Updates from GNCB

CSCE Honors Holdredge Garage at 2017 ACE Awards

  • By GNCB
  • 17 May, 2017

Westerly, RI

GNCB was honored by the CT Society of Civil Engineers (CSCE) at the 2017 Achievement in Civil Engineering (ACE) Awards Ceremony this May for the Adaptive Reuse of Holdredge Garage in Westerly, RI. The project received both the Structural Award of Merit and the Sustainability Award of Merit .

The historic Holdredge Garage (c. 1885), now Lanphear Livery, in Westerly, RI was built and enlarged in several stages in the late 19th century as a livery stable and staff housing for the Watch Hill summer hotel and cottage resort. In the early 20th century, the building was converted from a livery to automobile storage and repair. The Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission approved the adaptive reuse of the property as a RI Historic Tax Credit project in 2013.


GNCB’s structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, and historic preservation groups serviced this project starting with the condition assessment of the six conjoined structures, through design for the complex’s stabilization and adaptive reuse, and through construction.

The project present numerous challenges including:

1.  The site’s location within a flood plain;

2.  The long abandonment of the complex leading to deterioration in structural elements;

3.  Stabilizing the structure for hurricane-level wind forces;

4.  The change of use associated with adapting the barn-like structure for public use; and

5.  Maintaining the historic integrity of a prominently-located building contributing to the Watch Hill Historic District’s historic designation


Holdredge Garage is now a significant contributor to the economic prosperity of Watch Hill. It provides 21,000 square feet of reclaimed rentable space and storage. The ground floor houses three retail units and an atrium. The upper floors provide apartment housing to be rented to Watch Hill’s hotels’ staff. The cost of construction for this project was approximately $6 million.

Architect: NewPort Architecture, LLC

Contractor: Pariseault Builders

Holdredge Garage served as a livery stable, housing, and an automobile storage facility before its abandonment.
The original first floor sleeper framing was heavily deteriorated and incapable of supporting the required 100psf live load for retail space. It was decided to demolish the first floor framing and re-support the building on an elevated concrete flat slab.
The complex was temporarily elevated 8 feet and set on cribbing while the new foundations were constructed.
Holdredge Garage is now supported on a new foundation consisting of reinforced concrete grade beams and spread footings supported on helical piles. A helical pile foundation was selected due to the presence of man-made fill and tidal deposits; the complex was temporarily elevated eight feet to allow pile installation.
As required by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, all modifications and reinforcements were designed to be obvious interventions and to maintain as much historic fabric as possible.
The wall framing, which mimicked the horizontal girt system of a barn, was reinforced with repetitive dimensional lumber. The strength of the existing sheathing was utilized and supplemented with interior plywood sheathing in some areas of the building. The walls and floors were tied together to ensure lateral stability against hurricane-level forces.
Floor framing was removed in two areas of the building. At the central atrium, an engineered lumber drag strut was designed at the second floor level to ensure lateral stability. At a double-height storage area, steel x-bracing was installed to allow the second floor to be removed for aesthetic effect.
The timber superstructure is now stabilized with a legitimate load path, and capable of supporting the required live loads. A combination of steel, rough sawn lumber and engineered lumber was used to reinforce the gravity load-supporting framing, including the trusses which support the roof and multiple floor levels.
Completed Lanphear Livery – Front View
Completed Lanphear Livery – Rear View
Completed Lanphear Livery – Interior View of Atrium
By GNCB 18 Aug, 2017

GNCB believes that it is important to foster students’ interest in the fields of structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, and historic preservation. The firm is proud of its internship program which supports students at both the high school and college levels. This summer, Ms. Eleanor Phetteplace of Roger Williams University (RWU) joined GNCB as an intern. Ms. Phetteplace is an Engineering major, with a specialization in civil engineering, and is minoring in both Historic Preservation and in Mathematics. She began her internship in May ( GNCB Welcomes Eleanor Phetteplace ).

While working at GNCB, Ms. Phetteplace was given the opportunity to work with our engineers is all three departments. She was tasked with a wide range of assignments both in and out of the office. As her education and interests lean towards historic preservation, Ms. Phetteplace worked mostly on existing and historic structures where she was responsible for site surveys, condition assessments, structural calculations, writing reports, and drafting. Some of her historic projects included unreinforced masonry mill buildings, timber churches, a caisson foundation lighthouse and several academic buildings.

In addition to working with existing buildings, Ms. Phetteplace worked on new construction projects where she helped create 3D Revit models and determined dead and live loads on bearing walls for the design of spread footings. Additionally, she conducted research on Fall Protection standards in order to participate in the assessment of fall protection systems for a Massachusetts college.

With our geotechnical engineering department, Ms. Phetteplace participated in the soil investigation of a new hotel site in central Massachusetts. As she has not yet taken any soils-related classes, she found this assignment particularly interesting and looks forward to incorporating geotechnical courses into her curriculum as her education continues.

Ms. Phetteplace’s favorite aspects of this internship included gaining knowledge and experience with structures in the field during site surveys and construction administration. She believes that her new skills with Autodesk Revit and Risa-3D will be incredibly beneficial in her future as a structural engineer. She also enjoyed learning about the interaction between design team and construction team members at different project stages.

By GNCB 08 Aug, 2017

The Church of St. Michael the Archangel reached its next milestone this July with the installation of its new steeple. The steeple is a reconstruction of the original steeple based on archival photos of the civil-war era Church. The original steeple blew off the Church shortly after it was built, making its reconstruction an integral component of this Project.

The steeple is anchored to the structure with a series of bolts fastened through the octagonal base of the steeple and an octagonal angle frame designed by GNCB. The steeple is braced with chevron braces within its square base which is constructed with structural steel designed to accommodate the replicated tapering of the original steeple.

Phase 1 of the reconstruction of St. Michael Church will soon be completed. In addition to the installation of the steeple, the cold-formed steel shear walls are close to completion as the exterior cladding and stained glass windows are being installed. The east and west entrances and rear additions are in progress. Phase 2 of the project will include the interior fit-out and finishing of the Church.

This marks the second major milestone in the reconstruction of St. Michael. The first milestone, the raising of the first timber truss , was celebrated by the Parish with a truss-raising ceremony during which Bishop Michael Cote of the Diocese of Norwich blessed the first truss before its installation.

Architect: Geddis Architects

Construction Manager: Petra Construction

Steeple Fabricator: Campbellsville Industries, Inc.

Watch the videos of the steeple and cross installation.

Steeple Installation Video

Cross Installation Video

By GNCB 07 Aug, 2017

GNCB recently provided geotechnical engineering and construction administration services for the recent renovation to Putnam High School located off of Woodstock Avenue in Putnam, CT. The project included classroom and library renovations and the addition of an expanded gym along the southeast side of the 1950s building. Other site improvements included expanding the parking areas, redirecting traffic and bus flow, and constructing retaining walls. The $36.6 million project was led by O&G Industries, of Torrington, CT, as construction manager.

GNCB’s services included a test boring program which revealed site conditions that consisted of thick sand and gravel. Previous site utility work resulted in deposits of man-placed fill at some areas. The man-placed fill required removal and replacement with compacted structural fill. The full extent of the fill was uncovered during construction, during GNCB’s field monitoring of building footing preparation. The deep cuts at the south end of the site for the new parking area enabled the on-site reuse of the excavated sand and gravel as structural fill.

Architect: Drummey Rosane Anderson (DRA Architets)

Construction Manager: O&G Industries

By GNCB 24 Jul, 2017

The Connecticut Cancer Foundation Headquarters in Old Saybrook, CT is close to completion. The Headquarters is GNCB’s latest “hometown” project. Throughout our 52 years in Old Saybrook, our structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, and historic preservationists have been involved in numerous Town projects including the elementary, middle, and high schools, the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, the stabilization of the Town Dock, and various residential projects.

The CT Cancer Foundation Headquarters consists of a 4,400 square foot addition to the Sanford House, an early 19th-century, timber-framed home. The addition consists of reinforced concrete foundations supporting a steel-framed first floor and a wood-framed superstructure.

GNCB designed a strong-back system for the perimeter of the Sanford House to allow removal of the first floor framing and increased headroom for the new Headquarters. The original House’s chimney was removed at the interior of the building and is supported and stabilized with a new engineered wood framing system.

GNCB served as Structural Engineer of Record for the Headquarters. Additionally, our firm provided historic preservation and special inspection services for this project.

Architect: Point One Architects

Construction Manager: Enterprise Builders, Inc

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