Customized Condos Take Shape in St. Louis
On the $70 million Maryland Walk mixed-used development in Clayton, Mo., customization is king. No matter if residents prefer track lighting or high-end specialty fixtures for their condos, Guarantee Electrical Co. will be there to meet their needs.
Scheduled for completion in early 2006, the 17-story condominium will house 92 luxury units plus three levels of penthouse suites and two levels of underground parking, says Michael Bollinger, project manager for Residential Constructors.
Thanks to its successful relationship with Residential Constructors on previous projects, Guarantee Electrical was able to secure the $5 million electrical job, says Steve Kellenberger, senior project manager for the St. Louis-based electrical contracting firm. In addition to the two design engineers working on the project, two electricians are also on-site full time. Kellenberger believes that number will peak at 30 by June 2005. The team's first task is to develop accurate field installation drawings while installing the underground service feeder conduits and applicable raceways in the garage level.
After recently purchasing a local data installation contractor, Tel-VI Communications Co., Guarantee Electrical will also handle the low-voltage work, including installation and testing of the telephone, security, and data wiring. A telephone-data cabinet located in each unit will integrate all cable television and/or satellite, voice, and data systems. Electrical services for each unit will be provided by a PVC-coated cable feeder embedded in concrete.
The building power distribution system is unique in that each tenant condo unit has its own separate load center. “Although this appears logical in a typical residence, there are well over 100 branch-circuit panels in 17 floors of living space,” Kellenberger says.
One of the most unique aspects of the electrical work relates to the level of customization offered to tenants. “Each condominium owner has the freedom to select a number of lighting, power, and data options, resulting in a customized electrical and system wiring installation similar to an upscale home or condominium constructed in a suburban setting,” Kellenberger says. “Options include a vast array of lighting fixture selections/upgrades that can include owner-furnished fixtures, ceiling fans, and home theater systems rough-ins.”
As Bollinger points out, Maryland Walk's unique residential customization component differentiates it from other condos. “This project consists of more than 100 luxury homes being constructed vertically,” he says. “Each homeowner will have the opportunity to upgrade many features, which means no two floors will be the same.”
Because each condo owner has the option to build a customized unit tailored to his or her lifestyle, taste, and budget, identifying and implementing installation modifications for 92 separate residences will inevitably prove to be a challenge for the general contractor and subcontractors. “The most interesting component of this project is the constructing of individual residences with the freedom to personalize each condominium,” Kellenberger says. “High-rise projects are particularly difficult to achieve a consistent level of acceptable productivity on. Labor is adversely affected by the elements, and the means to effectively distribute tools, materials, and manpower to the locations is required.”
One of the ways to overcome this obstacle is to improve the company's pre-fabrication operation. Kellenberger explains that Maryland Walk, which is currently 55% pre-sold, was selected as one of Guarantee's pilot projects to incorporate new ideas, methods, and materials in an effort to maximize the firm's pre-fab creativity and commitment. “The object is to improve and implement a new prefabrication program to overcome the adverse effects of high-rise construction,” Kellenberger says.
A member of Federal Electrical Contractors (FEC), an international network of electrical contractors, Guarantee Electrical sought the advice of an associated member in Las Vegas that was already familiar with this style of construction. David Gralike, vice president of operations, assembled a team to travel to this company's location to exchange ideas. “This trip reinforced our commitment to use our pre-fab operation as a proven method to combat project inefficiencies,” Kellenberger says. “It has become more apparent that fabricating repetitive work that can be partially or totally assembled in a controlled environment results in a cost savings.”