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New England Construction Blog

Order in the Court(s): Building with Moses Brown and SquashBusters

Mike Gorman
August 30, 2019

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“Moses Brown exists to inspire the inner promise of each student and instill the utmost care for learning, people, and place.”

“SquashBusters envisions a world where every young person is provided with the opportunities they need to fulfill their greatest potential.”

With these statements you see the missions of the organizations that brought us on to their team in 2017 to help build a new athletic complex in Providence, RI. The sport? Squash. If you’re not familiar with it you can learn more about its evolution and history here. Did you know that squash as a sport has been in existence for almost 200 years? The Moses Brown School has actually been around almost 50 years longer than the sport. It almost makes sense then that SquashBusters would choose to partner with Moses Brown to launch their newest center for the sport in Providence. These two organizations share a vision of potential for students, and they needed to find strong leadership to help bring this to life. They found us.

As a Design Build project, we were involved with shepherding the evolution of the Squash Courts from idea, to design, to finished structure. At an isolated site, such an endeavor is already a detailed challenge but at an active school campus in a city like Providence? There certainly needed to be a strategy to our plan of attack.

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One of our first considerations was ensuring the flow of information between our team, the projects’ owners and the design team at LLB, the architects for the courts. Ideas and options needed to be laid out and continually evaluated for their impact on the budget and schedule. NEC’s project leadership learned that finding the perfect balance between vision and implementation was crucial here. The project’s logistics also included building a very strong rapport from the beginning between our Superintendent on site and the Facilities team at Moses Brown. They are literally the feet on the ground that know the most about how the life of the campus flows on a daily basis, and how introducing a major construction site to it would generate not only opportunity but pain points. Luckily they are consummate professionals who could work with us to identify the challenges before they happened and suggest the paths of least resistance for us when it came to turning the vision of the owners and architects into a living breathing place for the students of Moses Brown.

Many of the issues planned for on this project are similar across any project planned on a campus in session, such as student transport logistics (Where will the buses be?) and the impact of set up on parking and traffic on the campus. But there were a few situations that were unique to the Moses Brown campus. Joe Howard, our Superintendent on site, told me about the discovery that there were two very old trees that hold great significance to the school community that intersected with the courts site. Joe had to work with our entire team to ensure that they not only remained safe but faced no future detriment from the installation. The MB SquashBuster Courts are also in a high visibility location that would not only impact the landscape of the campus but the surrounding neighborhood. There was a lot of care placed into the details of its appearance by the design team, including visual continuity of tile placement from the outside of the building to the internal walls. This small but important detail creates a clean crisp appearance to the structure, and took an incredible about of pre-planning to pull off to the satisfaction of everyone involved.

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A project of this scope continues to evolve as it progresses. It is very different from the installation of a retail location with detailed specifications for each location. The design of the project needed to be allowed to develop and flourish, while our team, led by Project Manager Nichole Henderson, had to be there to guide and also ground the process in the real world development of the site. Detail changes are not quick decisions without impact, they had to be evaluated in the context of the project’s budget and schedule. When you are working on an active school campus you know the doors must open on the date specified during the initial planning and there must be doors there to open! Our team used their experience and skill to ensure that not only did this happen, but to the delight of both clients. Their success was our primary goal.

In the end, we believe that our management of the big picture and communication throughout the entire process led to the successful opening of a new center for growth and learning on this thriving campus. We look forward to seeing it inspire new opportunities and experiences for the students of Moses Brown and Providence for many years to come.

Topics: Construction, Business Tips, Building Connections - Summer 2019