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Business Observer Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 2 months ago

Cool Construction: Girl Scouts cabins prove to be challenging project

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Jonathan Moore hopes the cabins can serve as prototypes for other Girl Scouts organizations nationally.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Project: New cabins for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida

Location: Pinellas County

Date: Completed in September. The project took about nine months. 

Cost: About $1.2 million

Size: Each cabin has 800 air-conditioned square feet plus a 250-square-foot patio

Courtesy. InVision Advisors President Jonathan Moore says he hopes the new cabins for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida can serve as prototypes for other Girl Scouts organizations.

Builder: LLW Construction, Tampa

Architect: Tom Szumlic, Tampa

Project details: Girl Scouts of West Central Florida wanted to add three new cabins to an existing camp in Pinellas County.

InVision Advisors was the owner’s representative firm for the project. President Jonathan Moore says owner’s representatives are prominent in big cities like Miami, New York and Paris but not as much on the west coast of Florida. “We manage the design and construction process for owners or investors who need expert guidance,” he says.

Tampa-based InVision, with a staff of seven and about 40 projects running at a time, works on everything from luxury residential projects and restaurants to theaters and a biotech park. The firm also does a lot of work with nonprofits, including the Girl Scouts. As a Girl Scouts dad whose wife has been a troop leader and co-troop leader for years, Moore had additional expertise to add to the project, too. InVision worked on the new cabins in Pinellas County and on another Girl Scouts project to add new cabins to an existing camp near Ocala.

Cool factor: As the end users, some Girl Scouts themselves got to be part of the building process. They drew pictures of what they wanted to see in their new cabins, and although some requests, like slides, weren’t possible, the construction team could deliver on other things, such as gathering spaces in the middle of the bunks and nice bathrooms.

The new cabins, Moore says, have an open area with bunk beds and large bathroom facilities with mirrors, storage cubbies and showers. Each cabin sleeps 16 people. Unlike the older cabins that have an air conditioning unit in the wall, the new cabins have central AC — quite the “cool” factor. A crucial component of the new cabins is space for the girls to gather.

Courtesy. The new cabins have an open area with bunk beds and large bathroom facilities with mirrors, storage cubbies and showers. Each cabin sleeps 16 people.

“I think it’s a true reflection of what the girls want to do in this next generation of Girl Scouting,” says Moore. “They want to build relationships, be with each other and they want to do activities. The cabins are a tool to let the girls develop those relationships.”

Moore hopes the cabins can serve as prototypes for other Girl Scouts organizations nationally, and he's already had conversations with other councils about the possibility of replicating the cabins elsewhere. “We really want these to be catalysts,” he says.

Challenges: A key challenge on the project, Moore says, was the lack of provision in the Florida building code for a cabin in the middle of the woods with 16 beds. “The only thing we could go off of was the hotel code,” he says. That meant having to comply with codes for transient housing and what would be required of, say, a 30-story Marriott.

There were also strenuous requirements to meet related to safety, fire and hurricanes. Those requirements included installing lighted steel railings next to wood railings, incorporating provisions for wheelchairs, adding fire sprinklers and more. Bringing fire sprinklers and water to the middle of the woods through trees, roots and rocks wasn’t easy — or cheap.

Courtesy. As the end users, Girl Scouts themselves got to be part of the building process, too, drawing pictures of what they wanted to see in their new cabins.

On the hurricane front, due to their proximity to the water, the cabins had to be engineered to resist tidal actions and six feet of storm surge. Because of that, the cabins are raised about 15 feet off the ground.

Overall, the challenges of the remote site coupled with code requirements added up to a complicated project. “We have a $1 billion tower in downtown Miami that’s 69 stories tall,” says Moore of another InVision project. “We spent less time on that project than the Girl Scouts projects.”

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