October 22, 2009

Knowing when to build and when to remodel

  • Owners should have their architects and contractors assist them to determine the feasibility of building new versus remodeling.
    Baylis Architects


    Bellevue is a rapidly growing city and building owners are facing the dilemma of how best to provide additional space to accommodate the growing need for their services.

    Whether planning a remodel or new construction project, there are a number of factors to consider before making the decision to expand. An owner must evaluate the scope of the project, and with the assistance of an architect and contractor can determine the feasibility of remodeling verses building new. If the decision is to remodel, one must consider if it is more cost effective to remain in the space during construction or to relocate temporarily.

    Another vital factor to consider is sustainability. With population growth, the case for environmentally sensitive projects is strengthened. In all instances of remodel or new construction, an owner has an opportunity to provide a sustainable project with energy and water efficient systems, and with materials that allow a healthy environment for building users. Expanding or remodeling existing facilities takes advantage of resources that may otherwise be demolished.

    Youth Eastside Services and the Bellevue Club are two examples of established Bellevue institutions that recently expanded their facilities to keep pace with the city’s substantial growth.

    Youth Eastside Services moved to a temporary location during the construction of its new building in Crossroads Park, while the Bellevue Club completed a major expansion and remodel of its facilities while remaining open. There are benefits and challenges to each approach.

    Building new

    Photos by Pro Image Photography
    Youth Eastside Services constructed a new building in Bellevue’s Crossroads area to accommodate future growth.

    Youth Eastside Services recently completed construction on its new facility nestled on the north edge of Crossroads Park in Bellevue. YES is a nonprofit organization that serves as a lifeline to kids and their families who are coping with challenges such as emotional distress, substance abuse and violence. The agency has experienced steady growth since being founded in 1968 and recognized that as the city population expands, so does the need for its services. The Bellevue facility needed to double in area to accommodate the organization’s anticipated needs for 2015.

    The previous facility for YES was built in the mid-1980s and had a reserved and unassuming presence. YES considered the pros and cons of remodeling and expanding its existing facility. Due to cost-, schedule- and program-driven requirements, the agency decided that new construction would be the best option. Unlike its previous building, it wanted the new facility to have a dramatic, inviting presence.

    During construction, the agency moved into a temporary location in downtown Bellevue. By the end of summer 2008, its 21,000-square-foot, wood-framed structure was complete and ready to serve the community. The modern, eclectic composition of its new facility contains more than a dozen individual and group counseling spaces as well as administrative functions to meet future needs. The two-story lobby, with exposed trusses and a wood deck ceiling, opens to the park through a glass wall and is a welcome beacon to park users and the community.


    The Bellevue Club decided to renovate its existing facilities and build this three-story fitness center addition.

    The Bellevue Club recently completed a major expansion and remodel project; all while maintaining many of its daily operations. The club began as a tennis facility in the late 1970s. Over the years, it has expanded to become a premier social, athletic and hotel facility with swimming pools, gymnasiums, racquet facilities, exercise studios, restaurants, banquet facilities and meeting spaces.

    The club acknowledged that fitness amenities have changed over the years. Group exercise classes are very popular — which begs for increased studio space — and individual cardio machines with cutting edge technology are in demand. With this in mind, the club decided on a 15,000-square-foot expansion that included three stories plus a small basement level and a remodel of a number of existing spaces.

    The expansion portion of the project was located in the footprint of an exterior tennis court and was constructed with minimal disruption to the club’s daily activities. When complete, the expansion provided new studios for Pilates, kinesis and hot yoga on the first level, with state-of-the-art cardio equipment with personal viewing screens on the second and third levels. The new exercise spaces are flooded with natural light and the atmosphere is visually appealing and relaxing. The landscape surrounding the expansion enhances the Asian-inspired Northwest design.

    Cardio machines were included in the new Bellevue Club space to meet members’ demand.

    Areas of the club that were remodeled required extensive coordination and phasing plans with the owner. The goal was to minimize the interruption of services to club members and keep as many spaces operational as possible. This process of coordinating around ongoing operations will typically result in a longer construction schedule.

    The existing library in the Bellevue Club served as a quiet get-away for members and guests, and keeping the space operational for as long as possible with little interruption was important. With a phasing plan provided by the contractor, the library remained open during most of the construction. When complete, the library doubled in size and provided comfortable and cozy spaces with views to the exterior tennis courts.

    For the remodel of two existing studio spaces, the work was too extensive for those areas to remain in operation during construction. The space was closed while new flooring, wall finishes, and enhanced acoustics and ceiling treatments were installed.

    In addition to the library and exercise studio remodel, the club converted two racquetball courts into two-story multiuse spaces, refinished the exterior tennis courts, enhanced the exterior swimming pool with an elegant water feature, and renovated the gymnasium. A mini-gym for use by young members was also added.

    There were upgrades throughout the project that were required by building code.

    The best approach

    As Bellevue continues to grow and flourish as a major population urban center, building owners will be faced with this challenge of how to improve their facilities to provide for the growth. Every project has unique needs and requirements. Cost impacts, schedule and sustainability are just a few of the many factors that will come into consideration. Together, an owner and architect can evaluate the needs of a specific project and determine the best approach for accommodating the expansion needs of a facility.

    Meredith Everist, AIA, is an associate principal with Baylis Architects.

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