The Somerset Pool Bath House, designed by Bethesda, MD based, McInturff Architects, has been awarded an Excellence in Design HONOR Award from AIA Maryland. It was one of only seventeen projects from the state of Maryland cited by the peer jury tasked with reviewing all submissions – and one of two projects to receive the Honor award.
McInturff Architects took on the public project using ArchiCAD to design the repair and renovation of the pool house in Somerset, MD – a suburb of Washington DC. Built in the late 1960s, the pool house was situated in a park and represented the heart of the tight-knit community. Updating the structural soundness of the bath house as well as installing features that would increase accessibility all while reducing the environmental impact of the facility on the stream valley were among the primary goals for the project.
Maintaining and Maximizing
Project Architect Peter Noonan explained that the firm was very committed to retaining the existing footprint of the original bath house and maximizing the advantage of the wooded area in which the pool was located. They had to act quickly, since being open in time for next year’s pool season was a big factor in their being selected for the project.
“We knew we’d be going in on a very quick turnaround, because it was very important to the community that construction begin at the end of one season and be completed the following season. With ArchiCAD we were able to create a 3D living file – using the walk through in the model so that the town council and pool house project committee could see that we’d be very nimble on the project. Even the community at large could appreciate what they were seeing in our model, because it is so true to life.”
Dealing with Demanding Deadlines
It was no small feat to have the pool house finished in less than twelve months. A series of additions had been constructed over the years at the location and as a whole, repairs were sorely needed. Noonan estimated that a full third of the building had to be replaced and an old slab that rested above the pool’s pump equipment was beginning to fail. With so many factors to be addressed, Noonan says the team decided to use ArchiCAD to develop a BIM as well as create a physical model. The digital file served as a point from which construction documents could be created.
“The existing footprint of the bath house was retained, even as all of the interior layout was reconfigured. The original roof, which was low, heavy and oppressive, was replaced. The new roof, built of lightweight wood trusses, is high, light and airy, becoming a giant porch roof that extends beyond the old walls to provide protected poolside shaded areas.”
Providing shade and shelter from sudden summer storms was a key feature of the project. The team created louvers on the roof that appear as though they are a second story – but actually serve as a shade roof.
Communicating Design Changes and Options
The basic design is a simple roof that stretches over the original pool house to create a large, shaded porch – a must-have item on the community’s wish list. That way the pool members could get out of the hot sun or the rain in case of a sudden summer shower. As the architects considered ways to create that shade structure in the most cost effective and architecturally interesting way, they worked with a structural engineer. In the model, they designed alternate ways to frame the roof, with steel rafters, composite trusses or wood trusses. Each choice brought with it a variation of cost, performance and look. The model was a key factor in evaluating those three choices in an effective manner.
“Our ArchiCAD model gave us design and quantity information that cost estimators were then able to use to create financial data on how each material would affect the bottom line. We ended up going with Douglas Fir trusses – since steel was twice the cost of wood. They are the everyday wood trusses you see in your attic, but instead of spacing them two feet on center, we doubled them up.”
As meetings were held periodically to go over design choices with the pool project team, town council members had the architects open the model and swap out different material choices to see how those changes impacted the look, feel, functionality and costs of the pool house. ArchiCAD served Noonan and the project team well during these meetings and those with the people of the town. Very few in attendance at these meetings had a working knowledge of architecture or site design, so the materials the team was able to extract from the model had to be understood easily and contribute to an understanding of what was going to be happening to a beloved fixture of the community.
“We were able to develop more formal presentations using ArchiCAD for the public meetings – where we had to print out elevations and renderings. There were instances where we’d take an image of the model and merge it with an actual photo of the site. It really helped us convey the vision. We really used the software to its fullest to get that polished extraction from the model.”
The building has no active mechanical system to provide heating or air conditioning, so it could not receive LEED certification – but LEED criteria was used to design it. The pool house can be considered a sustainable building.
Once the Somerset Pool House was completed it started earning recognition, the accolades literally began pouring in. One town council member commented to the McInturff staff that the project deserved every commendation as it represented the “beating heart of our town”.