Construction photos: weeks 19-32

My last construction blog post was week 18, and you might think that since we’re now up to week 32, we’ve come twice as far as when you last checked in.  Sadly, no.  All construction projects (I am told) suffer at least one inconceivably long and complicated delay, and that’s been the story this whole summer.  But there has been some concrete progress (literally), and so I figured I should share the latest photos.

First, to give you some idea of how long the delay has been consider these before and after shots…

Here is the fill dirt hill,

Fill Dirt Before Fill Dirt After

Or, look at how the Garage construction area has become overgrown:

Garage Site Returning To Nature

Or, see what happens to the venerable Duct Tape when exposed to the elements a bit more than expected:

ducttapenomore.jpg

But after all the waiting, things are on the move again!  We’ve got even more conduit in (Week 19):

And our construction foreman is readying the field for the delivery of the architectural blocks (Week 32):

kevinmowing.jpg

If you’ve read this far, you must be wondering…why no progress during the most productive months of the year for construction?  In a word, the answer is Lighting.

This time last year, we suffered a 3 month pre-construction delay because the coordination between the electrical engineer and the heating and cooling engineer was not great.  Whether it was because both were overworked, bad at scheduling, or whatever, they could not seem to finish the plans that Wes had given them until all was done in a mad dash over one long weekend.  Unfortunately, that mad dash produced plans that were really inconsistent with the original design.  So inconsistent, that we had to spend another few months until the plans finally matched what was given to them in the first place!?  This meant that instead of grading the site last summer, we had to wait until January 2008.

But it gets worse: the person who we chose to deliver the lighting package gave us an estimate that was more than $100,000 over budget, which we all agreed was ridiculous.  We explained that we were building an acoustic environment, and that lighting was a mostly functional task.  He refused to give us transparent pricing, and when we asked him for any details, he merely withdrew his bid.  So we had to find somebody else who would work with us.

An additional factor in the delay was our desire to build the most green recording studio facility we could.  We had looked at LED lighting very hard when doing the original design in 2006, but agreed that there were no LED lighting products that met our functional requirements.  In fairness, we did ask our lighting guy to give us an idea of what it would cost to make the space groovy with some Color Kinetics units (or equivalent), but we were also very clear that if these units took the price into the stratosphere, we’d have to look for alternatives.  Since we never got transparent pricing, we’ll never know, but I do suspect that is was a mistake to ask the question about these products.  In any even, as the delays multiplied, we kept getting press releases about further improvements in LED lighting technology.

And it gets worse, still.  We were so releieved to receive plans in December that should have been the plans delivered in August (that should have been the plans delivered in June) that we did not ask the hard questions about the electrical plan outside the studio environment, namely the location of the Master Distribution Panel.  The poor placement of this panel would ultimately force us to completely redraw and reseal our electrical pages.  When we decided this was unavoidable, we felt that we owed it to ourselves to re-ask the LED lighting question.

What we discovered after asking two different lighting folks to attend two different national lighting shows (so that we could decide based on all the latest information) was that, no, LED lighting is still not appropriate for the design of our environment, at least not for functional lighting.  A fundamental design element of the primary acoustic environments is a soffit that runs around the space.  This soffit is thick enough for halogen lamps, but LEDs require extraordinarily large heat sinks, not because they generate so much heat (they are perhaps 3x more effiecient than high-efficiency halogen bulbs), but because the LED material tolerates heat so poorly.  The large heat sinks are needed to keep them cool.  We do have the internal height in the exterior soffits for LED lights, so we will use them there, but for the interior soffits, we have to go with halogen.  Unfortunately, this process of discovery took a good six weeks.

Finally, after we identified a second party, told them of our experiences with the first party, and after assurances that they understood the problem, and would be flexible and give us transparent pricing, and attempting to work with them on a new LED lighting package, we waited several more weeks before receiving a bid that was even higher than the first bid!!

So, starting in August, we basically started our lighting plans from scratch with a new engineer, and we have designed out all elements that violate the principles of commodity pricing.  Needless to say, this has been frustrating.  But there is now light at the end of this tunnel.

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