Gulf State Park Lodge
Gulf Shores, Ala.
Best Project

Owner: Alabama Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources
Contractor: Rabren General Contractors
Lead Design Firm: Rabun Rasche Rector Reece Architects
Structural Engineer: MBA Engineers
MEP Engineer: Newcomb & Boyd

Located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the Lodge at Gulf State Park is a key component of an overall program to preserve the park’s 6,150 acres, enhance biodiversity,  provide educational opportunities and promote economic development through sustainable tourism. Operated by Hilton, the hotel  features 350 rooms and suites, two beachfront restaurants and 40,000 sq ft of event space. Within the park, guests can enjoy 28 miles of trails and a 900-acre freshwater fishing lake.

To seamlessly integrate a quality building program within a natural environment, the hotel combines low- and mid-rise construction with careful color selections and integration of natural elements, such as structural timbers for a new pedestrian bridge.

But other issues would test the team’s creativity. The project’s entire $70-million budget had been set before crews started construction of the lodge and conference center, leaving insufficient resources for third-phase interior work that was bid separately. Rather than go back to the drawing board, general contractor Rabren collaborated with the design team and subcontractors to develop value-engineering solutions that brought the project back within budget without changing its overall function or design intent.

Given the uniqueness of the structure and its surroundings, the safety program went above and beyond standard practices. Along with ensuring that jobsite personnel took proper precautions for handling tasks in the sun and high heat, Rabren’s safety program evolved in step with work activities and potential hazards associated with the project’s progress. No recordable incidents or lost-time injuries occurred during more than 87,500 hours of construction.

With the 26-month project spanning two active hurricane seasons, the project team was constantly on guard to quickly and safely secure the jobsite and evacuate its field staff as storms approached. The plan also helped work quickly get back up to speed afterward.

The project team was also tasked with following the construction and documentation practices necessary for the hotel to demonstrate its commitment to the environment by becoming the first U.S. building to achieve three major sustainability certifications: LEED Gold, SITES Platinum and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s new FORTIFIED standards for resiliency. Together the team achieved an unprecedented level of transparency, communication and teamwork in order to create a one-of-a-kind project. 

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