Delta Dental a Case for Collaborative Design |Kraus-Anderson
by Matt Stringfellow, Mechanical & Electrical Systems Manager, Kraus-Anderson Construction Company
Kraus-Anderson recently completed the 38,000 square foot, Delta Dental Operations & Technology Center in Bemidji, Minnesota. This project consists of a new one story with mezzanine and open floor plan to house 150 talented employees. Delta Dental of Minnesota will use the operations & technology center to provide customer services for both members and dental offices throughout its provider network. The project required both design and construction completion in under 15 months. Kraus-Anderson was selected and in consultation with the Owner both parties agreed that a design-build approach would work best for the vigorous schedule. After a competitive selection review and consultation with Stratacor, Delta Dental of Minnesota’s parent company, Kraus-Anderson selected ESG Architects to complete the architectural design, Widseth Smith Nolting was engaged to complete the civil design, and Meyer Borgman Johnson was engaged to complete the structural design. The mechanical and electrical design services were provided by Peterson Sheet Metal and Hunt Electric respectively. The true success story for this project is about the collaborative design process that was used to make the scope and schedule a success.
Delta Dental provided a firm budget for this project along with a hard end date. With four months for design decisions the project team knew time was limited and efficient design decision-making was absolutely critical to complete the design on time. The project team, which included key decision-makers from Delta Dental, established weekly design meetings with mandatory attendance. The tight timeline required a collaborative approach whereby all design decisions needed to be reviewed and clearly confirmed at each weekly meeting. Kraus-Anderson’s in-house Preconstruction Services staff of architects and engineers from the Building Science Group and the MEP Group (Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing) also attended each weekly meeting. The Kraus-Anderson preconstruction staff provided immediate feedback on both schedule and cost impact related to material and system choices, product availability and recommended means and methods for the design options. This approach provided added confidence to the entire team.
ESG completed a variety of space plan options and costs in collaboration with Kraus-Anderson. This included examining issues such as security and lease potential. Once the space was codified, ESG was able to finalize the size needed for the building. The next step was to begin discussions regarding the shape and layout of the building. This is the point in the design process where ESG Architects demonstrated their ability to interpret the Owner’s needs quickly. ESG listened to the Owner’s work flow processes and desired amenities for the building and made architectual suggestions based on client needs. The employees that will work in the new building are organized in teams that work in shifts. Employee training is an important component to educating the staff. As the discussions progressed it became clear that having all employees on a single floor rather than multiple floors had distinct advantages for the daily operations. However, a single story building was difficult to fit on the site. ESG determined that it would be possible to fit all employees on a single floor by moving some of the support functions to a second floor. ESG designed a partial mezzanine floor that overlooks the main floor with balcony railings. This provides a dramatic 2-story open space and it provides a visual connection between the main floor areas and the support spaces located on the mezzanine level.
Once the layout was determined, the building orientation and position on the site was finalized. The 2-story open space faces east and includes a full height curtain wall system to provide ample daylight for the employees. The next step was for ESG and Kraus-Anderson’s Building Science Group to create a solution for computer screen glare. They collaborated with a curtain wall supplier to develop a glass type with both color tint and applied ceramic frit pattern to eliminate unwanted glare. The glass was tested by the Owner’s team outdoors in the sun for both color rendition and glare reduction to ensure the perfect solution.
Meyer Borgman Johnson was selected to design the structural system for the building due to their experience with design-to-fab Tekla Structures BIM software. The project schedule required overlapping design and construction activities resulting in an early bid package for foundations and structural steel. Meyer Borgman Johnson provided the structural steel fabricators with well-coordinated, construction-ready design deliverables that were quickly and accurately absorbed into the fabrication processes. Designing with the Tekla software preserves the competitive hard bid procurement process and dramatically reduces the time between bid and fabrication so the Owner is able to obtain the best competitive price while also reducing overall schedule time.
The mechanical and electrical systems design also presented unique challenges. The 2-story open space contains exposed mechanical and electrical systems so acoustical considerations and coordinated layouts for aesthetic appeal were critical. Peterson Sheet Metal and Hunt Electric did an excellent job of coordinating their respective system layouts to complement the architecture of the space. Peterson Sheet Metal worked with the equipment manufacturer to select rooftop air handling units with lower fan sound power levels resulting in acceptable HVAC noise levels in the building without requiring the added cost of duct mounted sound attenuators. The building electrical power load is backed up by a large outdoor diesel emergency power generator. Widseth Smith Nolting and Hunt Electric were able to place the generator on the north side of the building in the loading dock area where it is essentially hidden from view from the main entrance to the building.
To address the concerns of the 2-story open space heating challenges that come with Bemidji winters, Peterson Sheet Metal added several heating system enhancement features. Two rows of continuous hot water finned tube radiation were installed at the base of the 2-story curtain wall. Linear supply air diffusers were installed at the top of the curtain wall to wash the upper glass area with heated air in winter. De-stratification fans were located in the open office area to help redirect the warm air at the top back down into the lower space. Krauss-Anderson’s in-house MEP Group suggested that these heating enhancement features should go one step further. The MEP Group advocated to add in-floor hydronic radiant heating to all floor slabs open to the 2-story tall space to prevent employees from suffering from “cold feet.” The hydronic in-floor system was designed to merely temper the floor rather than to provide a main source of heating for the building. Kraus-Anderson uses a continuous cost update process as design decisions are being contemplated to make sure the budget can accommodate the desired solutions.
Delta Dental stated that “we did what we said we were going to do” and met expectations for design, scope and schedule. Kraus-Anderson assembled the right design partners for this project resulting in meeting the Owner’s needs by providing innovative solutions that fit within the overall budget. The outcome is a clever building that provides an attractive, contemporary and functional environment to conduct business.