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Filling Today’s Needs

By Mark Morris

When Craig Sweitzer built his first dental office 37 years ago, he thought it was the coolest thing he had ever done.

As owners of Sweitzer Construction, Craig and his wife, Pat, enjoyed learning the unique design requirements and the technical knowledge required to build dental suites, known as operatories.

“We like to work on projects that are new, fresh, and exciting,” Sweitzer said. “Dental offices fit that bill because dental technology is evolving, and it’s fun to stay current with it.”

In a recent string of projects, the Sweitzers’ firm built or renovated three dental practices in the Berkshires, all owned by women dentists. Berkshire Dental Arts and Krol and Nazarov Family Dentistry, both in Pittsfield, and Shire City Endo in Lenox all presented different challenges to the team, among them building dental practices during a pandemic.

Dr. Sarah Martinelli said the building where her practice, Shire City Endo, does business began as a “rectangular brick box.” Built in 1978, three different banks occupied the site before Martinelli purchased the building in February 2020. Having worked in the area, she knew that dentists referred patients for endodontic work from all over the region, so the central location of this building on Route 7 in Lenox made it an ideal spot.

Craig Sweitzer explained that, when dentists plan a renovation or construction project, they will meet with him early in the process. From the choice of equipment to how each room lays out, together they form a plan.

“By purchasing this unit, it saved us from ripping out the ceiling and replacing the entire ventilation system. That would have been absolutely disruptive.”

“There are lots of decisions to be made,” he said, “from where the plumbing and electrical lines go to whether the doctor is right-handed or left, and do they want cuspidors or just suction?”

A dental-equipment supplier also enters the picture early on to work in partnership with the construction crew and the dentist.

“We do all the underground, behind-the-wall, and under-floor infrastructure work to make sure it will accommodate the specialized equipment the doctor ordered,” Sweitzer said.

Craig and Pat Sweitzer

Craig and Pat Sweitzer say the dental practice owner is closely involved in the design process from the start.

Dental offices fit that bill because dental technology is evolving, and it’s fun to stay current with it.”

For Shire City Endo, part of the early work involved removing a drive-up window left over from the banking days. When the crew was drilling into the foundation to run plumbing and electrical lines, they ran into another legacy of the building’s former use.

Foundation floors in banks are usually much thicker than those in regular commercial buildings to deter would-be thieves from tunneling in from underneath. After much more effort, the crew was able to install the necessary lines in the right places.

“I wasn’t worried before about someone tunneling into my practice,” Martinelli said jokingly. “And I sleep well at night knowing I’m protected from that now.”

The thick floors didn’t slow down the project too much, but as Pat Sweitzer noted, coordinating schedules with the medical supplier is an important part of the process. “The whole project is orchestrated for our crews to finish their work just as the medical equipment and the installers are available.”

As a general contractor, Sweitzer Construction is well-acquainted with the difficulties of sticking to schedules during the pandemic, not to mention recent price increases for raw materials. Lumber is the most notable building material to see wild price increases of up to 250%. Craig said he does not use much lumber, but instead uses steel studs to frame walls in his commercial projects. Still, he noted that steel has begun catching up to lumber in price and difficulty to get when it’s needed.

“We order materials long before we need them and then hope they arrive somewhere around the time we are ready to use them,” he explained. “It takes our office staff much more effort to make sure materials get here on time.”

 

Go with the Flow

When the pandemic first hit, air flow inside buildings suddenly became an essential consideration, especially in healthcare facilities. Sweitzer and the HVAC subcontractors who work with his company began to study how to design new systems and retrofit old ones to keep everyone safe.

Whether COVID-19 had existed or not, Martinelli knew she would have to replace the entire HVAC system in her building. Sweitzer and Mark Edwards from M&E Mechanical Contractors, the HVAC subcontractor for the project, installed a state-of-the-art negative-air system for all the operatories at Shire City Endo. Sweitzer explained it as a system that captures pathogens in the air which are immediately pulled out of the room by an exhaust fan before they can spread. In the past, operatories often had exhaust vents in the ceiling. The standard now is to locate these lower on the wall.

“Dentists and hygienists work in people’s mouths, the main path of respiration,” he said. “With lower vents, any pathogens are directed down to the floor instead of into the provider’s face.”

Dr. Anne Barnes

Dr. Anne Barnes says the 1960s-era space she took over in 2018 “just didn’t work” for today’s cutting-edge dentistry.

Martinelli appreciated that she had the opportunity to install a new HVAC system to deal with COVID and any other airborne maladies. At the same time, she saw her colleagues struggle to find answers on how to retrofit their offices to mitigate risks and improve air quality.

By purchasing this unit, it saved us from ripping out the ceiling and replacing the entire ventilation system. That would have been absolutely disruptive.”

Because Sweitzer and Edwards had been so helpful to her, Martinelli coordinated a Zoom call with the contractors and the Berkshire Dental Society, so dentists could get answers on how to manage air ventilation in their practices.

“Craig and Mark were great resources to the entire dental community, who had plenty of questions on how to keep their patients and staff safe,” she said.

Pat Sweitzer was on the Zoom call and credited Martinelli for organizing it. “The dentists had done lots of research, and we had done lots of research,” Pat said. “It was a time when everyone was learning how to contain COVID through different HVAC systems.”

Dr. Anne Barnes, who runs Berkshire Dental Arts, is one of the dentists who chose to retrofit her office with an air purifier that turns over the air in the entire room in three minutes. She said it does an excellent job, and while it’s a large piece of equipment in the corner of the room, it beats the alternative.

“In addition to knowing all the building codes that pertain to dental-treatment rooms, he also knows how to navigate the whole permitting process.”

“By purchasing this unit, it saved us from ripping out the ceiling and replacing the entire ventilation system,” she said. “That would have been absolutely disruptive.”

In 2018, Barnes established Berkshire Dental Arts after assuming Dr. Neil Pyser’s practice located on South Street in Pittsfield. The building was constructed in the 1960s by four dentists, and while it has changed hands several times over the years, the interior space was not much different from when it was first designed.

“What was here just didn’t work for me and wasn’t planned out for today’s dentistry,” Barnes said. As a captain in the U.S. Army Dental Corps, she had access to all the latest equipment, so while she knew what she wanted, the challenge was how to fit it in a predefined space.

At Martinelli’s recommendation, Barnes asked Sweitzer for help on how to make better use of the defined footprint of the building.

“Craig helped me troubleshoot and think about ways to convert the space we have into something more efficient,” she said. Her practice consists of four operatories, two used by Barnes, with hygienists working in the other two rooms.

She and her husband, Charles, who is also the practice manager, had a mental picture of how the operatories should look, but admitted they didn’t have the expertise on how to bring in new equipment without sacrificing elbow room.

“I wanted to make each room functional and comfortable to work in,” Barnes said. “Craig knows how much space you need around the chair and where to place all the plumbing and electrical hookups we use.”

She enjoys her redesigned office because she now has the equipment to do 90% of her lab work in house instead of sending it to an outside firm. For example, if a patient wanted to change the color of a crown, they would normally have to make an appointment two weeks after their visit while the crown goes to a lab. Because Barnes now has a ceramic oven in her office, the patient needs to wait just 15 minutes for the adjustment.

“A ceramic oven is a small piece of equipment,” she said, “but if you don’t have the counter space for it, you’re out of luck.”

Martinelli was also pleased with her office renovation, noting that she appreciated Sweitzer’s strong knowledge of dental-building infrastructure.

“In addition to knowing all the building codes that pertain to dental-treatment rooms, he also knows how to navigate the whole permitting process,” she said. “And he knew what needed to be done to check all the boxes at the end of the job.”

 

Tooth of the Matter

The knowledge the Sweitzers acquired to build dental offices has allowed his company to expand into other highly technical projects. From photovoltaic solar work to building clean rooms for high-tech companies, their business keeps expanding. Even with the new areas of focus, though, Craig still enjoys dental-office construction.

“Dentistry keeps changing, and there are always technical parts to it,” he said. “Besides, dental construction was my first love, and the complexity is still fun.”

Building Permits

The following building permits were issued during the month of September 2018.

AGAWAM

ICNE Group Realty Inc.
1070 Suffield St.
$14,500 — Roofing

CHICOPEE

City of Chicopee
17 Springfield St.
$2,100 — Add two sprinklers in election and clerk’s vault

Elms College
291 Springfield St.
$328,000 — Replace boiler stack

EASTHAMPTON

CIL Realty of MA Inc.
198 East St.
$31,500 — Install exterior door and spiral staircase to existing deck

Lachenauer, LLC
6 Prospect St.
$4,100 — Insulation and air sealing

EAST LONGMEADOW

Aspen Dental
434 North Main St.
$3,150 — Remove bathroom

Chipotle
42 Center Square
$380,326 — Commercial fit-out

Verizon Wireless
331 Prospect St.
$30,000 — Replace antennas

A Wondering Spirit
169 Shaker Road
$2,000 — Minor interior renovation

GREENFIELD

Buff Beagle Holdings, LLC
330 Chapman St.
$1,519 — Install sprinkler monitoring south building for King’s Gym

Aaron Demaio
5 Park St.
$282,000 — Renovate interior, repair and renovation of roofing, siding, windows, and doors for dental office

Franklin First Federal Credit Union
57 Newton St.
Install new sign with digital temperature display

Jones Properties, LP
21 Mohawk Trail
$22,707 — Remove and replace cabinets, install partition

Adam Martin, Alexandra Martin
341 Plain Road
$21,700 — Construct cow barn

Judith Stein
70 Federal St.
$9,000 — Repair storefront of Tim’s Barber Shop due to car driving into it

Town of Greenfield
125 Federal St.
$2,695 — Construct walls to cover brickwork for room in basement

Town of Greenfield
298 Federal St.
$200,000 — Install new roof, windows, thermal envelope, elevator shaft, stairwells, and doors

Town of Greenfield
Federal Street
Erect two free-standing signs for Shattuck Park

Town of Greenfield
42 Grove St.
Replace two free-standing signs for Hillside Park

Town of Greenfield
Parkway Street
Erect two free-standing signs for Highland Park

HADLEY

Pride Convenience Inc.
19 Russell St.
$12,000 — New ground sign for Tesla

Pride, LP
25 Russell St.
$6,000 — Install kitchen exhaust hood, including ductwork

W/S Hadley Properties II, LLC
337 Russell St.
$3,000 — Change faces on pylon sign at Michael’s

W/S Hadley Properties II, LLC
337 Russell St.
$50,000 — Replace sliding doors with new swing doors in vestibule of Old Navy and extend vestibule two feet inside store

LONGMEADOW

Franconia Golf Course
617 Dwight Road
$236,449 — Post-and-beam pavilion on concrete slab

Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield
56 Hopkins Place
$3,536 — Fence

Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield
489 Longmeadow St.
$20,000 — Modify equipment for Sprint

NORTHAMPTON

B’Nai Israel Congregational
257 Prospect St.
$2,500 — Remove section of wall between classrooms, reframe and install interior door

Max Hebert
46 Round Hill Road
$20,000 — Remove block fill windows and all interior mechanicals at boiler house

Hospital Hill Development, LLC
Prince Street
$74,877 — Roof-mounted solar on ServiceNet building

Michael’s House, LLC
71 State St.
$269,000 — Roofing

P + Q, LLC
114 Main St.
$5,000 — Alter stairwell

Smith College
44 College Lane
$78,000 — Construct temporary animal lab

Smith College
2 Tyler Dr.
$123,000 — Repair water-damaged drywall, flooring, paint, and floor framing in McConnell Hall

Trak Petroleum, LLC
54 Easthampton Road
Reface existing ground sign for Racing Mart

Valley Building Co. Inc.
206 King St.
$15,000 — Frame and drywall partition walls, install interior doors and trim

PALMER

Baystate Wing Hospital
40 Wright St.
$9,500 — Replace hospital logo sign

Baystate Wing Hospital
40 Wright St.
$5,680 — Replace Emergency Department sign

Black Bay Ventures IV, LLC
22 Mt. Dumplin St.
$37,650 — Roof replacement at Palmer Foundry

Stambaugh Realty, LLC
1028 Thorndike St.
Addition to VCA Animal Hospital

SPRINGFIELD

1095 Main St. Irrevocable Trust
1095 Main St.
$8,000 — Alter tenant space

Baystate Health
3350 Main St.
$35,285 — Alter space in first-floor room of D’Amour Cancer Center for office use

Big Y Foods Inc.
90 Memorial Dr.
$20,000 — Remove and replace three cellular antennas for T-Mobile

Purna Chhetri
63 Beaumont St.
$3,580 — Erect walls in basement for bathroom and storage area, and install interior door

Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society Inc.
171 Union St.
$84,726 — Install 75 modules of rooftop solar at Dakin Clinic

Dask Partnership
90 Carando Dr.
$485,000 — Alter tenant space for use as autism spectrum therapy

Virginia Ellis Golemba
892 Main St.
$20,000 — Amend permit for new contractor

Five Town Station, LLC
270 Cooley St.
$50,000 — Alter retail tenant space for Verizon

Gateway Hardware
142 Boston Road
$41,705 — Alter space for mercantile/store

Marylyn Rove LL1
1 Allen St.
$20,000 — Replace six cellular antennas, replace three remote radio heads and install nine new remote radio heads

McDonald’s Corp.
809 Boston Road
$300,000 — Alter interior space at McDonald’s restaurant, including restroom upgrade, new front counter and finishes, and renovation of dining area

Patrick Spagnoletti, Laipeng Spagnoletti
67 Texel Dr.
$22,000 — Addition to front of attached garage

Springfield Redevelopment Authority
55 Frank B. Murray St.
$19,000 — Build enclosure over existing elevator shaft servicing platform C at Union Station

Tinkham Management
66 Industry Ave.
$247,000 — Alter tenant office space for Greater Springfield Senior Services

Western New England Children’s Center Inc.
34 Chapin Terrace
$2,800 — Alter reception area into office space at Ronald McDonald House

WEST SPRINGFIELD

1050 Main St., LLC
1050 Main St.
$8,730 — Apply foam to underside of corrugated steel roof to deaden sound transmittance

Hampden Charter School of Science
485 Main St.
$20,000 — Convert existing space into ADA-compliant bathroom and add handicap-accessible ramp to outside of building

Town of West Springfield
429 Moran Road
$90,000 — Install retaining wall and new paver patio at back of building, install fencing and sitting area with pergola at top of wall, new ADA sidewalk to lower parking lot, and driveway paving

Town of West Springfield
357 Piper Road
$10,000 — Construct two interior partition walls with doors for teen center

Van Deene Medical Building Partnership
75 Van Deene Ave.
$80,900 — Interior renovations

WILBRAHAM

Armory Property Management
4 Opal St.
$12,925 — New roofing and one window

Features

Back to the Future

Opened in 1956 and hardly touched since, Westfield State University’s Parenzo Hall will soon have a 21st-century feel and house 21st-century initiatives.

Ramon Torrecilha says that when it opened in 1956, Parenzo Hall, the first building on what was then Westfield State College’s new campus on Western Avenue, housed “pretty much everything.”

That included classrooms, the dining hall, a large auditorium, administrative offices — yes, everything, said Torrecilha, president of what is now Westfield State University.

Over time, many all of those facilities moved somewhere else. The dining commons went in Scanlon Hall, new classroom facilities were built, and a number of administrative offices were moved down Western Avenue to the building, acquired by the college nearly 20 years ago, that was once the world headquarters for Stanley Home Products, later Stanhome.

But Parenzo remains an important center of activity of the school, as home to everything from a gym to labs to gatherings in that auditorium. Yet, while still relevant, Parenzo needed a 21st-century feel, and, more importantly, a 21st-century function — or several of them.

It will get both as the university embarks on a $40 million project likely to commence in 2020.

Indeed, the building will be modernized and brought up to current codes. But even more importantly, it will be home to some forward-thinking initiatives, said Torrecilha, referring specifically to the planned Center for Innovation and Education and the Center for Student Success and Engagement.

The former will leverage technology and serve as what Torrecilha called the “nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass.” and partner with community colleges, K-12 school districts, and industry partners. The latter, meanwhile, will strive to improve student outcomes and also address the continuing decline in the number of working-age adults.

Parenzo’s auditorium was packed on July 10 as a number of civic and economic-development leaders, college faculty and staff members, and even some students were on hand to see and hear Gov. Charlie Baker and other members of his administration talk about the legislation known as H.4549, “An Act Providing for Capital Repairs and Improvements for the Commonwealth,” a bill Baker signed that afternoon amid considerable fanfare.

The measure authorizes nearly $4 billion to address statewide capital needs, including higher-education campuses, health and human services facilities, state office buildings, public-safety facilities, and courts.

Gov. Charlie Baker signs H.4549, which includes $21 million for Parenzo Hall.

When he was asked by BusinessWest what inspired state officials to direct $21 million of that money toward Parenzo Hall — an amount to be matched by the university itself — Torrecilha said it was much more than the need to put a modern face on a 62-year-old building that certainly needed one. “It’s never been renovated,” he noted. “We still have the original windows, there are ADA issues, and there are a host of other improvements that need to take place; it doesn’t even have air conditioning.”

Indeed, what certainly resonated, he said, was what the college intended to do with the new Parenzo.

And to determine what that new life would be, Torrecilha said he essentially “hit the road” and visited a number of the school’s partners — a large constituency that includes the four area community colleges, the K-12 community, especially in Westfield, Holyoke, and Springfield, the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce — asking what they would like to see and gain from a new Parenzo.

“I asked, ‘how would a renovated Parenzo help you advance your mission,’’ he recalled, adding quickly that the respective mission vary, obviously, and that fact was reflected in the answers to that inquiry.

And it also reflected in the broad new strategic plan for Parenzo and the two new centers that will be based there.

The ‘Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships,’ is aptly named, he explained, because it will focus on the two distinct and equally important initiatives.

“We intend to work very closely with industry in Western Mass. so the university can partner with them in create programs and curriculum that support their operations,” he explained, adding that the EDC and the chamber will among the partners in this endeavor. “It’s about engaging with industry, doing needs assessments, and then turning to our faculty and programs and say ‘how can we help this particular industry in developing more skills and knowledge (in perspective employees) so the business is supported.”

The university, its faculty, and administrators already engage in such conversations with industry leaders, but the new center will take the dialogue — and the various forms of response — to a much higher level.

Meanwhile, the center will also focus on innovation in education, with a strong focus on technology, Torrecilha noted, adding that there are a number of significant changes taking place in how subject is taught — or can be taught — and the center will work to help WSU various partners, including the K-12 community and the community colleges, make the most of this technology.

“Because of technology, the learning process is being revolutionized,” he explained. “Today, there are digital laboratories, and the way we are teaching chemistry, physics, and even biology is changing. Those days when people would dissect a frog … all that can now be done digitally, and one of the things I’m envisioning is for the center to work with the K-12 community and our community college partners to set up that kind of exchange and partnerships.”

Torrecilha said that work will soon begin to blueprint what the new Parenzo will look like and how its spaces will be apportioned. He doesn’t have specific answers yet, but did say the school will make the very most of what is still a valuable asset.

“The building is 90,000 square feet, and we’re going to use every inch of it,” he said.

Thus, the building most associated with the school’s past, will play a very prominent role in its future.

— George O’Brien

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