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July 25, 2006

 

Tim McCandless, SE
Boy Scouts of America
Northwest Council No. 611
411 West Boy Scouts Way
Spokane, WA 99201-2243

 

Dear Tim:

 

My company, RenCorp, LLC, was recently contacted by several people interested in renovating Finch Lodge. On July 18th, I met at the lodge with three proponents of the renovation. We toured the exterior and interior of the lodge that day entering each of the roomís and observing the current condition of the building. The purpose of this letter is to give you my opinion of the lodgeís possible renovation. You have a beautiful facility at Diamond Lake and I enjoyed my visit that day.

 

Background:

 

RenCorp was founded five years ago. Prior to forming this company, my business partner, Chris Batten, and I worked for five years at Wells and Company, another Spokane company specializing in historic renovations. I was the construction manager and Chris was the leasing agent. RenCorp specializes in renovations and adaptive reuses of historic buildings. We have renovated buildings listed on the Spokane, State, and National Historic Registers. Our company provides many services such as architectural design, general contracting, real estate brokerage, and real estate development. We have developed several buildings in Spokane and the vicinity which were in worse condition than Finch Lodge. The reason we renovate the buildings is because it made more sense economically to renovate the buildings than to tear them down and build new. When we evaluate a building as a developer, we look at the bottom line to ensure that it makes sense to renovate the building. There are always many factors to consider in any renovation. We understand that while emotions may run high that you must consider all options. One factor that should be taken into consideration is the heritage and fond memories that the lodge evokes for many past and future users.

 

Some of the renovation projects we have been involved with while working at Wells and Company include:

  • Steam Plant Square, built 1916, an adaptive reuse of an historic steam plant and distribution warehouse into offices, a restaurant, and brewery
  • Courtyard Office Center, built in the 1960ís, an adaptive reuse of the Rodeway Motor Inn into office suites
  • Morgan Building, built in the early 1900ís, a six story historic apartment building converted to an office and residential condo project

 

Since forming RenCorp, we have developed or have been the architect and general contractor on the following projects:

  • Gables Apartments, built in 1909, 21 unit apartment building condemned by the City, renovated as apartments
  • Wetzel Warehouse, built 1909, a grocery warehouse converted into offices and a retail store
  • Cannon Residence, built 1911, leveling the house and pouring a new concrete foundation to replace the original rock foundation
  • Moorehouse Residence, built in the early 1900ís, addition to a historic home where importance was placed on keeping in character with original building style
  • Jefferson Street Auto Lofts, built 1906, an adaptive reuse of a warehouse into customized residential lofts and commercial offices
  • Railside Center, built 1908, historic five story warehouse being converted into fourteen residential condos, starting construction in August 2006
  • Edge Condominiums, built 1907, historic warehouse being converted into nineteen residential condos, starting construction in September 2006

 

Observations:

 

I have read through the reports written to you from J. L Stewart, Richard Atwood, and Peter Smith regarding their recommendations on the condition of the lodge. I also visited the site to make my own observations, though no structural testing was done. I did not see anything on site that was a major concern. Most of what was noted is typical for a building of its age. Typically there is structural reinforcing or repairs needed in any renovation. Historic buildings do not need to be brought up to current building codes. There are variances in the building codes to allow for renovations without destroying the historic integrity and detailing of a building. The code does not allow alterations to a building that would make it less safe than it currently is, but it does not require bringing the building up to current codes. There are life safety codes that must be adhered to which will require upgrades to the building involving fire codes and exiting requirements. Obviously with the amount and type of use your building will see, you will want to upgrade the lodge to a level of safety and structural soundness that meets your needs and will likely exceed the minimum code upgrades.

 

In reading through Richard Atwoodís report, dated June 23, 2006, I did not see anything that canít be overcome in a fairly straight forward approach. Typically in a renovation project there are several structural upgrades required which his report lists:

  • Rebuild or repoint masonry fireplaces. Repointing may be all that is necessary and less costly.
  • Repair and repoint rock foundation.
  • Reinforce the framing members between trusses. Steel channels can be bolted through the wood members to reinforce them.
  • Strip roofing and sheet with plywood over existing rafters.
  • Reinforce or replace beams if necessary where the wall was removed when the porch was enclosed and opened up to the interior.
  • Level the floors by jacking up posts as required. Pour new post footing if necessary.
  • Reinforce the exterior walls with new plywood sheathing or steel diagonal bracing straps added to the studs. There are usually other options to add additional shear strength such as adding braces on the interior between structural framing members. The new addition could also be designed to have the tie into the historic lodge and help provide the lateral resistance required.
  • Reinforce balcony floors where they have deflected.

 

I would also recommend the following if you decide to renovate the Finch Lodge:

  • Replacing the windows with a double paned glass window that matches the look of the historic windows and provides better energy efficiency.
  • The exterior siding may be salvageable, but if not it would need to be removed and replaced with new lap siding. There are products available now that are low maintenance and provide long durability, such as cement based lap siding that can match that look of wood and is painted.
  • Reroof with new architectural asphalt shingles to restore the historic design of roof which was likely wood shingles.
  • Remove the main ceiling and restore the look of the exposed trusses and vaulted ceiling.
  • Install gas fireplace inserts and chimney liners for energy efficiency and low maintenance.
  • Add insulation to walls and roof. This can be blown into the walls or siding can be removed from one side to install batting. The roof may need rigid insulation to get a higher R-value due to the 2x6 rafter depth. There may also be a way to install the roof insulation on the exterior of the new plywood sheathing or adding to the rafted to build up additional depth.
  • Install new HVAC equipment. Ducting can be run exposed or hidden behind knee wall on second level, crawl space, and between floor joists.
  • Install new electrical service throughout the building.
  • Plumbing will likely be minimal since a new addition would likely occur that can house the kitchen and toilet rooms.
  • The building may need fire sprinklers if required by code for its use. The piping can be left exposed without being unsightly.
  • A new stair will need to be added to the second level for fire egress.
  • Balcony railing will need to be altered to add height. Typically the existing railing is left intact and a horizontal rail is added on top to bring the height up. The added rail should look different than the original railing so it is obvious to the user of what is historic.
  • The rear of the building may need to have the grade lowered to help with drainage. The ADA entrance can also be at the rear of the building since the floor is close to grade level.
  • Build an addition to the Finch Lodge to meet the functional needs of the Boy Scouts program.

 

Recommendations:

 

Carefully consider the needs of the Boy Scouts for the next 50 years. Many times a building can be renovated to meet those needs. If more space is required, then an addition will need to be built. An addition can be built adjoining the existing lodge that is designed tastefully to tie the past to the present. You have a wonderful lodge that can become a showcase and a functioning museum for the Scouts to use for years to come. This is the type of building that people remember when visiting. Many new buildings lack character and charm. New buildings may not always outlast a fully renovated historic building. A new building can be built to last a hundred years, but this requirement can also get quite costly.

 

I have been renovating buildings for ten years and have yet to have a renovation cost more than demolition and new construction. If the design team has experience in renovations and knows the building code requirements for historic buildings, then there is no reason the renovation should cost more than new construction. I donít know where the numbers are coming from in some of the reports that say a renovation can cost twice as much as new construction. I would first question if the new construction was with materials that can last 50 to 100 years or is it based on inexpensive construction that will require costly continued maintenance. You are starting out with the structure and the upgrades will likely cost less than building new. Most of the new systems, (such as electrical, plumbing, fire sprinklers, HVAC) will cost the same whether it is new construction or a renovation. There are the costs of demolition that must be factored in and the costs to haul debris to the closest land fill. There is also the environmental factor to consider in the cost of demolition. A recycled building has additional value by saving materials being newly manufactured and by keeping materials out of the landfill. LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a Green Building Rating System encouraged now by national building councils to rethink how we construct buildings. I would think this could be a valuable lesson to young Scouts that could be taken advantage of for their education. It would also be great public relations with the general public and the supporters of the scouts.

 

Please let me now if we can be of further assistance. I can be contacted at
455-3770, extension 111.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Len Urgeleit

RenCorp, LLC

 


 

 

 

 

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