Fetzer Institute Retreat Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan consists of a meeting house and four separate buildings for housing guests in a sensitive natural environment of wooded slopes with dramatic views of a lake. The challenge was to meet John E. Fetzer’s mission to nestle all new development into the complex fabric of trees and topography with as little evidence of disturbance as possible, as if the new facilities had always been there.
The design and construction team faced the additional obstacle of steep grades approaching 35 degrees. All this required extraordinary care and planning to move the normal “tools” of construction carefully into place and perform intricate placement of all materials and equipment that would form the completed Retreat Center for Fetzer Institute.
To meet the challenge, Miller-Davis drew their decades of experience to successfully direct the owner’s dream, architect’s design, and the development of an environmental stewardship program. Miller-Davis Company introduced a Registered Consulting Forester to the project team, who together developed plans for tree management, soil and tree protection, and site reclamation. In addition to these techniques and employment of equipment such as a tower crane and directional boring machine, other controls were applied in earthwork operations, soil erosion and sedimentation control, material handling and storage, personal and equipment access, and safety.
According to David R. Miller, Director of Administration, “A frequent comment from our visitors runs along the line of ‘it looks as though it has been here forever’.”
Miller-Davis Company was named winner of the 1995 Build America competition by the Associated General Contractors of America for its work on the Fetzer Institute. Work was completed under a Construction Manager/Constructor project delivery method at a construction cost of approximately $6,200,000. Harley Ellington Design, a Southfield, Michigan based architectural, engineering and planning firm received a 1995 AIA Michigan Honor Award and a 1995 AIA Detroit Honor Award for its design work on the project.