DEERFIELD, ILL. — It has been a difficult five years for the public sector. In many parts of America, the Great Recession shrank the tax base to the point where towns and villages were forced to cut spending by any means. That meant in some places early retirements, layoffs, or even the consolidation with other municipalities of essential services such as police or fire departments.
But it was news stories about closing community libraries that came to symbolize how tough times were. After all, you can live for decades in one place and never attend a city council meeting, but everybody stops by the library.
Now there are a few green shoots showing in the public construction sector. Some libraries are even finding the funds to expand. The Deerfield Public Library recently had its grand reopening in suburban Chicago on June 23, following a yearlong, $11.2 million gut rehab and expansion.
The GC on the job was Mortenson Construction. The full-service contractor has offices around the country as well as in Canada and China. It serves its customers in the Chicagoland area out of its offices in Elk Grove Village, Ill., where it employs over 120 team members at any given time.
In the Chicago market, Mortenson’s main focus is on healthcare, higher education and mission critical projects. While hit by the slowdown — a lot of the money for large, “battleship” health care projects dried up — recent years have seen a growth in activity and with that renewed hiring.
“We have built numerous libraries within the area,” said Carrie Mandelin, business development and marketing manager for Mortenson. “Deerfield was something we had been tracking for a very long time, going to board meetings, trying to meet with the customer, engaging as early as possible with the architect.”
Mortenson’s library projects included the award-winning Minneapolis Central Library, as well as facilities in Tinley Park, Northlake, Addison and Harwood Heights. That experience counted for a lot with the customer. Mary Pergander, director of the Deerfield Public Library said, “In choosing Mortenson, we really did our homework. We are librarians, after all.”
A complete overhaul
The improvement program included two new additions to the existing, 40-year-old building totaling more than 10,000-sq.ft. The new facility now has expanded meeting space, quiet zones, study rooms, a computer lab, an automated checkout and return station and even a fireplace.
The complete overhaul of the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems faced serious challenges due to space constraints in the decades-old building. Part of the solution was to use building information modeling (BIM) to create 3D models of the work that needed to done. Mortenson has an in-house design team that specializes in BIM.
According to John Zhang, project manager for Mortenson, the real usefulness of BIM is in coordinating the work of the various subs. “We distribute that [BIM] model to all our subcontractors, and we set up ground rules for everyone to follow.”
For the first two months of the project, while the digging and abatement was being done, Zhang conducted multiple BIM coordination meetings. “We have modeling software that looks for what we call clash detection,” Zhang explains. “We overlay all four-five trades models into one and then the software will detect clashes, places where one item would run into another, and then generates a report.”
Zhang and the subs went over the report area-by-area for each clash. Everybody had to agree on who moved, who stayed and who had to make changes. Once teams got into the field and began installation, everybody was on the same page.
“On the jobsite we have a standard desktop with big-screen TV,” Zhang said. “We load our sign-off model to the computer… if there are any questions, we can just open up the model and take a measurement.”
The result? Almost no delays or work-stops due to conflict on MEP systems — a huge savings in time and headaches for everyone involved in the project.
All the heating and cooling for the library was done using a variable refrigerant flow system (VRF), which also saved on space. “You run a lot of ½-in., 3/8-in. copper piping to transport the refrigerant or steam depending on your need,” Zhang explained, “but that’s a lot better than running 20-in. ductwork all over the ceiling.”
Refrigerant or steam runs to individual VRF units from LG Multi located in various zones throughout the building. The system reduced reliance on outside air, and, because it scales up and down to deliver just the heating or cooling called for by each zone, it is highly efficient.
Mortenson and its subs (Martin Peterson Co. out of Kenosha, Wisc., handled the plumbing) installed a Valent rooftop unit for the cooling capacity, as well as two A.O. Smith Cyclone water heaters and an Imbert International DriSteem humidifier, with Bell & Gossett booster pumps to keep everything circulating.
The bathrooms and watercoolers use low-flow fixtures. While the original design called for high-efficiency toilets, they had to be swapped-out when the plumbing technicians realized the runs did not have sufficient pitch. “There was literally not enough water going through the pipe to flush all the solids where they needed to go,” Zhang said.
The Deerfield Public Library trustees have been pleased both with the process and the results. “The people at Mortenson have been a dream to work with,” said Mary Pergander. “To have a project in town come in on time and on budget is just amazing.”
And Mortenson is already looking at new library projects in the Chicagoland area. “If it’s the right delivery model,” Mandelin said, “if it’s a qualification-based selection, not lowest bid… then we’re absolutely interested. I think the public sector is turning around.”