The Houston House Apartments is a 31-story Apartment Complex that was built in 1966 and has welcomed guests such as Elvis Presley and the King of Spain. The 396-unit apartment tower sits on the south end of Downtown Houston and was originally designed by Charles M. Goodman Associates. The Houston House Apartments is also known for its unique ability to provide its breathtaking views of the popularly known Downtown Houston Skyline, a rooftop pool and a wide range of other amenities in the surrounding area, along with floor-to-ceiling windows, luxury granite countertops and private balconies.
The apartment tower underwent interior renovations and upgrades to the MEP system in 2010 with Kirksey Architects. The project was in dire need of structural renovations to the balconies, parking garage, balcony railing and joint sealants through-out. In 2017 ColRich started a structural renovation of these work items with a different contractor.
The project was then put on hold that same year and ultimately put back out for rebid in 2019. Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing was successful on the award of this project through a lump sum contract that had unit prices that would cover the owner for any additional or deductive work that was needed during the construction process to not slow down the repairs. Major structural repair projects require significant costs for access, overhead production, material handling and ensuring safety for the public during the construction so it was vital to have those prices in place to not delay decision making on additional quantities of repairs. This major structural repair, painting and balcony railing project has brought new life to the Houston House Apartments with a refreshing new look that transformed the Downtown Houston Skyline.
Chamberlin, the project engineer and the material manufacturers all had a hand in quality control for this project. The project team working together and observing the progress of the scopes throughout the job helped deliver the highest quality possible on this exterior renovation, that the owner was pleased with. Chamberlin performed daily QA/QC checks to ensure that we we’re maintaining high standards. Adhesion tests were performed on the wet glazing sealants, as well as on the balcony coatings. All the different adhesion tests passed. PSI was a third-party consultant contracted by the owner, ColRich, that took care of reviewing all of our concrete repair installations periodically.
A Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) covering each task performed was also developed for this project and reviewed by the project superintendent. It was communicated to crew members each day before work began. Stretch and flex exercises were also performed. All equipment was inspected by a competent person daily before use.
It was extremely important for the crew to inspect the equipment each day before beginning work to confirm proper functionality as well as keep safety as a primary focus while working. Being that high up, correctly inspecting, anchoring and wearing fall protection gear could be a matter of life or death in the case of an accident. The team wore appropriate Personal Protective Equipment including harnesses, gloves, vests, safety glasses and hard hats.
It was extremely important for the crew to inspect the equipment each day before beginning work to confirm proper functionality as well as keep safety as a primary focus while working.
Safety is something that our different crews are required to implement before anything else every single day, no matter how big or small the job is. Without safety you essentially have nothing at all.
By contract, the 31-story apartment complex was to be completed by March of 2023, starting in December of 2019. The entirety of the project was based around safety. Not only completing the project in a safe manner but adding value to the Houston House by fixing issues that arose that would promote better safety to the building, the tenants and the area surrounding the building.
During production, the team discovered a safety risk on every fifth-floor balcony. The outer balcony wall appeared to be barely hanging on. After thorough research and a review of the area was complete, our team and the engineer, Structural Engineering Solutions, decided that it was important for us to move forward with removing all the dangling walls, to prevent the outer balcony walls from falling in the future.
At Chamberlin we promote safety through and through in everything that we do. It is something we stand for no matter if it is in the office, in the field or safety anywhere else. This is conveyed in one of our Chamberlin values Safety, Quality, Teamwork, where it states that “none of the work we do can be considered a success, even if we do a quality job, if our safety efforts fail.”
With the scope expanding as much as it did, the hot weather conditions the team had to undergo and the rise of COVID-19, our team did a great job adapting and growing each step of the way. Since the Houston House Apartments were occupied during the entirety of this project, the team had to come up with creative strategies to get the job done with tenants around. It was crucial for us to maintain positive and communicative relationships with all the tenants and do everything we could to ensure their happiness. The tenants not only had to deal with all the chaos of construction, but they were also dealing with COIVD-19, which was a new, difficult and fearful time for all of us. The way we ensured the tenants safety, as well as our own, was by following all the mandated CDC guidelines. Not only did it make the tenants feel safer, but it also protected the team as well.
The team also had to come up with unique strategies to bring thousands of yards of concrete up to all the different stories in Houston House. The heavy loads had to be moved in high temperatures and it wasn’t easy to do. The key to accomplishing this task effectively, was by having a planned out assembly line. Some of the team members were mixing the concrete, while others were helping load the materials and product on swing stages, while ensuring that everything was mobilized before it was pulled up to the story it needed to go to. One of our employees even stated, “this is how the Mayans must have felt when the pyramids were being built in a hot climate.”
One of the main things we had to repair at the Houston House included patching concrete and a lot of it. In some cases, we had to go into occupied units, where people were still living their day-to-day life. We had to go in and remove their sliding glass balcony doors and remove parts of their flooring to access the root of the issue. From there we would put up plywood walls to separate the area we were repairing in their apartment to do work from the area they were still living in. In addition to this, we also had to barricade every single glass sliding door, to ensure the safety of each tenant living in the building while the balconies were being rebuilt. The barricades helped prevent the tenant from getting injured and from using the areas in their apartment during that time. This caused issues for some of the tenants, but we made sure to do the best that we could in working with each tenant to ensure that they understood the different processes taking place during production.
Although the scope and timeline for this project ended up being much larger than we originally thought, we needed to make sure that we finished production on time for a variety of different reasons.
First being, that adding a level of disturbance for construction purposes, to the normalcy of the Houston House tenants lifestyles was becoming a burden on them. The owner was alleviating these disturbances, by offering rent relief discounts to tenants, to compensate for the situation taking place. This caused the owner to lose money because of the situation at hand. Therefore, we needed to get the job completed in a timely and safe manner, so that tenants and the owner could both return back to living life and business as usual.
Another way that we were able to stay productive, was by finding unique ways to achieve the tasks at hand. For example, it was a large task to mobilize the products and materials going up and down on the swing stage. In order to plan and assess mobilization differently, we started using the vacated units to mix and store the concrete, to save on the amount of mobilization that we were doing prior to implementing this time saving strategy. This also helped the team keep extra materials out of the way and store them in a place that was easier to access.