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Sustainable Building Materials

By Industry Insights, News

Sustainable Building Materials for New Construction

When constructing a new commercial building, such as an office space, it is important to consider sustainable building materials for several reasons. First, it is important to do our part to be kind to the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of large buildings. Additionally, sustainable materials can help businesses cut down on energy costs for their spaces.

Below, we’ve reviewed several sustainable building materials that would be great to consider when building a new commercial space.

Flat Roof Insulation

Many commercial buildings feature a flat roof design, as it provides more interior space as compared to a building with a slanted roof of the same height. Additionally, a flat roof provides an easy location to store HVAC equipment that doesn’t take up valuable interior space.

However, this type of roof is often one of the most vulnerable parts of the building when it comes to heat transfer as it is constantly exposed to the elements. Adding flat-roof insulation can be a great way to improve the thermal envelope of your commercial building.

Flat roof insulation is a simple addition to a building that will reduce the amount of heat escaping your building during the winter months, as well as the amount of heat entering your building during cooler months. This will greatly reduce energy use for a commercial building, as HVAC accounts for a significant portion of a building’s energy use.

Flat roof insulation is an important addition to your commercial building not only because it improves the sustainability of your building’s energy usage, but also because it is a requirement by the IECC, or International Energy Conservation Code, according to Chapter 4, Section 402. This requires that flat roof insulation provide a minimum R-value or resistance to heat transfer or conduction. The higher the R-value, the more well-insulated a building will be. According to this code, the required R-values are R-20ci to R-35ci depending on your climate zone.

Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is a heating system that circulates electricity, water, or air beneath the flooring in space to heat objects and individuals in a space via infrared radiation.

This type of heating system is considered sustainable for several reasons. First, they can be more energy efficient than traditional heating systems. Heating from the floor upward ensures that a space will maintain a more consistent temperature in all areas, as compared to heating systems which can leave cold spots.

Ceiling-based heating systems are also prone to “short-circuiting or air stratification.” This occurs because warmer air rises within a space, so ceiling-based heating can remove warm air before it can effectively circulate throughout the space to increase the temperature. Additionally, ceiling-based heating is an inefficient system that first heats the space higher up in a room where no occupants exist, while radiant floor heating warms the most important areas of a space first.

Radiant floor heating is also viewed as a preferable heating system in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it does not require the circulation of air which may contain microbes that lead to illnesses.

To complete a sustainable flooring system, consider pairing radiant floor heating with sustainable flooring material such as engineered wood.

Architectural Grilles

Architectural grilles have multiple sustainable purposes: they can provide air ventilation, and also serve as a barrier against thermal conduction and noise intrusion.

First, architectural grilles or louvers can be incorporated into a building’s HVAC system, allowing for the use of more ventilation air in a building. This improves the health of occupants by bettering indoor air quality.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, increased ventilation rates in commercial spaces have become an important factor to preserve and protect occupant health by limiting the spread of microbes and viruses through HVAC systems. Additionally, this has become a priority for increase work performance and improving overall employee morale. Architectural grilles allow you to bring in more ventilation air without affecting the aesthetics of the building, maintaining a clean and modern look.

Additionally, some architectural grilles are not incorporated for ventilation purposes, but rather are simply an addition outside of large windows to reduce heat transfer in extreme climates. These types of structures help reduce the energy used by a heating or cooling system, without compromising the aesthetics and visual appeal of the building.

Acoustic Glass

Offices require separate meeting rooms and spaces with sound-reducing properties so that gatherings and meetings can occur without disturbing others in the office. A previous solution to this problem was partition systems, but this is an outdated style that clashes with modern office settings.

Acoustic glass is an alternative solution that offers a trendy, open concept look while also providing sound-dampening effects. It is also a more sustainable choice when compared to partitions, as it uses less material to provide a comparable sound barrier as well as improved acoustics in a space.

Not only does acoustic glass improve the privacy of meeting spaces, but it also helps to reduce the background noise caused by A/C systems and fans in a commercial building, which has been known to contribute to an uncomfortable working environment.

Acoustic glass is a sustainable building material that can be used to meet several LEED requirements. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification given for sustainable building design. Depending on the manufacturer Acoustic glass helps to meet the requirements of some or all of the following:

  • design for flexibility
  • recycled content
  • material reuse
  • minimum acoustic performance
  • enhanced acoustic performance
  • views
  • daylight

If you’re not fond of the idea of using a large amount of glass in your office space, there are more private options, such as privacy glass. This type of acoustic glass can be switched to a cloudy or translucent look with the press of a button.

Acoustic glass is an excellent sustainable acoustic material to improve privacy and comfort in commercial buildings while maintaining a modern and aesthetically pleasing office design.

Guest Blogger: Natalie Akins is the Interior Design Editor at Innovative Building Materials. With over 20 years of interior design experience, Natalie has worked on many projects including commercial office design and residential spaces.

Construction Financing

By Industry Insights, News

Construction Financing: The Developers Perspective

Developing real estate takes grit, creative problem solving, and an occasional after-work drink at the local bar. And, as banking protocols have evolved over the past decade, developers need to be selective when it comes to choosing a General Contractor (GC) for each project. But what exactly should developers look for in a solid General Contractor? What qualities make a GC or an AEC (Architectural/Engineering/Construction) firm investable in a project?

To find out, we interviewed several prominent Chicago-based developers to learn about their standard criteria for what makes a GC investable. Across the board, we found that developers care most about the GC project team’s personalities as well as their resumes and portfolio of work. This likely comes as no surprise. When hiring for any job, the client wants to be sure the people hired can do the job and play well with everyone on the team.

How to tell if a GC is Investable

We wanted to dive deeper into aspects specific to developer/GC relationships. So, we asked developers for their next most important way to tell if a General Contractor is investable. The answer? The alignment of the size of the asset class in the GC’s portfolio. Put more simply: size matters. It’s important for the developer to see a completed build on the same scale as their open project in the general contractor’s portfolio.

One of our respondents said seeing large projects in a GC’s portfolio is “critical” to developers. “Large” projects were defined as those nine stories and higher, so a large build’s added complexity, longer timeline, and the need to balance a larger budget explain why work samples are so crucial. Of course, smaller projects fall under this same scrutiny. However, the bigger the project, the more selective developers become.

Financially Viable GC’s

Developers need to know a contractor or AEC firm can provide both quality construction and bookkeeping. Therefore, the next aspect our interviewees check is the construction cost proportion of the project size as compared to the contractor’s overall annual gross revenue. To check this, developers ask questions like: Has the general contractor completed a single project that is greater than 25% of their total gross revenue?

Over the last decade, there has been added scrutiny and need for proof of financial viability on development teams. These requirements are then passed down to the general contractors and AEC firms they hire, so according to our interviewees, there’s a significant emphasis on qualifying the GC’s financial viability.

Developers are feeling challenged more than ever to find investable general contractors for larger projects. With smaller projects (eight stories and under), the GC’s resume, budget, and team are the main drivers, with financial viability coming in later. However, financial viability is the tipping point for larger projects, like those nine stories and higher. Developers are placing an ever-higher demand for the GC’s balance sheet health and capabilities for providing a Completion Guarantee (which is often less expensive than bonding).

The global pandemic has also had an effect on the search for investable contractors. The equity-to-debt ratios have changed dramatically from the pre-COVID era to now. Since the onset of COVID, there has been an increase in these ratios, thus the demand to raise higher equity on the capital stack is another barrier.

The developers we talked to came to the consensus that new relationships cost a lot of time, money, and extra due diligence. That’s why it takes an extortionary effort to hire a new AEC firm.

“That’s why it’s often easier to just work with a past relationship because you know what you’re buying,” said one of our interviewees. For GC’s, understanding the capital stack demands and challenges developers face is as important as completing a construction project on time and within budget.

We’re so thankful to the developers who shared their insights with us. At Summit Design + Build, we place an emphasis on our portfolio’s wide range and our financial viability to become the kind of investable general contractor developers need.

Summit Design + Build has a well-positioned balance sheet, and financial capabilities to make it easier on developers when they’re trying to close with their equity and debt partners. From project concept, through pre-construction, Summit helps developers close their deals.

Ready to explore our portfolio and talk about your next development project? Get in touch with us.

Summit Starts Construction of Midtown Tampa Restaurant

By Florida, News

Summit Design + Build Starts Construction of Midtown Tampa Restaurant

Upscale restaurant from James Beard-nominated chef Chris Ponte coming soon

Summit Design + Build, recently started the build-out of The Ponte, a Modern American restaurant that will feature a premium selection of steaks and local seafood within the Midtown Tampa development. 

Set to be located at the corner of West Cypress Street and Gramercy Lane, The Ponte will sit just off the main entrance of Midtown Tampa. The 6,774-sf restaurant build-out is expected to be completed in fall 2021 and will include:

  • a custom designed entry,
  • bar/lounge area,
  • open dining area,
  • restrooms,
  • patio
  • and a full-service kitchen.

The Ponte will be part of awarding wining chef Chris Ponte’s The Ponte Group, known for other local restaurants such as OLIVIA, On Swann and Café Ponte. EMPAD Architecture Design is serving as the project architect.

Build Out of Burdeen’s Jewelry

By News, Project Stories

We’re not building a watch (store)! Oh wait, yes we are!

Summit Design + Build’s Senior Superintendent, Tony Denofrio, shares his first-hand account of what it takes to successfully complete the build-out of a luxury retail store on Michigan Avenue.

Over the years, we have all heard various phrases that seem to convey a similar meaning.  In the construction industry, time is money, so we often hear from above “It doesn’t need to play music!”, or “You’re not building a watch!”, and many others that are not appropriate for this conversation. The point of all this is that an emphasis is placed on production over details, since the former lends itself to faster completion (and better profit margins) whereas the latter implies more manhours than typically allocated in the contract proposal.

In late Fall of 2020, I was tasked with a luxury retail project on Michigan Ave for a repeat client of Summit’s: Burdeen’s Jewelry.  I had been involved with some luxury retail build-outs in the past, but this was my first foray into the world of jewelry stores.  I had a fair bit of knowledge as to what challenges I could be presented with, most notably the conversion to metric from standard, finishes from oversees made prior to the first screw being turned onsite, and the inevitable, uncontrollable schedule delays inherent to our industry.  Now the challenge was to get everyone on the project team to buy into the mantra, “We ARE building a watch (store)”!

Details Considered During Construction

The value of full layout and conflict resolution

Controls and benchmarks

Without having established X & Y Axis control lines, and a Z Axis for elevation above finished floor, there is really no possible way to ensure consistency in maintaining any type of parallel or perpendicular layouts, or maintain clear heights or any other accurate vertical dimensioning. This really came into play here with the millwork that is fabricated offsite and without any field measure. The finish package is designed around the space, and it’s up to the field team on the ground to maintain the critical hold dimensions which will allow the finishes to be installed properly with no gaps or encroachments. These control lines are crucial for all trades to base their work from, as these are the standard to which the conceptual design and execution is based. Any deviations from the control lines will most likely rear their ugly heads when it’s too late (read: increasingly expensive to correct).

Partition layout

Once the control lines and benchmarks are established, a full partition layout is needed to determine if the rough space was accurately measured, and to highlight any discrepancies in the wall layout. Surprisingly, we did not have many issues related to this step in the process, and actually “found” some space that was concealed by a furring wall that was not essential in any way. Once the layout was completed, and the minor issues resolved, the next phase, what I feel is the most critical phase, is the layout of the ceiling, commonly referred to as the Reflected Ceiling Plan (RCP).

Full RCP layout

What do most people do when they walk into a room? They look up. Not sure why, & not sure that I care why, but they do. This is why the layout of the lighting and other ceiling components is critical to almost any design. Nothing looks like more of a miss than seeing a light just slightly off-center in a corridor, or over a table. Those execution fails quicky highlight to people in-the-know that the effort just wasn’t there during the layout and rough-in phase of the project. It’s somewhat unfortunate to say that, especially when you consider that it’s just “assumed” the lights magically fell in line, and dead center to multiple elements across the space. Not many people notice the successes, but everyone comments on the failures. To that point, each light fixture in a boutique such as this has a purpose. A dedicated spot over a glass vitrine. A directional trim recessed fixture highlighting a stone and millwork fireplace. A bespoke ceramic chandelier, suspended by multiple aircraft cables which also has an off-center incoming power feed that when assembled, is intended to fall centered over a massive display table (not coincidentally centered on the fireplace, which is centered between multiple rows of recessed lights, which are equally spaced between linear slot HVAC diffusers…).

So, you get the point. Everything has a center. Once the lighting, which takes ultimate precedence over everything, is laid out, then comes the ancillary RCP layout. Sprinkler heads, which are bound to specific spacing from each other and obstructions to maintain code compliance. Speakers, which are meant to be placed at optimal location for audio quality, yet integrate with the layout to not look forced. Then the fire alarm devices, which also need to be placed smartly and also in compliance. Last but not least, a sea of cameras. This is really the only element on the ceiling where we can exercise function over style, and we are given some leeway in regards to final placement without creating any blind spots. The final factor one needs to consider above and beyond all that I’ve listed here, is the physical space needed ABOVE the ceiling to allow all of this layout to work. It’s easy to draw a 3 ½” diameter circle on the plan for the recessed light trim, but when the housing for that light is the size of a boot box, the coordination that happens above the ceiling is just as important as what happens below it.

Complexities of unusual components integrated into the typical sequence of work

The Vault

Not too often do you need to shoehorn a 30,000lb structure into an 11’x7’ area. Thankfully this does NOT happen on all projects.  When it comes to a vault, I will just say this based on lessons-learned: Communicate to the nth degree all constraints, obstructions, limitations, logistical challenges, and any other potential issue you can imagine to the vendor and installers well in advance to their arrival. Add a factor of 2 to every number the vendor tells you. 20’x20’ laydown area?  Make it the entire site.  1 day delivery?  Easily double that.  We are sending 2 installers.  They need 4.  It’s going to take 4 days.  Make it a month.  OK, let’s move on.

Venetian Plaster (where does it fall in the sequence of tasks?)

When building our overall schedule, I struggled with the Venetian Plaster and where to insert them into the sequence. 2/3rd of the store is plaster walls and ceilings, so it’s not a small scope of work. It’s also highly susceptible to damage, and very finicky to repair. Does it go in before millwork, and run the risk of damage at the corners and ceilings? Does it go in after millwork, but overly complicate the site by cutting off large areas due to scaffolding and the abundance of thin plastic protection covering every non-plastered surface? During the Pre-Installation Meeting with the plastering subcontractor, I asked him what he felt. Hindsight being what it is, I can see now that his response was solely based on making his life much easier and faster, without taking into consideration the time and money it will cost us to have them back making repairs and multiple mobilization costs. If I could turn back the clock (or watch), I would have done the following in this order once drywall taping and sanding was completed: 1) Plaster primer coat. 2) plaster base coat. 3) plaster finish coat only in critical areas that cannot be accessed after millwork, but are visible. 4) millwork install. 5) plaster finish coat and final waxing. This sequence would have eliminated about 20 phone calls, 20 pre-punch observations, 20 emails, and 20 pointed fingers all on the same topic.

Complexities of a facade

Façade: Noun. The face of a building; the principal front that looks onto the street.

The one thing that everyone sees from all angles, near or far, in dark and in the light. Once revealed from behind the construction barricade that segregated the construction activities from public view for weeks on end, it is subject to the most intense scrutiny possible. And rightly so. It’s the Name. It’s the Brand. It’s the Façade.

Facades are always difficult for the following reasons. There are multiple different surfaces; stone, glass, metal panel, glazing assemblies. All of which are set on their own vertical plane. All of them are installed by separate contractors. All of them have to contend with existing conditions of the surrounding building. The substrate needs to be set back to allow proper install allowances; stone clips for the limestone and granite. T-bars and angles for the back painted glass. Fire department connection face plates which are established in the infancy of the project before a wall is even framed. Door swings, aluminum extrusions and posts with shim space needed. Interior finished floor elevations which transition to a sloped vestibule, complete with an inlaid walk off mat on one side and a custom marble tile mosaic on the other, which both meet an existing sidewalk that is pitched in 2 different directions and doesn’t have the slightest hint of being straight in any sense of the word. The façade is literally the MacGyver of the project. Take every different construction material available, plan it out, and put it all together to work as a cohesive assembly. And make it look nice, because everyone with eyes and an opinion will be looking at it for years to come.

What I’ve recounted here may sound commonplace to some, foreign to others, and completely horrible to the rest. “Why on earth would anyone want this job?”, they surely ask themselves. To all those who fall in that camp, I can say that even with all the challenges faced, both expected and unexpected, at the end of the project they all morph into one thing; experience. I don’t recount all the horrible details of how much I was disappointed that X, Y, or Z happened at an inopportune time, or the heated debates often had between two ‘A’ personality types. When it’s all said and done, and the keys are handed over, there is a sense of accomplishment that vastly overshadows most of all other feelings. The struggles faced throughout the course of construction only add to the memories & relationships that will remain with me no matter how many revolutions the hands make over the face of the watch.

Wood and Sustainability in Construction

By News

Wood and Sustainability in Construction

Back in February Summit Design + Build was presented with the 2021 WoodWorks Design Award for Regional Excellence for 1040 W. Fulton, our new home, and headquarters in the historic Fulton Market neighborhood of Chicago. It was an honor to receive an award that highlights excellence in mass timber construction, particularly in Chicago as the city catches up with the latest architectural trend. In fact, the project required a special council with officials of the Chicago Building Code to allow for specifications toward new technologies like glulam, CLT and NLT. After 75 years without a project using mass timber, Summit helped to break new ground for Chicago.

For Summit Design + Build, wood is not merely a novelty or a trend. It speaks to one of the core commitments in our mission: sustainability. With new technologies behind timber harvesting and production, wood is more sustainable than ever and it also gives back to the health of those that interact with it long-term. Here are a few reasons how:

Wood is a renewable resource.

It might sound like an oxymoron to some, but forestry that prioritizes renewability is possible and achievable, with the proper management and investment from logging contractors around the world. The simple fact that trees grow back is in stark contrast to other natural resources like steel. With certified farmers diversifying ways that wood is harvested, including “buffer zones” for unharvested and shelter-giving trees, wood has established itself as the primary renewable construction material.

Wood structures can have a lower carbon footprint than concrete or steel.

As man-made materials accelerate climate change, wood provides a different path. Certified sources of timber have the capability of achieving NET 0 carbon emissions if sustainably harvested. Wood also naturally traps carbon from the atmosphere, holding on to those emissions for years after its installation in a structure. A combination of its natural characteristics and forest owners committing to smart and sustainable forestation make wood a frontrunner in essential materials in the fight against climate change.

Humans love it.

In terms of a healthy, happy and comfortable working environment, wood is the answer. A report from Forest & Wood Products Australia concluded that just the presence of wood in the interior architecture of a structure led to lower stress levels in employees and greater satisfaction with their working life. A sense of confidence and potential comes from us when we feel closer to nature. The same study reported that overall moods improved, and that people were less likely to call in sick.

Our thanks to the committee at WoodWorks for the award. We are proud to be on the cutting edge with other forward-thinkers as the city approaches a more sustainable future.

1040 West Fulton Imagery

Summit Completes New Hotel in Chicago’s Chinatown

By News

The 4-story Addition is the First Branded Hotel in The Heart of the Neighborhood

Summit Design + Build, LLC recently completed the new construction of a 4-story, 80,000 square foot SpringHill Suites Hotel at 2353 S. Wentworth Avenue in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. The hotel, which was constructed on top of an existing 2-story parking garage and retail center, is only the third hotel in the immediate area.

SpringHill Suites, the 3-star, all-suite hotel brand under parent company Marriott International, brings 148 rooms to the heart of Chinatown, a short distance from the Cermak/Chinatown Red Line station and 1 mile from McCormick Place. The hotel also boasts traditional amenities of the branded hotel variety including a first floor lobby, reception, gym, breakfast room and meeting room. Custom millwork and finishes are featured throughout the hotel.

To complete the vertical expansion, Summit Design + Build followed a detailed logistics plan to phase construction, eliminate disruptions to ongoing tenant operations and prioritize public safety. Major construction activities included:

  • deep micropile foundations to support the new 4-story structure,
  • mobilization of a 500 ton, 400-foot tall crane for the setting of the steel structure, and
  • the build-out of the hotel.

Summit Design + Build served as construction manager, and T2 Mechanical served as the general contractor. Vari Architects provided design services for the SpringHill Suites project.

Springhill Suites Imagery

Apartments Now In Former Sears Building

By News

Apartments Now For Rent In Former Lawrence Avenue Sears Building

The redevelopment of the first-ever ground-up Sears department store is complete. “To me, personally, there’s nothing more fulfilling than to take something old, like the Sears building, which was built like a concrete bomb shelter, and make it a welcome addition to the neighborhood again,” states Summit Design + Build Project Executive, Andy vanWaardenburg.  

Read more at Block Club Chicago