FRCC Grays Peak Health Care Careers Center: A Study in Cooperation
Every once in a while, you work on a project that truly exemplifies what absolute cooperation can accomplish. Cooperation between the construction and design teams, between that team and the owner, between the owner and the community … the list goes on. Front Range Community College Grays Peak Health Care Careers Center was one such project.
From the beginning, the project set out to create an unparalleled learning experience for students. The team was determined to figure out exactly what the students needed – not just what designers and administrators thought or assumed the students needed. Front Range Community College and architect Hord Coplan Macht held “listening sessions” with the students to understand their top priorities. The team – FRCC, HCM and Haselden – toured four colleges on the East Coast with similar programs to find out what was working and what wasn’t, what their students found useful, and what changes they would make. The campuses we visited (George Washington University, Hartford Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, and University of Maryland School of Medicine and Nursing) were all very forthcoming and accommodating – a great example of inter-scholastic cooperation. We came away from our East Coast tour with a better sense of how to fulfill our students’ needs so they can fulfill the needs of the community when they graduate.
Dr. Jean Runyon, vice president of the FRCC Larimer campus, noted that the mission and vision of their community college is to create the most well-prepared workers. The vision for this project in particular started with trying to meet a current and future community need for health care providers – a need that is evident now more than ever. “As a community college, we really rely on our community partners and are very responsive to community needs when developing new programs,” she said.
Constructing the most effective learning environment for the students and supporting the collaborative relationship with the community is a team effort. The design-build process lent itself perfectly to this endeavor. The design-build process is inherently inclusive; everyone’s input and ideas were obtained early, allowing us to produce exactly what FRCC wanted and realize their overall vision for the project. Having our entire team working together from the get-go meant ongoing constructability reviews and discussions – one of the major benefits of design-build. Of course, this means less rework, which translates to more funds that can be devoted to wish list items. This degree of integration provided the team with camaraderie and an opportunity for collaboration that went a long way in determining the success of the project.
“One thing I appreciate with Haselden and Hord Coplan Macht is that when they came together, this group really understood the vision for what we wanted this project to be,” Runyon said. “It’s not just the physical building, but it’s what takes place in the building and how it prepares our students to go out into the community upon completion of their certificate or degree. What we really valued was how the team came together and understood that mission.”
The project itself has become its own unique education opportunity. Throughout construction we have brought in numerous groups of students, both high school and college. From FRCC, we’ve had an interior design class, plan reading class and construction classes visit our site to learn more about the construction process. We’ve hosted a group from Thompson Valley School District high schools to introduce the students to the different paths a career in construction offers – from concrete carpenter to plumber to project manager – as well as the opportunity to see the FRCC campus firsthand. The Grays Peak Health Care Careers Center became a type of learning lab.
This project also provided some unique construction opportunities. Before building started, we needed to relocate the observatory – not something you get to do every day! There were only two subcontractors in the country with the expertise to take on this task. Observa-DOME picked the existing observatory from its foundation, deconstructed it, and stored it while another foundation was built on campus. The observatory then was rebuilt on its new foundation.
Front Range Community College’s Grays Peak Health Care Careers Center is genuinely a study in cooperation and collaboration. The resultant building will not only be an outstanding learning center for students, ensuring a steady influx of qualified health care workers into the community, but also a testament to the college’s commitment to the students and the community, as well as evidence of the effectiveness of a team approach.
Published in the June 2020 issue of Building Dialogue.