Beacon works on various different affordable housing project types with clients. In recent years, we have worked on many occupied rehabilitation projects, preserving important assets for owners, residents and communities across Washington State.
An occupied rehab is typically an older building that undergoes a renovation while residents are still living there. This often involves upgrades to critical life and safety systems such as fire alarms, heating and venting systems and “aging in place” features such as grab bars in showers and bathrooms, and enhanced ADA access to units and common areas. While doing work on the building, occupants are sometimes relocated for short or long periods of time, to allow for construction in their apartments to take place. At Beacon we pride ourselves on crafting a construction approach to occupied rehabs that is sensitive to resident needs in order to minimize disruption to the daily lives of tenants.
Over the past 10 years, Beacon has completed a dozen occupied rehab projects with clients throughout the State of Washington. We have found that our team approach to projects works well on the complexities of this type of development, with project and construction managers working together to coordinate details with owners and residents. Beacon also leverages the deep knowledge of our construction managers, Jason Manges and Matthew Flickinger, who combined have over 30 years of experience overseeing construction throughout the region.
In order to execute an occupied rehab project, we have found that there are important steps that must be taken into account to ensure success and deliver a project that is high quality and under budget.
- Conduct a pre-mortem. This is where everyone involved in the project, from project managers to property management, gathers together in a room and lists all the possibilities that may arise during construction, especially any risks related to scope of improvements or hazardous materials.
- Commission a hazardous materials assessment report. This is when the building is analyzed for hazardous materials such as lead, asbestos or mold that may be harmful during the construction process. In Washington State subcontractors cannot legally perform work on older buildings without this kind of assessment and since remediation of these materials is expensive, we have found it is worth investing in this kind of report up front.
- Perform deconstructive testing. Since it is often impossible to enter every apartment and look behind every wall before work begins, we have found that it is worth deeply investigating conditions in a limited number of units in order to develop a realistic scope and budget for work throughout the building. This requires a high level of coordination with property management and tenants.
- Develop a realistic schedule. It is often worth consulting with a general contractor early to develop a realistic schedule for how long improvement within apartments will take. This should take into account a certain amount of “slush” time for unforeseen conditions in each unit.
- Let your schedule inform your resident relocation plan. Work early and often with property management, and a relocation specialist if necessary, to craft a plan that is both sensible and sensitive to tenant needs. Publicly funded occupied rehabs in Washington often involve senior and special needs residents, and particular care should be paid to minimize disruption to these households if possible.
- Develop a comprehensive pest management plan. Nobody likes to talk about bedbugs, but it is now a reality in many types of housing in Washington State. As a result, coordination with property management staff must take place to eradicate bedbugs at several junctures during an occupied rehab. Beacon recommends treatment of the building prior to the commencement of work and then again after completion. In addition, treatment of resident belongings may be necessary as part of the relocation process to avoid re-contamination after completion. Bring on a pest control company early to help craft this plan.
- Know your roles. Within a Beacon occupied rehab development process, the “main players” involved are the architect, the general contractor, the owner, and Beacon. The architect is responsible for documenting and communicating the design effort. The general contractor is responsible for staffing the job, bidding unit prices and maintaining the schedule. The owner is responsible for reaching out to the residents, coordinating the relocation efforts and high level project decisions. Lastly, working with the owner, Beacon is typically responsible for assembling the financing for the project and ensuring effective and efficient team work throughout that will deliver a high quality building that is on schedule and under budget!
Despite their challenges, occupied rehabs often can be the most satisfying kind of development due to the stark changes in the “before” and “after” conditions of a building. At Beacon we work with clients and project teams to deliver beautifully transformed buildings for low-income residents. It is very exciting to see how happy residents can be with improved living conditions once a project is done.