Building Callaway's Leading-Edge Lodge

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

In Pine Mountain, Ga., a new four-star lodge and spa opened recently — The Lodge & Spa at Callaway Gardens.

Juneau Construction was general contractor on the project, which was designed and constructed with LEED certification in mind. Les Juneau was project excecutive. Charles Crosby served as project manager, with Jeff Potts serving as superintendent. Other key personnel included Bartow Towsey, assistant superintendent; Christie Coogler, project engineer; and Remona Walker, administrative assistant.

The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens features 150 guest rooms along with a 13,000-square-foot spa and health club. According to Callaway Gardens, the new Lodge and Spa facilities "are designed to honor the rich traditions and boundless natural beauty of Callaway Gardens while adding a new level of luxury and comfort to the overall experience at the resort."

The project is being developed for Callaway Gardens by Noble Investment Group, a national hospitality organization that owns luxury and upscale hotels and resorts. The company is also a developer of high-end lodging, resort and mixed use projects, as well as an operator of independent destination resorts, convention and conference centers, and upscale hotels.

"When it came to designing The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, we took on the challenge to honor the work that nature has already done," said Mit Shah, president and CEO of Noble Investment Group. "With this in mind, we are creating a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified resort lodging amenity that continues the sense of place that is so central to everything at Callaway Gardens."

The project consists of two interconnected buildings with four guest room floors in each. Building B has one additional level below the guest room floors; it is the site of the facility's 13,000-square-foot spa.

Work on the project started in late October of 2005 with several acres of clearing.

"We did as little clearing as possible," notes Crosby, "as Callaway is very attuned to nature."

The project was also designed to require only a minimal amount of earth work, reflecting not only the Callaway philosophy but also the project's overall LEED approach to design and construction.

"The whole LEED idea is to minimize impact on the environment," Crosby says, "and this project does that very well."

Preliminary work also included rerouting of a sewer line which ties several cottages on the far side of the conference center to a main trunk line. Overall, about 1,600 feet of sewer line construction was required.

All clearing, as well as grading and construction of site utilities, was handled by Steadham Grading, Fairburn, Ga.

Work began in December 2005 with construction of concrete spread footings. Footings under the elevators and stairwells were substantial, notes superintendent Jeff Potts, and utilized up to 300 cubic yards of concrete. Column footings, some as deep as 22 feet, were also constructed during this phase.

Attention then turned to slab construction. Building B's slab was constructed first, followed by the slab for Building A. Building B's slab, which will serve as the floor for the spa, is one level below the slab on grade for Building A.

Then came forming and pouring of columns and elevated slabs. Typically, such projects include many poured-in-place beams, but The Lodge & Spa utilizes only two such beams — both in the spa. Those beams measure about 48 inches wide, 24 inches deep and 16 feet long.

"Everything else is reinforced and post-tensioned 8-inch slabs," Crosby says.

Typically, 11 columns were formed and poured at a time. Crews then began forming the corresponding portion of the elevated slab. Work on each of the slabs proceeded in three sections on each level, with sectional pours of 240 yards, 225 yards and 180 yards.

Careful attention was given to the design of the concrete mix, not only to provide the necessary strengths within the times allowed but also to adhere to LEED guidelines and philosophies. According to Crosby, LEED credits associated with the concrete required a great deal of effort in fine-tuning the mix, adjusting ratios, superplasticizers and fly ash content to achieve the mix qualities that were desired. The result was a high-early 5,000-psi deck mix which not only met the LEED expectations but also had the properties needed to allow construction to move ahead on multiple fronts at any given time within the schedule restraints of an eight-day floor cycle.

The concrete was produced by USA Ready Mix. On-site, it was pumped by Cherokee Pumping, using 36-meter pumps for the lower columns and floors and a 52-meter pump for the fourth floor and roof slabs.

Overall, construction required some 185 tons of rebar. Harcon, Inc., Alpharetta, Ga., constructed the entirely stick-built formwork for all slabs, columns, footings, and shear walls. Rebar Erectors, Marietta, Ga., installed rebar and handled installation and stressing of post-tensioning cables. Gerdau Ameristeel supplied rebar, while post-tensioning cables were from DSI.

After the slab concrete had reached the specified three-day strength, the post-tensioning cables were stressed; then the forming was stripped and reshoring was installed.

"Reshoring had to remain in place on every floor until we stressed the roof slab to meet engineering requirements," Crosby says. This meant that interior work could not begin until all reshoring was removed. That posed a number of constructability and scheduling challenges, but careful attention to sequencing allowed this approach to work well.

One project requirement was to provide high ceilings with a smooth surface. This required the concrete work to be of exceptional quality in order to accept the direct-applied ceiling finish. In fact, notes Crosby, all of the concrete work on this project was "very good."

"This is a four-star hotel," he says, "and the concrete work has definitely contributed to achieving the quality that the owner was looking for."

In addition to the structural concrete in the main buildings, some steel construction was used in the entryway to the spa area. Superior Rigging erected the steel.

Construction of HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and other systems moved vertically through the structure through risers. Meanwhile, crews from Holt & Holt worked on interior framing,installing heavy-gauge studs as well as interior drywall.

Particular attention was given to interior finishing. Long before interior work began, a full-size mockup of a typical guest room was constructed. Members of the project team evaluated the mockup to ensure that it could be constructed at the highest level possible, and the design team looked far and wide to locate materials best suited for the project. For example, wall and flooring finish materials as well as door hardware and accessories were imported from Italy and China.

Exterior finishing, also handled by R&B Construction and Spurlin Masonry, started even while concrete construction was still being completed. The building utilizes Hardie siding and stone to achieve a look that blends with the setting and philosophy of the Callaway organization.

The built-up roof was installed by L.E. Schwartz. The roof design includes gabling and eyebrows supported by large rough timber brackets.

Finally, the project's hardscape package is significant in its own right. This $2-million package includes a pool, cabana building and two fountains. Stone accents the hardscape for enhanced visual and aesthetic appeal.


Because this is a LEED-certified project, special attention was given to areas ranging from minimizing site disturbances to maximizing use of recycled material.

"The owner and the design team specified the level of LEED certification," Crosby says. "Then, from the contractors point of view, it became something to manage and monitor throughout the construction process.

"The goal is to make the finished building as environmentally friendly as possible," Crosby says, "while at the same time making it a cleaner place to be in once people move in."

At times, notes Potts, more than 200 workers were active on the project — and throughout the project, careful attention was given to ensuring their safety.

"Safety is our number one priority," notes Potts. "We held weekly job-wide safety meetings, with subcontractor meetings to coordinate safety plans." Additionally, he says, an outside safety consultant conducted unannounced jobsite inspections to help make sure that safety remained at the forefront.

"Our goal is to provide steady, constant reminders to everyone on the project to 'think safety' at all times," Potts says.

But the biggest challenge, all agree, was the aggressive schedule.

"To do a project like this one in a year was a big challenge right there," Crosby says. "It's tough, but that's just a characteristic of a project such as this. With just a year to build it, you get to celebrate a half a day when you top it out — but then it's back to work!"