Georgia Tech


Atlanta, GA

Equipment Supply & Installation

In 2018, getting a meal at the student center of Georgia Tech meant navigating a congested area to get food and then waiting in a long line to check out; it was time for a renovation. But for this university with more than 25,000 students enrolled, many of them living on campus at what is basically a city within a city in the heart of Atlanta, GA., conducting a construction project is no small feat.

A three-phase construction plan to take part over the course of three years was mapped out, and Boelter was on board from the very beginning as the foodservice equipment supplier.

Phase 1: Exhibition Hall and Pavilion. This phase consisted of constructing a temporary foodservice area including a production kitchen and serving line along with mobile kiosks, which served as the place for students to dine while work was done on the main student center. This phase also included construction of a café. Boelter provided equipment including catering carts and a serving line, an exhaust hood, and a walk-in cooler. A highlight of this part of the project was a custom Towne wok designed for Panda Express.

Phase 2: Main Student Center. Which involved the renovation of 250,000 square feet of dining facilities. The operation went from a traditional foodservice operation with stations, to a food court with eight different restaurants and one centralized support kitchen. Boelter supplied a hood and walk-in cooler for Chick-fil-A, countertops for the Blue Donkey Coffee, dishwashers, a walk-in cooler, exhaust hood and Vulcan cooking items for the production kitchen.

Phase 3: Transforming the temporary facilities at the Exhibition Hall into a catering kitchen.

Equipment Experts

Boelter was introduced to the project originally through the general contractor, Gilbane Building Company. “I had worked with Boelter on a previous project at Kennestone Hospital, and knew their service was good,” says Christian Paul, project executive. “Boelter’s knowledge of foodservice was invaluable in this project with the large amount of equipment involved.”

Russ Streett, project manager, and his team did much more than just source equipment for this project. The timing of the project meant that much of the construction took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, where health concerns and supply chain delays brought a whole new realm of challenges in addition to the typical set of issues faced in a renovation such as working within existing spaces. Gilbane kept things moving by cleaning the building daily and conducting temperature checks so people could come to work. Russ did his part to make sure the project stayed on schedule and within budget by keeping the lines of communication open with each partner in the project, addressing issues as soon as they arose, and showing up on site to personally work through challenges through the construction process.

Managing Lead Times. In 2021, industry lead times went from 4-6 weeks to 30-36 weeks. Russ made use of a variety of tactics to counter those delays and keep the project on schedule. One was working with manufacturers to get items released as quickly as possible, and then pushing through the submittal process with the general contractor and the consultant to make any changes needed prior to the delivery. He also worked to find potential substitutions when necessary, whether it was changing a brand or providing an alternative equipment option.

Dealing with Multiple Operators. Over the course of construction, the foodservice operations of Georgia Tech changed hands two different times. In addition to that, the food court included restaurants managed by outside operators. Each client had different expectations and wanted different equipment, which meant there were hundreds of thousands of dollars of change orders over the course of the project. Keeping open the lines of communication between Boelter and Gilbane helped the project remain on schedule even with the slew of changes along the way. “Boelter makes a commitment and follows up with communication, letting us know where things stand, if things are waiting on a supplier, if a new product is being sourced, it’s all about transparency,” Paul says. “Working with Boelter makes our job easier because then our team doesn’t have to do a lot of follow up and can get moving on other aspects of the work.”

Knowledge of Design. Understanding foodservice design and working with design consultants is an advantage of working with Boelter for equipment sourcing. In this project, there were times during construction when they found the equipment specified didn’t physically fit. Russ stepped in to find new locations for the equipment and adjust plans as necessary. “Boelter was involved in several design meetings throughout the three phases,” Paul says. 

Collaborating for Success

For the main student center, the new food court was designed in a 50-year-old existing building, which brought challenges to the design and construction. One of those came when installing the exhaust hood in the production kitchen. There were only three inches of space to tie the grease duct into the exhaust hood after allowing the necessary 78-inch height from the floor for the hood, so tying it in took a lot of maneuvering. Russ worked directly with the mechanical subcontractor to make the space work.

Another challenge arose when the existing building slab was net level enough for the walk-in coolers. Russ worked with the general contractor and the concrete subcontractor to level it out and get it ready for equipment installation. He worked with the electrician and plumber on a daily basis to go over rough-in drawings and field work, and even stepped up to lend a hand when the lead installer was out for a health concern. “A lot of times on jobs people stay in their silos, but I’ve found it benefits everyone when you can work together to get the job done,” Russ says.

Other aspects where building relationships improved the overall scope of the project include Russ’ ability to work with local fabricators. This helped keep costs down on the custom equipment such as the prep line and worktables, and allowed Russ to design in sneeze guards in the serving line, which weren’t initially included. Longstanding relationships with equipment manufacturers and vendors also helped with making last minute substitutions and keeping the project on schedule.

When construction started on the Georgia Tech project in May 2019, the plan was to open the food court in the main student center in March 2022. No one could have imagined the challenges that would arise over the course of those three years, but nevertheless, the foodservice facility opened right on schedule. “Boelter was instrumental in us making that deadline,” Paul says. “Even with the large number of change orders, we were able to meet the schedule thanks to Russ’s ability to be flexible, open and transparent.”

Read more about Russ Streett, and see some of his extensive project portfolio.

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