Gym conversion project in Northern Virginia - need help!

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by piersc, May 19, 2019.

  1. piersc

    piersc Member

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    I am in the early stages of putting together a plan to convert a gym for our small independent school in No. Va. At the moment for each performance we take over the gym and create a stage/seating etc and then tear it down a week later. I want to propose that we convert the gym to a theatre/multi use space (we have another gym). My first step is to get approval from the board for this. Their first questions will be what will it look like and what will it cost! We will have a very tight budget....

    I'm struggling to find a local Theater Consultant or architect that might be right for our project to help answer those questions. The architects either don't have experience with theater or are big firms (and I'm guessing expensive). Any guidance on where I might be able to find the right firms? Google shows lots of companies but not in my area....

    Any help much appreciated!

    Piers
     
  2. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Consultants are not spread out much. I know of no one closer yo you than NYC or North Carolina. But we all travel.

    When you say very low budget, low as in the school down the street spent $15m and we only have $5m, or low as in less or much less than $1m?

    You will need an architect but with a consultant an architect who works on small project out of a 1-3 man office would suit that very low budget project.

    Curious if the main floor is slab on grade or if there is a basement or crawl space.
     
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  3. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    https://theatreconsultants.org/members/ lists a couple of KY and NC firms. Travel is quite common in this business, so you might widen your definition of local.

    IMHO a dealer would be more helpful than an architect. The larger one have significant departments for design/sales.

    I'd be happy to help remotely, but my travel would be pricey!
     
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  4. lwinters630

    lwinters630 Well-Known Member

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    I have been involved in several conversions and build out from scratch.
    These type of projects tend to become larger than you may think. You will need to know what YOU want the finished space to be.
    If i
    Will become it become theater only or a gymatorium? What size is the room, where will the stage be, load in space, wing space, storage and more.
    Sound and stage lighting, design with room to expand. Dimmable house lights. Screens, projectors? Seating flexability and storage.
    Carpet and other sound panels.
    Often, lighting and sound suppliers can often be helpful to get a basic layout.
     
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  5. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    The problem I have with going to vendors at this stage is that they know thr ptoducts they sell and what is needed for those products, but none sell quiet, circulation, accesibility (ADA), required egress, restroom counts, dressing room layouts, or a whole host of issues that are about design and codes and building basics. In order to get as much of what they sell as you want, you have to be very smart about those other things, or you'll spend all the money with stuck on solutions rather than integral and efficient ones.
     
  6. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    What you're looking for is a feasibility study or a concept narrative. You probably cannot move forward on this without board approval or at least someone footing a bill on a small contract, but usually on something like this an architect would put together some basic drawings and work with their MEP/S/theater consultants to come up with pricing narratives. Then a cost estimator or construction manager throws some numbers at it that they would either have their estimators work up or they would talk to possible vendors to provide budget pricing on. The cost estimators work with generalizations (a sprung stage floor of a certain type if $8.10/sf, a VCT floor is $4.00/sf, wall acoustical panels are $18-25/sf, etc.), review the extent of plans and written narratives they've been given, and make some assumptions before you giving you a number.

    Evolution of this kind of project tends to go 1 of 2 ways:

    1) We're thinking $x,xxx,xxx for project budget. What can we get for that?
    2) We've come up with what we'd like to do. How much will this cost, roughly?

    Either way, you need an architect engaged because there are building code, life safety, fire protection, and other implications depending on how far you are planning on taking this project. The most significant part of the feasibility study is to identify major costs such as:
    • Architectural
      • Life safety review of building code/egress/accessibility requirements.
      • Floor and ceiling plans including finish types for walls, ceilings.
      • 3D renderings you can use for your fundraising/approval efforts.
    • Acoustical
      • Wall STC's, roofing/ceiling IIC's for sound isolation (the architect will integrate these into their plans)
      • Mechanical noise control recommendations for duct velocities, duct silencers, number of 90's before dumping into a diffuser, etc.
      • Interior room acoustics treatments
    • Mechanical
      • Based on occupant load, condition of the existing systems, and zoning, will a new air handler be required? If so, where will it be located?
    • Electrical
      • Do we need to add a 200A/3ph panelboard for lighting and another 150A/3ph for audio, and something else for motorized rigging?
      • Do we need add a transformer for one or both of those drops?
      • Where are any major power sources originating from? (i.e. you need to pull x big copper cables from the other side of the school to get back to your MDP (Main Distribution Panel))
      • What is required to extend the function of your fire alarm system into all of these new rooms?
    • Plumbing / Fire Protection
      • How do these modifications impact roof drains?
      • Will you be adding restrooms or concessions areas that require plumbing?
      • If you are required to sprinkler a space which is not already sprinklered, do you have enough water pressure from the street or will you need to add a fire pump to your system?
    • Structural
      • Does the floor structure need to be reinforced, especially if it is not slab-on-grade?
      • Does the roof structure need to be reinforced to support additional ceiling loads? (Not just for curtains/rigging/lighting, but also if you need to add acoustical clouds, a sprinkler system full of water, ductwork or a new air handler, so on, so forth)
      • Are we adding catwalks and staircases anywhere?
    • Theater Systems
    In terms of finding an architect, you're primarily looking for someone with K12 experience. The theater consultant will help alleviate any inexperience the architect may have with theaters. You may be underestimating what experience your local architects have though. Many school projects get categorized on architects' websites under Education/K12, even if they contain a theater. As mentioned previously, be mindful that your school likely has procurement/solicitations policies you need to abide by. If this is an unsanctioned project, I would be upfront with anyone you are engaging that for the time being you're just looking to pick their brain for a ROM budget and sense of design fees required for a study before you move it up the food chain.

    Disclaimer: There is no one-size-fits-all design/construction process. I've just described one of a few ways you can pursue doing a full architectural conversion of a gym into a theater. However, if what you are really looking for is just to hanging some lighting positions, fuzz the walls acoustically, and hang some curtains, that is a very different process than what I've just described.

    Square Foot Budgets: New construction K12 is around $215/SF --- that's structure, conduits, cabling, carpets, everything from classrooms to bathrooms and cafeterias. Gut-and-remodel renovations can be higher or lower than depending on existing conditions and not achieving economies of scale -- facelifts and minor renos tend to be lower. For the purpose of big round numbers though, if you imagine there is no existing gym whatsoever and you wanted to build a theater, $215/SF probably gets a typical cafetorium or something with a black box vibe. $400-500/SF gets you a higher class performing arts center.

    Take those numbers with a grain of salt until you've had a formal study and site inspection performed though. That roof liner has reached the end of its 30-year warranty and needs to be replaced? That's a big chunk of change. The nearest place you can tap new power off of is across the building and you'll need to rip out ceilings to run new conduits and feeder through them? That'll be a major cost item. They did a pressure test on the water supply and determined we do not need a fire pump for our sprinkler system? Hooray we have more $$$ than we thought we would!
     
  7. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    What Michael describes is accurate for a project in the $200+ per sq foot range. I'd guess your building is at least 15000 sq ft if it has a basketball court so is a $3m project a possibility?
     
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  8. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @piersc Another construction cost variable is how hungry are the general contractors (GC's) in your area and how hungry are the various skilled trades?
    If there's lots of work and everyone's swamped for the foreseeable future, costs will generally be higher. If they're in the midst of a construction drought with time and equipment on their hands and little work in the foreseeable future, costs will generally be lower with the GC's and the various trades low-balling their pricing to get signed contracts then counting heavily on extras to make a profit.
    Don't be shocked when you see the "extras" rolling in. Let me give you a couple of examples:
    The site is still a parking lot.
    You notice there are too few electrical receptacles.
    The electrical contractor charges for extras.
    The concrete block and / or drywall contractor charges for extras, even though no walls have been erected yet.
    The paint and wall paper contractor charges for "make goods" as if he had to touch up and match paint finishes even though no walls exist yet.
    You may be pleased with the prices you get during a long running construction drought but everyone involved from the GC through the trades and suppliers will be eagerly looking for any / all extra's they can nickle and dime you for.
    A new theatre / performing arts centre in my area built about 2009 was priced while construction work was scarce in our area.
    The various movers and shakers wanted things such as:
    An acoustically separate studio space with its own lobby, bars, coat checks, washrooms, entrances, exits, dressing rooms, booth and overhead cat walks .
    A separate rehearsal space with sprung floor and its own washrooms.
    Three loading docks instead of two.
    A freight elevator with stops at basement, stage and dressing room elevations.
    An orchestra shell with lighting and convenient storage.
    A temperature and humidity controlled, secure, piano and instrument storage room at stage level with convenient access to the pit.
    A pubilc elevator in the lobby with doors on the front and rear to service the main and studio spaces.
    Two full width stage lifts complete with rolling seating wagons to provide extra apron space, orchestra pit, increased wheelchair space and / or additional seating.
    Additional concert lighting over the aprons.
    The folks pushing for the theatre thought they'd have all of their dreams priced as unaffordable extras then only contract for what they could afford.
    Surprise, surprise. Pricing rolled in and everyone involved was so hungry, they low-balled all of their prices and the entire project, including all extras, fell within budget. Everyone was thrilled and delighted until the extras rolled in and in and in. Every conceivable corner was cut, some shockingly so.
    You don't want to be on the receiving end of a theatre built by a bunch of unhappy, penny pinching, contractors. It wasn't a happy site to be working on.
    'nough said.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  9. piersc

    piersc Member

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    Some fantastic information - thank you for all the contributions. The budget is likely to be $1.2m-$1.5m. Fortunately we already have a very good lighting system in the gym that we could re-purpose although we would probably want to have it on motorized bars rather than using a lift or having catwalks. Probably.... I have included an image of the plan as it stands. There are a 100 caveats including the fact that my day job is running an IT company and in my spare time I volunteer on the school board. I'm leading this project because I love theatre and want the school to have a better facility. The space needs to continue to be used for events with tables so I put in retractable seating into this design. The stage is 36' by 36' and we don't need a fly system although we would want drops, a cyc, curtains and so on. We also want to host a local film festival so a screen, projector and reasonable quality sound system are important. There is definitely a question over the roof structure and whether it can carry the right live loads (waaay out of my area of expertise). The dressing rooms and toilets all exist but would need to be remodeled from locker rooms. The control booth would be above and behind the retractable seating and either accessed by stair or possibly directly from the "North Stair" at the bottom by knocking a door through at the right level. This might be ADA compliant. Maybe.... We have a good acoustics company and a local distributor for Hussey seating that have helped already. There is no crawl space under the floor that I am aware of. Mike - you are right that we need to create a concept for fund raising purposes but first I need board approval to create the concept! If we can get something done in the budget above we will focus on it. If that is way off the mark we will probably put this off for a couple of years. There is no shortage of work in our area so the GCs are not very hungry. I have talked to one or two who weren't really interested. To me it comes back to find the right architect/designer combination I think. Would love to get your initial comments!
    Gym Conversion Plan_Page_1.jpeg
     
  10. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    -deleted, out of sequence and now irrelevant.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
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  11. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    First impressions:

    1) Retractable seating gets tall quickly. Just eyeballing this compared to a couple recent projects -- if you do the seating where the rows of seats flip up via a lever, the height per row is like 9-12", and you may be handing out oxygen masks to the people who have to climb to the top rows. This can make shows feel less intimate and impacts sightlines to the cyc depending on how high your arch is --- this is a big deal if you are doing film/projections. It also really messes with where you hang a projector because you generally can't go any higher than the top of the screen without having to keystone/degrade the image. No bueno if the eye-height of your last row is equal to or higher than the top of what you're projecting onto.
    2) You will likely to need to build out a full structural wall and raised platform behind the seating to provide anchorage to the seating system while maintaining a crossover corridor. Also gives you a control/spot deck, but this would need secondary stairs/egress/railing when the seating is retracted and possibly spinkler heads underneath.
    3) Likely need more space between the seating system and rear wall. The mechanical room may need a high degree of maneuverability to get air handlers in and out of.
    4) Square footage of stage is likely to require this area be sprinklered and protected by smoke hatches.

    I'm sure others will chime in but I've got a deliverable this afternoon I need to get back to.
     
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  12. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    In your plan, is the stage raised or built up above the existing gym floor elevation? Or just a demarcated area of gym floor? All the rooms (locker rooms) are I presume at gym floor level. Do you really need a proscenium wall or would a curtain do? And I go back to noise. Gyms were not designed for quiet air handling and it really is a necessity for performing arts.
     
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  13. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Well, reading Mike's simultaneous posting, I guess for economy I'd say OK to steep rise but leave stage level at gym floor level and avoid a lot of costs, plus have more height over stage. Looks like 12-14 rows. Even at 14" row - two steps - its maybe 16' max and gyms are usually 24' clear. But that would afford sight lines to a first row level stage, just like a black box.

    Stairs to stage level accompanied by wheel chair lifts will eat a lot of money.

    A smart curtain and track system that allowed them to store against the walls would yield even more flat floor space.
     
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  14. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    You're right, based on the court size that's only 12-13 rows which isn't too bad. This section is based on a similar retractable seating system, posing for a "Seating Systems Gone Wild" cover. This is an example when more is not always better.

    upload_2019-5-20_13-17-47.png
     
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  15. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    And I would make it as wide as possible and plan on probably 2 rows on the floor - so then its maybe only 10 rows high. (And is it in two sections so you can flex the space?) Also, a popular format for these is 33" back to back so improved sightlines and not much comfort given up, especially since seats are thinner. At this size, they may not need anchoring.

    Just some ideas without knowing enough.
     
  16. piersc

    piersc Member

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    The seating proposal was for 12 rows and the seat pad for the top row was at 12'. The gym is 24' to metal beams with roof space of about 8' above that. Our original thought was to have a raised stage (maybe 4 steps tall) with an opening of 18'. One of the dual uses would be graduation so the steps either side for access would be necessary. ADA lift - good point! Although we haven't started fund raising we have received some significant contributions and the expectations are that we will have a theatre at the end of it. This is why we opted for a proscenium wall with stage. My thoughts were that we would extend the raised stage all the way to the wings but we would have to deal with the doors into the back stage area with steps down or a ramp. I am concerned about the noise. The gym is very live and the air conditioning system is noisy. We have turned that off in the past during productions with a quick blast during intervals!

    The request for an 18' opening was due to that being a standard height for renting high school drops. With a 3' stage, 18' opening and 24' total height that doesn't leave much room for the lighting or other roof mechanical "stuff"/rigging etc. Does that sound too close?

    And maybe I am getting into too much detail - it sounds like a need to get an architect and design team in place to produce a concept......
     
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  17. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Without knowing more and drawing options, its hard to know - but the hollow raised stage and therefore guardrails all around and steps and lifts all sound tedious. If you haven't drawn it in section, best to do that. I generally start with section and later develop plan.
     
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  18. AlexDonkle

    AlexDonkle Active Member

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    Depending on the equipment age and a few other factors, you may need to consider whether the "switch it on during intermissions" approach is okay if it means better improvements in other areas.
    If the equipment's near end-of-life, then funding a replacement might be able to get some maintenance funds as well but step one would be getting a mechanical engineer to assess:
    1. Is the existing AHU near end of life?
    2. What's the replacement cost of a quieter unit, likely with some duct work replacement to add internal acoustic lining or duct silencers? (ME could likely advise if they have enough past data to give ROM budget without an acoustic consultant, or if they'd need one to do some preliminary selections for budget)
    3. If the unit's newish, check if it could accommodate higher pressure drop from adding duct silencers to the supply and return to the existing unit. (Fairly unlikely in my experience, but worth checking)

    Room treatments will certainly help as well, but most of the benefits come from having a quiet room to begin with.
     
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  19. piersc

    piersc Member

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    Thanks for all the additional comments. Someone pointed out that in the plan above we only have one egress and we need two. I assume over the stage and out doesn't count! Would a side door stage right work that would lead in to the corridor past the dressing rooms and out that way? The gym is dug into a slope so I can't create another way out....
     
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  20. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Up to 500 occupants is 2 ways out. 501 to 1000 requires 3. If sprinklered, which this should be with change in occupancy, the two doors out should be half the diagonal apart. That might or might not include the stage in measuring diagonal - could go either way. Up to 300 they can both go through "lobby" if they are separate paths - not crossing or squeezed into one path - but can get away with a lot. more than 300 and they need to be separate - can't go through same volume.

    You also need a way out of stage at both sides - but they can lead to the same two as for audience so 2 for the building (up to the 500 combined total of entire building). And that is all minimum code, which is NOT good design. Just meet code and you get a grade of D-.

    That's a quick, memory based summary, from airport gate area.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019

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