Picking up the pieces:
Neel-Schaffer helps Galveston recover, rebuild
Hurricane Ike was one of the most deadly storms to hit Texas, killing 17 people and causing some $50 billion in damage when it roared ashore on Sept. 13, 2008 near Galveston.
Following Ike’s landfall, the Texas General Land Office (TGLO) initiated the Post-Ike Disaster Recovery Program, with Neel-Schaffer engaged in recovery efforts. Since the program’s inception, Neel-Schaffer has been helping Texans pick up the pieces and rebuild.
Since April 2013, Neel-Schaffer has assisted in the rehabilitation of over 700 home sites. The services Neel-Schaffer has provided include site-specific environmental clearance, development of ADA and non-ADA standard home plans, preparation of site-specific construction documents, and construction administration support.
“The program is unique as it mandates home designs engineered specifically for the TGLO and HUD versus the application of unregulated plans of the contractor pool (as was done in previous programs),” said Sonny Smoak, PE, Neel-Schaffer’s Houston office manager and Project Manager for the program. “It ensures a safe, consistent, and visually aesthetic product for the applicants. As a matter of fact, Neel-Schaffer is one of only two firms who have ever facilitated such a program.
“We were able to step in and not just perform, but perform at an exceedingly high level. There was no precedent set for such a program, so we had to adapt and learn yet we exceeded all expectations.”
As of May 2017, Neel-Schaffer had received approvals for 928 environmental site assessments for this on-going project, with an average comment period of two days and ZERO comments. More approvals from the TGLO are pending.
“The success we have achieved with the environmental clearance process is directly attributed to pre-planning and relationship building with the TGLO’s environmental division,” Smoak said. “From the beginning, we realized how critical it was to have the TGLO firmly involved in the development of policies and procedures. Though they are the client, it was embracing them as a team member that ensured we were all on the same page.”
At one point, Neel-Schaffer had more than a dozen employees working on the project. Neel-Schaffer originally developed eight sets of standardized house plans to be used in the rebuilding process, but the needs of the community and local building requirements increased that number to 27. “Because of the unique and specific needs of the program’s applicants,” said Smoak, “our plan set count quickly grew to 27 individual custom home plans. But, that’s actually just the beginning. We develop construction documents using these standard plans as they match up with each address/applicant. Based on their needs and local building guidelines, applicable standard plans are selected.”
Neel-Schaffer enlisted the assistance of a local windstorm engineering subconsultant to incorporate hurricane resistant designs for each home plan that meets standards set by the Texas Department of Insurance. This ensures that the applicants can qualify for affordable windstorm insurance coverage and give them the security they need moving forward.
“This project isn’t just execution, rather it is about executing at a very high level because we have people’s lives depending on our performance, and we have performed very well,” Smoak said. “For that, I couldn’t be more proud of all those involved.”