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Rising to the Challenge

New approaches are always challenging. The key is to find ways to surmount those challenges — which is what happened during an expansion project for a major financial firm in San Francisco.

A new initiative by the well-known company to use ESD as the sole design partner for Technology Services instead of having individual technology-related departments continue to work independently with contractors.

Despite the excitement of the union, two hefty challenges soon presented themselves. First, the transition of institutional knowledge between the previous owners of the design and ESD was far from simple.

“Many different people were involved in the designs previously, and often the first person we discussed items with would not have the answers we needed,” explained Jeff Drenovsky, senior associate with ESD’s Technology Group. “The transition of this knowledge — or more specifically, the ‘why’ behind the design — required many meetings with many different players.”

Once the knowledge was successfully transferred, the next challenge involved working with the existing space.

“We learned there was considerable conflict between the design standards that we learned as part of our first challenge and the existing conditions that the client was working with,” Drenovsky said. “We did not want to dramatically change the user experience, creating confusion between similar rooms on different floors.  This required altering our design midstream to more closely match the user expectations than to match the current corporate vision.  Many of the modifications required considerable effort from the design team to accomplish.”

The space included a unique feature at the workplace: an open-stair common area built between floors. The first couple of steps of the staircase were enlarged to create a stage-type landing area, and ESD designed a video conference system with multiple camera positions, drop-down projection screens, wireless microphone capabilities and a technician station for monitoring and managing the system.

For this project, Drenovsky estimates the new approach likely saved the client 10% or more from the previous method.

“The prior paradigm of individual siloes created many construction changes, which engendered delays and change orders,” he noted. “The cost savings of having projects more coordinated between architectural, engineering and technology and completed on schedule is very important.”