In this booming economy, we are dwarfed by tower cranes and surrounded by massive ground-up developments on what seems like every other block of the city. Needless to say, it is easy to look past the significance of all the small scale projects making a difference in our community.
Small, well-done improvements often have a huge, heartfelt impact on the end-user and also plant the seed for a longstanding relationship between contractor and owner. A slight change in building layout, adding a kitchen or bathroom to a space, or modifying pedestrian access can make life or work ten times easier for the occupants. The energy and fulfillment GLY teams gain from this specific type of work reminds us why we’re in this business.
The best part about these projects is that they are often small in scale because the client is in the process of growing. The opportunity to start small and be a part of this process—witnessing a business grow and change over time—simply can’t be beat.
The Seattle Waldorf School [SWS] is one of the small scale project success stories that GLY is proud to be part of. Over the past four years, members of GLY’s Interiors | Special Projects [ISP] team have worked hand-in-hand with SWS stakeholders in modifying their campus to better suit the needs of staff and students. A small $26,000 project eventually led to more complex improvements across three campuses.
What makes small-scale projects work?
Choosing the sustainable route.
Most of the time, demolishing existing buildings to start from scratch isn’t an option. We’re on board with that. Using current facilities, regardless of their previous purpose or condition, is inherently sustainable and finding the best and most cost-effective way to repurpose them is where ISP thrives. In the case of SWS, its current grade school campus, Meadowbrook, and offsite preschool/kindergarten, Kinderhaus, sit tightly in residential neighborhoods. The properties include several multi-family homes and over time, SWS, their design partners and GLY found creative ways to convert them into educational spaces instead of tearing them down and starting from scratch.
Small-scale projects usually occur in occupied spaces with multiple affected parties and require a patient and flexible team to work around fluctuating schedules and needs. At SWS, GLY scheduled construction around adjacent school programs, accommodated the various needs and desires of the teachers using the spaces, and worked through extremely tight timeframes to complete during summer breaks.
Protecting every dollar.
Not-for-profit or private education sectors often rely on fundraising to cover costs of significant construction projects. Already stewards of every budget, folks in ISP know the importance of Every Single Dollar when it comes to funds provided by generous donors and look for the smartest ways to put those dollars to use while still meeting the client’s goals. At SWS, GLY was able to minimize the design team’s construction administration by working directly with the teachers and facility staff to finalize finish materials selections, which reduced project costs.
Attentive customer service.
Not every project has the luxury of using an Owner’s Rep. Without this liaison to tackle some of the more stressful phases of a project, the builder steps in to assist. Permitting is a common pressure-point and GLY will guide the team through this long and often confusing process. A contractor’s reputation with the city officials also has a significant impact on accelerating this process. At SWS, GLY was able to start a fire sprinkler upgrade while the permit was still in its final review stage with the City of Seattle—due to GLY’s excellent reputation with Seattle inspectors. As a result, the project completed before the first day of school.
These guidelines certainly aren’t always easy to follow given the current competitive subcontractor market, overwhelmed and understaffed city permitting and inspector department, and our region’s high prices in general. But with a little creativity and strategic planning, it’s possible to deliver value and results that benefit all parties involved.