Designing senior living communities is the core of AG Architecture’s business. While the clients are sure to recognize the benefits of having a team of experienced architectural designers address their project needs, it is also important to know that AG offers more than just architectural services. A well trained group of engineering professionals provides an additional level of expertise. Whether working on senior living, adaptive re-use projects, or a mixed use or multi-family development, AG Engineering’s capabilities help provide value to the project as well as a wealth of resources that benefit the entire team.
This in-house expertise creates a seamless design process with engineering decisions integrated into earlier phases of design. “By working with the engineering team on a daily basis, instead of bi-weekly or monthly, we can insure that our intent is carried through more thoroughly,” describes AG Senior Associate Ann D’Acquisto. “They are involved from day one and work with us through the whole process.”
Matt Rau, P.E., head of AG’s structural engineering department adds, “An in-house structural engineering department is beneficial in several ways. It reduces the amount of time spent setting up various levels of communication, i.e. phone calls, emails, letters, etc. It provides a closer bond between team members, simply from the physical proximity of these members, which in turn results in better project coordination. It allows for greater, in-depth discussion as to the best marriage of architectural and structural engineering concerns. Finally, it makes it easier to be in constant communication with the architectural staff in order to inform them of the ‘dreaded’, but sometimes necessary ‘changes’.”
Since the engineering staff is so readily accessible, the architects are inclined to ask more questions of their engineer counterparts to help troubleshoot and solve problems. This allows the engineers the opportunity to address project challenges with immediacy and work with the architects through a give-and-take process all with the best interest of the client in mind. “When an issue does arise, the lines of communication are open with the engineering team. They know the design, the process and the standards. It actually eliminates errors and streamlines the process. They understand the special codes, products and systems related to senior living because this is what they do every day. It benefits the team and the client,” explains D’Acquisto.
This integrated team approach instills a sense of confidence in clients as well as the architecture staff. They know that the engineering department is a resource they can count on. While at times, the firm does extend its engineering team to include outside consultants, it is evident that there is a benefit to maintaining primary control of the project in-house.
When it comes time to make difficult decisions regarding the construction budget, the engineering team is confident clients will see the benefit in leaving the money in the design of the mechanical systems. “We are concerned about providing a level of physical comfort and the ability to maintain control over it,” describes AG Principal Tony Luciano, P.E. “Let’s do it right the first time. While it may not be as glamorous as granite and marble, it is a decision that has lasting impact on the design and the residents.”
The AG Engineering department has a knack for making things work despite the challenges clients place before them. However, over the years, code changes and the administrative bodies that monitor these codes have added new levels of challenges. The need for additional approvals requires the team to work through more red tape.
“I take pride in our ability to work and develop relationships with the necessary code officials as well as our ability to come up with creative solutions that address client needs while meeting code requirements,” comments Luciano.
As the design of senior living communities continues to evolve, the architecture and engineering team have new program requirements to address. “This requires various systems modifications which then need to be communicated to the code officials so we can prove to them that these new, unfamiliar mechanical systems will work,” describes Luciano. “We are creating structures that look like a house, but function on a much larger scale.” Due to AG’s expertise with this building type, their innovative design solutions evolve faster than the codes can adapt. The challenge in the industry is bridging the gap between the two, and AG Engineering’s staff continues to champion this evolution.