Great Marsh Brewing Co.
Owner: John Collins
Lead Designer: Connolly Brothers
Major Participants: JSN Associates (Structural); Hancock Associates (Civil); GSI (Geotech); Niemtz Design Group (Interior Designer)
To achieve John Collins’ vision of a brewery and restaurant on marsh land in this scenic coastal town would require some creative construction. With 140 years of experience in water-adjacent construction, Connolly Brothers was hired on a design/build basis and responded with a friction pile foundation system that took into account the Essex River Basin’s ocean tides. The result is the Great Marsh Brewing Co., which launched in November of 2019 with an impressive 13,000 SF presence: a state-of-the-art brewery with a tap room, restaurant, and full bar.
Enlisted early on, Connolly was responsible for all aspects of Great Marsh’s completion, including site feasibility, early conceptual budgeting and design, to engineering, permitting, and installing high-end brewery equipment from German manufacturer BrauKon.
“The engineering was monumental,” says Peter Niemitz of Boston-based interior design firm Niemitz Design Group, which collaborated with Connolly Brothers on the venue. “It was a challenging project because you’re basically building on peat moss and water, and it has to support not only the building but a 30,000 hectoliter brewery.”
Following the demolition of the existing structure on the site, Connolly managed the complex construction process that included a friction pile foundation system, structural steel frame, and the installation of a 30hl brewery. Due to the weight of the brewery equipment and beer tanks, breweries are usually built on grade. This was not an option at this location due to FEMA’s regulations regarding construction in a flood plain. Therefore, the first floor was constructed five feet above grade and one foot above FEMA’s flood plain, with an elevated concrete slab designed to support 400 pounds per SF. The building sits on 104 piles which were driven 45 to 58 feet into the ground.
Despite being only 13,000 SF, the Great Marsh Brewing Co. is an incredibly complex building for its size. Not only does it include a 30hl brewery, but also a full kitchen, restaurant and bar, tap room, and outdoor deck. The brewery alone has a complicated mix of mechanical equipment: steam plant, boiler, and a compressed air system in addition to walk-in coolers.
The key to all design/build projects is developing a high level of trust with the owner, consulting engineers, and the other team members selected for the project. In this case, the groundwork of trust was laid years ago with the owner who was not only a tenant in a Connolly-owned building but also a previous customer of the company. The MEP engineers at BLW have worked on a number of design/build projects with Connolly and a good working relationship had been established over the course of many successful projects. Not to mention BLW had previously worked for the owner’s restaurant tenant, furthering the level of trust. Other consulting engineers, JSN Associates and Hancock Engineers, were veterans of other past Connolly projects. All consulting engineers were brought on at the beginning of the design development process in June of 2017.
Unlike many design-build firms, Connolly Brothers employs full time in-house architects and drafters to design all our projects so it is a true team effort from day one of every design-build project. With design, estimating, and project management working together in the same office, it means we can easily bring together all the appropriate departments to make critical decisions and analysis throughout the project lifecycle. In addition, we met at least weekly with the consulting engineers, Great Marsh ownership, and the tenant to review the project status. Construction meetings shifted on site when construction started and we continued the same collaboration of weekly meetings. The value of our design-build approach was evident while reviewing the initial structural design with the structural engineer, the Connolly team, and the owner. The meeting exposed some areas of the original design that could be simplified and that would allow the building to function more appropriately for the owners use. The collaborative effort resulted in a structure that was less expensive to build and more suitable for the owner.
During the design and decision m-king process, interface generally happened in the form of weekly meetings where the latest progress would be reviewed by John, as the owner, and the Webbers, the tenant. If necessary, adjustments would be made and budget pricing obtained for any additional scope, which would be presented at the following weekly meeting. The cycle repeating itself until all parties were satisfied with the design.