Baltimore Visitor Center Renovation
Best Project

Owner Visit Baltimore
Lead Design Firm Ayers Saint Gross
General Contractor Wohlsen Construction
Structural Engineer Structura
MEP Engineer Mueller Associates
Audio Visual Consultant The Sextant Group

The renovated Baltimore Visitor Center in the city’s Inner Harbor area might be a small project, but the project team did a lot with a little. And that doesn’t just refer to the modest budget, but to an ultra-tight schedule as well.

The $1.3-million renovation involved replacing every interior and exterior lighting fixture, including custom fixtures that illuminate new custom millwork displays. Existing circuitry was replaced with new conductors and a cutting-edge lighting control system that permits fixture control through a single copper conductor. Completing the electrical work required removing slate flooring. The team located the quarry that provided the slate for the original floor to prevent the replacement stone from looking piecemeal.

“Great outcome and product on a tight budget,” one judge wrote. “Makes it seem like a high-budget project.”

Besides being an information hub for the city’s 11 million tourists a year, the building plays an integral part in Baltimore’s annual Light City Festival. The renovation—including a new interactive LED lighting package that responds to drum beats—had to be ready for the 2016 festival on March 31, a little more than four months after the project commenced.

Despite the accelerated schedule, the project team successfully managed the procurement, fabrication and delivery of the several customized elements. There was a long lead time to procure materials for almost every element, so Wohlsen required each vendor to provide weekly status updates on each deliverable. Wohlsen’s superintendent also visited several suppliers and subsuppliers to verify that production was on track. When suppliers got behind, the team quickly provided alternative products for the owner and designer to review and approve. In some cases, the team replaced the vendors.

The project team visited one fabricator’s facility with the owner and designers to expedite the approval process. The project submission noted that “this engaging and collaborative approach resulted in timely delivery of each of the long lead elements. The Wohlsen team set the tone, and every team member, starting at the top with the client, maintained the sense of urgency through project completion.”

Despite working so quickly, the project had a zero Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable incident rate and zero lost-time accidents during 5,830 worker-hours. That included 12 consecutive 14-hour days to install a steel and glass sculpture suspended from the building’s ceiling. The artists and their installers, unfamiliar with standard construction practices, were trained the moment they arrived on site.

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