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Creative solutions and collaboration with trade partners lead to budget- and schedule-saving options for clients.

At 30 years old, the Washington County, Charles D. Cameron Public Services Building in Portland, Oregon, required improvements to protect the building from earthquakes, eliminate water leakage in the basement, update mechanical systems that had reached their usable life, and modernize for today's workforce. With needs ranging from seismic resiliency and energy efficiency to code compliance, it came down to finding options and offering creative solutions to both maximize the client’s budget and perform the necessary upgrades to outfit the building for the future.

Tasked with saving schedule and budget, the team first evaluated constructability to determine the best value solution for the seismic resiliency enhancements. To address this, the team developed an exterior concrete shear wall solution that used interior permanent formwork, allowing interiors to be built immediately after concrete pour. “By doing this, we saved money on duplicative efforts that come from framing a form, removing, and then building a wall. It also reduced schedule time by eliminating steps had we done it the traditional way,” said Superintendent Shawn Cottrell.

Modernizing MEP

While fortifying the exterior and equipping the building to withstand a big earthquake was a primary reason for the renovation, equally as important was the MEP upgrade. Constructed in the 1980s, the building could have used a complete MEP upgrade, but to keep the project within budget, the team identified a menu of scope options to present to the client. “We looked at all new electrical – including utility feeds and metering, lighting, complete new mechanical system, and extensive low voltage and security options. By working through those pricing components, the owner was able to prioritize scope based on its budget and most pressing need,” said Preconstruction Manager Rob Means. The project team also compared replacing lighting controls and light fixtures to salvaged and restored existing components. The owner made informed decisions about where to purchase new and where to salvage and re-use.

At the beginning of the MEP development process, the team noticed that the existing circuiting and electrical layout in the building did not match the as-builts, requiring a creative solution. Instead of rewiring the entire building, or using inaccurate information, we developed a complete circuiting as-built for the design team to use to develop the most cost-effective solution to meet the new layout. “During installation, we discovered duct board in the medium-pressure system that was unusable,” said Project Manager Cory McPherson. “We figured out how to include a complete replacement by developing a more efficient layout and design while meeting the original project schedule at half the original estimated cost.”

Dollar-Saving Solutions

The MEP system was not the only place the team found creative ways to save the owner money. During preconstruction services, the electrical engineer indicated that we needed to relocate an existing transformer due to its proximity to required excavation. Knowing this was an original transformer, we researched the details of such a move and found out that the original switchgear that the transformer serviced no longer met code and would have to be replaced and relocated from the basement to the first floor—along with all the conductors to the transformer—a significant, budget- busting scope in a building that was continuously occupied during renovation. Instead, we found an alternative solution to protect the transformer and avoided replacing the switchgear. We worked with the shoring trade partner to add a shoring wall which allowed the transformer to maintain its original location and saved the project nearly a million dollars.

From budget- and schedule-saving solutions to resolving constructability issues, it was the relationship with our trade partners in the field and collaboration with the owner that translated to project success.