Thursday, March 24, 2011
It was 73 yesterday this weekend in Denver, but I wouldn't have known it since I was in the office. Spring makes for an uncomfortable time in large buildings here in Denver. Our spring weather has multiple personalities--it's 60, then it's 40 and raining, then it's 70, then it's 35 and snowing, and my ass has been through so many freeze-thaw cycles that I think it's just going to give up and fall off. Well, at least then maybe I can find some jeans that fit. Anyway, many large commercial and residential buildings are designed such that going from heating to cooling is a major undertaking--it isn't something you just flip over every other day as you feel like it. Once you flip the system to heat, the HVAC system is going to pump out warm air until sometime in late April or early May, at which point we will switch the system over to cooling, and then the system will pump out cool air from May to October. So if you get a hot day in March or a cold day in August, you're just gonna have to deal. Hence, we've had to turn the heat off and open the doors in the Happy Kitten Highrise condo here lately, and the kittehs are enjoying the sunbeams and fresh air and the change in weather.
The warm-up is making for an interesting office environment, too, and not just because we haven't switched over the HVAC system. Part of the reason that we've been so cold the last couple of winters is that there haven't been as many bodies and computers in the building, what with the layoffs and recession. But lately, we've been a-hiring and now the office is filling up again with bodies and computers and activity. I actually broke a sweat the other day just walking around the office. It seems that work is picking up, and we're getting some projects in finally (mostly healthcare, to be fair, but work is work, and of course I prefer healthcare over anything else).
But back to me being in the office on a lovely, sunny, 73-degree Saturday in Da Mile Hizzle: wtf? Well, one of the largest (and busiest and most profitable) departments in Gestalt HMO's Uber MOB came to us furious back in January. They didn't like where they were in the building, and they didn't like their layout at all, and we better fix this right away. So, having to revamp the entire floor on which they were situated put the project behind schedule, especially the interior part. In order for us to make up time, we're having to separate out the core and shell from the tenant infill. This means that the exterior, structure, floors, and roofs as well as the stairs and elevators and main toilet rooms on each floor and utility rooms will be released to the contractor before the tenant infill (i.e., all the departments of the clinic) will be released, and that core and shell will start construction first. (Note: this happens a lot when building a big building. I've done it in buildings as small as 60,000 sf.) But it also means that we're having to work fast and furious to squeeze as much air out of the schedule as we can and to make up the month-long delay as best we can between now and the end of the design schedule this fall. And that means working some nights and weekends. Hence, Shorty's in the office on a Saturday.
And Gestalt Colorado is getting pressure from the home Gestalt office in the midwest: deliver this building on time, at or under budget, on schedule, and not over-sized. Gestalt National told the local Gestalt Design and Construction crew that the building's total area on all five floors can be no more than 241,313 sf. Fine. However, in the process of laying out the building as well as making it look good on the outside and allowing for easy expansion later, we've found that the building needs to be 242,524 sf. And Gestalt National is having None Of It: get the building down to 241,313 or it's not happening. And they're putting pressure on some very reasonable folks about this, and the pressure is turning these wonderful people into unreasonable folks who fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. Howie and Sven and I have gone into meetings with these reasonable local Gestalt folks who suddenly start shouting and refusing to even hear us out on an idea of how to possibly fix the square footage issue without compromising the building's function or look.
So, yes. We're about to jump through some flaming hoops over an extra 1,211 sf in a nearly quarter-million sf building. We are arguing over five-thousandths of the building's total area.
It's a bean counter issue, not an architectural issue. Probably, someone who is good at estimating initial cost but does not fully understand construction costs, engineering, and making a clinical space actually work has set this 241,313 in stone and refuses to let anyone else budge from it. Sadly, in order to fix this short-sighted imposition, we'll either have to take a few inches off the outside of the building all the way around, or we'll have to engage in some engineering dynamics that will cost more than just letting us build the extra 1,211 sf. Plus, depending on how the 1,211 sf is taken out of the building, it could affect the flow of staff and patients through some very busy departments, including the one that we've been redesigning a whole floor for. Are we really "saving" anything here?
So, we have to figure out how to get this extra area out without hurting patient and staff flow or making the building look funny. And it takes a lot of time (which we don't have) and effort (which we do have, but it's easy to get burned out when banging your head against this all day). So, I'm working weekends.