Last year, Paul Davis of Greater St. Paul and Minneapolis worked on a major fire damage restoration project for a senior living (age 55+) condominium association community. In addition to the regular challenges of a large loss fire job – from mitigation through reconstruction - the project presented additional difficulties posed by COVID-19, as the residents were considered high risk.

Initially, the association managers brought in a different restoration company. When the results weren’t entirely positive, the association board of directors brought in Paul Davis based on another recommendation. Via Zoom, Paul Davis presented a plan and was immediately chosen to take over the job. 

Scope of Work

The fire sparked on the 11th floor when a resident placed a baseball cap on a light stand. Hoarding conditions accelerated the fire’s spread, affecting nearly the entire 17-story building.

“The unit where the fire originated acted as a fuel source as the areas were densely packed with furniture which allowed for rapid acceleration of the fire,” explained Andy Banas, the senior project manager on the job.

Efforts by the fire department resulted in water damage from the 11th floor to the basement, due to outdated construction features in the 40-year-old building.

“The building, composed of post-tension concrete slabs, had many shafts and plumbing stacks that allowed water to easily transfer the soot-contaminated water all the way down the building to the basement level,” Banas said. 

As a result, more than 80 of the 230 units in the building units experienced water and/or smoke damage. Thirty of those 80 residents were displaced anywhere from two to six months during the restoration process. 

COVID-19 & Civil Unrest

One of the most important considerations on this job was working with a community of high-risk seniors during a pandemic. This made adequate PPE even more critical for the numerous workers needed to complete the demolition and decontamination phase. 

On average, the onsite team used 300 to 400 N95 masks per month, five boxes of gloves per day, and a large quantities of Tyvek suits. 

In addition to COVID-19, this building was in close proximity to civil unrest happening in the Twin Cities, which added to anxiety levels for everyone involved.

Protecting the health and safety of their team members and the seniors living there was a top priority.

Handling the Contents

Once selected to take over the job, Paul Davis mobilized immediately not just for remediation, but also for contents cleaning. This meant taking over one of the elevators during working hours, as the building lacked a freight elevator. A Paul Davis employee acted as an elevator operator, using radios to pick up crews and items on affected floors throughout the day. 

Banas said all the contents were moved offsite, to the Paul Davis warehouse, for cleaning and restoration due to “the immense level of damage and reconstruction work necessary in the units with contents damage.”

Concurrent Planning & Production

“The biggest challenge on the job was to maintain progress and get homeowners closer to returning home, while efficiently handling project estimating, claims settling, and project management functions of scheduling, managing trades, and managing budgets,” Banas explained. “Due to the extreme level of damage throughout the common areas and impacted units, the project needed to get underway immediately without taking the time to operate as one might with a normal claim.”

This meant the Paul Davis team was in the planning and production phase at the same time, rather than in sequential order. They used an onsite project management team, housed in a construction trailer on the property, and made sure the team had clearly established roles in production, management, and communication. 

The Goal & Outcome

The Paul Davis team set the aggressive goal of completing this $2+ million project within six months, and they did it. 

“All this was top of mind when the Paul Davis team gave their everything at this property to deliver the extraordinary care the customers so desperately need," Banas said. “As the result of the success of this project, we have been hired to do a complete remodel of the lobby and the basement common areas which include fitness rooms, locker rooms and community room." 

As a thank you to the association and residents, Paul Davis is hosting a catered open house at the property on the one-year anniversary of the fire. This will be both a thank you to the residents and association for working so closely with Paul Davis to ensure the project was a success, as well as give the Paul Davis team a chance to connect with those they served and help.