The Sundt Experience: December 2014
Wish Granted: New Airport Terminal Opening In Time for Christmas Travel
Santa is delivering an early gift this year to the Wichita Falls Regional Airport in Wichita Falls, Texas: its new terminal building is scheduled to open on December 17, just in time for the busy holiday travel season. True, a holiday completion was planned from the start, but the holiday in question was closer to Easter 2015 than Christmas 2014.
“We knew the project’s owner, the City of Wichita Falls, didn’t want the facility under construction during Christmas, but they didn’t think they had a choice. They were resigned to not having the project completed until the second quarter of 2015,” said Sundt Senior Project Manager Bob Aniol.
So Sundt and joint venture partner Trinity Hughes Construction used their airport construction expertise, along with their commitment to exceeding client expectations, to find ways to deliver the gift residents and visitors really want. The result is a beautiful new 52,000-square-foot terminal, complete with an aircraft museum, which accommodates the area’s population growth and allows for expanded service.
While the architectural and mechanical drawings were still in design, an early release package was developed for site work, concrete, structural steel and the baggage handling system. Moving up procurement of the baggage handling system was a key component of the overall schedule acceleration, as was taking advantage of early procurement to begin work on the portion of the design that was already completed while waiting for the rest to finish.
“With every airport project I have worked on, the baggage handling system was on the critical path,” Aniol explained. “If it isn’t finished early, you end up waiting on it while everything is done – sometimes for months. We moved it up so that it was complete several weeks before building turnover. It was a much more efficient approach.”
Aniol also credits the project’s owner, the City of Wichita Falls, with the early completion. “They had enormous trust in us,” he said. “It’s difficult to imagine another public owner being this trusting. I think it’s hard for owners to pay for two months’ of services when they can’t see a tangible result yet, but by re-sequencing portions of the project we were able to procure long-lead items early – beginning shop drawings and coordination to advance their delivery time.”
The new terminal building – designed by local architect Bundy, Young, Sims & Potter, working in conjunction with aviation architect URS – allows Wichita Falls Regional Airport to accommodate the city’s growth and service its increasing number of passengers. The facility has two gates to allow the airport to add another air carrier in the near future. (American Eagle utilizes the existing terminal with only one gate for ground boarding.) The new terminal also features modern jet bridges for passenger boarding and deplaning, expanded space for passenger ticketing, baggage processing, restrooms, passenger screening, administrative offices, airside apron paving, a rental car facility and parking.
The museum portion of the terminal showcases some of the area’s notable aircraft, including an original World War I “Jenny” wooden biplane – one of only five remaining functional specimens in the world. Next to the Jenny is a T-38 Talon, the plane used to train NATO pilots at nearby Sheppard Air Force Base. The museum is also scheduled to open to the public on December 17.
Science and Technology Expert Promoted to Lead Southwest Project Development
Ryan Abbott, formerly Sundt’s science and technology group leader, has been promoted to lead Southwest project development. In his new role, Abbott is responsible for managing the company’s design-build, CM at Risk and public/private partnership pursuits of vertical building projects throughout the Southwest. We recently asked Abbott a few questions to learn more about the construction climate in the Southwest, what clients really want, and his predictions for the area:
Q: You often speak about the value of providing customers with predictable building solutions. Why is that important?
A: Construction plays a tremendous role in our nation’s gross domestic product. Every aspect of our economy and society stands on the roads, bridges, infrastructure, school facilities, research facilities, office space, etc. that we deliver. Businesses that manufacture, do research, transport, store data, and improve well being need the products we offer. However, in order for those enterprises to be at all successful, they need predictability, “to know when they can produce their first widget.” Sundt is exceptional at delivering predictability: we do what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to do it, and for the price we said we would do it for. My vision is that we provide that on a much, much larger scale.
Q: Construction is a highly competitive industry, particularly in the Southwest. What does Sundt offer its customers that other contractors can’t?
A: Most of our competitors are a mile deep and an inch wide in terms of their expertise, and we are the opposite. Sundt is unusually diverse, and that diversity creates value for our customers. Some examples: if your facility performs work on the nanoscale, we have industrial construction experts who can meet those precise standards. Need students in dormitories come August? We have a proven track record with student housing construction. Our ability to self-perform concrete construction is invaluable (because it drives the first half of a project’s schedule), whether we’re building bridge piers or the foundation for a courthouse. That kind of diversity and expertise is increasingly important as projects become more and more complex. A healthcare center isn’t just a hospital anymore. It includes mission critical data centers, treatment facilities, translational research laboratories, commercial kitchens, parking structures, vast infrastructure, a central plant, etc. Sundt connects all of those dots, where others cannot.
Q: What role do millennials play in shaping construction projects and business in general?
A: Millennials are completely reshaping our environment. They value time more than money in many cases. That’s a complete flop from generations past. Where and how they live and work, which is how they define quality of life, is in many cases more important than salary and future benefits. Businesses that want to hire millennials need to plan accordingly: “where” is more important to them than “what.” Take State Farm, for example: it’s putting its new Tempe regional headquarters right next to Arizona State University’s (ASU’s) Tempe campus. That’s a deliberate effort to attract millennial workers, where they have access to great restaurants, green space, continuous learning opportunities, light rail transit, the airport, and more.
Millennials are also more adaptable to new tools and technology, which drives office buildings to be denser and outfitted with better, higher quality amenities. Silicon Valley has been shaped to a large extent by the millennial generation’s interest in being connected with ease, without a lot of cumbersome logistics. It’s important for contractors to understand that so that we can help our clients tailor their projects accordingly.
Q: You’re a recognized expert in lab construction. Tell us more about this market and the trend toward collaboration.
A: It used to be that only very specific types of research were performed in any given laboratory. “This is a biology lab, so biology will be done here.” The Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 (ISTB4), which I’m extremely proud of, is a building that houses both scientists and engineers. The scientists have grand questions they’re trying to answer, and in that building they’re working alongside engineers who know how to build tools that can help answer those questions. That’s an amazing advancement that has quickly become the norm.
Q: The economic recovery has been slower in Arizona than in many other places. Any predictions about what lies ahead?
A: The Southwest, and Phoenix in particular, is built on the premise of rebirth. The challenges of living and thriving in the desert create a collaborative atmosphere where people are forced to come together to develop creative solutions. There are many world-renowned companies and universities doing amazing, cutting-edge work in the Southwest. That’s only going to continue, and the pace of discovery and innovation will increase moving forward.
Q: How does the Southwest differ from other geographic markets?
A: Think of any market as a chain of self-reinforcing actions that continue on a given trajectory until it overheats, or in our case overcools. Because of its relative youth, the Southwest marketplace’s response to the overcooling was to rapidly diversify. Several years ago we started adding infrastructure for the Information Technology (IT) industry to complement the financial services, national banks and insurance companies with large support offices and data centers that were already located in the region (because of the low occurrence of weather disruptions or earthquakes). During the downturn, the healthcare services and the bioscience industry have grown in the Southwest at three times the national average. Large distribution started appearing on the skyline, connecting the Pacific with the Gulf of Mexico.
Looking towards the future the renewable energy tax incentive program makes the Southwest a prime place for solar and other renewable energy companies. That’s an area where I think we’re going to see a lot of growth.
Q: What does this change mean for Sundt? How is the company positioned to respond?
A: We’re stepping into the new normal, and as a company we’re poised to do fantastic things. The marketplace is going to become more dynamic than it’s ever been before. Think of what globalization has done in the last 10 years and then imagine where it’s going in the next 10 years. Our jobs are going to become much more complex and exciting. Sundt is well poised to be successful in this emerging climate because we’ve trained ourselves to be robust, innovative, disciplined and diverse.
Ingenuity Cooled This Hot Bridge Construction Project
Three thousand cubic yards of freshly placed concrete generates a lot of heat as it cures – enough to damage the material and permanently weaken its structural integrity. Devising a way to cool it sufficiently as it hardens, while ensuring a high-quality finished product, is a challenge common to many large-scale concrete construction projects. What varies is how contractors respond to that challenge.
“Many general contractors routinely pour concrete, but few are invested in the experience, skill and ability to successfully complete a mass concrete placement, where the ‘heat of hydration’ must be carefully controlled using specialized construction engineering techniques,” says Sundt Project Engineer Matt Fisher. “The way this situation was handled recently at the Sellwood Bridge project speaks highly of our team’s capabilities.”
Fisher is referring to the $218 million bridge construction project in Portland Oregon, in which Sundt and joint venture partner Slayden Construction are replacing the 88-year-old bridge with a new structure over the Willamette River that will be wider, safer and seismically sound when it opens in 2016. The team recently achieved a major milestone in the 47-month-long project when it placed approximately 3,000 cubic yards of 6,000-psi concrete for the foundations of two of the bridge’s massive piers. (1,520 cubic yards were poured for Pier 4 and 1,420 were poured for Pier 5.)
To combat the heat generated during the placements, the team designed an internal water-cooling system to remove the excess heat from the concrete. Water pumps, manifolds, intake screens, valves, flow meters and thousands of feet of flexible plastic water tubing were carefully placed throughout the concrete formwork. After the concrete was placed at the piers, cool water was continuously pumped through the plastic tubes, which in turn carried away the excess heat from the concrete. Remote temperature sensors were also placed throughout the fresh concrete to collect temperature data. As the concrete cured, and the internal temperatures climbed, this data was constantly monitored to confirm the performance of the cooling system and to ensure a quality product.
“Pre-planning was essential to the success of these massive concrete pours,” said Ian Cannon, Sellwood Bridge program manager for Multnomah County. “Everything from mix design to placement rate to heat management was considered to ensure that the large foundations met our quality expectations.”
The concrete for each pier was poured continuously for approximately 36 hours to meet the county’s design requirements. This required multiple, overlapping placement crews in order to execute the work safely and efficiently. Delivery rates were established far in advance with the ready-mix supplier and multiple concrete pumps were coordinated to ensure continuous placement of concrete into the forms. Nighttime lighting was positioned to ensure safe conditions during the dark, foggy nights on the Willamette River, and a backup electrical power source was established. Quality parameters and testing frequencies were clearly defined in advance, inspection intervals were scheduled, and even the safety staff organized a rotating shift.
“The thermal control system performed as planned and the internal temperatures of the piers were kept below the designer’s critical temperature threshold,” said Sundt Project Manager Chad Yount. “The successful pours were a direct result of the detailed pre-planning effort as well as the coordinated supervision and execution of the work plan by the construction staff.”
The Sellwood Bridge stretches 2,000 feet across the Willamette River. Rather than rebuilding it in sections and shifting traffic back and forth between the old structure and newly completed segments, the team created a “shoofly” (detour) bridge to keep traffic flowing throughout the project. The approach involved lifting the old bridge deck and truss with hydraulic jacks and moving it to one side, then placing it on a set of temporary piers and connecting it to temporary approach spans so that traffic can continue to use it while the new bridge is constructed.
Slayden/Sundt’s innovative approach to the project has a number of benefits. Eliminating the need for complicated traffic phasing will shorten the schedule by approximately one year, thereby reducing the cost to the owner, Multnomah County, by $5 to $10 million. Another benefit is that it allows for a sleeker bridge design with fewer redundant features and in-water impacts, which is better for the river’s ecosystem. Creating a detour bridge is also safer for construction crews and the public because it frees up the existing alignment for workers and keeps traffic out of the construction zone.