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.

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