At a major university expansion project in the Southeast, collaboration and cooperation among the construction management firm, window and door manufacturer, and installation contractor resulted in several stunning projects recreating the look of the surrounding century-old buildings. All totaled, Hope’s Windows, Inc. supplied over 1,200 unique windows made from custom hot-rolled steel profiles and nearly 100 high traffic and fire-rated door assemblies made from 10 and 12 gauge cold-rolled steel.

Modern residential colleges with timeless appeal

According to Sean Farrell, Construction Manager at Layton Construction, establishing collaborative relationships is key to successful construction projects. One of the best examples of this maxim is a multi-phase university project for which Layton Construction is serving as construction manager. Layton, part of the STO Building Group, is a nationally-ranked commercial contractor with ten offices around the United States. The firm specializes in healthcare, industrial, warehousing, and higher education projects. As construction manager, Layton hires the sub-contractors and manages and oversees the project as part of a team.

The project, managed out of the company’s Nashville, Tennessee office, includes three new Gothic-style residential colleges designed to closely mirror the timeless appeal of the original 100-year old buildings on the university’s campus. Neighborhood improvements, including replacing streets with walkways and pathways to minimize the amount of campus vehicle traffic, were designed to make the campus more conducive to sitting and walking. Other infrastructure changes were included, like placing all overhead power lines underground. Project complexity was increased by the need to undertake construction while working around students living in the nearby buildings. 

Layton’s number one goal was to achieve the architect’s vision. Washington, DC-based David M. Schwarz Architects (DMSA), along with local architect of record Hastings Architecture, had been charged with creating a residential college where students live, dine, socialize, and study together in a strong community atmosphere. The vision included closely matching the century-old architectural style, including use of steel windows, slate-colored ceramic roof tiles, and custom lighting fixtures. Vertical brick expansion joints were hidden behind downspouts, while molded brick was used so wall surfaces would be slightly irregular. Chimneys served to conceal plumbing and ventilation systems.

While it is not that common for a construction manager to visit different subs, Farrell finds great value in conducting face to face meetings. Since the overriding focus was on matching the look of a bygone era, he believed visits were in order to the subcontractors with products most likely to affect the ambitious aesthetic vision – and the complicated construction schedule. Two handpicked for visits were Jamestown, NY-based Hope’s Windows, Inc. and the masonry contractor responsible for the Indiana limestone to be used for window surrounds and belt coursing.

Specialty window manufacturer produces 100 percent customized products

The local window company hired as the sub-contractor turned to Hope’s Windows for the windows and doors. While several specialty window manufacturers were initially contacted, only Hope’s Windows had the ability to handle the sizes and intricacies of some of the units, particularly large doors and fire-rated windows. 

Brian Whalen, Vice President of Sales explains, “With a business based on 100 percent customized design and manufacturing, Hope’s provides a specialized skill set to assist clients in design and production of unique window and door assemblies. Meeting the expectations of Layton Construction in combination with the aesthetic vision of the client and architect was definitely a challenge.  The overall experience was a testament to the quality standards of the university and an honor to be a part of. In business since 1912, Hope’s had the global experience to make it happen.”

Farrell already had some familiarity with Hope’s Windows, having observed their work replicating a set of Pearl Harbor aircraft hangar window frames that were to be rebuilt and sent to the Smithsonian. “Since we were building windows and doors to make a brand new college, we needed a company with the methodology to produce the product like it was done 100 years ago.” 

He drove to Jamestown, New York to visit Hope’s facility in order to understand how they built their products and determine if they would be good partners for the team. Farrell received a boost of confidence when he spotted a picture hanging in the lobby of the windows Hope’s had produced for the John Deere corporate headquarters, in Moline IL. “Moline is my hometown, and I had always wondered how you get new windows to look that old,” said Farrell.

From there he became intrigued with Hope’s process model, which calls for constructing windows the way they have been constructed for 100 years. He learned that Hope’s is very particular on what they elect to build, and he walked away impressed with their capabilities. 

“One thing I learned was that I would have to adjust my thinking when it comes to how long it takes to get the product versus other manufacturers that have more automated manufacturing processes. Hope’s is more hands on manufacturing. They have modern tools and lasers, but the hand-fabrication process takes longer.” 

To deal with schedule concerns, the group worked together to establish clear priorities and milestones. Hope’s Project Manager (Jim Gruber) worked tirelessly with the teams to identify the windows and doors needed at each phase of construction. Layton Construction monitored the delivery process closely because it was important to get the windows in time to close the buildings and complete the finishes. According to Farrell, Hope’s cooperation and collaboration during the process built a lasting relationship, based on mutual recognition of the challenge of manufacturing versus meeting a construction schedule. He noted their success at working with all the parties to adjust and modify their schedules to make everything work. Working through a learning curve on the first building, the team established a clear path for the future phases. 

“We created a relationship, which is what this business is all about,” says Farrell. “Talking face to face opened the door up to good collaboration. Constructing buildings like this is not easy – there are very tight schedules. We could get past issues and that’s why I consider them a partner.” 

A window into the windows

Hope’s worked closely with the lead design architects right from the beginning of the process to fulfill their design wishes. Hope’s provided numerous iterations of product details, samples, mock-ups and product specifications. The first phase took about a year from selection to installation. 

According to Hope’s Brian Whalen, the work included some highly specialized units, for example fire-rated units required for use in stairwells and some kitchen areas. “We performed additional fire-rated testing so the University SeriesTM products desired by the customer would properly comply with all required testing and life-safety codes. We utilized our extensive knowledge of product testing to transform their design intent to reality. Meeting unique customer/project challenges is truly what we do every day.”

The outside frame of the University Series has a beveled edge to mimic the old putty glazing used in the original steel windows. In addition, the hot-rolled steel used in the process by which the doors and windows are made is the exact same process perfected over centuries. Another important feature is the sight lines – the dimension of frames that is visible. Hot-rolled steel used in the Hope’s Windows process results in a minimal frame profile. The depth of the system itself is consistent over a couple of centuries. While the depth of a typical aluminum window system is 4-5 inches, the depth of hot-rolled steel is only 1 ¾ inches. 

Whalen acknowledges that the project was a real test of Hope’s capabilities. He is especially proud that Hope’s was able to expedite the schedule even in the face of design changes and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The shop drawing approval process – including preparation of blueprints of windows and doors with all setting conditions, sizes, customized designs, and required testing – took longer than normal. Changes were made along the way that might have pushed back the delivery schedules for some, but Hope’s made adjustments during the production process to deliver all materials on time. Whalen gave a nod to Joey Riggan and the team at Alexander Metals, the frame and glass installer team, saying the overall project went extremely smoothly once the frames were on site. 

Says Whalen, “It was a fantastic collaboration among all the parties. Hope’s worked closely as the manufacturer to fulfill the architect’s design vision, and then the installer worked closely with us to make sure everything was executed properly.”  

Unique challenges

Sean Farrell says that each project has its own unique challenges. In this case it was meeting the intent of looking 100 years old with modern materials. He explains that it is not easy to get subs and manufacturers to meet this challenge, because it is such a unique specialty item. “We will be pursuing more specialty projects in the future because of the relationship we built with people like Hope’s Windows.”

He concludes, “Construction is all about relationships. We’ve created a long-lasting relationship with Hope’s Windows, and I consider them a true partner in meeting both the expectations of our clients and the demands of our schedule.”

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