Projects

Architecture, Projects /

The Fred Pirkle Engineering Technology Center: Honoring a Legacy

After two years of construction and anticipation, the Fred Pirkle Engineering Technology Center opened early last spring. The innovative learning center houses state-of-the-art classrooms, specialized labs, and faculty and staff offices for the Agricultural Sciences and Engineering Technology departments at Sam Houston State University (SHSU). Made possible by a generous donation by SHSU alumnus Fred Pirkle, the building is already enhancing learning for the programs’ 1,500+ students.

I chatted with Lawrence Group’s Earl Swisher, principal-in-charge of the project, to learn more about the design process and the creative influences that went into the new home of the Agricultural Sciences and Engineering Technology departments of SHSU.

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Architecture, Inspiration, People, Projects /

Challenge Accepted at Habitat for Humanity

THE BEGINNING

Have you ever made an offer to someone thinking that they wouldn’t take it…then they do? That’s exactly what happened in the case of the new Habitat for Humanity Restore location. In this instance, I’m glad our team accepted the challenge and volunteered their time to create nothing short of a piece of art.

   

When Linda Loewenstein approached Lawrence Group to come up with signage schemes for the new Restore location, the scope was vaguely defined. They wanted something that differentiated their merchandise space from their office space and that was more than just vinyl graphics for wayfinding. They wanted something that would activate their space and give life to their new home. As a not-for-profit, cost was important, and it was anticipated that a lot of the time, labor and materials would be donated. Lastly, the timeline was aggressive — a little over a month from start to finish. All of these seemingly impossible factors helped shape the beautiful product and made for a great experience.

THE TEAM

The team started with Alex Duenwald and Galen Vassar. Rawan Abusaid and I were brought on soon after the first meetings. We came up with a few possible schemes, or kit of parts, that could be repeated throughout the space. Restore was instantly drawn to one in particular for the office lobby. After a few modifications, the concept was finalized and documented. By this point, we only had two weeks to acquire materials and build it. I consulted with Scott Zola, our director of construction services, to make sure we weren’t crazy by thinking we could build this in basically five lunch hours! The construction team was comprised of several people over the course of the week; Galen Vassar, Alex Duenwald, Rawan Abusaid, Andy McAllister, Melinda Starkey, Mary Sue Sutton, Dean Sutton, Julie Spengler, Olivia Welby, Jenny Brcic, Adam Brcic, Erin Hoffmann, Alicia Luthy, Sue Noce, John Smith, and Linda and John Loewenstein.

HAPPY ACCIDENTS : AN ANECDOTE

We designed and documented the bench and wall-piece around 2’x4’ units that were cut at 1”, 1.5” and 2”. However, when Linda sent me a progress update on how many pieces her husband had cut (500+), she mentioned she had him cutting 4×4’s. In a state of panic, I called her to see if John could halt that operation and cut 500+ 2’x4’s so that we wouldn’t have to alter the design and measurements. Much to their chagrin, they obliged. When they dropped the materials off, it was clear that the bare 4’x4’s had a lot more charm and character than bare 2’x4’s. The team took a vote and decided that using the 4’x4’ would not only look better, but we would have significantly fewer units to work with. This meant I had to call Linda back and beg for her to beg her husband to cut 500+ MORE 4’x4’s! This was a lesson of recognizing when to stick to the original design and when to entertain something new, even when it means altering a PERFECT set of drawings.

 

CONSTRUCTION : A CLICHE OR TWO

Pictures are worth 1,000 words…

   

    

    

With the change from a 2’x4’ unit to a 4’x4’ unit, many details had to be figured out during the construction process. It was extremely beneficial having a variety of volunteers on the team, each with different skillsets. One lesson we learned was that even if you have many people helping, it’s only efficient if you have enough of the right tools. The cliché “too many cooks in the kitchen” held true. My rebuttal, there can be infinite cooks in the kitchen if you have enough space and equipment. Here are some stats:

  • 500+ 4’x4’ blocks glued down
  • 130 linear feet of 2’x4’ used
  • 1 person cutting 1,000+ blocks = 8 hours
  • 67 total man hours of construction

All of the wood for the project was reclaimed from Habitat for Humanity build sites around town.

 

CONCLUSION

Not only were people excited and willing to give their time to create something beautiful, but the product truly transformed the space. Volunteering can be so much more than just giving up time if everybody involved can be excited about something tangible. I hope that other organizations and institutions see this project as a testament to the diligence of design, commitment to our community and willingness to give more than just time to any given project.

   

Check out this article in Town & Style’s June 6, 2018 issue.

 

People, Projects /

3 Intangibles to Design-Build

The design-build delivery method can set the stage for a smoother running project. The designer and the constructor sit at the same table with the owner from the beginning, understanding requirements and minimizing lapses in communication. When done well, this single source method of contracting has several side benefits for the project team such as quicker speed to market, higher quality, better overall value and cost, less change orders and less claims.

Some owners, designers and contractors dive right into the design-build contract arrangement thinking it will solve any problem, but the legal contract alone is not enough. There are several intangibles that contribute to the repeated success of the often complex commercial construction projects. Below are just three:

Awareness: The first step in working better together is to make sure team members are aware of, understand, and respect the roles and goals of the stakeholders in a project. For example, the designer should provide a safe, functional, code compliant project that meets the owner’s needs in addition to a creative, unique design. The contractor is responsible to control safety, risk and schedule while maintaining quality to “get the job done”. Owners must sometimes go through the craziness of design and construction in order to make their operation better. All parties involved desire to build an ongoing relationship and be profitable.

Attitude: Success in the design-build arena requires a different attitude than the traditional design-bid-build method of construction delivery. Collaboration and cooperation are critical for the betterment of the project and the relationship of the project team. Everyone needs to be in the same boat rowing the same direction at the same time, and successful teams have a good row master to keep everyone focused. A little fun sprinkled in never hurts either!

Integrity: This is one of the most important intangibles for each independent team member, because without integrity all other metrics for a great project are out the window. From a contractor’s point of view, one example would be how the GC acts when presented with a problem at the job site. There is often a “right” way to fix something and a cheap way. A good moral compass will point the GC to think about the best interest of not only his short-term bottom dollar, but also the longevity of the solution, the other team members and the impact of the project. Every team member will have similar challenges.

Having grown up in commercial construction, I’ve enjoyed using this project delivery method for many years. Each project is unique, and having the right team with the experience and the intangibles can make a big difference in creating a win-win for all the stakeholders.

Interior Design, Projects /

Reimagining the Working Environment with Cushman & Wakefield

Lawrence Group recently partnered with Cushman & Wakefield to complete their newly renovated 46,000-square-foot Portfolio Service Center situated next to the Maryville University campus in Town & Country, Missouri. The 6th floor suite boasts spectacular views of luscious trees, a lake and walking trails; numerous amenities; and modern finishes. The Cushman & Wakefield brand is reflected throughout the space as it fosters both a “work, live, play” culture and the firm’s forward-thinking vision.
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Projects /

The Business Behind Elevating National Brands

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a few members of our commercial team to discuss the history, projects, challenges and opportunities associated with performing work for large-scale, national clients. The conversation proved fascinating as I witnessed first-hand the extensive relationships, vast and broad-reaching portfolio, and signature jovial demeanor for which this group is best known. A recap of my conversation – excluding the fact that Kerry is a bourbon drinker – is outlined below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed hearing it!

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Projects /

Laser Capture in Adaptive Re-use Design

At Lawrence Group, we have the honor of designing some complex adaptive reuse projects. Many of these existing structures are adapted from their original program into a new function for our clients. The beauty of these spaces are their character, which can also be one of the greatest challenges when it comes to documenting the space before schematic design begins. 

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Interior Design, Projects /

A Deeper Look at the Historic Lennox Hotel

Appearing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lennox hotel was built in 1929 and recently renovated into a creatively designed Courtyard by Marriott hotel with new lobby space, bistro, and business and fitness centers. Featuring key design elements inspired by nineteenth century conventions and materials, it is one of the area’s only examples from this time period. The goal of the project was to reflect the owner’s affinity for mid-century modern design, resulting in an intentional contrast of 1920s exterior aesthetic with new modern interiors.

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Architecture, Projects /

City Foundry St. Louis: The Backstory

The City Foundry St. Louis project is prominently located within the central corridor in the former Century Electric Foundry complex. The redevelopment will bring new life to the old foundry; a striking industrial building that features a butterfly monitor pond truss roof structure, giant sand hoppers, cupola melting furnaces, pipes, cranes, soaring factory spaces, massive divided-lite windows, mezzanines, catwalks and offices. Plans by previous owners called for the foundry’s demolition as recently as 2014, which would have forever severed St. Louis’s primary remaining connection to a homegrown and locally significant company, Century Electric.

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Architecture, Inspiration, Projects /

Security Building Mural

It has been nearly 15 years since Lawrence Group acquired the Security Building in downtown St. Louis and renovated it as our corporate headquarters. Being a native St. Louisan (and one to never turn down the opportunity to hear a good story), I’ve enjoyed learning about the role the Security Building played in St. Louis history. Some of the stories are verifiable, but some of the best ones are not:  Charles Lindbergh signed the financing deal for his historic transatlantic flight in the bar of the Noonday Club on the tenth floor (or did he?); the Security Building actually bests the Wainwright Building as being the first steel frame high rise in St. Louis (or are the dates on the Security Building construction drawings somehow misleading?).

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Architecture, Projects /

A Whale Tale

No, this is not a story about “the one that got away” or a close encounter with humpback whales while aboard a zodiac raft in Kauai (which actually happened). It is a humble story about a reception desk.

Lawrence Group was engaged by Answers.com to design a new 29,000-square foot interior satellite corporate office space in New York City. The client envisioned a space that integrated interactive media with a progressive design. The energetic and vibrant location in the heart of Midtown suggested a signature presence.

The schematic design process commenced with an analysis of the city landscape and overlooking building views that were offered throughout the floor in coordination with the client’s space needs program. The floor was a blank canvas with the exception of the elevator and restroom cores present. As a result, we had the ability to define the elevator lobby and common area corridors thus controlling the circulation and experience to the new office entrances.

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