Shepherd of the Valley Liberty Community

How Collaboration and Transparency Maintained a Rewarding Experience

Imagine you win the contract on a hard-bid project – the single largest contract in the history of your firm and literally in your back yard. At the onset, the sizable job is over budget and the scheduled completion date is fixed and paramount to the owner and their entire organization and the community it serves. Excessive and unprecedented rain and adverse weather events exacerbates the situation, generating additional concerns of schedule and cost impacts that begin to loom large on the horizon after only a few weeks from the project mobilization date.

Fear not! With a synergetic approach to the job – and a heavy dose of creativity – there ARE ways to make the project a positive experience for everyone involved. Just remember that collaboration, transparency and relationships are key to timely decision making and sound execution. As proof, we present to you the Shepherd of the Valley Liberty Community project.

Striking a Balance

First, let’s just say we were immediately impressed with the design. Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Retirement Services is a nonprofit corporation that emphasizes a high standard of living for its residents while also focusing on affordability. The aesthetics of this facility reflect the quality of life Shepherd upholds. The 175,000-sq.-ft. senior living and skilled nursing facility, situated on 50-acres of land in Northeastern Ohio, features a blend of both traditional and contemporary motifs to deliver an eye-catching style that is reminiscent of a country estate while incorporating a modern décor. 

Living options include skilled nursing and memory care units, assisted living suites, and one- and two-bedroom apartments for independent living. The campus also consists of a state-of-the-art therapy center, wellness center, on-site rehab, meeting and game rooms, a salon, a library, therapy tubs, and multiple outdoor patio areas including a bocce court.

It’s a sharp contract to the stark design of a traditional retirement community. The clinical style of a typical nursing home costs considerably less to build. We knew that striking a balance between upscale accommodations and affordability would be challenging but essential to Shepherd’s mission.

Reducing Cost While Maintaining Quality

Fortunately, we were able to use value engineering to find substantial cost savings in the sitework portion as well as the mechanical, engineering and plumbing (MEP) systems. The project team (Owners, Architects, Engineers, General Contractor, Subcontractors, and Suppliers) studied the entire project design and found a comprehensive list of alterations and the associated costs (both upfront and ongoing) for the Owner to evaluate and consider to achieve their overall project time and budget goals. The result was providing considerable savings while maintaining the same high quality and functionality the owner required.

Here is what the project team did:


  • Eliminated one of three entryways.
  • Instead of preformed curbs, we utilized extruded concrete curbs, which are much faster to install and can withstand harsh northeastern winters.
  • Removed additional parking for future expansion while keeping drainage and electrical systems intact for this area.


  • Saved more than $1 million by incorporating individual Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units in the living spaces rather than a fully ducted HVAC system throughout the entire building.
    • This modification was not only cost effective but also energy efficient.
    • All the common areas in the building still have AHUs and ductwork to maintain temperature control.
    • Residents are now able to regulate the temperature in their own units.

Building Exterior

  • Used alternative but equivalent materials for some of the exterior façade.
  • Redesigned the entry canopy.

It’s worth repeating that value engineering is about more than just cutting costs. Tap into the creativity of your ENTIRE team, keep up with the latest innovations, and you will be pleasantly surprised to find many ways to save money without sacrificing quality and functionality.

Battling Wet Weather

Further modifications were needed due to exceedingly wet conditions during construction. Our solution for this project was to provide stabilization soil improvements in select areas on site.

We started with lime stabilization, but because the moisture content was too great for cement, we pivoted to a stone stabilization system. This approach required considerable coordination with the geological technical agent, architect, owner and our sitework subcontractor. Fortunately, we were able to see it through with minimal schedule delays thanks to the spirit of collaboration that existed throughout the project. Without the entire team working together to find solutions to the unusual weather conditions in real time and ultimately the Owner’s decision to authorize our team to move quickly and efficiently we were able to recover lost days and maintain major milestones that enabled the project to maintain the overall project schedule.

A Fast-Paced Project

Without transparency and collaboration, we never could have finished the project on time. As mentioned, the footprint of the building is 175,000 square feet and the sitework encompassed dozens of acres. From the moment the contract was awarded, our team had to maintain a rapid pace on a large scale. Any delay would have had a domino effect that could have been disastrous to the tight project schedule we were determined to keep.

Thanks to our long-standing connections with local subcontractors, mutual trust and respect between ourselves and the owner, and an unshakable company culture, we were able to meet every milestone. Ours subs started immediately and although the wet weather presented us all with a few stumbling blocks they never lost their stride. We discussed all concerns openly with the owner, architect and the entire project team. We created solutions together, and the owner trusted us because they knew we had the project’s best interests at heart.

Final Thoughts

DeSalvo Construction has spent the past 35 years cultivating strong relationships with clients, architects and subcontractors. These relationships have been vital to our sustainability and success. Regardless of what you’re facing at the start of a job, it’s important to be open and transparent with the owner and everyone involved with the project – always place the projects and the relationships first.”

This doesn’t mean you have to put your own company at risk in the process. For the Shepherd of the Valley Liberty Community project, our team acted quickly with the owners, architects, and engineers to provide timely value engineering services that would satisfy the project budget while adhering to the overall ambiance of the design.

The result is nothing less than magnificent. The senior population of our community has a new state-of-the-art facility that is affordable, comfortable and virtually worry-free, and that is very rewarding to our team.

Shepherd of the Valley Liberty Community is located at 1501 Tibbetts-Wick Road, Girard, Ohio. Learn more at