The 193-key Thompson Savannah Hotel is located adjacent to Historic Downtown Savannah along the banks of the Savannah River. The project, which is part of the larger 54-acre Eastern Wharf mixed-use development, is the tallest recent development in the City of Savannah and features more than 8,000 square feet of versatile meeting space, a state-of-the-art fitness center and more than 8,000 square feet of outdoor space, including an expansive terrace pool. The hotel features a signature, locally chef-driven restaurant and a rooftop bar and terrace with unmatched view of the Savannah River and Historic Downtown. The team used an innovative protective netting system on the entire exterior of the 12-story project to provide safe access for workers, prevent materials falling from eights and help keep the surrounding area and river clean from construction debris.
Delivering a Luxury Destination Along the Savannah River
American architect and designer, David Rockwell, said it best, “Every project is an opportunity to learn, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent.” This rings especially true on the Thompson Savannah—a project that required creative and custom solutions at every stage of the project development. From collaborating on a prototype design to navigating unprecedented disruption within the global supply chain and local constructability challenges, our team was a trusted partner that delivered on our promises through safe, quality and innovative construction solutions.
Managing the Design of a First-of-Its-Kind Hotel Brand in Georgia
As the first hotel of its kind in Georgia, this unique Thompson-brand hotel presented novel challenges from the start. Because the owner had not yet developed final brand standard guidelines that typically inform design, our team worked collaboratively with the interior designer, Studio 11 Design, to ensure their vision for the Thompson hotel’s aesthetic was realized, all while staying within budget. Studio 11 Design’s goal was to create a layered and curated feel to the hotel as a whole, but without any established guidelines to follow, they drew inspiration from diverse sources. This included, in one specific example, a specialty finish discovered on the social network Pinterest. Taking the design team’s concepts and turning them into a reality within budget was no easy feat. Our preconstruction team’s dedication to identifying and pricing the desired materials was a success in both the designer and owners’ eyes. Significant research and pre-planning between both firms resulted in a stunning boutique hotel design that embodied the juxtaposition of Savannah’s creative spirit with the refined and rich palette of the Thompson brand.
Long Lead Specialty Materials
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry has experienced significant and widespread disruption to the entire supply chain, impacting material availability and delivery times. The ripple effect of material delays and shortages have been felt on nearly every project but proved to be especially challenging on a project with the level of specialty finishes and materials required to meet the upscale and unique design of the Thompson Savannah. Two specific examples of specialized materials with long lead times unique to our project included customized glass shower and guest bath doors manufactured in China (24-week lead time) and custom luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring (18-week lead time). With a deep knowledge of these volatile and evolving supply chain conditions, our team led early coordination efforts to procure these long lead, one-of-a-kind materials well in advance of the completion of construction drawings and the release and award of bid packages. By maintaining constant communication with suppliers and manufacturers, the team successfully overcame supply chain challenges that could have adversely impacted the project budget and schedule.
Historically, most buildings in Savannah have been designed and constructed as low-rise structures. Our team’s desire to retain local trade partners meant that many firms had little to no experience with vertical building structures. To mitigate any potential risk with quality, schedule and safety, our team included all major trades in pull planning meetings. Balfour Beatty superintendents conducted strict weekly walks with trade forepersons to ensure the highest quality construction and most importantly, to keep everyone safe on the jobsite. To reduce conflicts in the field, BIM modeling allowed trades to virtually visualize how we would go vertical on the structure level by level.
The Thompson Savannah sits 150 yards from the Savannah River, which posed potential environmental impact challenges. Particles from our chosen façade material needed to be contained so as not to drift into the air and migrate into the Savannah River. These foam pellets are generated by workers performing rasping activities on Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS) siding. As the rasping tool is worked across the surface of EIFS boards, the particles shaved off the surface free-fall to the ground or can drift off-site, particularly with a multi-story building. Being conscious of the environment and the community, our team installed protective netting around the exterior of the 12-story hotel, providing an effective and safe barrier between our EIFS activities and the Savannah River.
Construction During the Savannah Rainy Season
The Savannah rainy season falls from December to January – right when the hotel was coming out the ground. The number one priority during rainy season construction is ensuring the safety of our workers, as wind and rain present massive hazards on jobsites. This included securing construction materials on-site during periods of high wind, equipping workers with waterproof gear, and investing in high quality tarps to keep equipment safe and dry. To mitigate scheduling impacts due to weather, our team allowed time up front in the schedule for the inevitable weather-related delays knowing we would be constructing the hotel during the rainy season. Tightly managing the schedule through lean construction practices such as pull planning was crucial to working around high winds and pouring rain. To create the safest working conditions, our team provided additional project lighting on the jobsite. As a result of these strategic decisions, the team successfully navigated unfavorable weather conditions to ensure the hotel was completed on schedule.