VOL. 32 • NO. 2 • $4.00 ®
IN THIS ISSUE:
“VOICE OF THE
MECHANICAL/ ELECTRICAL Meeting Mechanical Needs at Oakwood Southshore Medical Center Addition Toledo Zoo Creates First SolarWalk in the Nation
IS YOUR WEBSITE HURTING YOUR BUSINESS? Marketing Strategies that Get Results
Making the grade EXCAVATION / SITEWORK MOVES FROM INDUSTRIAL PLANT TO NATIVE PLANTS AT THE REFUGE GATEWAY
Plus: WISDOM OF OZ – The Yellow Brick Road Leads to Mercy Memorial Hospital in Monroe
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ISO REGISTERED 9001:2000 LEED AP 248.545.4404 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ferndale-electric.com
26 Greenprint for the Future Rudolph/Libbe Creates the First SolarWalk in the Nation
“VOIC E OF TH E CONSTR UCTION I N DUSTRY”®
34 Finding New Ground Moving from Industrial Plants to Native Plants at the Refuge Gateway
CONSTRUCTION HIGHLIGHT 16 Is Your Website Hurting Your Business? Marketing Strategies that Get Results
20 On the Jobsite Ronnisch MICCO Star in the Production of Royal Oak’s New Emagine Theatre
42 Wisdom of Oz
22 Oakwood Heathcare System Delivers for Quality Care
The Yellow Brick Road Leads to Mercy Memorial Hospital in Monroe
8 10 10 46 50 51 52 54 54
Letter from the President Industry News Safety Tool Kit Product Showcase People in Construction CAM Welcomes New Members Buyers Guide Updates Construction Calendar Advertisers Index
ABOUT THE COVER: John H. Hartig, refuge manager (left), and Rob Lange, Glencorp (right), witness the release of the former underground Monguagon Drain.
“Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
Kevin N. Koehler Amanda M. Tackett
Mary E. Kremposky David R. Miller
PRODUCTION DIRECTOR GRAPHIC DESIGN DIRECTOR OF MARKETING ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
Matthew J. Austermann Marci L. Christian Gregg A. Montowski Cathy A. Jones
DIRECTORS OFFICERS Chairman
James C. Capo, AIA, DeMattia Group
Stephen J. Auger, AIA, Stephen Auger + Associates Architects
Jacqueline LaDuke Walters, LaDuke Roofing & Sheet Metal
Frank G. Nehr, Jr.,
Kevin N. Koehler
Davis Iron Works
M. James Brennan, Broadcast Design & Construction, Inc.
Kevin French, Poncraft Door Company
Todd W. Hill, Ventcon, Inc.
Mary K. Marble, Marble Mechanical, LLC
Donald J. Purdie, Jr., Detroit Elevator Company
Eric C. Steck, Amalio Corporation
Kurt F. Von Koss, Beaver Tile & Stone
2006 GRAPHIC DESIGN USA MARCOM International Creative Awards
AMERICAN INHOUSE DESIGN AWARD
Gallery of Fine Printing 2002 Bronze Award
2005 Gold Award
Michigan Society of Association Executives 2002, 2004, 2005 & 2007 Diamond Award 2003, 2006 Honorable Mention
The Communicator International Print Media Competition Overall Association Magazine Magazine Writing
CAM Magazine (ISSN08837880) is published monthly by the Construction Association of Michigan, 43636 Woodward Ave., P.O. Box 3204, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302-3204 (248) 972-1000. $24.00 of annual membership dues is allocated to a subscription to CAM Magazine. Additional subscriptions $40.00 annually. Periodical postage paid at Bloomfield Hills, MI and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER, SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO: CAM MAGAZINE, 43636 WOODWARD AVE., BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI 48302-3204. For editorial comment or more information: email@example.com. For reprints or to sell CAM Magazine: 248-972-1000. Copyright © 2008 Construction Association of Michigan. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission is prohibited. CAM Magazine is a registered trademark of the Construction Association of Michigan.
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1175WestLongLakeRd., Suite200,Troy,MI48098 248-828-3377 • Fax248-828-4290Bonding • 248-828-3741Insurance www.vtcins.com
GRIFFIN, SMALLEY & WILKERSON, INC. 37000GrandRiver,Suite150, FarmingtonHills,MI48335 248-471-0970 • Fax248-471-0641 www.gswins.com
VTC INSURANCE GROUP Representing
From the desk of the President March 2011 Dear CAM Members, I am excited to announce the launch of a new product from the Construction Association of Michigan. Unveiled in January, the Michigan Construction Marketplace – a one-stop online e-commerce center for equipment dealers, suppliers, material providers and anyone involved in any type of construction or building. Check out flier in this month’s CAM Magazine. The Michigan Construction Marketplace connects those who are looking to sell with those who are looking to buy. The site features 22 different categories of Construction Equipment and several categories of Building Materials and Supplies, Real Estate, Vehicles and General/Other. Other features include links to sellers’ websites, auction houses, dealers, financing and rental companies. Reasonably priced, the Michigan Construction Marketplace offers a variety of selling packages: $20 for a four-week ad with one photo; $25 for an eight-week ad with four photos; and specially-priced dealer packages and banner advertising opportunities. Responding to an ad is FREE and no commissions are charged to the seller; that’s right, you sell it for $5,000.00 and you keep $5,000.00. Construction companies looking to buy good, new or used, reasonably priced equipment and supplies will find the Michigan Construction Marketplace an invaluable tool. Driving usage is important to the site’s success, so please tell a friend and be sure to check it out yourself at www.michiganconstructionmarketplace.com or thru the CAM website at www.cam-online.com. Access is free and available to everyone. Our Motto is: Sell it, Find it, Buy it! For more information on the Michigan Construction Marketplace, contact Cathy Jones at 248-972-1115 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sincerely,
Kevin N. Koehler President Construction Association of Michigan
Michigan Construction Marketplace is your online source for new and used construction equipment, supplies and materials. Michigan Construction Marketplace connects those who are looking to sell with those who are looking to buy. The site features 22 different categories of construction equipment and several categories of building materials and supplies, real estate, vehicles, and much more.
“Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
Clark Construction’s AwardWinning Safety Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary Clark Construction’s industry-leading safety program achieved yet another milestone as the company celebrated the 10th anniversary of its widely recognized efforts in late December 2010. During the past ten years, Clark Construction, Lansing, has logged more than 2.65 million hours without lost time due to injury. “Achieving ten years without lost time due to injury is practically unprecedented in the construction industry, and could not have been achieved without the total commitment of the entire Clark team,” said Clark Construction CEO Charles Clark. “I am proud of all of our employees for their continued commitment to a safe work environment and our overall safety program.” The Clark safety program has been heralded during the past ten years with several highly prestigious awards. Earlier this year, Clark Construction became the first
construction company in Michigan to receive the MIOSHA CET Platinum Award for having achieved 2.5 million work hours without lost time. Also included among Clark’s other safety recognitions in recent years: CET Gold Award from MIOSHA for outstanding accomplishments in safety ● Safety Excellence Award from the Michigan Chapter of Associated General Contractors (AGC) ● Outstanding Safety Performance Award from the Accident Fund Insurance Company of America ●
Clark was also the first Michigan contractor to enroll in a landmark government/industry safety alliance involving Michigan AGC and MIOSHA. Much of Clark’s success in its safety program can be attributed to its comprehensive, ongoing safety training programs. All Clark employees participate in continuing safety education each year.
“Everyone at Clark Construction is serious about safety, and that attitude is obvious in the level of engagement in each of our training programs,” said Clark Construction’s Chief Financial Officer, Tony Rohac. “Our commitment to safety has not only protected our workers, but it continues to provide our clients with quality construction without interruption or incident. An added benefit is the impact our program has had on trade contractors, which has been instrumental in reducing lost time injuries to trade contractor employees by 70 percent.”
Detroit Medical Center Kicking Off $300 Million in Projects, Awards First $60 to $70 Million Detroit Medical Center (DMC) officials recently made good on their promise to get right to work on hospital construction projects by announcing contracts totaling over $60 million just four days after DMC’s landmark partnership with Vanguard Health Systems was sealed. “What better way to start the New Year
SAFETY TOOL KIT Best Practice for Pre-Task Plans – Safe for Everyone By Joe Forgue ikipedia defines a Best Practice as: “A technique, method, process, activity, incentive, or reward which conventional wisdom regards as more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc.” I have made the point before that OSHA/MIOSHA standards are merely minimum requirements when it comes to keeping your workers safe, and are a good framework upon which to build an effective safety program. If we apply the above definition, we can clearly see that there is a lot of room for improvement on the basic standards. As an example, many of you require, or have worked on a jobsite which requires, that hard hats be worn at all times while “within the fence.” There are no OSHA or MIOSHA standards that require that level of protection; rather it’s done as an industry Best Practice. Since we should always be on the lookout for the best way to keep people safe at work, it only makes Joseph M. Forgue
Director of Education & Safety Services
sense to incorporate Best Practices into our safety routine. Probably one of the best examples of a Best Practice is the routine use of PreTask Plans. Though not required by any standard they are, in my humble opinion, the best way to ensure a worksite that is as safe as it can be. I have discussed these previously and many of you are doing them already. By always searching for the best way to maintain a healthy and safe work environment, you can ensure a stable and profitable outcome. I also want to remind you that we are still offering free Focus Four hazard training and safety program consulting under our Grant from MIOSHA-CET. And don’t forget to submit your application for the 2010 CAM Safety Achievement Award. If you had a safe year in 2010, why not get some recognition for it? If you haven’t received an application, you can get one from the CAM website at www.camonline.com, via the Safety page. You can also contact me at email@example.com or 248-972-1141.
“Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
than by moving forward with eight DMC construction projects,” said Michael Duggan, DMC president and CEO. “We promised our patients, our employees and the City of Detroit that we would aggressively move in the bulldozers and forklifts once the agreement was final. Now we start fulfilling that promise – and this is just the beginning.” Architectural/engineering firms were recently announced on eight DMC projects and construction management firms were recently announced on two of those projects. Contracts totaling $50 million dollars went to the DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan Specialty Center and to private room renovation at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital. Brinker LLC was awarded the Children’s construction contract and Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott was awarded the A/E contract. Auch/Mig was awarded the Huron Valley construction contract and Stuckey Vitale was awarded the A/E contract. The five-level, 105,550-square-foot Children’s specialty center will house a pediatrics clinic, adolescent medicine,
outpatient rehabilitation, specialty clinics and 200 physician office suites to meet growing demand for outpatient services. Children’s Hospital served nearly a quarter of a million outpatient and emergency department patients in 2009. The center represents the first expansion of the DMC central campus in almost three decades. “Just over a year ago, the DMC approached us for help,” said Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano. “They showed us plans and ideas that gave us confidence in them. We delivered, resulting in the largest investment known to the City of Detroit. Now, we start a new year with new development projects being awarded to local companies, and more importantly, getting people back to work.” Two major architectural projects were recently announced: the five-story, 150,000square-foot Cardiovascular Institute and Multispecialty Building awarded to Harley Ellis Devereaux, and the Sinai-Grace Hospital Emergency Department awarded to SmithGroup Incorporated. The Sinai-Grace project will double the size of the emergency room and will add 46 new ICU
beds. The $110 million dollar Cardiovascular Institute project and the $77 million dollar Sinai-Grace expansion both start in fall of 2011. Other contracts for architectural work over $10 million are: ● A $10.7 million dollar central, unified lobby at Harper University Hospital awarded to Neumann/Smith Architecture and slated to begin this summer. ● A $23 million dollar surgical services renovation at Harper University Hospital awarded to HKS and slated to start this summer. ● An $8 million dollar unit renovations at Harper University Hospital awarded to Stuckey Vitale and slated to start this fall. ● An $8.4 million dollar new operating and pre/post operating room at Detroit Receiving Hospital awarded to Stuckey Vitale and slated to start this fall. For a complete project list, please visit www.DMC.org and click on the Construction Outreach Banner.
tubes & parts for bryan boilers superior & unilux boilers honeywell parts powerflame & webster burner parts valves & gauges 23109 Doremus St. Clair Shores MI 48080
P: 586-477-7034 F: 586-585-9258 firstname.lastname@example.org
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NEWS school, they can accomplish their dreams.” Added Councilman Pugh, quoting a Mayo Angelo poem: “When you learn, you teach. When you get, you give.” He praised Jackson, and told the students: “(If ) you don’t have to know a lot to teach, teach what you know. (If ) you don’t have to have a lot to give, give what you have.” In that spirit, he honored Jackson, a man who truly shines with the spirit of Detroit. For more information on the Carpenters’ Christmas for Kids event, contact Stephanie Givens at email@example.com or call Publicity Works at 248.691.4466.
Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Mike Jackson, Honored with Spirit of Detroit Award The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters (MRCC) Executive SecretaryTreasurer Mike Jackson was honored with a Spirit of Detroit Award for his charitable activities and outstanding service to the City of Detroit by Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh. Jackson was honored at the Annual Carpenters’ Christmas for Kids holiday party in December at Spain Dual School. Jackson was surprised and touched by the tremendous honor. A Spirit of Detroit Award can be requested from a council member for a person, event or organization for an outstanding achievement or service to the citizens of Detroit. The plaque inscription on the Spirit of Detroit sculpture holds true for Jackson. The plaque reads: “Through the spirit of man is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.” Another honor received during the ceremony inspired Jackson. Charles McCoy, eighth-grade class president, penned an eloquent and upbeat poem that he read prior to presenting Johnson and MRCC President Rich Davis with an engraved plaque from the Spain Dual School in appreciation of their devoted time and support over the past 14 years. The talented young man is an example of the impact that the MRCC's generosity has had on the students at the school. “This is our way of inspiring hope in Detroit’s youth,” said Jackson. “We believe as long as these children understand the importance of education and remain in
Building Professionals Support Homes for Our Troops PELLA RAISES MONEY TO HELP BUILD HOMES FOR SEVERELY INJURED U.S. SOLDIERS Thirty events across the U.S. and Canada will bring the building industry together in 2011, and during each event, window and door industry leader Pella Corporation will encourage attendees to donate to help build homes for severely injured U.S. soldiers and their families. Pella has selected the national, non-profit organization Homes for Our Troops as its charitable partner for THE PRO EXPO Presented by Pella(SM) program held in 30 U.S. and Canadian markets January through May 2011. Pella is contributing money to help the Homes for Our Troops cause, and is encouraging others to do so as well. "Through THE PRO EXPO Presented by Pella events, we bring together builders, remodelers, contractors, architects and students to network, share ideas and earn accredited educational credits," said Jarred Roy, trade marketing manager at Pella Corporation. "An important part of this
event is providing attendees with a meaningful charity to which they can donate. Homes for Our Troops is a strong fit for Pella and our partners, given each of our ties to the homebuilding industry." HOW TO HELP Donations can be made through a secure online fundraising site at http://www.homesforourtroops.org/THEPR OEXPO. Or, to make a $10 donation (U.S. currency) to Homes for Our Troops, text the word EXPO to 85944. NON-PROFIT HELPS SEVERELY INJURED VETERANS Since it was founded in 2004, Homes for Our Troops has assisted severely injured veterans and their immediate families by raising donations of money, building materials, and professional labor. The organization coordinates the process of building a specially-adapted home that enables an injured veteran to live more independently. The homes provided by Homes for Our Troops are given at no cost to the veterans. "Many veterans are returning home from wars in Iraq or Afghanistan with life-altering injuries sustained while defending the United States overseas," said John Gonsalves, president and founder of Homes for Our Troops. "These American heroes need specially-adapted homes that will allow them to regain their independence and help them and their families rebuild their lives." Injuries include the loss of one or more limbs, varying levels of paralysis and traumatic brain injury. Some veterans also return with blindness, deafness or severe burns. They may be confined to a wheelchair or may need to utilize a wheelchair when they are unable to walk on their prosthetics. Their homes are no longer a place of comfort, but rather filled with barriers that make the simplest tasks difficult, if not impossible, Gonsalves said. HOMES DESIGNED FOR ACCESSIBILITY Homes for Our Troops' specially-adapted homes go beyond Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. They typically feature single-level, open floor plans, roll-in showers, roll-under cooktops and sinks, and other standard accessibility items. Depending on the severity of the injury suffered by the veteran, the homes may also include specialized items like lift systems, keyless door entry and voice activation controls.
“Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
United Rentals Expands Environmental Stewardship with Launch of Major Sustainability Program CLEAN CONSTRUCTION, SAFETY AND DIVERSITY AMONG TOP PRIORITIES FOR 2011 United Rentals, Inc. recently announced the launch of an extensive sustainability program designed to foster growth and benefit customers, employees, suppliers and communities. The Sustainable Growth program's new online presence at unitedrentals.com/sustainable-growth includes examples of the company's involvement, encourages collaboration via the submission of ideas and suggestions, and offers a comprehensive white paper on Clean Construction. Michael Kneeland, chief executive officer, said, â€œAs we respond to the demand for our services, we are careful to grow in an environmentally responsible manner. We want our sustainability initiatives to have a lasting impact on our operations and supply chain, and build enduring value for all stakeholders of United Rentals. Green practices are more than a sound strategy for growth, they are quite simply the right thing to do.â€? Heidi Rawe, senior director - sustainability, said, â€œIssues such as emissions control and energy conservation are becoming increasingly important to our customers, particularly those in the construction field. Sustainable Growth is about demonstrating corporate responsibility while helping our customers address regulatory and cultural changes within their own industries. These are exciting objectives, and we are focused on developing innovative and practical ways to advance them.â€? Rawe said that the company expects to build on numerous Sustainable Growth initiatives already underway, including: â—?
Retrofit programs to ensure engine compliance for Tier 3 and Tier 4 equipment
â€œClean constructionâ€? industry education to help contractors address new regulations â—? Customer training and train-the-trainer programs that advocate safety and best practices â—? State-of-the-art GPS technology and hand-held computers to optimize routing, dispatch and equipment loads, and conserve fuel
eProcurement and paperless invoicing to eliminate thousands of printed documents annually â—? Alternative fuel capabilities where viable, including the use of biofuels â—? Collaborative relationships with equipment suppliers who are committed to sustainability
Čˆ Čˆ Čˆ Čˆ Čˆ
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NEWS In addition to outlining its initiatives for sustainable growth, the company has identified employee diversity, supplier diversity and safety as continuing priorities in 2011. In 2010, United Rentals recorded the fourth consecutive year of significant improvement in safety performance, and received national recognition for its recruitment of military veterans and supplier diversity practices.
Larry Durkin 1948 – 2010 Larry Durkin passed away on December 17, 2010. He was a Board Member of the Masonry Institute of Michigan, and owner of Durkin & Company Contractors in Washington Township. Larry was married to his childhood sweetheart, Brenda, for 41 years. They have four children and 11 grandchildren. Larry was also a member of the Knights of Columbus in Hale, MI.
Detroit Public Schools Builds a House as a Service-Learning Project In mid-January, Randolph Career and Technical Center began building a threebedroom, ranch-style home to donate to the community. The home will be completed by May 31, 2011 and will be donated to a third party. The home will be built on-site at Randolph and moved to a permanent location upon completion. “The staff and students are excited to begin this academic project which will ultimately improve our community,” said Cynthia Hough, director of the Randolph
Career Technical Center. “This school-wide experience brings our curriculum to life by creating this tangible item that each classroom can contribute to” with their skills and talents. Randolph is receiving a $10,000 service learning mini-grant to begin the project. Donations of equipment, supplies, and cash are being solicited in order to complete the project. The estimated cost of the home is $40,000. The school hopes to have enough support to make the house an annual project. If you would like to donate to the project, please contact Angela Hoston-Montgomery at (313) 870-3600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Core Drill Motors & Rigs ete s
ACE Cutting Equipment
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SALES Clarification CAM recently conducted its 125th Annual Meeting at MotorCity Casino Hotel on February 2, 2011. Awards were presented to the projects appearing in CAM Magazine’s Special Issue 2010. Among the winning projects was Greektown Casino, whose project team included contractor Jenkins/Skanska Venture. The name of Jenkins Construction, Inc. was accidentally omitted from the slide show presentation on that day. CAM regrets this omission and would like to clarify the complete project team on Greektown Casino, below.
ERECTIONS SHORING SWING STAGING SCAFFOLD PLANKS FALL PROTECTION TRAINING
DELIVERY SCAFFOLDING TRASH CHUTES EXPERT DESIGN AND SAFETY SERVICES
• • • •
Contractor – Jenkins/Skanska Venture Hotel Architect of Record – Rossetti Master Architect – Hnedak Bobo Group Parking Deck Architect – Rich and Associates • Associate Architect – SDG Design
COMING UP IN
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May • Roofing • Educational Facility Construction
June • Glass / Glazing • Environmental
August • Construction Law • Interiors/Finishes Visit us online at www.cammagazineonline.com
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Is Your Website Hurting Your Business? Marketing Strategies that Get Results By J. Christopher Hippler, President, Capital Letters
John O’Neil, president of W.J. O’Neil Co. (WJO), Livonia, witnessed the return on his marketing investment at a client meeting last fall. “A senior VP told me our press releases and new website drew his attention to WJO and helped him decide to initiate the interview process with us,” O’Neil said. He added with a smile, “And the project is huge.” Results. Is there a better way to gauge success? The measure of marketing effectiveness, as in any investment, is Return On Investment (ROI), whether in sales, leads generated, or expansion into new territories. An outdated website is counter productive because it makes a bad first impression. Business relationships and the quality of your work will always be the foundations of your business. But the Internet has changed how business is done. Your website is the online presence of your company and, increasingly, the Web is the preferred way people research businesses. Word-of-mouth has become word-of-mouse. And the competitor you go toe-to-toe with, just pulled a rope-a-dope by launching a new website. I recently spoke with some CAM members who have successfully used marketing tactics tailored to their business to get results. You can, too.
W.J. O’NEIL COMPANY: EXPANDING IN THE SOUTH In 2003 the service division of WJO was growing, but commercial and industrial construction in Michigan was grinding to a halt. President John O’Neil knew he had to do something. He went south where construction was strong and got WJO licensed in several “Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
states. In 2007, WJO was invited to bid on a new Volkswagen plant in Tennessee. In 2008 the company opened an office in Chattanooga and was awarded a contract to fabricate and install utility piping at the facility. “Business will always be about relationships,” said O’Neil, “But marketing creates an awareness of our work and lays the groundwork for building those relationships.”
“Business will always be about relationships, but marketing creates an awareness of our work and lays the groundwork for building those relationships.” John O’Neil President, W.J. O’Neil Co.
With long-range growth plans in both cities, WJO hired Capital Letters, Ann Arbor, to develop a Strategic Marketing Road Map to coordinate WJO’s marketing efforts with its business objectives. Press releases were distributed and its five-year-old website (www.WJO.com) was redesigned and launched in June 2010. “The feedback on the new website has been tremendous,” said O’Neil. “We even hired a new employee in Chattanooga who saw our website and contacted us.” Tim Chamberlain, global marketing manager at WJO, added, “In new markets, our marketing is a prospect’s first impression of us. If it’s not a good impression, it may be the last.” ARISTEO CONSTRUCTION: REACHING NEW VERTICAL MARKETS In its 33-year history, Aristeo Construction, Livonia, has grown from a local concrete provider into a full-service general contractor serving clients across North America. Its latest vertical market growth is in alternative wind energy. The cornerstone of Aristeo’s marketing strategy is database marketing. To maintain contact with clients, Targeted Direct Mail (TDM) and a quarterly newsletter, Giornale, are mailed to more than 5,000 clients and prospects. Industry tradeshows play a key role in the development of that database. Visit us online at www.cammagazineonline.com
surveys provide Customer valuable feedback, and variable data printing allows messaging to be tailored to specific audiences. Aristeo’s website is at the center of all their marketing, and it is updated regularly. To keep up with marketing best practices, Aristeo belongs to a peer group that meets regularly throughout the year.
Your website is your single most important marketing tool, and its health is vital to your business.
DEVELOP A MARKETING STRATEGY W.J. O’Neil and Aristeo are examples of how smart business decisions and strategic marketing work together to fuel business growth. Step number one: Develop a marketing strategy. Identify your clients (or prospects) and how best to reach them. Now think like your client: how would they benefit from your products or services? What is the value proposition of your company to them? Here are four useful marketing tactics to consider in executing your strategy. A company website may be a prospect’s first impression of your business. If it’s not a good WEBSITE impression, it may be the last. Your website is your single most important marketing tool, and its health is vital to your business. If your website is three years or older, it’s due for an overhaul. Websites SEO is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to don't last forever. Web technology is constantly evolving; a once a website from search engines via organic (i.e. not paid for) search state-of-the-art website can become a relic quickly and reflect results for targeted keywords. poorly on your business. A regularly updated News/Press Release section or blog will Whether you’re starting from scratch or overhauling your existing ensure good crawl coverage from search engines, which use website, your work begins with a strategy. CAM members should complex computer algorithms. One factor is whether your website is focus on relationships (testimonials), quality of work (case studies), providing new quality information. The more it produces, the higher and business credentials (years in business, references, professional it is likely to be ranked. organizations, etc.). Developing a website is not for rookies. Your site has to look good Your website should be rich with the content that your customers and function well. A professionally developed website adds or prospects want. Keywords are important for Search Engine credibility to your company. The investment will be amortized and is Optimization (SEO), but don’t lose sight of the fact that your content worth every penny. Once launched, costs can be defrayed by should be written, programmed and designed for your customers. managing the content internally. ●
“Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
ONLINE PRESS RELEASES Traditional press releases were designed to get media coverage and publishers had the final say on what to print. Today, online press releases make you the publisher. They are an inexpensive way to tell your story. But they’re much more: they help you reach your prospects directly. You can optimize press releases with key words and phrases, and target industries, vertical markets, and geographic areas through distribution channels. A good online campaign drives prospects back to your website and creates opportunities for new relationships. ●
TARGET DIRECT MAIL (TDM) For small to mid-sized companies, TDM is an efficient and effective way to maintain contact with customers and prospects. Managing a database can be difficult and time-consuming, but many Michigan printers manage databases for clients. They design, print, mail and provide metrics to measure your ROI after every mail drop – all at a reasonable cost.
TARGETED ADVERTISING Targeted advertising is an excellent way to stay in front of your clients for a modest investment. Trade magazines (and their accompanying websites) and conference programs are good venues. What do your clients read? What shows or conferences do they attend? Think about their habits and practices and act accordingly. CAM Magazine is the most widely read construction magazine in Michigan, so if you’re a subcontractor or a manufacturer, your clients probably read it. Advertising in this publication on a regular basis is a good way to build business relationships and stay in front of your client month after month. ●
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MARKETING: AN INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE In marketing, there are no silver bullets or one-size-fits-all. There are best practices, though, and the first step is to develop a marketing strategy for your business. Know your customers. Know how to add value to their business. Develop a strategy for reaching them.
In a weak economy, there is a temptation to see marketing as a cost rather than an investment. That can be shortsighted. Smart, strategic planning is a better strategy for growth. Marketing is like opening the front door to your business; online marketing is like opening many doors. About the Author
CAM Member Chris Hippler is the owner and principal strategist of Capital Letters, a Business-to-Business marketing company that specializes in the commercial and industrial construction industry. Based in Ann Arbor, Capital Letters (www.capitallettersmarketing.com) focuses on getting results for clients through print and online communications. Chris can be reached at (734) 353-9918 or at email@example.com.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RONNISCH MICCO
CONSTRUCTION: THE MOVIE STARRING RONNISCH MICCO AT ROYAL OAK’S NEW EMAGINE THEATRE BY MARY E. KREMPOSKY, ASSOCIATE EDITOR A VACANT PARCEL OF LAND AT 11 MILE AND TROY STREET – EARLY MORNING The rumble of a hydraulic excavator breaks the morning stillness as it digs out the first load of dirt on a 1.7-acre site in the heart of downtown Royal Oak. Sept. 7, 2010 marks the beginning of construction on the Emagine Theatre’s new entertainment complex, a 71,727-square-foot movie theater and upscale boutique bowling venue. Local area talent is building this innovative entertainment complex, the first of the Emagine line to link two all-American past times: going to the movies and going bowling. Ronnisch MICCO Joint Venture has the leading role as the construction manager chosen to bring this 10-screen theater and 16-lane bowling center out of the ground. The scene flashes back to the past when this slice of Royal Oak once housed a row of houses, wide alleys, and a corner grocery store. Flash forward to the present: The Ronnisch MICCO team uproots the neighborhood’s old foundations and
undercuts 3-foot-deep pockets of old debris, ultimately replacing both with engineered fill. Soon a maze of concrete and rebar emerges above grade as the crew places concrete foundations, both trench form and formed wall, on this masonry-bearing building. INSIDE A TENTED MASONRY ENCLOSURE – A COLD, BITTER DAY IN DECEMBER Within a tented enclosure, the masonry crew of Pomponio Construction, Inc., South Lyon, is building the north wall of this new entertainment complex on a cold winter morning. “By starting a project of this size in the fall, the weather became one of the two main challenges on the job,” said Jason A. Gekiere, Ronnisch director of operations. “But we probably had about 60 percent of the building up before the really cold weather hit in December.” A quick pan of the site clearly shows the second project challenge: a jobsite tightly hemmed in by a grid of city streets. “We are basically operating on a zero lot line, so it
makes it challenging for deliveries and for the bracing and construction of the masonry walls,” said Gekiere. With an outside perimeter of only 20 feet between wall and street, the jobsite left little room for a fall zone for these 35- to 39-foothigh masonry walls. “For a typical fall zone, you need the height of your wall plus five feet, but we didn’t have the luxury of space on the outside of the building,” said Pat Domagalski, Ronnisch superintendent. Without room for a fall zone, the Ronnisch MICCO team installed extensive engineered wall bracing anchored by helical piers, a large screw-like anchor placed in the ground to help handle wind loads. The tight perimeter left zero room for material lay down. “The only thing that was done on the outside of the wall was the actual setting up of the scaffolding,” said Domagalski. With such a narrow perimeter and without allowances for forklift use on city streets, Ronnisch MICCO remedied the issue by stationing a 40-ton mobile crane within “Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
the building’s footprint to lift materials over the top of the wall and set the brick and limestone units on the scaffold. With the east and south faces complete, a wide-angle view of the masonry walls shows the overall pattern of brick and limestone pilasters that visually break up these expansive walls of white burnished block below and brick above. Zooming in more closely brings the intricate details into view such as rows of soldier coursing, accent bands, and decorative limestone medallions. “Pomponio is doing an excellent job,” said Gekiere. “There is a great deal of detail to the wall; it is quite an intricate masonry job.”
This new entertainment hub will also house two lounges, one on the main floor and one on the upper floor, as well as a full-service commercial kitchen, complete with a pizza oven for the creation of wood-fired personal pizzas for both the movie concession and the bowling center. Two promenades will take movie fans into one of 10 auditoriums in this 1,668-seat theatre. ● One of the finishing touches of the project will be the creation of a streetscape from Troy Street to Main Street in Royal Oak.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RONNISCH MICCO JOINT VENTURE
BEHIND THE SCENES SWINGING STEEL INSIDE THE Making this all happen will take some BUILDING FOOTPRINT – LATE specialty building systems. “In between MORNING the theater walls, they will have a With its jib and tall boom silhouetted double stud wall system that is against the sky, the crane hoists pieces staggered with three layers of drywall of steel to form the steel support on each side of the wall,” said Gekiere. structure. The south third of the steel “They have actually enlisted an and the steel roof deck was already set acoustical engineer to conduct studies in place by mid-December. “We are to make sure the sound from the working the building from south to bowling center doesn’t interfere with north,” said Gekiere. “As the mason the movie theaters and vice versa. progresses, the steel and the roof is They are calling for installation of a following him.” ceiling panel system in the bowling Gekiere sets the stage for future center that will help break up sound scenes: “We will do the northeast waves. It is a series of acoustical panels quadrant with steel and then as the and drywall drops with different mason finishes the last piece up to the stepped levels.” entrance tower, they will back out and In addition, individual HVAC units the rest of the steel will be set in place. serve each auditorium to prevent For the steel, we will bring in a much sound transfer between the units. “A smaller crane and almost back right out great deal of thought and design went of the building at the tower, which will into the HVAC system for both the be glass and metal panel as opposed to comfort of the guests and to control masonry.” sound transfer,” Gekiere added. “With a Curved standing seam roofs will be movie theater’s AV, projection, and Ronnisch MICCO stationed a crane within the building’s installed on both the entrance tower audio equipment needs, the building’s footprint to lift materials over the wall, set masonry and the canopy arcing over the entry electrical systems are inherently units on the scaffold, and set steel in place. drive to shelter visitors and valet complex. It is a pretty intricate service. Faux spandrel window units mechanical and electrical job.” will flank the entrance, creating the appearance of a storefront but The grand opening of Emagine’s new entertainment complex will actually camouflaging the auditoriums and bowling center within. be spring 2011. Thanks to Ronnisch MICCO’s hard work throughout The crowning touch is installation of a white TPO fully adhered the cold winter, people will be able to enjoy this season’s summer roofing system for this LEED® registered building. blockbusters – plus go bowling with friends – all in a single building in the heart of this popular downtown. SNEAK PREVIEW Below is a sneak preview of the Emagine experience: LET THE CREDITS ROLL Some of the project’s “cast and crew” include CH Royal Oak, LLC, ● An entry clad in porcelain tile steps down into a grand two-story Royal Oak, as owner and Emagine Entertainment, Inc., as operator; lobby directly facing the concession and concierge counters. Both Signature Associates, Southfield, as real estate brokerage and counters will be formed of millwork and granite or another natural consulting services; Studio 3 Design, Inc., Indianapolis, IN as architect; stone surface. A decorative staircase and glass rails will give this entertainment venue even more pizzazz. Westfall Structural Engineering, Ann Arbor, as structural engineer; M.E. Design, Inc., Grand Rapids as mechanical, plumbing and electrical ● “In general, the interior will have high-end but durable finishes, engineer; JLD Designs, Inc., Berkley, as interior designer; Amusement including ceramic tile and cork flooring in the bowling area,” said Entertainment Management LLC, East Brunswick, NJ as entertainment Gekiere. “They are working on finalizing the design of the back bars consultant; RTM Consultants, Inc., Indianapolis, IN as code consultants; and the bars.” and Nowak and Fraus Engineers, Pontiac as consulting and land ● The north third of the building is a bowling center with 12 lanes on surveying engineers. the first level. A mezzanine level overlooking the lanes below will house a multipurpose room and a four-lane private bowling area for corporate parties or other events. Visit us online at www.cammagazineonline.com
PHOTO BY CURT CLAYTON
Delivering for Quality Care By David R. Miller, Associate Editor akwood Healthcare System has a well-earned reputation for quality care, but the hospital group would not be able to continue this tradition at the recently constructed addition to the Oakwood Southshore Medical Center in Trenton until members of the talented design and construction team put their own hard-earned reputations on the line. The project team led by architect Hobbs + Black Associates, Inc., Ann Arbor, and design-build contractor Walbridge, Detroit, delivered a 213,000-square-foot addition, including surgical suites, 72 private patient rooms and a new emergency department, with less
than 24 months between initial schematic design and final occupancy. Mechanical and electrical engineer Peter Basso Associates, Inc., Troy, mechanical contractor Great Lakes Mechanical, Dearborn, and electrical contractor Maryland Electric Co., Inc., Clinton Township, combined their skills to meet the challenging mechanical and electrical needs of the five-story structure within the accelerated schedule. MEETING MECHANICAL NEEDS From a mechanical standpoint, building a sizeable addition adjacent to a hospital built in the 1960s was a blessing and a curse. One
significant advantage to this approach was found neatly tucked away in the basement of the existing structure. “They had an old, abandoned steam boiler, from back in the days when they used an absorption chiller for cooling,” said James Paul, PE, LEED AP, mechanical engineer for Peter Basso Associates. “It wasn’t being used and it had more than enough capacity to serve the addition.” Even though the addition doubled the size of the hospital, the existing boiler facilitated construction without the addition of a new boiler plant. Detroit Boiler Co., Detroit, assisted with the delicate task of “Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
reviving the slumbering beast and retrofitting it to breathe fire once again. Reactivating the boiler was only half the battle, as the project team also needed to deliver steam through occupied areas to reach the new addition. Early in the project, the team thought that a serviceable route had been discovered, but a portion of the run went through a kitchen area that served the existing hospital, and this was found to be too disruptive to the hospital’s food service operations. “That took a little innovation from our field people, but they worked with Peter Basso to find another route,” said Mark Perpich, owner of Great Lakes Mechanical. The project team changed course and insulated the steam line so it could be rerouted across the roof of the existing building. Not all mechanical needs could be met by rerouting systems from the existing hospital. Since the structure had no excess capacity for chilled water, medical vacuum or medical compressed air, all of these systems needed to be installed in the addition. A new sanitary pumping station with over 1,000 feet of piping was installed through directional boring, while relocation of underground storm and domestic water lines was also necessary. Air handling units, the chiller plant and a pump for the cooling tower are housed inside a rooftop penthouse provided by Griffin International, LLC, Chesterfield. Although this portion of the structure looks like it was built on site, it is actually a modular unit that was shipped in 11 sections that were hoisted up more than 80 feet and pieced together on the roof. The prefabricated mechanical room is centered around a customized Mammoth IPEC™ unit that includes evaporative-cooled condensing equipment, high-efficiency screw compressors and FANWALL TECHNOLOGY® by Huntair®, which lets smaller fans and motors operate closer to their peak efficiencies, resulting in reduced energy costs. The modular approach cut construction time while providing cost savings, as well. Innovative problem solving was not limited to mechanical trades, as the project also posed a host of electrical challenges. PROVIDING POWER Much like the mechanical work, many electrical challenges involved routing power through the existing hospital to the new addition. Some ceiling spaces were too tight for conduit installation in the existing Visit us online at www.cammagazineonline.com
Equipment for the heating and plumbing systems are housed in this basement mechanical room, but air handling units, the chiller plant and a pump for the cooling tower were placed in a modular penthouse that cut construction time and provided cost savings.
hospital, so the project team substituted a space-saving bus duct that was routed through other areas of the building. “When you tear apart ceilings in a 40-yearold hospital, you don’t really know how much room you are going to have,” said Kurt Odrobina, project manager for Maryland Electric. “Steve [Stephen Bryk, electrical engineer, Peter Basso Associates] came over and we designed the bus duct with our supplier in the field. We measured, the supplier drew it, Peter Basso approved it, we CAD’d it, and it worked.” Getting it to work was not as easy as it sounds because bus duct does not offer the flexibility that is associated with conduit.
Only straight lines and 90-degree angles are possible, so the team spent about two-anda-half weeks performing field measurements to facilitate the design. A single error or half-an-inch could have brought the project to a standstill while the team went back to the drawing board. Ed Patricca, general foreman for Maryland Electric, left a few pieces out of the order until the exact dimensions needed could be determined through field measurements. Electrical service to the addition and the existing hospital is now provided through double-ended, medium voltage switchgear and a new double-ended substation that was placed in the basement of the addition. “Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER BASSO ASSOCIATES
These two transformers each weigh 14,000 pounds. They were placed atop round sections of conduit and manually rolled through the basement to be installed as part of the double-ended switchgear that is located at the front of the hospital.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MARYLAND ELECTRIC CO., INC.
The substation and transformers are quite large and options for placing them in the basement were limited. “The only way to get into the basement was along the back of the building, because there was a glass wall there,” said Odrobina. “There was no way to lower equipment into the basement, because the building was already sitting on top of it. We hung equipment on the outside wall with a crane and the crew used ropes to manually pull it in.” The glass wall, along with a knee wall that supported the glass, was left open to allow the equipment to be pulled inside. Crane access was limited by site constraints and architectural reveals on the exterior. Crews might have expected a break after pulling the two, 14,000-pound transformers inside, but that was merely a warm-up for the workout that would follow. All equipment was placed atop round sections of conduit and manually rolled into position across the basement floor. Fortunately, the project team also found a few ways to reduce labor on the job. Hospital rooms typically include a large number of outlets to accommodate medical equipment. Since the patient rooms are mirror images of each other at Southshore Medical Center, the project team was able to simplify the installation process with a modular system. “There might be eight outlets in a patient room wall and each one is usually installed individually,” said Bryk. “Here, you put the system in, wire it, and you are done.” Some electrical work was performed very close to existing patient rooms; so hydro vac excavation was used to prevent damage to underground systems. A jet of water was injected into the ground, which created a slurry of dirt and water that could be vacuumed up. The process was loud, but temporary plywood walls were erected to contain the noise. Maryland Electric also installed electrical gear as soon as it arrived on site, as limited laydown space was available. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated project team, the entire job ran with a similar level of efficiency. GETTING THE JOB DONE A typical schedule for a project as complex as the Southshore Medical Center expansion would have allowed 12 months for design followed by 18 months of construction, according to the engineers and project managers who coordinated Visit us online at www.cammagazineonline.com
mechanical and electrical work for the project; yet less than 24 months passed between schematic design and final occupancy. Walbridge worked to streamline the process by using Building Information Modeling (BIM) to combine input from the various trades into a single model. As complex as BIM can be, Walbridge earned high praise for seeing to the much less technical details that can contribute to success. “It can be as simple as starting meetings on time,” said Perpich. “I know that sounds very elementary, but we’ve all been to meetings where people come in 20 minutes late. Here, if the meeting was at 9:00, it started at 9:00.” In addition to starting on time, meetings were also planned in advance to cover necessary information efficiently and thoroughly. Perpich cited the startup procedure as a good example of a complex process that was made much easier by the amount of planning that went into it beforehand. In addition to running efficient meetings, Walbridge also brought a great
deal of knowledge and experience to the table. “One thing that Walbridge did was that they had people who understood each trade,” said Odrobina. “We could speak to them without having to educate them. We were able to get the electrical changes and additions taken care of very quickly because of these people.” Odrobina went on to explain that a company in Walbridge’s position would typically explain the need for changes to the owner. Owners often have questions, but a thorough knowledge of the trades involved put the answers to these questions within easy reach. Otherwise, these queries would have been redirected back to the electrical contractor or engineer – a process that can be time consuming and wasteful. In this case, the owner benefited from the collective knowledge of the entire team, but it was the leadership from the top that really set the project apart. “I attribute the success of this job to the leadership of the people who worked on it,” said Paul.
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Toledo Zoo Finds its Place in the Sun Rudolph/Libbe Creates the First SolarWalk in the Nation By Mary E. Kremposky, Associate Editor Photos Courtesy of Rudolph/Libbe, Inc.
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“Save a polar bear, install a solar panel” could well be the unofficial motto of the Toledo Zoo. This new breed of zoo hosts over 1,400 solar panels as part of the SolarWalk, the first major photovoltaic array installed at any zoo in the nation. Created by Rudolph/Libbe, Inc., a design/build contractor with offices in Walbridge, Ohio and Plymouth, Michigan, Solar Walk is a bright orange snake of steel winding along the sidewalk from the parking lot to the zoo entrance. With solar panels for “scales,” this rare “animal” is a fitting introduction to a next-generation zoo pairing animal care with care for the natural world. At this progressive institution, animal footprints and the zoo’s carbon footprint travel side by side. The Toledo Zoo is a Polar Bear International Arctic Ambassador Center, one of a handful of organizations endorsed by leading polar bear scientists and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for being actively engaged in helping to save the polar bear’s ice-covered Arctic Ocean habitat through reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Projected to generate 104,000 kilowatts annually, SolarWalk will reduce the zoo’s annual carbon dioxide output by 75 metric tons a year – an amount equivalent to the carbon dioxide emitted by 15 medium-sized cars in a year. In realizing its “green” vision, the Toledo Zoo had a helping hand from its next-door neighbors in northwestern Ohio. First Solar, a thin-film solar technology firm headquartered in Tempe, Arizona with a
research and development facility in Perrysburg, Ohio, donated the solar modules and provided design and engineering assistance. Rudolph/Libbe donated its project management services and assembled the team of Romanoff Electric Co., LLC, a Toledo electrical contractor; JDRM Engineering, a Sylvania, Ohio electrical design firm; and Sponseller Group, a structural engineering firm based in Holland, Ohio. As design/build contractor, Rudolph/Libbe admirably handled every facet of this custom installation, all while delivering a safe project on schedule and on budget. In fact, the Toledo Zoo selected design/build for the first time in its history - and a contractor well versed in its methods - to complete the project in time for its Lights Before Christmas program. “We deliver a great number of projects with a tough design and a tough schedule, but that is our forte,” said Gary Haas, Rudolph/Libbe vice president. “We are very proud of this job. It is a nice attraction for the zoo and shows the zoo’s commitment to energy conservation.” ART WITH A SOLAR FLAIR The power generated from this whimsical solar snake will offset the zoo’s energy use during periods of peak electrical demand. Termed peak load shaving, this targeted approach trims electrical costs, for utility companies charge a higher amount for energy consumed at peak demand. The new $1.475 million SolarWalk feeds its “Voice Of The Construction Industry”®
The SolarWalk, an array of 1,400 solar panels mounted on a tube steel frame, is projected to generate 104,000 kilowatts annually.
A bluebird perched on a sun ornament is the perfect finial for this “green” project. The decorative finials include hand-blown glass globes equipped with energy-efficient LED lights.
power into the zoo’s electrical distribution system and offsets the power needed to operate the heat pumps of the geothermal system now servicing a fair number of zoo buildings, said Jason Slattery, Rudolph/Libbe project manager. Completing this energy triad of sun, earth and wind, the Toledo Zoo
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even has a wind turbine at the main parking lot entrance to generate power for the parking lot booths. The Toledo Zoo Green Team has inaugurated a host of other sustainable features, including the LED lights illuminating the SolarWalk. The Toledo Museum of Art
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furnished hand-blown glass globes perched on 27 lamp posts rising above the solar panels. Energy-efficient at only 4 watts per bulb, each globe shines in the center of a sun ornament and below a brightly painted finial of a bird. With its solar panels, playful posts, and the
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sinuous curve of its 12-inch tube steel frame, the entire SolarWalk is part energy-efficient technology and part public art. Blending the two took a knowledgeable contractor able to generate custom solar solutions. In the case of the ornamental posts, Rudolph/Libbe installed an innovative blocking diode to maximize power production. The posts tower above and cast a shadow on the rows of solar panels as the sun tracks across the sky. A shadow on a solar panel is the equivalent of throwing water on a campfire. “If we were to allow that one shaded panel to produce only a fourth of the amount of power of which it is capable, it would draw down the voltage of the other six panels on the electrical circuit,” explained Slattery. “The blocking diode allows us to shut one panel down versus shutting the entire circuit of six panels down. Essentially, this blocking diode permits an installation to operate at maximum efficiency despite a shaded panel.” Rudolph/Libbe’s knowledge is rooted in an impressive solar portfolio. As an industry leader in northwestern Ohio’s growing solar
marketplace, Rudolph/Libbe has already delivered eleven commercial, utility-scale solar projects, including three for the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard, a 2.1 megawatt solar array on 12 acres for Westwood Solar, and First Solar’s 2.4 megawatt rooftop solar array, a project ranking as one of the largest rooftop solar arrays east of the Mississippi River. Rudolph/Libbe was even involved in research and development efforts on many a project to help determine the most effective technology to employ on the job. This solarsavvy firm also is a member of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
The SolarWalk hosts a display on alternative energy at every pairing of column and bench along the route.
ENLIGHTENED SOLUTIONS Rudolph/Libbe employed its considerable expertise to help the Toledo Zoo overcome less than ideal conditions. At SolarWalk, the curve of the walkway and the resulting angle of the solar panels could have hindered power production, but Rudolph/Libbe’s engineered solutions still let this solar “snake”
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soak up optimal levels of sunlight. Ideally, all solar panels in an installation should be set at the same angle, the optimal placement being due south at an azimuth angle of 180 degrees, said Slattery. The SolarWalk has both multiple and less than ideal angles. The walkway bends into a major curve in the middle of its 1,400-lineal-foot trajectory. Even the two relatively straight
runs are placed at different angles. “In this project, we had two different azimuth angles,” said Slattery. “Part of the array was at 148 degrees in the azimuth plane; the other was at 134 degrees in the azimuth plane.” The solution: multiple inverters converting DC to AC. Instead of one inverter serving a single, large block of solar panels, Rudolph/Libbe installed 16 different inverters
of varying sizes to service segregated clusters of solar panels. “With all the differently angled panels producing at different levels, the single inverter would track power production and actually operate at a happy medium,” said Slattery. “But each panel would not operate at its optimal efficiency. Placing multiple inverters allows panel clusters in the same plane to operate at the same voltage output.” Use of multiple inverters also “created a truly custom wiring scheme at every panel configuration, eliminating much of the cookie-cutter wiring on a typical solar array,” said Slattery. “With a little creative engineering, we achieved great results, proving that with engineering and technology solar now becomes a viable option on a less than ideal site.” In addition, the SolarWalk and other projects demonstrate that solar energy is possible even in the fickle sunshine of the Midwest. What makes it possible is thin film solar technology.“Thin film technology allows you to harvest solar energy at lower light levels,” said Slattery. “It will actually generate electricity at levels of light at which other panels won’t even generate any output at all. Thin film technology allows you to produce power in a longer window of the day.” SOLAR POWER’S DAY IN THE SUN? Custom work wasn’t confined to the solar panels. Rudolph/Libbe also established a customized reporting program offering detailed diagnostic capabilities for repair and maintenance and live data collection on SolarWalk’s power production. Plus, the SolarWalk has an interactive computer kiosk at the beginning of the walkway for visitor education, as well as displays on alternative energy at every pairing of column and bench along the route. Like a forest canopy, the SolarWalk offers a shaded shelter beneath its solar panels. The elevated steel frame does triple duty as a mount for the panels, as an art work, and as a wire chase to conceal electrical equipment. Rudolph/Libbe delivered this custom solar project in just six months, beginning design in April 2010, starting construction in August, and turning the project over in midNovember in time for the zoo’s Lights Before Christmas program. Thanks to Rudolph/Libbe, the SolarWalk glowed brightly during the holiday season and will continue to gather filaments of sunlight for years to come. At last, solar energy may be having its day in the sun even in the overcast Midwest.
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