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Architecture & Engineering

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April 24, 2014

ABC Awards • Tenant Improvement

Photo courtesy of Rafn Co.
The mezzanine of the Engineering and Design Garage is accessed by a spiral staircase. Windows were repurposed from the school’s boiler room.

UCDS Engineering and Design Garage
Rafn Co.

Architect: Carlson Architecture

Engineer: Swensen, Say, Faget

Owner: University Child Development School

ABC members: Air Systems Engineering; Clark Nuber; Clearview Mechanical; Kirby Electric; NCM Contracting Group; Propel Insurance

The University Child Development School needed to reconfigure its space in order to further its culture of inquiry. To do this, Rafn reconfigured a 1,875-square-foot, two-level space within the building and added a teachers’ nook.

Now called the Engineering and Design Garage (EDGe), the newly configured classroom was previously used as staff offices. It features a steel grated mezzanine specifically designed for science experiments and a glass wall.

A spiral metal staircase provides access to the mezzanine, which has a hoist above an access panel in the floor, metal railings, and ceiling-mounted electrical receptacles to keep the floor area clear. The steel sash windows of the glass wall were repurposed from the school’s boiler room and create a view into the EDGe from the interior of the building. The old science room was reconfigured as new staff offices.

The other major component of work was creating a “box-on-a-stick” for the teacher’s nook. Rafn integrated this new space with the existing second-level walkway for the illusion from below of a box mounted on a stick with a floating stair to access it. This small addition was challenging due to the various angles and multiple levels involved, but the finished product is true to the design intent.

The project was completed during summer break, but the campus was busy with students in various summer camps, teachers preparing their rooms and curriculum for the coming year, and maintenance staff.

Project architect Don Carlson started with sketches that allowed Rafn to drive the constructability of the project. Structural engineer Dan Say worked with the Rafn team to draw what they wanted to build. Rafn’s questions went to Don and the rest of the team, including the teachers who were going to be in the affected rooms. It created great collaboration and buy-in, making expectations easier to meet.

The box-on-a-stick, floating stair and mezzanine area were fueled by the architect’s pencil sketches. Challenges included figuring out how to build these areas with their variety of angles, installing new structural steel in an enclosed wooden space, finding a solution for a circular steel staircase and hoisting it into place, and moving a 400-pound wood plank table from the mezzanine to the main floor.

To hoist the stairs, Rafn used the old chain and chainfall method. The school’s science teacher saw it and asked Rafn to install one for him to teach students about hoisting.

Rafn’s long-term relationship with the steel subcontractor proved invaluable to the success of the project. Among other creative solutions, the subcontractor designed and fabricated the steel staircase and saved the client $26,000. An additional $30,000 was saved by reusing materials, steel sash windows, doors and relites. The materials were also kept out of the waste stream.

Rafn completed the project 11 days ahead of schedule, under budget and with no accidents in 1,768 hours worked.

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