Most days, building engineers are busy completing building rounds, responding to tenant requests, keeping buildings in compliance, performing preventative maintenance tasks and making repairs which limit liability and add value to the asset. Occasionally, engineers are asked to help look for solutions to more complicated problems. Sometimes large problems can become the big opportunity. This article offers a case study as an example on how engineers can be an important part of a team when problems evolve into solutions.
So if this is a leasing issue or building design issue, where does the building engineer come in?
In this case, the building engineer was asked to walk the space with leasing brokers, executives and construction team members. Many ideas were floated as the space was evaluated. Ideas like creating a new passenger elevator bank in the center of the structure and adding building-central lobbies to create multi-tenant floors. However, this idea would be expensive and require the structure to have the structural components to make it happen. As it turned out, the structure was not suited for a centrally located passenger elevator bank and would not allow access to a loading dock.
Another idea was to create an elevator structure and bank on the outside of the existing building, but the locations offered no loading dock access or a main lobby location. Both ideas would be expensive undertakings on their own or individually.
As the group wound its way down through the spaces and then into the top garage level, just below the empty space, the building engineer spoke up and said he had an idea. The engineer noticed that the existing building elevator bank was located immediately adjacent to the building next door; in fact the two adjacent parking decks had crossovers on the lowest levels, but there was NO cross-over here. The building next door also had an elevator bank for the freight elevator but NO landing or elevator doors on this level to enable a crossover connection; it just had the concrete block walls enclosing the hoistway. The only thing the others in the group saw was the concrete block walls and cable barriers dividing the parking decks. The engineer saw that the concrete block wall was actually enclosing the elevator hoistways at both buildings, and he recognized that with elevator openings cut in and doors installed, elevator landings could create an opportunity for a crossover solution to solve access problems.
The group had already made plans for a parking deck crossover (bridge/expansion joint) for vehicle and pedestrian use. The group had also planned a pedestrian canopy for the crossover, which would allow tenants to use the stairs to access the space above or take a circuitous elevator route down to the ground level using the garage elevators. Tenants would then enter from the street level to take the passenger elevators dedicated only to the tenant floors back up to the top of the building.
Through more discussion, the group acknowledged that adding elevator landings at both buildings would complete a list of solutions that were thought to add a great option for tenant expansion into this difficult-to-lease space. Adding elevator landings would provide freight and passenger connectivity to the space. It was agreed that the building engineer would look at drawings, enlist the help of elevator consultants/companies for feasibility studies to “cut in” elevator doors and create elevator landings in these locations where just the concrete block walls existed before.
During the following weeks the building engineer worked with the contractors and verified that the project was indeed feasible and offered a low-cost option to solve a variety of access issues for the 85,000 square feet of empty space. The leasing group was told that the project could be done at a significantly lower cost than other possible solutions.
While the building engineer moved forward with the consultant and elevator company, planning the project and working through the issues, the leasing broker presented the accessibility options to an existing tenant interested in expansion. The tenant agreed that the solutions presented were desirable from their perspective, as they were actually located in the adjacent building that would cross over. The tenant had actually looked at the large vacant space before, but the crossover solutions were not there, and there was no freight elevator or access to a loading dock.
This case study demonstrates how building engineers can be effective at seeing the solutions—even through concrete block hoistway walls—and working through the details to provide the concept, the feasibility and solution and the site project management for major projects. This project helped to provide the opportunity for the team to lease the space from concept to occupancy in six months.
Mark Gallman, SMA, LEED Green Associate, has been a BOMA Georgia Member for 14 years and is a Post Doctorate level BOMA Georgia Foundation donor. Gallman is an instructor for the SMA and Building Engineering 101 education programs. Gallman is also the maintenance manager for Highwoods Properties.