The Whaler, Maui, HI – a case study

One of two towers at The Whaler condominium, Maui

The Whaler is a private condominium resort located on Kaanapali Beach on Maui in Hawaii. The complex is made up of two 12-story towers, and was built more than 30 years ago. The owner’s group, represented by construction manager Michael Wright & Assocs, undertook a major renovation in 2011. The design was freshened up by Maui Architectural Group with Sandra Tengan Interior Designs, and the renovation work done by Honolulu Builders.

There are approx. 570 planters (including several made up of two parts) on the project

The story began for Tournesol much earlier, in 2008. We were contacted by a consultant working with the owner’s group. The planters on the building had become a major eyesore. They were made of cast concrete, and the internal rebar reinforcement was rusting in the saltwater atmosphere, causing sever crumbling and spalling. Initially they were simply looking at replacing the planters with a FRP fiberglass copy of the vintage 70s design.

The original concrete planters at The Whaler, ca. 2010

As construction managers changed, Tournesol Siteworks became one of the few participants in the discussion that were aware of the steps in the process. We weren’t working the project actively, but each time a new person got the working documents, they called us to find out what the last person had determined!

The planters were replaced as part of an overall refurbishment of the complex

As the actual work neared, Maui Architectural Group took a fresh look at the plans and decided to modernize the look by changing the design of the pot. Together MAG, Sandra Tengan and Tournesol Siteworks worked out a wave pattern that would be attractive, fresh, and could be translated to different length and shape pots. Sandra sent over a rough “cocktail-napkin” type sketch, and our engineering team was able to make it work.

The “wave” pattern was custom designed for the project in collaboration with the architects

We bid the project out several times, with our prices compared to several different fiberglass manufacturers. ¬†Immediately prior to the final approval, the owner’s group decided that rather than replace the existing concrete with a different material, it would be make more sense to use something similar (but that wouldn’t spall). ¬†Fortunately for the schedule, Tournesol had the capability to do either FRP or lightweight GFRC concrete. Our lightweight GFRC doesn’t require steel rebar, so there won’t be any rusting of the planters over time. The change took some adjusting of our schedules and shipping costs, but in the end it was a nearly seamless for the owners.

The corner planters were especially challenging, based on the symmetry and desired look

There was initially concern with Tournesol’s ability to “keep up” on the project, and deliver material to coincide with the construction schedule. In order to make the installation work, each 600-800 lb. pot was brought up on an exterior construction elevator then wheeled along the balcony on a dolly. Once a planter was set, you couldn’t get another past it. There were typically 7 different pots on each level, so the coordination was critical. While the whole project took us 5 months to manufacture, we stayed ahead of the construction schedule without fail.

Surprisingly, the owners chose to fill the planters with artificial plants!

The delivery of so many concrete planters from California to Kaanapali Beach was a challenge unto itself. It took 15 separate “open rack” 40′ shipping containers. These work like a flatbed truck, but are stacked into a conventional ocean-going shipping vessel. The planters were stacked three high with specially-fabricated packaging foam, then firmly strapped to the rack. Despite over 750 pieces shipped total, not one was significantly damaged in transit (something we could hardly believe!). They were shipped to Honolulu, then transhipped to the Maui port, then trucked to the site.

Several of the longer length planters (over 14′, in this case) were made with two identical units

Each planter had drain holes on the front and back side of the base of the planter. The only hiccup that occurred in the whole job (at least from our perspective), was that the base in a few planters wasn’t entirely flat, and needed some field work to permit efficient drainage. ¬†Interestingly enough, the owner’s group chose to put artificial plants into the pots (in Hawaii!), so the drainage wasn’t going to cause problems for the plants.

The most important part – a satisfied client, contractor, and construction manager

Overall, this was a project of massive proportions for us. Our large projects typically run 2-3 months, not 5. Nevertheless, we found that our processes and systems were able to rise to the challenge. Most importantly, our clients were satisfied. Both Michael Wright & Assocs. and Honolulu Builders have recommended us for other projects that they are currently working on – the best testimonial that we can get!

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