One of the greatest challenges for community leaders and project teams is to keep existing residents happy during construction projects. From the moment planning starts, communication is critical. Keeping residents and their families informed minimizes the impact of the disruptions that come with construction projects. With the proper communication channels in place, the team can work together to strategically plan the best possible phasing for the project. A team’s ability to address safety concerns as well as minimize moves, noise issues and other disturbances is truly advocacy in action. A team that works collaboratively to keep the residents happy during a renovation process is a team that is working in the best interest of the client and the community.

AG and Berghammer Construction Corporation recently worked together on the renovation of an existing 24-unit apartment building at Congregational Home. It was converted into 28-independent living units and included the renovation of public spaces such as corridors, lobbies, dining rooms and a pub.

“Berghammer’s extensive experience working in and around areas where elderly residents and/or recovering patients reside has taught us that unique strategies must be employed on these projects, much more so than any other type of project,” says George Minnich, senior vice president and principal of Berghammer.

Minnich advises senior living community leaders to choose a construction manager that has strategies to address the following factors:

  • Disruption Avoidance
  • Security
  • Life Safety and Infection Control
  • Respecting Residents and Their Home

Berghammer established a Disruption Avoidance Program to help communities maintain operations during construction. “Construction operations are always considered secondary to the continued operation of the campus and the comfort of the residents,” says Minnich.

He believes communication is key to the success of their Disruption Avoidance Program.  At Berghammer, the superintendent communicates with the staff describing the daily activities and construction schedule, so certain noises, vibrations, dust or odors don’t surprise staff and residents. “Work operations can be shut down at any time as the result of a resident or staff complaint,” says Minnich.

Some specific examples of communication methods that Berghammer has implemented to share project information, schedules and updates include:

  • Posts on the community intranet or website
  • Bulletin boards displayed at strategic locations within the facility
  • Articles in newsletters or other community printed materials
  • Face-to face meetings

When it comes to Security, the team needs to address any physical openings that create access to previously secure spaces as well as access to the community by the construction team. Precautions taken include:

  • A mandatory sign-in program for all visitors
  • A mandatory dress code for workers to ensure that no inappropriate or offensive clothing is worn.
  • As necessary, color-coded hardhats and branded company apparel to further identify their work division on site.

Life Safety and Infection Control is of the utmost importance throughout the project process. From an infection perspective, one of the key concerns is how to control the spread of dust and odors. “Generally this concern is addressed by the temporary adjustment of the HVAC system and the addition of portable HEPA filters,” describes Minnich. “By placing the work area in a negative air pressure condition, the resulting positive pressure surrounding the negative pressure area acts to contain all dust or odor in the work space.”

When it comes to addressing life safety, Berghammer implements a “barrier maintenance” program to ensure that any penetration of existing walls remain secure at all times. In addition, the team makes sure that the fire protection systems remain in service, fire and smoke barriers remain intact and emergency exiting requirements are not compromised.

The ultimate goal of these efforts is to keep residents happy amidst change. For Berghammer, Treating Residents and Their Home With Respect is an unwritten rule.