According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “only 36 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.” With only 36 percent of extremely low-income renter households having access to rental properties that are considered “affordable,” it’s easy to see why there is a housing and homelessness crisis in our country. This issue is also why new projects that can make affordable housing available to underprivileged populations are incredibly important.
A recent award-winning project completed by Windover Construction is helping to bring affordable housing to the people of Beverly, Massachusetts. And it did so by renovating a much-loved and storied historic building that’s an important part of the community – Beverly’s Cabot Street YMCA.
The renovation of the Cabot Street YMCA involved the addition of affordable housing units for members of the community. But adding new affordable homes was just one amazing element of this project.
Windover’s work on the Cabot Street YMCA project received the Global Accelerating Transformation Award from Autodesk for its use of state-of-the-art technology, the inclusion of prefabricated parts, and the use of digital Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) solutions to overcome the significant challenges that arise from renovating a historic building while it’s still in use during the first phase of construction.
The GovDesignHub sat down with Amr Raafat, Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) at Windover Construction, to learn more about the Cabot Street YMCA remodel, how this project impacted their community and the importance of using 3D/4D BIM modeling to improve project workflows.
GovDesignHub (GDH): Windover Construction recently renovated and expanded the 120-year-old historic Cabot Street YMCA in Beverly, Massachusetts. Can you tell us about the history of this building and its significance in the community?
Amr Raafat: The importance of this project is that it’s helping the Commonwealth of Massachusetts overcome the urgent need for affordable housing. This project provides additional units of affordable housing, and that’s why it’s an important addition to the community.
Windover began the YMCA project a couple of years ago, and this 44,000-square-foot renovation that was completed last December. This project is a vertical expansion of the 120-year-old building with historical features. The historic nature of the project, in addition to the affordable housing aspect, is what makes the project unique.
GDH: What was involved with the expansion of this building? What was added? How will this renovation help the Cabot Street YMCA better meet the needs of the community?
Amr Raafat: We expanded the 45 single-occupancy rooms to 67 studio apartments and the YMCA offices. The challenge for this project is that we needed to add a new floor to the upper roof and create new additional space on the other floors.
In an old building like this, you encounter a lot of surprises. The design team worked first on the design, but as we demolished the roof, we leveraged BIM, laser scanning and lidar drone technologies to make sure that all the new design elements, including steel beams, would fit perfectly within the existing structure to remain.
It’s different from building a new building. With a new building, everything works together perfectly in harmony through our BIM coordination process in preconstruction. But with historic buildings and restorations, there are a lot of surprises and unknowns, and that’s why Windover developed this innovative tech-first approach to mitigate risk and avoid surprises and delays on job sites.
“We are excited and honored to have successfully completed this project that has had such a positive and transformative impact on the community.” — Amr Raafat
After the demolition of the roof, we conducted BIM clash detection combined with (LiDAR) scans of the existing structures. This allowed us to communicate these findings and quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) overlays in real-time to the steel beam manufacturer trade partners to ensure they fit perfectly within the existing structure when they arrived at the site.
Transforming people’s lives was equally important. We are excited and honored to have successfully completed this project that has had such a positive and transformative impact on the community.
GDH: Why is a 3D/4D BIM model of a building like the Cabot Street YMCA important for a successful renovation and expansion project?
Amr Raafat: Generating a full 3D/4D model of the site and the building is becoming the standard at Windover Construction when we build a structure. Creating a 3D/4D model supports storytelling for the building – it tells us the story of how we’re going to construct it. It also allows us to communicate effectively with trade partners, project teams, the client, and city officials for logistics and safety planning.
This is especially important in occupied buildings and on busy campuses and communities. Our 4D planning supports a detailed visualization of the project showing paths of construction and occupied routes to maintain safe access at all times, minimizing any disruptions to the daily operations of the buildings.
These planning logistics include evaluating if we need the sidewalks for safety planning, ensuring that everything will fit on site, and assessing if we need a police detail during some phases. These 4D sequences are live documents, and we update them throughout the project lifecycle, synching to schedule progress and reflecting onsite work. It’s a powerful technology to streamline communications between our field team, owners, and the community. We use technologies such as Autodesk 3ds Max to develop all these animations.
“Windover’s use of BIM models at the Cabot project is a prime example of what can be achieved by using today’s state-of-the-art technology with tomorrow’s vision.”— Amr Raafat
In 2019, I was invited to speak at a panel discussion in New York, and experts from Pixar and Nvidia were in attendance. We discussed how it’s amazing that there are similarities between the game engines used in the entertainment industry and the technology used in the construction industry. The entertainment industry uses this technology to communicate beautiful stories and movies. In contrast, the AEC industry uses it to support storytelling of how projects will be constructed with detailed site safety and logistics and through all phases, from foundations, steel, and completion.
GDH: How do BIM models improve workflows and make the program run more efficiently? Has Windover found that the use of BIM models has helped ensure that projects like this are completed with less rework? Has it helped keep projects like the Cabot Street YMCA on time and on budget?
Amr Raafat: Windover’s use of BIM models at the Cabot project is a prime example of what can be achieved by using today’s state-of-the-art technology with tomorrow’s vision.
Windover’s in-house VDC team performed optimized BIM coordination with laser scans to ensure all new structural elements would fit perfectly within the 100-year-old building structure that was to remain. Windover’s VDC team’s 4D animations effectively streamlined the communication, logistics, and safety planning between all project stakeholders to mitigate risk and make sure no surprises arise onsite while providing affordable housing to support our communities and transform lives for the better.
Advanced QA/QC BIM workflow combined with innovative VDC solutions has indeed transformed the script on how building renovations are conceived, planned, and constructed. For example, this project utilized a new leading-edge telescopic stud technology by Howick utilizing Windover’s BIM capabilities and Autodesk’s technology.
The collaboration between Autodesk Technology Center in Boston, the industry-leading manufacturer Howick in New Zealand and Windover Construction has shown how we can shape the future of construction globally and how we can utilize new industrialized construction techniques to provide substantial cost and time saving on the job site.