From the ground to the roof, every foot of Willow House has been designed with the lessons learned from Hurricane Ivan in mind.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Cayman Islands government revised and strengthened the criteria for new buildings to be considered public hurricane shelters.
“That is what we are building to,” said Orchid Development Managing Director Clarence “King” Flowers.
In late July, Cricket Square developers gave the Journal a tour of the five-storey, 58,600-square foot Class A office building, which is on track to be finished in mid-November (barring a major event). The fifth phase of the Elgin Avenue business park, Willow House is essentially an upgraded version of Cricket Square’s Boundary Hall, and when completed will pretty much look the same from the outside.
Improvements to the design, however, are apparent, including the ground floor parking garage, a first for Cricket Square. Located beneath the first floor – where most tenants and visitors will enter the building – Willow House’s garage has a greater function than just to provide executives with immediate access from their vehicles to their offices. The executive garage also provides extra vertical space in case of severe flooding.
When it’s finished, the garage will feature metal grates, made locally by Artisan Metal Works, to allow air and light into the ground floor space, said acting project manager Tony Hopwood of McAlpine.
Like Boundary Hall, the first floor of Willow House is elevated far above the ground, to a height of 15.5 feet. The building’s electrical room is located even higher, up a small flight of stairs next to the first floor elevator.
As of late July, the second floor of the building had not yet been claimed by any future tenant. Depending on if one, two or more tenants rent the floor out, the space will be fitted out accordingly. During the tour, workers were installing the building’s windows, which are designed to withstand impact from a 15-pound, two-by-four wooden plank travelling 73 feet per second - greater than the standards for Miami-Dade County normal occupancy commercial buildings.
Willow House’s windows, Mr. Flowers said, are up to the same specifications as those in the Government Administration Building, and are the “latest and greatest, next generation” in storm resistance technology.
Unlike the Government Administration Building, also built by McAlpine, Willow House is constructed using insulated concrete forms, whereas the Government building was constructed using the older concrete blocks, to which flat foam sheets were then applied. Keeping it in the family, Willow House uses ICF’s and steel studs from the Flowers Group.
The fourth floor of Willow House is reserved for anchor tenant Campbells law firm and is the furthest along in the fitting out phase, with steel studs demarcating where hallways and individual offices will be.
“They’ve got to be in in December,” Mr. Hopwood said. “We’re pretty much on schedule.”
The roof of Willow House is concrete, with the insulation installed underneath for protection. The building’s two “towers”, along with the gray visible pitched roof, are built on top of the flat concrete roof. That’s to prevent rain from seeping into the offices in case the top of the building is damaged in a storm.
“If the entire pitched roof is torn off, no water will pour in the building,” Mr. Hopwood said.
While outside the building is still literally a construction site, workers had just begun installing pavers. Mr. Flowers said the landscaping, using plants from the onsite nursery, will be completed along with the rest of the building, in mid-November. If all goes to plan, the entire construction project would have taken about 16 months, Mr. Moriarity said.
As of late July, about 75 McAlpine employees were working on Willow House, plus about 25 subcontractors, Mr. Hopwood said.
The next step in the building’s development that casual observers may notice is the painting of the exterior, which was set to being in mid-to-late August.