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The Bradley Home & Pavilion: Navigating the Challenges of an Occupied Renovation Project

An occupied renovation project is always challenging. Throw in a three-phase renovation sequence, a senior resident population, and the initial draconian restrictions of the pandemic, and you could be facing a construction disaster.

Spoiler alert: There is a happy ending!

Here are the details of The Bradley Home and Pavilion Project with the plans, the process, the challenges, and the happy ending.

The Bradley Home and Pavilion Project

The Bradley Home and Pavilion is a senior living community in our hometown of Meriden. Established in 1937 by the will of Clarence Bradley, one of Meriden’s greatest benefactors, the 8.6-acre campus houses a 66-bed Residential Care Home with an attached 30-bed Skilled Nursing Pavilion.

But the Bradley Home needed a cosmetic update and a physical renovation. The half-baths needed to be expanded to include a shower for each room, and the hallways and some public spaces needed new paint, carpet, doors, handrails, LED light fixtures, and an updated fire sprinkler system.

The project was designed as a three-phase renovation of the existing Residential Care Home. Phase I and II involved two floors, while Phase III was just one floor.

Here was our initial challenge: How could we run a successful phased and occupied renovation project with minimal disruption to the lives and the safety of the current residents of The Bradley Home?

That quickly became the least of our problems. With the stringent restrictions of the pandemic, unfortunately, coinciding with the beginning of the project in March 2020, our challenges became more complex, and our planning needed to be more strategic.

"We have had extensive experience in the occupied renovation of senior living facilities such as Kirtland Commons and in phased renovation. But nothing prepared us for the unique challenges of COVID," explained James LaRosa, CEO of LaRosa Groups.

Here are the five challenges we faced and how our team worked together to resolve them. Some were unique to the pandemic, and others were specific to renovating an occupied senior living facility.

#1 The usual pandemic-related challenges: Our biggest problem during the initial phase of the pandemic was the working crew. First, it was difficult to find workers who were vaccinated. Then schedules had to be rearranged due to social distancing, and whole teams were eliminated when one worker tested positive for covid. Temperature checks and masks were required until the beginning of March 2023. Luckily, we were aware of the supply shortages and delivery delays, and the owner permitted us to order in advance, so material availability was not a problem.

#2 Unusual pandemic challenges: The project started in the initial phase of the pandemic. Without access to the Bradley Home, we could not physically inspect this property before starting construction. Because it was an older property, what was on the plans did not always represent the actual physical plant.

"Here’s a perfect example. When we were drilling, we would turn off the power in one part of the building. But when we turned the power back on, the power would unexpectedly turn off in another part of the building. Luckily our electrician was extremely responsive and spent days just retracing the wires," explained Tim Penton, Construction Supervisor of LaRosa Groups.

There were also other unexpected issues, such as the asbestos we found during construction. The discovery required us to stop and have it removed, cleared, and certified before we could resume our work. Unexpectedly, the heating and cooling system needed a complete overhaul, a process that was not anticipated in the original bid.

"The added scope required extra expenses and additional time to the project. Luckily the owner was extremely cooperative, and the residents were just so thrilled with their newfound ability to control the temperature in their rooms that they did not complain about the construction delay," explained Dan Samuel, Senior Project Manager of LaRosa Groups.

#3 Conflicting codes: Inspections are standard for every construction project. The Bradley Home required inspections by both the city and the Department of Public Health. The requirements from the Department of Public Health were sometimes in conflict with those from the city. The Pavilion, which is a skilled nursing facility, is attached to the Home, and though the renovation was just for the Home, the connection between the two often blurred the code lines as well.

"Navigating the codes was no easy feat. This project really highlights the professionalism of the team and their ability to negotiate a compromise that would satisfy the Bradley Home, the city inspector, and the Department of Public Health," explained James LaRosa.

#4 Safety: The safety of the residents was a priority. While it’s always a challenge working in an occupied building, working around senior citizens, some with impairments, presented a unique set of challenges. The key was to use a wide variety of communication tools.

We posted many temporary signs and many with pictures as visual reminders. Written notices were posted, and we put a lot of time and effort into training our staff on how to handle the residents. Still, we had residents walking into areas where they did not belong.

"The LaRosa team went above and beyond managing the restrictions and limitations required by the pandemic as well as the presence of our residents. They blended in so seamlessly with our operation that I often forgot they were not on our payroll," explained Anne Dembski, Acting CEO of the Bradley Home and Pavilion.

Innovative Waterproof Bathrooms: One of the impetuses of the renovation was the redesign of the resident bathrooms. Prior to the renovation, each resident had a half-bath attached to their bedrooms. The redesign not only included an ensuite shower with grab bars but also Schluter®-KERDI, an innovative waterproofing system for the walls, and an epoxy floor.

"By installing the Schluter®-KERDI waterproofing membranes, the residents could potentially shower with the shower curtain open without worry. But it also required a unique system of drilling the holes for all the bathroom bars, toilet paper, and towel holders, then filling those holes with a specified water-proof caulk. That took time and planning," added Penton.

Here is the happy ending: If everything else goes according to the plan, the project will be completed in Fall 2023.

"The contrast between the unrenovated areas and the newly-renovated areas is a source of pride for me. The residents are thrilled with the new esthetics of the building, and seeing their reaction makes me happy," admitted Samuel.

Phased renovation in an occupied building is our area of expertise. Let us help you with your next project. Schedule your free consultation today.

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