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McIntosh Perry

Revitalization of business building shows value of communication

The client is thrilled with our level of service, and the benefits of clear communication shone through…

The structural engineering team at McIntosh Perry knows that although a project may seem small, it can have a big impact on a small business and its community. Such was the case with the Pinecone, which needed the team’s expertise and experience to help find a solution for a nagging structural problem.

The building housing the Westport business dates back to the 1800s and the retail shop has historical significance within the community, once serving as a general store. Staying true to its commercial roots, the building now features a collection of hand-picked home and cottage décor with vintage-inspired and contemporary fashion and accessories.

In tune with her building’s history and the nature of the village, the business owner realized that preserving her store’s structure was paramount to having a sustainable business – but was also important to the local community. That’s where McIntosh Perry’s structural engineering team came in.

Scott Shillinglaw, manager of McIntosh Perry’s structural engineering group, said the building had undergone deterioration before the project started. Significant restoration was required to the structure. Shillinglaw said the owner was doing her due diligence and hiring contractors to fix immediate problems, but was unable to obtain a clear picture on what was causing the overall issue.

“This was a small job with huge challenges,” said Shillinglaw, adding that while the retail space is relatively confined, there was a major technical issue to solve.

As a wood-frame structure with a stone rubble foundation, the two-storey building is typed as a balloon frame structure. As such, wooden studs start at the foundation of the building and continue past the second floor to the roof. The second floor joists are fastened to the studs so they support the exterior. However, as the footings and beams settled over time, the roof and exterior walls bowed inwards.

In 2011, Shillinglaw performed a site review on the building, undertaking an investigation and drawing diagrams to explain to the owner what was happening with the store building.

“The owners were extremely happy to finally have an understanding of what needed fixing and have a plan in place to accomplish that,” he said. From there, McIntosh Perry prepared

structural documents, provided them to the owner, and drafted recommendations for contractors.

After more than a year, Shillinglaw said the owner couldn’t find a contractor willing to take on the extensive project, so he got RK Porter involved.  After a site meeting, getting the building official on board for the project, talking cost estimates and more, the project got underway. The job was finished at the end of March 2014, and Shillinglaw said the owner is now concentrating on interior work before the busy summer season starts.

“The client is thrilled with our level of service, and the benefits of clear communication shone through,” he said, noting that the project wasn’t just a technical job, but it required providing clarity for multiple parties: the owner, contractors and the municipality.

One of the most important aspects of the design was McIntosh Perry's three phased design and construction approach, which allowed installation of urgently needed bracing during phase 1 without requiring the building to be closed during the busy season. In addition, rather than designing a temporary bracing solution, the team designed a building addition that would temporarily act as bracing and eventually become usable retail space (so the Owner will get value on the money spent on the “bracing”!). The remaining work (phase 2 and 3) that required the store to close, was completed during the winter slow down.

He said the finished product is a structurally sound building – with little to suggest all the work that has been completed, as it was kept true to the historical nature of the building.

Shillinglaw said the extensive restoration illustrates McIntosh Perry’s level of client commitment in not only fixing the structural issue, but also providing guidance to the business owner, offering comprehensive communication, and understanding the importance of the successful renovation to the business owner and the community as a whole.

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