The Sundt Experience: March 2016

New San Diego Airport Rental Car Center Better for Customers, Environment

San Diego

An Austin/Sundt Joint Venture has completed San Diego International Airport’s $316 million rental car center, giving travelers a quicker and more convenient way to grab a vehicle and hit the road.

The Construction Manager at Risk project shifts rental car facilities to a centralized location on the north side of the airport. The project is a 2 million-square-foot structure that houses companies representing 16 brands, a customer service building, quick-turn-around car prep facility and ready/return area for more than 5,400 vehicles.

The center is the first major component of the airport’s long-range plan to reduce traffic congestion and bring passengers closer to Interstate 5 and commuter rail lines. Designed to achieve LEED Silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council program, the facility helps improve air quality by cutting the number of shuttle vans from 81 to 16.

“This facility provides environmental benefits to the whole community, strengthening the airport’s role as an economic engine for the entire region,” said San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board Chair Robert Gleason.

The center has two customer lobbies, five interior and exterior public art installations, and space for a restaurant that will seat about 300 people. It uses an innovative “mini-mall” concept for rental car companies.

13380_N104_webview“It gets away from the linear customer service counters, where all the rental car companies are side-by-side, and allows them to have their own tenant space, like a shopping mall,” Airport Authority Director of Design and Construction Bob Bolton told Construction Today last year. “You walk through a storefront into their tenant space, which has seating and customer service facilities and their identity. It could be like walking into an Apple store.”

Sundt’s aviation experience enabled the team to better serve the client. The company has made improvements at airports in Austin, Texas; Wichita Falls, Texas; and Tucson. Sundt crews also performed work on Terminal 2 in San Diego.

The team faced restrictions on work hours and equipment height. Crews needed to exceed height limits to erect the precast façade of the building.

“We obtained additional FAA permits to allow a higher limit and coordinated special requirements for how the crane had to be stored during non-working hours,” said Project Manager Jared Mettee.

The little details were also covered. Since passengers will have baggage and carts, the team used more durable baseboards and rails with finishes that don’t show wear as quickly.

“We understood that you don’t just have people walking around,” Mettee said.

The company’s previous experience at San Diego International was a benefit, enabling the team to help coordinate art installations in the rental car center around construction activities.

The team’s skilled crews placed 97,500 cubic yards of concrete on the 24-acre site, enough to build a 362-mile sidewalk from San Diego International Airport to Sky Harbor in Phoenix. Concrete was placed in 12 months – the equivalent of pouring about an acre a week.

The center is the largest concrete building in San Diego. Constructing it required 3,000 craft employees and 169 trade partners. It was designed by Demattei-Wong Architecture.

Completing the project gives Sundt a track record to go after even bigger things.

“This project has been so successful that the Austin/Sundt joint venture is now pursuing the planned consolidated rental car center at Los Angeles International Airport,” said Executive Vice President and Regional Director Jon Wald. “It will be three times the size of San Diego, and will accommodate approximately 21,000 cars. It will be the largest rental car center in the country.”

Sundt Making the Most of Lean Opportunities


Corporate Director of Continuous Improvement Melissa Moreno.Sundt employs Lean techniques on its projects as often as possible. The company is also a member of the Lean Construction Institute, which was created to research and promote Lean methods worldwide.

Lean Construction is a new way to design and build projects. It changes the way work is done in order to maximize value, minimize waste and accelerate learning.

Corporate Director of Continuous Improvement Melissa Moreno recently discussed the company’s commitment to Lean and the many positive impacts it’s having on the projects Sundt builds.

What are the principles of Lean Construction?

The primary focus is the elimination of waste and continuously making improvements to minimize cost and maximize value on a construction project. There are eight types of waste that we are trying to eliminate from our daily activities: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion and Extra Processing. Lean principles apply to all aspects of our business, from the office to the field. It all starts by making small, incremental improvements in the tasks we perform.”

Why is it important for Sundt’s employee-owners to be committed to Lean?

Sundt employees naturally gravitate toward lean thinking because we are continuously looking for ways to improve what we do every day. It’s in our DNA. Every improvement, large or small, positively impacts our overall performance. Those improvements also influence our ability to win work, the successful construction of a project, the opportunity to have a better work/life balance and the future success of our Employee Stock Ownership Plan. A few people can’t do it alone. It takes all of us to turn the ship.”

What does our company do to prove that it believes in Lean principles?

It starts with introducing Lean and Continuous Improvement at Sundt’s new employee orientation. We provide the ‘2-Second Lean’ book by Paul Akers and share how we are fostering a culture where we empower our employees to make incremental improvements within their scope of influence. Out on the jobsite, project teams are using Lean tools like the Last Planner System, prefabrication and laser scanning to improve the production of the project. We recognize our employees by nominating them for Going Beyond the Expected Awards for Continuous Improvement ideas they are implementing. As we keep building a continuous improvement culture at Sundt, a key component of our strategy is to educate and train our employee-owners on the skills and tools that support our Lean goals. In 2015, we started participating in the Associated General Contractors’ Lean Construction Education Program to pursue AGC’s new Certificate of Management-Lean Construction (CM-Lean). To date, 17 employee-owners have earned that designation. Our goal is 10 percent of our Administrative employees will earn that designation by 2020.”

What are the company’s long-term plans to ensure that Lean construction remains part of our culture?

Our strategy is to continue focusing on developing skilled continuous improvement leaders, create a Sundt “toolbox” of Lean tools that can be used in daily tasks performed and nurture a culture of continuous improvement at Sundt.

*Encourage and support employees in the pursuit of companywide improvements to existing business processes;

*Incorporate Continuous Improvement tools in the company’s standard operating procedures;

“Continue to participate in industry organizations that are focused on Lean such as AGC and the Lean Construction Institute;

*Benchmark with other companies to gain and share knowledge about implementing lean.”

How does our dedication to Lean benefit our owners?

Lean tools directly impact items (quality, time and cost) that are important to most owners. It naturally develops a more collaborative environment where everyone on the project has one goal – the successful completion of the project. It also increases the likelihood that we will meet and exceed the owner’s goals and expectations of the project.”

Case Study: Pima County Public Service Center

Pima 1

The challenge

The Pima County Public Service Center was envisioned as a shared criminal justice facility by Pima County and the City of Tucson. When the city decided against moving into the building and instead chose to renovate a nearby facility, the project team was faced with significant programmatic changes and uncertain financing. Like changing the tire on a moving car, the team had to be innovative and adaptive.

The solution

It was a scramble to make the building work for a completely new set of multi-faceted building occupants. Originally, the team was contracted to construct a core and shell with no tenant improvements. They worked with the county and city to incrementally fund the project to take advantage of lower construction costs during the economic downturn. Sundt was later awarded a second contract to make tenant improvements on the building along with constructing the parking garage and retail space. Just after that, the city passed on the project, leaving the county with the entire building to occupy. Once work started, the construction team made changes from floor to floor as the scope of work continually changed as more county offices were added to spaces that were to be occupied by the city. Throughout the project changes were made on the fly to accommodate the county’s dynamic needs. The team would design a floor, price it and build it. Some floors had to be redesigned as many as three times in order to meet the ever-changing landscape of the project.

The result

Original plans were for the City of Tucson to use 55 percent of the facility, which would only house courtrooms and other criminal justice functions. In the end, Pima County occupied the entire facility, putting 14 courtrooms and the offices of the assessor, constables, recorder and treasurer in the building. The revamped plan allowed the county to bring more of its functions under the same roof, saving taxpayer dollars by eliminating some of the need for space it both owned and rented elsewhere in Downtown Tucson.

The client’s reaction

“We appreciated Sundt’s flexibility in dealing with the many changes that occurred throughout the project and not reacting in frustration. Sundt was proactive in helping absorb or mitigate impacts of changes rather than threatening cost or schedule impacts.”

Michael Kirk

Pima County Director of Facilities Management