Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The agony of renovations (or, one of the reasons for this blog's name)

I remembered recently why I hate renovations. Well, hate might be a strong word. I intermittently loathe renovations, especially renovations on really old buildings. Nothing old enough to be on the National Register of Historic Places, the renovation of which would probably make you walk around with a vodka-and-cranberry-juice IV drip, but just really old stuff. I've blogged before about how it's hard to reuse old hospitals and bring them up to today's space and HVAC/electrical standards as well as building, accessibility, and healthcare codes, and I'm revisiting some of those old pains again on my two surgery renovation projects. Pour a fresh glass of cabernet, kids, and gather 'round.

A few weeks ago, Intern Timmy and I went to the site for TCMC and did some as-builting. We brought a print (to 1/8" scale) of the CAD plan for TCMC and measured just about everything, just to make sure our CAD plan was up to date. Some of the existing walls in the building were going to be used for temporary walls that will separate the surgery suite as we remodel it in phases, and we have one option for remodeling that involves expanding the surgery suite outside the existing building and adding on, so we have to make sure that the exterior doors and walls and whatnot really are where the plan says they are. So, Intern Timmy and I bring along a 25' measuring tape (the one 100' tape our office has was checked out) and measured. every. single. wall. and. door. and. thing. inside. and. out.

Or so we thought. When I went back again for a second visit, I made a few more measurements. With those fnial measurements, Timmy was ready to properly build the model in Revit, which is a 3D software that's replacing CAD as the gold standard for drawing and documenting projects. As he built the model, he brought to my attention that our as-builts showed that the building was 10' shorter than the old drawings from 1965 said. "We match architectural," he said, "but not structural." We mused on this, compared the architectural plans to the structural plans, and then I proclaimed that something was amiss and we would just have to tell Howie about it sometime soon when he'd finished everything else in the model. We were damn sure of those as-built measurements, so we know we didn't make a mistake there.

There was an obvious solution to the problem, but Intern Timmy and I hadn't figured it out yet. It wasn't until a few hours before a meeting with the contractor that we a) told Howie the problem and b) realized the obvious solution. We were meeting with the contractor to show them what we had built in the Revit model and ask them about what they need to make the model useful to them. Contractors can use Revit models to help them figure out scheduling as well as pricing--the model can tell you exactly how many square feet of drywall it has in it, how many feet of wall (divided by 16" and you find out how many studs you need to buy), how many yards of concrete, etc. So, Howie's looking at the plans, looking at our 10" bust in dimensions, gets appalled and offended by how we took our as-built dimensions (Timmy told him that someone had the 100' tape checked out, but it was cold comfort to him), and by the time he suggested the obvious solution, he was beside himself with annoyance that approached anger and was inconsolable.

He said, "Did you check your math when you added up all these dimensions along the outside wall?"

Wow, um...no. No, we didn't. And Intern Timmy and I shared a glance that was something between why didn't we think of that? and do you have a sharp object I can stick in my eye right now?

So he made us take almost an hour to check our math on the dimensions, and then he returned to check our math once again with us (and at this point, Timmy and I were annoyed beyond belief, thinking "Let it go, already.") and lo and behold, we were only 1.25" off from the drawings, which is pretty good for as-builting in the field. We then had to locate a line of columns in the surgery suite (which of course, when located properly, ended up right in every main hall we had in the frickin' suite) and then save the Revit files onto a jump drive to take to the contractor's office.

By the time we got to their office, Howie had calmed down, and the meeting went well. He appears to have gotten over it, but for a while there we thought we were going to have to clean out our desks. And Timmy and I realized that we still need to go confirm some more dimensions, because we're getting yet another dimension bust at one of the walls that we're going to use to separate the two construction phases, and we really need to know where that wall is. And that news reminded me of why renovations make me drink. Heavily.


St. Blogwen said...

Sears makes a nice cheap Craftsman brand foot-inch calculator . . .


This reminds me of a time a colleague and I were sent out to verify the as-built dimensions of a spec office building floor and discovered it really was a couple-three feet shy of what was called for on the original drawings. The head interior designer had already laid out the space plan (acres and acres of Herman Miller desks and file cabinets) and the true column positions totally bollixed up her scheme. She looks at us young architects and says, "There's a column in the way there? Why can't you just tell them to move it?"

Anonymous said...

When this happens to me on existing buildings, it is always the wall thickness that is the problem. It is easy to measure the inside of a room and the outside of a building. It is harder to measure the thickness of a wall, especially if there are not any opening through it.

BaxtersMum said...

its what's for dinner.

xtine said...

Vodka and cranberry juice is one of the best drinks ever! ♥

Btw? My verification word is imath.