacity, which in turn affected the required count of toilets in the facility. If the 42 children number was correct, the facility's existing three toilets would suffice. If the 53 number was correct, a bathroom would have to be added as part of the renovations.

To find an answer to this question, I sent an email to the Regulatory Services Section of the DHHS Division of Child Development and Early Education. An initial exchange with the DCDEE Policy and Planning Consultant left my question forwarded to the DCDEE licensing supervisor for Cumberland County. This woman, in turn, informed me that the number of square feet per child for a developmental day care facility such as the one in question would be either 30SF or 35SF depending on the amount of outdoor play space available. The outdoor play space at the time left the requirement for this facility at 35SF, which meant that the toilet situation was okay without the addition of another bathroom. The existing restrooms were still retrofitted with easy-to-reach-fixture sinks and the toilets moved to meet current handicap accessibility code, but it was nice to avoid having to add another bathroom to satisfy occupancy requirements. __________________________________________________

Once I had time to replay the above exchanges in my head and recall them further via archived emails, I called the owner and related the situation. He resubmitted the form to DHHS with the proper occupancy calculation numbers and had no problems with it going through. This goes to show the importance of checking all your facts and getting numbers straight the first time around, as well as the importance of saving key email exchanges for later reference. In this case, because of the owner's knee-jerk reaction and the contractor's willingness to add anything and everything desired to the contract for a change-order, it may have saved the owner a substantial amount of money and time (given the city's history with this project so far) on the renovation. I like to think that this is a prime example of why hiring an architect makes sense, even for relatively small projects. While some people may see an additional fee, what they unfortunately do not see is the value added and money saved throughout the course of the project.

The rest of this week was relatively quiet. The sprinkler contractor was able to finish other than a few last touches that will occur after the GC has completed work, and the GC's work is reportedly running smoothly so far.

Week of February 18 - February 22, 2013

I received a call on Monday morning from the sprinkler company's underground contractor in regards to the tap at the water main along the street. It was his understanding for some reason that this had already been taken care of, but when he arrived on site he found that it had not (the work bid in this job was to the property line, which does not include tapping the main at the street). In talking to the owner in the preceding weeks, I described this as one of his responsibilities given the limited fee that I am working under and the fact that he has had contact with the underground contractor who the utility company indicated should be used to make the tap. Regardless of fault, the tap was not completed, so I apologized to the underground subcontractor and told him that instead of having him wait around all day, he should proceed to another job and I would get the tap done and notify him as soon as possible. I next called the owner, who stated that he had been unable to reach the utility company's recommended underground contractor the past few times he tried. I instructed the owner to try again, while I contacted the sprinkler contractor's underground contractor to get a price from him for the same work. On Tuesday, I received a price of $3,500 for this work from the sprinkler contractor's underground contractor. I was not sure what to think of this number, as the price previously given to us by the utility company's underground contractor was $500. By the end of the day on Tuesday, the owner notified me that he was able to get up with the utility company's underground contractor, who was still willing to honor the price of $500 and could come out to the site to complete the job on Thursday. I told the owner to give him the go-ahead for Thursday, then called the sprinkler company's underground contractor to notify him that the tap would be completed by the end of the day on Thursday. With his company's work schedule, he said it would make the most sense for them to get started on their portion of the work on the following Monday, February 25, and this was agreeable to me.

Also on Monday, I received a call from the general contractor saying that he went downtown to the inspections department to pick up the building permit and, after picking it up while headed for the door, he was notified that he would need to submit a phasing schedule for construction to the city before starting work if children were to remain in the building while work was to be completed. I was unsure of where this was coming from, as we discussed this issue and our plans for it at length with the chief building inspector for the city weeks previously and no mention of a phasing schedule submittal was made. After some further investigation, we realized that the source of this direction was a man unfamiliar with the project who actually works in the zoning department. With a building permit in-hand and no reason otherwise to further delay the process, I notified the general contractor to proceed as scheduled. They would start with patch-work in the upstairs portion of the building on Wednesday.

On Thursday, I received a call from the GC's superintendent, letting me know that the underground contractor was working on tapping the main at the street, and also informing me that the sprinkler contractor had begun installing heads in the downstairs area without consulting the GC on changes in wall locations and shifting ceiling grids. I immediately asked to speak with the sprinkler contractor's lead installer, who informed me that somehow he did not have a set of architectural plans showing the changes to be made in the layout of the building. I explained the changes to him over the phone, and luckily he had not yet moved past an area of the downstairs that is remaining unchanged. I told him to make sure he coordinated head locations with the GC, and arranged for a copy of the architectural plan set to be delivered to his crew immediately.

Lastly, I called the GC and the owner on Friday to inform them of the developments over the week.

Week of February 11 - February 15, 2013

This week, a contract was finally put in place between the owner and the general contractor for the day care renovation. After lengthy discussions with both parties, it was decided upon that the $6,000 increase on the electrical subcontract would be covered by way of the $5,000 miscellaneous allowance in the existing contract plus an additional $1,000 change order. This way, the original contract price is only increasing marginally - on the downside, however, this agreement leaves us without a cushion to fall back upon if any change orders or unforeseen additional work is needed. The contract was filled out with the new date and amount, and sent to the contractor via email to sign. The signed contract was then faxed to me. I verified that the contractor's information was correct and then forwarded the document to the owner to sign. I retained this original document and sent copies to both parties. In the meantime, the sprinkler contractor (who established his own contract with the owner before making an initial materials purchase months ago) has completed the sprinkler system installation on the second floor, and will be moving to the first floor next week.

We also sent a proposal to the private school in Fayetteville this week for creating plans for their requested enclosure between two buildings. We have not yet heard back from them regarding the proposal.