The Sundt Experience: October 2014

Free Flow of Ideas Is Only Half of Good Communication
Documentation Is Second Ingredient for Success


Artist’s rendering of the R.J. Donovan Correctional Complex in Otay Mesa, California

You don’t often hear about the challenges of open communication. But consider this: if every member of a project team is able to communicate and collaborate with everyone else, how does all of that idea-sharing stay organized? How does the team keep up with project adjustments and contract requirements?

These are common challenges with the design-build approach, where the lines of communication point every which way, rather than flowing in one direction from the owner to the architect to the contractor. It’s especially true of large, complex projects. Can communication be flexible, dynamic and well organized? Sundt’s experience with the R.J. Donovan Correctional Complex project in Otay Mesa, California, indicates “yes.” In fact, R.J. Donovan is a communication success story.

Sundt, joint venture partner Layton Construction and architect Arrington Watkins knew they faced a complicated communication scenario when they were awarded the $169 million corrections construction project. As a highly complex prison dorm facility with numerous team members and stakeholders to involve – most of which were inexperienced with the design-build construction delivery process – the project needed a good process for both facilitating and documenting the exchange of information.


With the design-bid-build approach, communication flows back and forth between the owner and other members of the project team, but not between the members themselves.


Communication flows in all directions with the design-build approach.

“Communication is easier to track when it’s restricted, as with the design-bid-build approach, but you don’t get the best outcome that way,” said Sundt Project Director Steve Blaylock. “That’s often the path to multiple change orders. Instead, we implemented internet and cloud-based document sharing systems that everyone can access. These include Revit for BIM, Bluebeam for reviews, Navisworks for clash detection, BIM 360 and several others. The owner’s field staff has been supplied with iPads, which enables them to sync BIM 360 with our data, ensuring we are all looking at the same up-to-date documents.”

During the initial partnering session, the team established boundaries to ensure that sharing doesn’t lead to over-sharing. In other words, while communication is fluid, every member has a defined and well-respected role – sometimes as the lead, sometimes as an advisor.

“The interface of Sundt Layton/Arrington Watkins with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for the R.J. Donovan project is built on unobstructed communication, both verbal and graphic,” said Tom Bast of Vanir Construction Management. “We have all benefited from being openly transparent, asking questions to push limits, and exchanging design and cost saving ideas. This has been especially true of the CDCR, which has openly provided its conditions for success to the team from the proposal stage – everything from budget, expectations, and limitations for a quality project.”

When it’s complete in April 2016, the new 317,000-square-foot housing facility at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Complex will include three Level II, 264-bed housing units for a total of 792 inmates. By getting involved early, the team is helping the owner afford its full program, plus additional features that probably wouldn’t have been affordable without the communication advantages of design-build.

Project Will Repair Hurricane Damage to Critical Ordnance Pier Complex at Naval Weapons Station


NWS Earle’s 2.9-mile-long pier complex. The buildings and structures being restored by Sundt are located at the bottom of the image. The utility work is situated south of the buildings and north of the electrical substation (not pictured).

When Hurricane Sandy pummeled the east coast in 2012, the storm damaged the utility infrastructure and several buildings at Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey. Most of the damage occurred along NWS Earle’s 2.9-mile-long pier complex, where the Weapons Station carries out its mission to safely deliver ordnance to U.S. Navy warships. A number of temporary repairs have kept NWS Earle functioning since the storm, but permanent repairs and improvements are on the way. Sundt has begun a $23.9 million federal construction project that will reverse the damage from Sandy while readying the Weapons Station, specifically the pier complex, for the next 100-year storm event.

“NWS Earle is one of only two naval installations on the east coast with this ordnance mission, which makes our project especially important and critical to keeping the world’s sea lanes open,” says Sundt Project Director John Alberghini. “Sundt’s repair work will enable the Naval Weapon Station to continue to fulfill its mission while strengthening the facility so that it can withstand future storms. Part of our effort has been to remodel how the utilities are delivered to the pier so that if another hurricane comes ashore, they won’t experience the same utility failures.”

Crane set-up preparing for plank placement-resized

Working safely on the pier requires careful monitoring of current weather conditions.

NWS Earle’s pier complex juts into the Atlantic Ocean and forks at the end into three finger piers. Sundt’s design-build project involves replacing or repairing damaged or missing sections of the potable water mains, steam systems, sanitary sewer systems, and electrical systems on several of the trestles that support rail access to and from pier-side vessels. The contract also includes replacement/repair of architectural, plumbing, mechanical, fire protection and electrical systems at two of the buildings located on the pier, as well as demolition, electrical, foundation/structural and civil work at the electrical substation located on shore at the head of the pier complex. The project architect is Arrington Watkins.

The design-build delivery method – with its emphasis on early collaboration between the owner, architect and contractor – gave Sundt the opportunity to develop a value engineering solution that will improve the project’s design while saving the Navy approximately $124,000.

Demolition of damaged utility lines-resized

Damaged utility lines being demolished and removed

“Our engineers worked with the project’s designers to come up with a cost savings measure for the design of the concrete planks put in place to support the utilities,” Alberghini adds. “We were pleased to develop a design improvement that saves the government money and is acceptable to the sensitive marine environment.”

“Marine environments present unique challenges – weather plays a big role in how the work proceeds,” says Sundt Area Manager Amy Hawkins. “Quickly moving storms that include severe wind, rain and rough seas all play into our daily safety awareness for the project. Our teammates are extra vigilant to make sure we complete this important project in a safe manner.”

Construction began last month and the project is expected to be complete by next summer.

Water Treatment Plant Project Will Help Conserve Valuable Resources

Brine Scan resized

Sundt has the technology to create 3D laser scans to document existing project conditions. The technology captures millions of accurate points of as-built data, which are then used to model new construction. This image of a previous water treatment plant project was used to demonstrate the technology to the City of Chandler.

The City of Chandler, Arizona has selected Sundt-McCarthy, a joint venture of Sundt and McCarthy Building Companies Inc., as the general contractor for the Ocotillo Water Reclamation Facility Expansion and Process Improvement project. The project will bring multiple benefits to Chandler residents and the environment as it helps conserve Arizona’s valuable water resources.

“We are excited to be a part of a project that will not only improve the lives of thousands of Chandler residents, but also benefit the environment as a whole,” says Sundt Vice President and Project Executive Greg Ayres. “This state-of-the-art facility will help conserve valuable water resources by increasing the amount of water the City of Chandler can recycle each day.”

The $120 million water treatment construction project includes $20 million in upgrades to the existing wastewater treatment plant and construction of a new $100 million expansion facility, which will utilize membrane bioreactor technology to reduce the facility’s pollution output and sludge production. The project is expected to begin in early 2015 and be completed in late 2017.

Sundt’s recent water treatment construction work in Arizona includes the San Tan Vista Water Treatment Plant in Gilbert, Avra Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant and Biological Nutrient Removal and Oxidation Ditch facility in Tucson, Greenfield Water Reclamation South Plant in Gilbert, and the Butler Water Reclamation Facility in Peoria.