The approach to practical, creative and flexible layout, as well as attention to energy-efficient equipment and recycled materials, earns this renovation of a 45-year-old dining hall recognition as FE&S' 2011 Facility Design Project of the Year.
"In addition to replacing obsolete equipment and renovating the facility with a unique industrial theme that would expose the sustainable materials used in the construction of this 45-year-old facility, we had to address a fundamental student need—more seating," says Deon Lategan, CSU's director of residential dining services. Once he secured permission for the renovation, Lategan and dining services staff worked with Ricca Newmark Design and Architecture Plus to draft an original concept design.
"The project's goal was to merge form and function by creating a customer-friendly atmosphere where globally-minded students can enjoy chef-created world cuisine in a vibrant, whimsical and environmentally responsible space," Lategan says.
The new facility features concepts that increase speed of service and efficiency, while meeting the needs of the ever-evolving customer base. "We've taken a marketplace model and moved the food production to the front of the house, in view of customers," Lategan says. "The closer we can put the point of production to the customers, [the more it] enhances food quality and the overall 'foodertainment' experience."
The 14,000-sq.-ft. Braiden Dining Center opened to students in January 2010 with a 3,400-sq.-ft. marketplace-style servery featuring six main stations. Braiden's renovated 5,300-sq.-ft. seating area is 2,700 sq. ft. bigger, which increased the capacity to 450 people, 100 more than before. At the time the FE&S article appeared, annual sales in 2010 were projected to be nearly $2.4 million, with more than 275,000 transactions.
Located near CSU's library and academic facilities, Braiden Dining center serves as many as 1,000 customers for lunch each day without adding significantly to the building's footprint. The project also included a separate late-night dining room that handles crowd overflow during peak hours and can function as a closed-off meeting space. A new 1,000-sq.-ft. exterior pick-up-and-go window/station was added.
Judges noted the fiscally responsible results of the project: The operation has become significantly more profitable since the renovation as a result of a 33 percent increase in business juxtaposed with minimal labor increase and greater efficiencies.
The judges emphasized their admiration of how CSU met design challenges. For example, the project team had limited information about existing building conditions, but knew the 1960s structure was rife with character and a strong design imprint. As a result, they worked with these attributes, not against them, and increased overall size by nearly 5,000 sq. ft. Working within these parameters and a neatly defined construction window required fast track scheduling and a phased opening when students returned from the summer break.
The entire space's design gives a nod to a modern/industrial aesthetic, while upholding CSU's commitment to responsible sustainability practices. Sustainable materials used include recycled aluminum and countertops made from sunflower hulls and recycled glass. Carpeting and flooring materials contain 60 percent recycled soda bottles. Exposed beams and the use of geometric shapes and angles add architectural interest.
In the marketplace, venues are dispersed throughout the servery to reduce queuing and lines. The salad bar area features direct access to the existing kitchen for replenishing, and back-up fruits and vegetables are stored in glass door coolers for easy view and access. Serving platforms are strategically located to accommodate the late-night and take-out areas. The main entrance and exit doors are located side-by-side and in direct line of sight for meal checkers in order to maximize crowd control.
Designing stations with equipment that staff uses to prepare dishes in front of customers encourages staff-customer interaction, creating what Lategan calls "foodertainment." Custom-designed food venues meet customers' desires for global food flavors and special diets with gluten-free and vegetarian dishes.
The facility also includes a full-service, 4,200-sq.-ft. kitchen at the back of the house that contains 1,600 sq. ft. of new space primarily for cold and dry storage.
Flow of product was another aspect of the project in which the judges gave high marks. The cooking and storage areas were decentralized to optimize flow and production of food and to minimize customer queuing. In contrast to the old facility, where the dishroom was in the center of the space, this area now located in a discreet, more functional spot.
Flow of product from delivery to prep is more efficient, thanks to wide receiving and refrigeration doors that enable staff to roll vendors' palletized food drops into the appropriate storage area without blocking aisles and cluttering production areas.
During the renovation, obsolete equipment was replaced with energy-efficient upgrades. New exhaust hoods are equipped with thermal/optical sensors that detect the temperature and particulate load within the hood canopy, thereby optimizing fan speed and airflow, and thus reducing energy expenditures. Braiden uses self-cleaning combi-ovens. The addition of a blast chiller allows for large-quantity food production because food can be prepared en masse and then cooled quickly to ensure the highest food safety. An energy-efficient dishwasher and pulper were added to the dishroom. The pulper installation has reduced the waste stream by as much as 70 percent; in turn the staff creates a compostable by-product of kitchen and food waste.
Many other green initiatives were also taken to allow sustainable practices, such as using 100 percent renewable energy purchased locally, converting fryer oil into bio-diesel fuel and other products, trayless service, LED lighting and other décor choices.
No doubt Braiden Dining Center successfully merges function and form, bringing together practical, sustainable design while maintaining efficient flow and service. It indeed deserves FE&S' highest project design recognition of the year.
Braiden Dining Center Team
Beth Kuczera, president, Equipment Dynamics Inc. (EDI), Chicago, Ill.
Paul Mackesey, FCSI, president, Mackesey and Associates LLC, Madison, Wis.
Kristin Schmidt, owner/principal, S20 Consultants, Inc., Cary, Ill.
Editor's Note: All Facility Design projects featured monthly are eligible to win Project of the Year