East Maine Early Learning Center in Des Plaines, IL
Building Type: Institutional, new construction
Solution: ArmorWall Vapor Permeable (VP) Structural Insulated Sheathing™
Located in Des Plaines, IL, the 40,000-square-foot East Maine Early Learning Center was constructed in 2020 to serve the growing population of preschool children living in the local school district. The new building provides STEM, nutrition and active play learning hubs and has a large playground area and a separate sensory playground area. The school building was built with longevity, durability, comfort and low operating costs in mind. A geothermal heating and cooling system ensures comfort and natural materials are used throughout the interior.
Of great importance to the school district and supported strongly by DLA Architects, the design firm, was to ensure that the building itself offered a low-height residential feel. Located in a residential neighborhood and serving students as young as four years old, the project team wanted to ensure that the preschool would be seen as welcoming, and not scary, to students. To help achieve this goal, DLA Architects incorporated design element and products more commonly used in residential projects than commercial projects.
As construction was getting underway, the project team realized that the common practice of value engineering was going to be needed to lower costs and keep the budget on track. Delta Vent SA had been originally specified for the project, as it was already an approved material and the traditional method of a self-adhered water-resistant barrier (WRB) was considered the default option. However, as the project team began to assess several areas of the plans to find cost and time savings, the building envelope system garnered attention. DLA Architects determined that a metal stud wall would be less expensive than a CMU wall in some areas, but the change would result in higher labor costs and a longer installation schedule, which wouldn’t work for the budget. A Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) wall system was also considered, but similarly would not have addressed the cost issues enough. Fortunately, Jesse Settle of Illinois Brick Company, the local sales representative for MaxLife Industries and the ArmorWall product line, had presented the benefits of ArmorWall to DLA Architects via a lunch-n-learn presentation months earlier. Because of this, DLA Architects reached out to Jesse to help specify ArmorWall.
Working together, the project team and MaxLife Industries developed a solution that worked for the project’s budget needs while providing many more additional benefits, such as meeting the minimum code requirements for continuous insulation and insulation R-value.
ArmorWall’s benefits were most evident in the faster installation process that saved time and money on labor costs. A first-time ArmorWall user, Hargrave Builders noted that the installation training was fast and simple, and that no specialized tools or methods were needed. “Our guys picked up on it quick; your carpenters are going to install it,” said Colby Straub, Project Manager. A benefit to their company, no other subcontractors were needed for additional layers or coatings, keeping the entire building enclosure system installation with their company alone. This benefit offers the project (including the general contractor) lower liability risks, lower labor costs and even fewer scheduling and weather delays that would otherwise result from having multiple crews on the job.
With the ArmorWall installation underway, the project team chose to modify their material plans for a storm shelter building that was not part of the original plans for ArmorWall. It was the installer who suggested staying with ArmorWall for the additional building, as their installation process was going well and ArmorWall would provide all the necessary building envelope functions while also serving as a superior substrate for the designed cladding system. As a result, an additional order of ArmorWall was placed and it was used in addition to the storm shelter’s CMU wall, providing added strength and durability to this important building – a clear benefit.
While the up-front cost of the ArmorWall material was higher than traditional materials – as it combines up to four standalone materials into one – the cost-benefit analysis revealed an overall positive return on investment due to the faster installation time and significant labor cost savings. In addition, looking at the long-term value of the ArmorWall system provides additional cost savings and value through lower energy bills and less maintenance. Thanks to the many energy saving features of the school’s design and products, including the ArmorWall system, the project team was able to obtain an energy savings rebate from utility ComEd.
While ArmorWall was able to be specified for the project while under construction to help address budget constraints, the project team noted that designers and construction managers should consider products like ArmorWall early in the design phase. Doing so helps to ensure that the full benefits of a high performance building enclosure system like ArmorWall are realized, which can include incorporating design features not available with traditional materials and a faster overall project schedule.
Click here for a news article on the ground breaking ceremony from the Daily Herald.