From modern design to Thurgood Marshall, craftsmen deliver extraordinary work
From major infrastructure upgrades in medical and engineering facilities to immaculate restorations of historic structures to feats of ‘metal magic’ on a modern architectural design, winners of the 2021 BC&E Craftsmanship Awards leveraged their expertise, creativity and determination to produce outstanding results.
As part of a $139 million, 300,000-square-foot expansion project at Suburban Hospital, craftsmen from Windsor Electric executed massive, complex and highly sensitive electrical installations and upgrades. The new, state-of-the-art North Building addition included 14 operating rooms, 108 medical/surgical beds, a new Central Sterile Department and associated facilities. The project also included infrastructure upgrades within the existing hospital.
To support the expansion and upgrades, Windsor installed two 4,000-amp services to the campus and three 1,500-kilowatt generators. The project plan, however, required Windsor to transfer the existing hospital to the emergency electrical system in the new building while the new building was still under construction, so the team brought in two temporary generators to provide uninterrupted power supply.
“We successfully completed over two dozen outages to swap over the emergency loads of the existing hospital to the new system without any interruption of hospital operations,” said Lou Westemyer, Project Executive.
Successful, non-disruptive completion of the electrical work required exacting coordination with other project partners and hospital staff as well as thorough investigations of existing systems, Westemyer said. The original hospital had been renovated several times since it opened in the 1940s. Complete as-built details of those renovations were not available, some electrical distribution panels were mis-labeled and some operations were impaired by older equipment (like the ‘gunked up’ 80-year-old switches that couldn’t be turned off).
The project, which involved over 100,000 hours of work by Windsor Electric staff, ranked as one of the company’s biggest jobs ever, “but we had a very good crew and very good leadership and everything went off seamlessly,” Westemyer said. At the JHU Stieff Silver Building, craftsmen from Windsor Electric tackled stringent requirements to create a 10-lab Material Characterization and Processing Facility for the Whiting School of Engineering. Sensitive research within the facility and adjacent labs required the project team to meet high standards for electromagnetic field shielding, acoustic and temperature limits, vibration isolation, grounding, and robust power supply and backup.
However, conditions within the building – a 1920s factory converted into research laboratories – made installations challenging. To deliver the ceiling height needed to accommodate laboratory equipment, the project team unexpectedly had to locate most MEP services within the already-packed space above the corridor ceiling. To make everything fit, conduit was threaded into existing steel joists. To minimize the electromagentic interference of circuits near laboratories, the crew used only rigid conduit piping even though the joists and associated bracing made installing a straight section of conduit nearly impossible.
Windsor Electric Foreman Doug Cramer said the company’s extensive experience with laboratory and government projects equipped his crew to expertly handle the sophisticated systems, challenging conditions and mid-project surprises.
At Anne Arundel Community College, a mix of terra cotta wall tiles, aluminum panels, custom copper facias, curtainwalls, glazing and sunscreens gave the new Health and Life Sciences building a unique and striking appearance. Executing that design, however, required skilled craftsmen to exercise high levels of planning, precision and creativity.
For Bruce O’Keefe, a Wall Panel Foreman with Alliance Exterior Construction, installation would involve five different panel types that were made from a variety of building materials and required different (and sometimes customized) hardware. The terra cotta tile installation alone included three different types of tiles, three different types of clips, more than 40 different panel marks and exacting specifications for tile placement.
A 41-year veteran of the trade, O’Keefe spent his first day onsite installing a column of tile the full height of the building to determine how everything would line up. He developed processes to address challenges, such as the inevitable size variation among oven-baked tiles, how to accurately lay out terra cotta runs that spanned hundreds of feet and multiple elevations, and the need for some acts of “metal magic” – manipulating manufactured products, such as hanging clips, to meet site conditions. That preparation produced an assembly-line-like process for crews – including craftsmen Jose Castiillo, Ismael Alverez and Ismael Alverez Jr. – to complete the installation.
“I made cheat sheets for the guys. They included measurements of where to set each style of clip, information and pictures of each elevation, and I made sure that all of my guys had pictures on their phones of what each tile configuration should look like,” O’Keefe said. “The different profiles went together perfectly. We created a neat building – a blend of modern and old styles.”
At the Annapolis Post Office, teams of craftsmen harnessed old-world skills and modern ingenuity to complete a stunning transformation of the historic building into showpiece government offices.
For the Hilgartner Natural Stone Company team, the work included removing and restoring six-foot-high marble toilet partitions and shower surrounds so the stone could be repurposed as wainscotting in other parts of the building. The 1901 panels had been cut to accommodate plumbing fixtures and stained by moisture and adjacent metals. The panels were never designed to work together as wainscotting and, as craftsmen discovered mid-project, there wasn’t enough original marble to complete the design.
Hilgartner’s craftsmen faced a similar challenge with the lobby renovation. Covered in a green marble base with a classical mold, the lobby was slated for extensive demolition and expansion. Consequently, Hilgartner would have to remove and restore as much marble as possible then combine it with other salvaged and new material to complete a marble installation that was 30 percent bigger.
“It all looked incredible in the end,” said Ian Davis, Project Manager. “The lobby in particular is a real showcase to all the highly skilled trades who worked on that project.”
Plaster craftsmen from Hayles and Howe touched nearly every inch of the Post Office to complete the restoration. Going into the project, Hayles and Howe knew they would be repairing spalling and cracks in intricate cornices, ceilings and historic plaster walls, as well as covering over cuts made to install modern building systems. Work onsite, however, revealed the need to complete lead and asbestos abatement and remedy damage from leaks or previous renovations. Ultimately, Hayles and Howe completed over 21,500 square feet of plaster work – up from the original estimate of 1,200 square feet – on a tight schedule.
The firm was able to complete the greatly expanded project because “we have invested a lot of time and energy training everyone to do all different types of plaster work,” said Mark Mordhorst, Vice President of Operations. “With multi-purpose people, we can juggle schedules. We know we can send virtually all of them to any site and they can do the work.”
Nearby at Lawyer’s Mall, emergency infrastructure work prompted an expedited renovation of the historic and high-profile site. Rugo Stone was tasked with the restoration of a historic limestone colonnade and four bronze statues as well as installation of new granite vehicle barrier walls, granite curbs for planting beds and walkways, and inscribed granite benches. It totaled more than 10,000 square feet of material and it had to be completed on “an abnormally accelerated schedule.” And the project included one other daunting task – returning the statue of Thurgood Marshall to Lawyer’s Mall.
The relocation of the 9,000-pound statue from its temporary site beside the Annapolis Court of Appeals and permanent reinstallation at Lawyer’s Mall had to be completed in a single day and would be closely scrutinized by government officials, the Historic Trust, design and construction partners, and the public.
“You are never trusted until the job is done,” said Dave Jonke, General Superintendent at Rugo. “But we had no stress. We knew what could be done and how, and everything went flawlessly according to plan.”
Returning Thurgood Marshall and the historic colonnade to Lawyer’s Mall required an especially large crane that could reach across the mall. But the Rugo team was able to safely and precisely position both structures to meet the artist’s vision of the space.
“We dedicated a lot of attention to every detail of this project,” said Raffaele Peranzoni, Vice President of Rugo Stone. “When you are dealing with a historic part of the city and the statue of Thurgood Marshall, you make sure everything turns out exactly right.”