Even the most careful architect can’t prepare for everything. Our best laid plans can easily be disrupted by hundreds of unforeseen conditions, from freak weather to unexpected archeological sites unearthed during construction. At DMA, we’ve seen our fair share of disruptive conditions – that’s why our staff is so skilled at navigating complicated projects! Last year, we took on a small renovation project: remodeling a 1920’s home into a modern office for CNM’s STEM department.
Sounds straightforward, right?
The Oxford House project began with a vague scope and an extremely tight budget. Due to the historical requirements of the house, careful planning and design options had to be considered. DMA worked diligently with the client to determine priorities for the new space and prioritize items to be included as part of the project scope.
One of the first things we do at the start of a renovation project is to familiarize ourselves with the existing facility. During the initial walk-through of the house, our design team explored the front and back yards and interior rooms, noting potential options for preservation, expansion, and increased safety measures. The team, finished with their assessment of the inside of the house, went to inspect the plumbing and pipe work, which could be found in the basement. They went outside and around the house until they reached the large doors leading to what they expected to be a run-of-the-mill 20th Century residential basement. And it was, if you expect an average residential basement to host hundreds of black widow spiders as tenants.
While one or two black widows are common in New Mexican homes, this infestation was serious enough to halt the initial walk-through. It was the first unforeseen condition that needed to be resolved quickly. A professional exterminator removed the spiders, allowing the team to complete their assessment of the plumbing systems.
As the design progressed through CNM’s winter break, a water pipe inside the house froze, causing the water line to break and completely flood the basement. The flooding damaged the original floors of the house and damaged the foundation. This issue caused a major delay in schedule while the owner worked out insurance claims and the scope was re-evaluated once again. DMA worked closely with the owner to ensure all prioritized items in the scope were properly addressed and the project was delivered within budget. The team also reviewed the schedule and the project was completed in time for the new semester.
Despite a couple of surprising bumps in the road on our way to completing the renovation, we were able to finish the project within budget while maintaining our design standard of excellence. Each of the spaces in the existing Oxford House were converted for new use. The bedrooms were converted to offices and the living room was made into a conference room with the original fireplace remaining in place. The kitchen was upgraded to a kitchenette and the entry foyer became an open workstation.
Window and heating/cooling systems upgrades offer energy conservation solutions, and LED light fixtures provide additional cost savings. The original wood flooring finishes were preserved but renovated for durability. The existing covered porch was converted to function as an entry vestibule at the main entrance of the house, which provides outdoor views and natural daylight into the office space while doubling as a security feature for the tenants. We also added a new accessible ramp connecting to the renovated entry porch to meet the required accessibility upgrades for the new administration building.
Our team sees unique opportunities, not difficulties, in any project challenge. Whether it’s hundreds of spiders or freezing pipes resulting in a flooded basement, our ability to find solutions and be flexible, to work with owners and contractors, is a strong asset of our design team.