Noah’s Ark Employee Housing Project of Distinction 



Noah’s Ark Employee Housing

In 1979, the Waterman family purchased 205 feet of frontage property in the U.S. Route 12 in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin and created a bumper boat ride and a go-kart track. The park opened as “Noah’s Incredible Adventure,” which became the name of a Noah’s Ark attraction in 2003. Fast forward 33 years when Palace Entertainment purchased Noah’s Ark.   

Noah’s Ark is “America’s Largest Waterpark” and the premier Wisconsin Dells attraction. Situated on 70 sprawling acres in the heart of Wisconsin Dells with over 80 family activities to enjoy. The Scorpion’s Tail, Black Anaconda, Tadpole Bay Kiddie Play Area and Noah’s 4-D Dive-In Theater. Noah’s Ark has the most waterslides in Wisconsin Dells totaling 47! Everyone enjoys a great time relaxing in the lazy rivers or they grab a tube and enjoy two of their wave pools. In 2018 Noah’s Ark introduced “Raja – The World’s Largest King Cobra” waterslide!

Over the past few years J1 visa students are a workforce that hospitality, restaurants and theme parks heavily rely on to fill their employment needs. In 2019 Noah’s Ark came to Holtz Builders to see if we could build a state of the art Employee Housing project along with a Commissary building that would have a full commercial kitchen.  Holtz Builders along with ADCI and our design build team went to work in a collaborative effort to give Noah’s Ark the opportunity to host the J1 visa students. Holtz Builders gave a preliminary budget to Noah’s Ark. Where others said this could not be done for this cost Holtz Builders did exactly that.

IRH WI DELLS Noahs Ark Emplyoee Housing

Through many meetings between Holtz Builders with Noah’s Ark, HBI realized that there is a great amount of money that could be saved by doing the MEP’s via design build. Holtz Builders brought in local well qualified contractors to see what they could do to help with this project. Those same contractors hired the engineers to create the plan that would later be submitted to the State of Wisconsin for construction use. Holtz Builders then sent this project out to bid for the remaining portions of these two amazing buildings. The bids were coming in as we expected based on the budget we put together for Noah’s Ark at the start of this project. Not only did we keep this project under budget we were able to give money back to Noah’s Ark at the end of buyout. 

The Building Phase

During the pre-planning stages of this project. Holtz Builders did a complete survey of this project and checked with local utilities. It was determined that the main power, gas main, fiber and the 8” water main that serviced Noah’s Ark Park went directly through the parking lot that was going to be the future home of the Employee Housing and Commissary Buildings. Holtz Builders was able to get Alliant Energy and Frontier to the site prior to any work taking place and relocate all of it so work could start on time.  It was imperative that the water also be rerouted prior to Noah’s Ark Park opening date for the year 2019. This had its own challenges, however a yearly car show event held at Noah’s Ark could also cause its own issues. However, Holtz Builders doing the pre planning of this project accounted for all these concerns and never became a concern for the Management team of Noah’s Ark or its customers. 

It was determined the construction of a new Employee Housing would be four stories with a total of 56,943 Sq. Ft. and Commissary Building which would be a one story with a total of 6,833 Sq. Ft.  Both of these amazing structures would turn out to be wood framed, ground up, slab on grade construction. Holtz Builder used the latest technology with BIM, CAD and Bluebeam to pre-fabricate the wall panels along with the MEP to insure that everything would fit once the project was underway. Then Holtz Builders took it one step further on both projects and used Zip Wall panels to ensure that the weather barrier and thermal moisture protection completed the building envelope. The Commissary Building has a full service commercial kitchen that would be used to support the J1 Visa students and also the community since it is open to the public. The employee housing also has a large kitchen with multiple stovetops/ranges, seating area, lounge, and full service laundry facility for the students and 106 dorm units. HBI also planned for the future if the building ever wanted to be added onto for more dorms by ensuring the headers were oversized and the correct height on the north end wall.  Exterior finishes included: metal roofing, TPO and architecture shingles. The siding consisted of composite wood siding, metal soffit, aluminum storefront windows with integral PTAC vents and aluminum storefront doors. Interior finishes were gypsum board with knockdown and orange peel texture, laminate casework, solid surface tops, ceramic tile, LVT and carpet to name a few.

Holtz Builders then started the building process in May, 2019. Right out of the gate, we were headed for success with all the preplanning, submittals were approved, removal of the old parking lot, the trees and the removal of the existing house.  Utilities started to be installed, pressure testing completed, city inspections daily, dirt started to be hauled in. It seemed that nuclear density testing was a daily item. With the amount of fill being brought in to get this area to the new grade it is very important that the ground you are building on is tested and tested. The first concrete truck rolled in on 5-28-19. In no time at all the foundations were in both buildings. Next came the CMU elevator shaft in the Employee Housing Building. 4 stories in 5 days with a 5 man crew. Underground electrical and plumbing was happening simultaneously on both projects. Wow, things are looking great on the schedule. So good in fact we were ahead of schedule.  Our team contacted Alliant Energy to have them finish the gas line install to both foundations, get the power and transformers set. Permanent power was ready at both buildings by 7-9-19.  We  decided to install the curb and gutters and place the binder coat of asphalt down prior to wall panels to insure that the project would stay safe and the semi’s that would be bringing the wall panels could get into this location with ease. Not to mention we were ahead of schedule and getting asphalt in the spring was still unknown due to this job being in Wisconsin. Asphalt plants are not always open as most know. We wanted to make sure that Noah’s Ark was ready for J1 Visa students no matter what the spring weather gave us and asphalt is a major component to receiving a certificate of occupancy.

We started with the framing of the Commissary building on 7-19-19.  All the walls were up in 5 days. The roof trusses on the 6th day. By day 15, framing was 100% complete and the shingles were on the roof.  We started the MEP’s which did not take long, after all everyone was waiting for this day to take the plan we created and put that into action. No time at all, it was ready for drywall. The Painters came and the acoustical contractor arrived when the painter was walking out the door. Perfect timing!  Everything was going great. Next came the flooring contractor. The commercial kitchen was getting Quarry tile installed, ceramic plank was being installed in the convenience store area, and LVT in the dining area. The Kitchen equipment was an owner contractor, however HBI helped to insure that this was not going to slow this project down. We met with Boelter Landmark and expressed to them that we needed this to be on time but it also needs to be perfect. They performed great. The time came for the punch list. We nailed it. Only a few paint touch ups and the windows that needed to be cleaned in the spring (since it was December a little cold to clean windows). HBI and the trades all were very proud of the Commissary building. The owner was ecstatic knowing that it would be completed for them to occupy in January 2021. That gave enough time for the Noah’s Ark Administrative Staff to come into their new building and be ready for the students that would arrive in the Spring of 2020. But the story does not stop there. There is still the 4 story 56,943 Sq. Ft. Employee Housing.

The Employee Housing project started while the Commissary was being completed. Our goal was to have it underroof by Thanksgiving. The CMU elevator shaft was erected already, and the concrete slab was poured in 2 separate pours. That was awesome to see. The first wall panels arrived for the housing project on 9-3-2020. That left us 2 and half months to get under the roof. Our teams made a plan. We brought the contractors to the job trailer. We implemented the “pull” schedule to collaborate with all trades to ensure everyone was getting the time they needed on each wing and floor of this 4 story building. We then took all the information and transferred it into our 6 week projection schedule.  We knew we could meet this deadline on paper but now we need to make it happen. Thanksgiving was possible, however deer hunting in Wisconsin is 1 week before Thanksgiving-when many employees request time off. So, we all looked at what needed to be done. The roof was on and dried by 11-18-2019.  

As we mentioned earlier, HBI used a pull schedule for this project. It had a lot of moving parts and a lot of people that needed to know where to be at a certain time to make the deadline of April 15th. That way the staff of Noah’s Ark could be ready for the Students on May 1, 2020. As stated earlier the first Zip wall panel was installed on 9-3-2020. The last piece of roof sheathing was installed on 11-17-2019. During those 2 1⁄2 months. The windows with built in PTAC louvers were installed. The rough in-plumbing, fire suppression was being installed. We could not install electricity until the roof was dried according to local building codes. 

But that did not slow us down since we accounted for this during the pull schedule coordination. The electricians were scurrying around. Inspections were a daily occurrence at the projects. Again, we do everything by the book, however, the inspectors needed to come through to confirm that everything meets and exceeds code. The amount of drywall Type C, Type X and Durock installed in this building was simply astonishing to meet the UL that listed what we needed to meet. Gypcrete was going to be tough. It is the middle of a Wisconsin winter and we have to place 1 ½” of Gypcrete on the 4th, 3rd and 2nd floors. Talk about moisture coming into the building. But we had a plan for the moisture as well. We took the drawings of the housing project and gave it to the HVAC consultant, they in turn, showed us what we needed to do to heat the building and keep the moisture where it needed to be. 

Pre-planning is the key to our success. Painting was next, everyday it seemed like we were creating new spaces with the colors that were selected for this project. What an exciting time. MEP finishes were happening, and an acoustical grid was being installed.  Floor coverings were next on the agenda. With the Gypcrete that was placed. We needed to test the Gypcrete to ensure there was not too much moisture. If there is too much moisture you will have adhering problems with the glue. We started on the 4th floor. The first reading was perfect. Our flooring contractors got on their knees and started the install of the LVP (luxury vinyl plank).  We kept testing the Gypcrete on the remaining floors and when we were ready to install flooring the moisture was again good. The pre planning at the start of this project once again helped us insure that we were going to stay on schedule. Finishes were getting completed, FFE was being installed.

Elevator inspection was next. The state came in and did an array of tests to ensure that this elevator meets state code. We passed with flying colors. Then came local and state inspectors, again our team passed with no issue. It is now April 2nd. The final item was the punch list. We looked at the list and were able to complete it within 2 days. Certificate of occupancy was granted before the April 15th deadline. Luckily we installed the binder coat of asphalt with ramps at the entrances in the fall of 2019 otherwise we would not have received it since the asphalt plants did not open until May 1st. On May 1st the final coat of asphalt was installed.