02 Apr Constructing a Better Flix
Paul Hardej, Vice President of Design & Development
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As Flix Brewhouse grows as a brand and concept throughout the country, more new units will be added in a wide range of locations. To get there, however, a broader and deeper design and construction platform is required. In anticipation of rapid growth, the company brought me in as a consultant in May 2017 to review construction processes, procedure, architecture, methods and growth objectives. As an architect and seasoned builder and developer with over 25 years of experience in multi-project construction and process management, I was excited and honored to help.
Once engaged, I learned quickly that all current “legacy” Flix Brewhouse units are unique in size, shape and to some degree, form. While they all share many common design elements, like the kitchen, bar, auditoriums, and brewery, I found that they were different enough from one another that it would be difficult to achieve the brand’s planned growth without making significant modifications to the design and construction process at Flix.
In October 2017, I formally joined Flix as Vice President of Design & Development, responsible for the design and construction of all new Flix Brewhouse facilities and the creation and implementation of new and progressive internal methods and resource allocation to achieve both faster-to-market and lower cost unit delivery. I championed an entirely new approach, transitioning the company from a traditional linear “design-bid-build” project management modality to what is called an “Integrated Project Delivery” or IPD. The IPD process is characterized as an open, transparent and highly interactive method of developing and building structures wherein principals, design professionals and contractors work on multiple projects cohesively and share alike in a common risk/reward pool. It is similar to a design-build partnership, but in our case spans multiple projects.
Flix Brewhouse offers a unique value proposition to its guests. Behind the diversified offering of movies + food + beer hides a complex operation, which the typical guest may never really understand or appreciate – as it should be. To efficiently and effectively support such a complex system of guest experience delivery, we needed a holistic approach to building design and equipment layout. Complex building designs tend to be quite expensive to build and current construction costs in our markets were (and are) considerably higher than the legacy Flixes. One of my primary goals is to substantially reduce the future cost of building a Flix Brewhouse. Instead of incrementally tweaking legacy designs, we started fresh with the proverbial blank sheet, engaging all functions of the company, including plenty of input from the stores, to create a completely new (but not entirely different) modular prototype Flix building. The new prototype was born from the IPD process and gives us the potential for rapid scalability and adaptability to multiple climatic regions and many different site conditions.
The “blank sheet” approach is a highly creative process and requires fresh perspective. That’s why we also decided to bring new architects and engineers on board. After a lengthy and highly specific, national vetting process, we hired Grand Rapids-based Paradigm Design, which provides both architectural and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineering disciplines, and Twin Shores Construction, a national general contractor based in Iowa and Illinois, to work together and with us on designing and building new Flix Brewhouse units starting with El Paso, scheduled for first quarter 2019 delivery.
There is an old architectural precept that form should follow function. The new Flix Brewhouse prototype is no exception, based entirely on the functionality of our core business – entertainment, food and adult beverages. To achieve this, we adapted a design principle used in high-rise building design. Most tall buildings have a solid, compact and well-defined mechanical core with elevators, stairs and all mechanical raisers (plumbing, HVAC, electrical) located in the center of the building and running up and down through it, just like nerves run through a spine. We placed our kitchen, guest bathrooms and all mechanical functions in the center of the building and wrap the main promenade and auditoriums around that core. We call it MEP-Centric Theater Design. This allows overall shorter paths of travel from the kitchen and even the lobby and bar to auditorium seats over the life of the building, and by efficiently concentrating MEP systems, we, greatly reduce construction cost and time. And above all, we’ve created a really beautiful building that is highly aesthetic and fresh in the industry.
Because we’re designing buildings that are highly “repeatable” with identical cores, in addition to the operational and construction efficiencies that are expected, we are now able to bundle our purchases of kitchen equipment and mechanical systems in order to save both lead-time and quite a bit of money. Also, because our building functionality is identical from location-to-location, it becomes extremely easy to move our team members from one building to another in an effort to avoid unnecessary training and orientation. Additionally, our new, repetitive MEP Centric Design should make property repair and maintenance much more efficient, scalable, far less expensive.
At the moment, there are four committed projects with 2019 scheduled openings that will employ IPD and the new prototype. In the meantime we are hard at work constructing three 2018 openings (Frisco/Little Elm, Madison, WI and Chandler, AZ). The growth of the Flix ecosystem is nothing short of astonishing, and I’m thrilled to be guiding a major part of the journey as your new Vice President of Design & Development.