In Superior, Colorado, a client came to us with a specific aesthetic he was aiming for. He grabbed inspiration for his dream home from the open feel and industrial charm of warehouse buildings. Specifically, he wanted double-height ceilings, raised walkways, and grand windows that would overlook the mountains on his corner lot. Hiding behind that request was the reality that the current pesky walls play a role in home design and make it hard to transform the residence into his commercial warehouse vision. In this case, making a “simple” home was going to be a challenge - the intricate dance between structural integrity and architectural innovation.
What do I mean by the challenge of simplicity? The best way I can describe it is to give an analogy: Remember the time you stacked playing cards to build a house…you probably struggled to get those first two cards stacked up like little walls before you dared place the card on top making your first card-floor. Adding more cards was much easier once you had a bunch of them, in fact, the more you added, the easier the whole thing began to grow, and you could even feel the stack getting stronger. However, removing even a single card from the center can lead to a collapse. Remember how the house of cards got stronger once you started to place the horizontal cards…well those played an important role as well by tying the whole thing together, which helped resist lateral loads. In a way, this is how homes are built. All those seemingly insignificant, small walls in a home keep the big walls standing. Contrastingly, commercial buildings already have larger open spaces intended so those little walls don’t do much for the structure.
In our case, the large windows on the west side meant the walls required stiff columns from the floor to the upper roof, which carried that load to the opposite side of the house. Since it didn’t have a floor between it, we had to stiffen this wall up, by putting vertical LVLs in the wall at full height. LVLs are typically what you see supporting a floor load so seeing them in the wall surprised the contractor as well as the framers. In the end, we accomplished a dynamic space with the best views in Superior, Colorado. We were fortunate to have an amazing structural engineer, HCDA Engineering, who constantly provides creative ideas to support the project vision and allow our clients to dream big.
So you decided to make this year’s resolution an addition to your home or remodel your office! That is exciting for sure. Here’s a quick reference on how to plan your project. While we don’t cover all aspects or challenges, this guide should help you along with some of the main points in getting your project on the right track.
Early Planning is Critical.
Selecting an architect, finding a contractor, and getting through the building department, take time. It’s vital to jump on these as soon as possible, there aren’t any shortcuts out there. It’s been said, “You can have quality, quantity, or quick service…but you can ONLY PICK ONE”. A rushed design typically means weak drawings, which often leads to costly change orders. A rushed construction project typically means poor installation, which can lead to re-work because the work doesn’t pass inspection. There is absolutely no rushing the Permit, regardless of any information you may have received suggesting otherwise. Allow enough time to be engaged with the architect, so you are 100% aware of what they are designing and know exactly what to expect when it’s built.
Don’t rush construction. A contractor can hire the fast guy that is ready today, or hire the right guy that might take a few more days to come off another project. This is all the more reason to plan early. Make sure you are involved in these conversations about schedule with your contractor. If you are always pounding your fist on the table to work faster…the contractor is going to cut corners. All these things should be written down on a GANTT chart to see how they tabulate over time. For example; Design: 2 months, Permitting: 3 months, Construction: 4 months – That isn’t a schedule of 9 months, that is a schedule of 9 months at the absolute earliest. Add some time in there for contingency because things happen. That should be reflected in your schedule as well. Also, note that some types of construction have seasons, otherwise you pay a huge premium. Concrete (for example) starts near the front of most projects, however, it cannot be poured in cold weather. All of these details you have to consider and expect for your new construction project.
Setting Realistic Budgets.
One of the first things we ask a client at JDC Architecture and Design is what is your budget? A client that bases a commercial remodel budget on their neighbor's basement remodel, which they completed 10 years ago, is certainly heading for project overruns. Costs are constantly increasing with inflation. So if you base a cost per square foot on a similar project 2 years ago, well that CSF just went up 6% (let's say 3% per year) with inflation. And if your project will start construction in a year, then you need to account for another 3% anticipating the price rise. There is a big difference between construction costs and project costs. Construction costs are generally tossed around when you are asking about components of your project; for example, flooring is roughly $7 PSF, framing can be $25 PSF, and, concrete is generally $15 PSF, etc. Add all of those up and you have a construction budget, but keep in mind that general conditions (porta potty, temperature power, supervision, hauling, taxes, etc…) can be another 13% to 20% more depending on who is bidding the work. You will also have to consider design (which can be 10%-15%), permitting (another 3%), utilities, testing, and insurance. When I tell people that this typically adds up to another 35% to 50%, they typically go into denial. Carefully research this.
You Will Get What You Pay For.
Every project requires a certain amount of design and engineering to make sure you have a good set of plans to build from. Every project requires a certain amount of management to make sure everyone is getting paid, and there’s no one getting too far behind. Every project requires a certain amount of communication to ensure permits are getting done, products are getting ordered, shop drawings are getting reviewed, and inspections are getting called for. If you have hired the cheapest architect or the cheapest builder there’s a good chance they’ve had to cut some of this out to be affordable.
We empower you to educate yourself about the various facets of the design and construction process. Being a partner in your project alongside your builder and designer can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences.
Let's start by breaking down the American College of Radiology's white paper on MRI safety guidelines. Can you explain the four basic zones surrounding an MRI suite?
“You can picture these zones as layers of protection. Zone I encompasses areas freely accessible to the public, like the entrance, where the magnet poses no threat. Zone II is the buffer between public spaces and the more restricted areas, like the reception and screening rooms. Zone III restricts access with coded doors, allowing only approved personnel and screened patients. Zone IV is the room where the magnet is located. Access to Zone IV should only be possible by passing through Zone III. Zone IV is also designed so that the walls of magnet room contain the five 0.5 mT line (or 5 Gauss) line of the fringe field of the magnet."
How does this translate into a three-dimensional consideration?
“MRI's magnetic forces extend beyond the machine's footprint. Therefore it's just as crucial for a designer to understand that these magnetic forces can be exerted on a basement below an MRI or even on a floor above an MRI or quite often to the outside of the building where it's easy to forget that someone might be walking around the outside of a building. And these cases you cannot easily implement the ACR zones above."
Can you elaborate on the challenges designers face in implementing these MRI safety measures?
“While it's relatively simple to envision these safety zones on a flat plane, the challenge arises when you introduce height and depth. Designers need to consider the magnetic forces on different levels and the surroundings. It's easy to overlook the fact that someone might be walking around the exterior of the building, potentially exposed to magnetic fields. Passive shielding becomes a crucial tool in addressing these concerns.”
How does passive shielding work, and when is it necessary?
“Passive shielding acts as a protective barrier against magnetic forces. When the potential impact zone extends beyond the immediate surroundings of the MRI, designers will strategically apply metal sheeting to counteract these forces. It becomes necessary when the safety of individuals outside, above, or below the MRI is at risk. For this we typically look for the five gauss line which has been recognized as the maximum field that could be exerted on the public. Any force 5 gauss or higher must be shielded with either a passive shield or a way to ensure that no public could accidentally walk into this field."
Any other considerations on MRI safety measures?
“Yes, one last consideration is the cryogen gas used to cool the machine. This works much like refrigeration lines to your air conditioner. Though they are often extremely cold to help produce the superconductor temperatures. Although these gases are contained within the machines that cool the MRI, consideration should be given in the event that there is a cryogen leak inside the MRI. In this particular example, the room becomes pressurized with these gases (which by the way would suffocate a person inside the room). In part, because the rooms are so tight to shield the RF signals, the rooms can become so pressurized that the door pushing into the room cannot be opened because of the pressure against it. It's for this reason that MRI doors should open outward to avoid this dangerous condition.”
JDC Architecture & Design is proud to partner with TEEG Engineering, C3S Engineering & Edifice Builders in creating a new home for Atlas Physical Therapy. This remodel will provide (9) new rehab treatment spaces, gym and pilates, in a new clinic in Congress Park.
Working with Karl Bebendorf (owner of Atlas PT) and his staff, we employed our "design first" process delivering a fully engineered design in less than 3 weeks, with permits reviewed and approved in less than 1 week. We are very appreciative of the efforts of the talented engineers at TEEG and C3S, for their hard work.