Elite Care at Sylvan Park

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"Elite Care was founded to transform how health care and housing are provided to the frail elderly, which is the least served, most neglected and fastest growing segment of the population."
True to our client’s mission, the Elite Care at Sylvan Park building was designed and built to create an environment that is core to the health of its occupants.  Built to be “home” to forty-eight elderly individuals with varying degrees of memory loss, Sylvan Park was designed to accomplish two goals.  First, the client required a building that would make their residents final years of life as full and rich as possible, so the quality and habitability of these buildings would be essential to the quality of life experienced by their residents.  Second, the client wanted a building design that could easily be replicated for future facilities.  As a result, Charter Construction worked with both the client and the architect to redesign their existing “site built” drawings so that these buildings and future buildings could be constructed modularly.
 
Sylvan Park was constructed on a 2.67 acre site and consists of two buildings.  The total combined square footage for these two buildings is 53,312 sqft.  Each building houses a ground level consisting of six staff living units, a lobby, storage and mechanical rooms; a second level consisting of twelve elder resident units, a kitchen and pantry, and common dining area; a third level consisting of another twelve elder resident units and a sitting/lounge/recreation area. There is also a 1,500 sqft. greenhouse structure built on site that serves as a year round community garden as well as an existing 1,140 sqft. a residence that was renovated to serve as Elite Care’s on site resident liaison building.  It should also be noted that when looking at this property from an aerial view, the buildings form the shape of two hearts with the green house and courtyard acting as the nucleus of their community.
Construction Site | Elite Care at Sylvan Park | NWVentures
Finished Buildings 1 | Elite Care at Sylvan Park | NWVentures

QUALITY

To help us maximize both the comfort and quality of these buildings, we used the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification process as our guide to achieving multiple healthful benefits of green construction practices.

To begin, the wooded lot was site to five older rentals.  One of these buildings was preserved and renovated to serve as Elite Care’s on site resident liaison building, but the other four buildings were removed.  Prior to site demo and clearing, Charter invited Habitat for Humanity to salvage lumber, wood flooring, light fixtures, cabinets, windows and doors from these buildings.  Demoed sidewalks were also salvaged and repurposed into site retaining walls.   Recognizing the integrity of some of the larger trees at the perimeter of the property, Charter proposed an alternative layout of the new site walkways to avoid having to cut down one very large second growth Sequoia, one large white pine and two built douglas fir trees that were originally scheduled for removal.  The remaining trees were mulched on site and transported to Avista’s Kettle Falls Generating Station to be used as biomass fuel.
Rain water was managed in two ways.  First, roof downspouts were tight lined to four 2,500 gallon underground retention tanks with pumps that supply gray water to all lavatories and also irrigate the community gardens in the summer.  Second, permeable concrete, artificial turf and culverts were installed throughout the property to allow rain water to drain freely into a large bio swale that also doubles as a water feature at the NW corner of the property.  Another reason to replace grass with artificial turf was to reduce the need for excessive irrigation while providing a safer outdoor walking surface for residents.  Finally, raised planter boxes were installed throughout the property to encourage gardening by the resident “green thumbs”.

To protect the health of sensitive residents from temperature extremes, the walls were first insulated with 5½ inches of closed cell spray foam insulation between the stud cavities and then the exterior side of these same walls were sheathed with ½ inch polyiso insulation to greatly reduce drafts and thermal bridging from the outside.  The windows installed were triple paned glass to further insulate the interior spaces and also help minimize noise pollution from the outside. To improve indoor air quality, the carpets installed were a low VOC product and the interior paint used was zero VOC paint.    

High efficiency PTACs (packaged terminal air conditioners) were installed in individual rooms which allow each resident to set the room temperature to their optimum comfort level.   Additionally, tankless water heaters were installed to continually service radiant piping installed under the tile bathroom floor and provide a warm walking surface.  To increase occupant comfort, these same tankless water heaters also provide instant hot water to resident sinks and showers to avoid cold water temperatures. 
Low flow shower heads, low flow toilets, energy star fans, and energy star appliances were just a few ways in which the owner was able to minimize utility consumption while still providing convenience to the residents.

One of the more innovative features of these buildings is the low voltage electrical systems and technology installed to monitor the health and safety of residents. Smart sensors were installed throughout the buildings to allow residents to safely walk the buildings and exterior gardens as they please while providing caretakers with a means to track where residents are in case of an emergency.  These same sensors track the weight and sleep patterns of residents and control room lighting.  In addition to turning lights off when not in use, these sensors also help regulate the natural circadian rhythms of the residents by changing the color of room lighting depending on the time of day.  Blue lights mimic morning, white lights mimic day time and red lights mimic the evening hours.  The combination of independence, comfort and peacefulness that this technology allows is critical to the health of the individual residents.
 
Finished Buildings 2 | Elite Care at Sylvan Park | NWVentures
Even though the many LEED features identified above are impressive, the biggest innovation of this project, it was constructed modularly.  In short, from the foundation to peak of the roof, each 26,000 plus square feet of this building was erected in just 8 working days!

Modular construction is not a new concept. Not many contractors have utilized modular as an alternate to conventional on site construction, especially when those buildings are three stories.  To summarize, all construction of the site clearing and site work, from the pouring and framing of the foundations, and finally to the button up of the interior boxes at “marriage lines”, was performed on site.  Alternatively, the rest of the building was built 290 miles off site in Klamath Falls, OR as 76 individual boxes.  Each box was built to 95% completion including all MEP rough-in to fixtures and framing to all interior finishes including appliances.  They even threw in the kitchen sink!  Once complete, all seventy six individual boxes were trucked to the property and then craned into place.  Total off site fabrication for both buildings was four months; total duration to crane both buildings into place was 16 working days.

Challenges and obstacles

As with any construction, there are challenges and obstacles to modular construction.  First off, because many jurisdictions are unfamiliar with modular construction, especially a modular project this size. Getting permit approval through the City of Vancouver proved a little tricky.   However, once we talked them through the process, the inspectors were actually very excited to see this project start.  In fact, shortly after the first building was erected, the local fire chief showed up with about ten of his fire fighters to perform an impromptu inspection of the buildings.  When our site superintendent asked why the inspection was needed, the fire chief responded, “Two weeks ago there was nothing here, now there’s a three story building, this is just too cool not to check out!”  Another challenge was taking the existing set of site build drawings and redesigning this project to be constructed modularly.  Because of transportation regulations, the largest a single box could be built was 16 ft. wide by 65 ft. long and 13 ft. high. Rooms needed to be scaled to fit within these dimensions.  Also, because the boxes were 95% finished to completion, open mechanical chases and soffits needed to be built into the design to allow for the box to box connections of electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems that were roughed in at the factory, but still needed to be connected together on site and then routed back to a central mechanical room.    

The biggest challenge with modular was getting both the client and architect to finalize their design prior to breaking ground.  In order to reap the benefits of modular, it is critical that construction of the modular units off site begins at the same time that you mobilize onto site.  To do this, you need to be able to provide your modular company with a final set of drawings that have been approved and finalized by all parties.  Modular construction relies on having all the materials and finishes approved, purchased, and in hand prior to beginning production.  To build a single box took an average of seven days, so there was very little room for change without impacting production.
 

SCHEDULE AND BUDGET CONSIDERATIONS


Other than a few lead time items, Platinum LEED really did not impact our schedule.  The scheduling benefits of modular however, were two fold.  First, because we choose modular, we were able to complete site and foundation work simultaneously while constructing the buildings in a factory offsite, the project was completed approximately 5 months faster than traditional on-site construction.  Second, because the building was fabricated in a controlled environment, construction of the buildings was not impacted by weather. In regard to budget, the LEED requirements added about 2-3% to the construction costs overall which, because of reduced operation costs, is historically made up quickly over the first few years of life of the building.  When comparing modular to traditional site built construction, there was no significant savings when comparing the hard square foot construction costs of modular to site build.  However, where the savings occurred for our client was how much sooner they could collect revenue on these buildings, plus the reduced interest on loans.
Living Room | Elite Care at Sylvan Park | NWVentures

EXCELLENT SAFETY

Weekly safety meetings were mandatory for all in-house and subcontracted trades on site and served as a consistent reminder of safe construction practices.  Each subcontractor submitted a mandatory site specific safety plan as part of their submittal process and every Charter employee and subcontractor employee went through a mandatory site safety orientation prior to beginning work on the site. Every phase of construction required an extensive Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) assessment between our team and our safety officer.  In addition to our own in-house site safety audits, we proactively scheduled a risk management consultation with Washington State’s Labor and Industries.

Most impressive is the fact that 1,140 tons of modular building boxes were craned into place with zero injuries and no rigging accidents.

 

OVERALL PROJECT


Interest in both sustainable building design and modular construction has been building over the years, and it’s easy to see why. Sustainable construction practices, especially for senior housing facilities, increases the livability of buildings at minimal cost to the business while making these places more healthful and attractive for future residents.  With modular, most of the construction occurs in a controlled factory which directly increases quality and efficiencies while reducing schedule and holding costs.  

In the case of this project, our client’s expectations were clear from the start, construct their buildings to be Platinum LEED certified and make their building design modular.  As a team, we achieved both of these objectives.  The fact that two very different businesses (senior housing and construction) came together and mutually pushed our respective professions into new and innovative territory was a very unique experience. From site development to the final certificate of occupancy, Elite Care at Sylvan Park truly is a great example of what can be built when the owner, architect and contractor work together to achieve a vision.
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