The Sundt Experience: October 2016
San Antonio’s Past Coming to Life During San Pedro Creek Project
Looking ahead to San Antonio’s rousing 300th anniversary celebration in 2018, Bexar County is committed to revitalizing a waterway where the community took root.
San Pedro Creek was once an integral part of the region, with locals gathering around, swimming in and fishing its waters. Today, it hides under and behind buildings and parking lots, travels through underground tunnels and runs beneath highways.
Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo, one of many proponents of reviving the creek, wrote in the San Antonio Business Journal that the waterway had become “nothing more than a drainage ditch.”
That’s about to change. Sundt and joint venture partner Davila Construction were approved in July by the county as the construction manager at risk for preconstruction of Phases 1 and 2 of the complete four-phase program. The entire program, being performed for the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), is valued at more than $150 million to revitalize 2 miles of the creek.
“We knew how important this was to the community during the project pursuit,” said Sundt Project Manager Chad Yount. “The community has talked about creating this world-class linear park for decades.”
Project boundaries begin at the tunnel inlet near Fox Tech High School and travel through the west side of downtown to the confluence of the Alazan and Apache creeks. The work includes 4 miles of trails and 11 acres of landscaped area. It will revitalize natural habitat and water quality and serve as a catalyst for economic development.
“Historically, the creek is central to the founding of our community and the redevelopment will be electrifying throughout Bexar County,” said SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott.
San Antonio grew up around San Pedro Creek, with records dating to 1709 when an expedition member wrote of a spring that was “bordered by many trees and with water enough to supply a town.” A decade later, the governor of the Province of Texas returned to the site to establish a mission and more structures soon followed.
In the 20th Century, development along the watershed increased the incidence and magnitude of flooding, causing a restructuring of the creek that resulted in its current state. The project will remove 30 acres and 38 structures from the 100-year floodplain.
In much of the channel, the creek will be lowered between 5 and 6 feet and widened to handle more flow. The channel will have three crest gates that create pools along the alignment. There will be 2 to 5 feet of water running through the creek creating the world class linear parkway.
“We are taking a flood control project and turning it into a public amenity,” said SARA Project Manager Kerry Averyt.
The project team, including HDR, Munoz & Company and Pape-Dawson, has spent time meeting with residents and business owners to determine what they want from the improvements. The team is working through the design and project constraints to provide a world-class location for San Antonio’s Tri-Centennial celebration on May 5, 2018. Early work packages include horizontal directional drilling for communication lines crossing the channel and bridges and a utility/demo package for sewer, water and gas lines. Those efforts will accelerate the construction schedule while later design elements are finalized.
“The community has been heavily involved in the design and direction of the project,” Chad said. “It will be a focal point for the Tri-Centennial celebration.”
Senior VP Helping Build Sundt’s Strong Reputation
Teri Jones is a Senior Vice President for Sundt and is the company’s Building Group Manager. She earned her degree in Civil Engineering – Building Design from the University of Southern California and is in her 37th year in the construction industry.
She has held many positions in the industry including Estimator, Project Manager, Project Executive, Owner’s Representative, Inspector, District Manager and CEO of her own construction company.
Teri is a LEED-accredited professional; Certified Professional Constructor; Certified Instructor and Guest Lecturer at the University of California, Davis and sits on the Construction Management Advisory Board at UC Berkeley. She has been with Sundt for 16 years.
How did you get involved in construction?
In high school, I registered for some drafting classes and soon realized I had a passion for the built environment. I loved reading 2D blueprints and visualizing 3D buildings that could be constructed from the drawings. So, after receiving my degree in Civil Engineering from USC, I was hired as an estimator at a general contracting firm. After a short stint in estimating, I became a Project Engineer and Project Manager.
What is it about the industry that motivates you every day?
Every day poses different challenges and opportunities to be part of the solution to that challenge. This is a very fast-paced industry and there is never a dull moment. But mostly, it’s the people who motivate me every day. Construction people are very hard-working and I thoroughly enjoy working alongside them every day. Assembling teams made up of clients, designers, engineers and construction personnel to execute projects and work together is a very rewarding part of our business. Interfacing with so many different people from diverse backgrounds with sometimes different goals and personalities can be daunting, but also satisfying when the entire team can point to a completed project and say “I helped make that happen!” Even today, when I drive by a project that I was involved with 20 or 30 years ago, I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.
How important is diversity at Sundt?
It’s very important and has the focus and dedication of the executive committee. It is an integral part of our strategic plan and good progress is being made. Diversity in race, gender, age and ethnicity helps bring many perspectives to the workplace and enables us to serve our clients better. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion are better positioned for success.
Sundt has had great success securing higher-education projects in California. What does that say about our ability to form strong working relationships?
The repeat business we have enjoyed in the higher education market in California is due to the excellent work our business development, preconstruction and operations people do. Our success rate in acquiring this work is in excess of 50 percent over the past seven years. This speaks volumes about the excellent work our people do.
In what ways does private sector work differ from public sector?
Public sector work is highly regulated with regards to how general contractors are selected and how much price plays a factor. Private sector work has few, if any, regulations on how the contractor is selected. Private work also has a tendency to go through several pricing and/or preconstruction cycles before a shovel hits the ground. Public work doesn’t typically have the numerous cycles, but can have a very long preconstruction phase depending on the delivery method.
What is Sundt doing to attract more talented craft workers in a time when they are in short supply?
Sundt has a reputation for excellent training, benefits and treating its workers very well. Those aspects attract the more talented craft workers. Sundt’s relentless focus on safety and quality also play a big part in craft workers wanting to be a part of the team. With our new NCCER certified training programs for industrial carpentry, equipment operators, welding, equipment mechanics, pipefitting, ironworkers, electrical and millwrights, Sundt is a very attractive employer for the more talented craft workers.
We also offer an employee stock ownership plan that includes the craft workforce. Not many general contractors follow this model, which helps set us apart from the competition. Every employee-owner shares in the success of the company and our profitability relies on the skills of our craft workers. They are the people who turn our clients’ dreams into reality.
Case Study: Southwestern College
Sundt is constructing a 25,000-square-foot science building for Southwestern College on its National City, California campus. The facility will include laboratory space for the college’s chemistry, biology, microbiology and anatomy programs. The school is part of the California community college system.
While starting utility relocations for the higher education construction project, California campus, we ran across two old storage tanks located 8 to 10 feet below grade. While both tanks were empty, local, state and federal jurisdictions and authorities had to give clearance before work could proceed.
Finding empty storage tanks wasn’t completely unexpected. There have been streets in the area for about 100 years and the site has had three buildings on it in the past.
Rather than allow the issue to negatively impact the schedule, our team instead divided the project in half and started work on the west side, which is unaffected by the discovery of the old tanks. That portion of the job is a clean slate with no utilities there to affect progress. The concrete subcontractor was given the go-ahead to start setting the foundation and walls on the west side as the storage tank issue on the east side was being worked out.
Sundt Project Superintendent Dan Pierce credits the team’s use of Building Information Modeling to determine that the revised plan could move forward. The project players gathered in a room and took less than an hour looking at models of the structure to determine the new game plan. BIM, which replaces construction drawings on paper, helps project teams identify and resolve issues in the design phase instead of during construction.
“When making decisions like this, elevations of adjacent utilities are critical,” Dan said. “If you make a wrong choice, you could possibly have utilities impacting the structure and getting things out of sequence.”
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Dan said. “It’s a win for the owner since we take that scope of work off the critical path instead of sitting here waiting for tanks to be removed. It’s a win for the concrete subcontractor since it’s their most complicated scope of work and they are able to set their own production and resources based on their schedule, not a tight project schedule. It’s a win for Sundt because we’re getting to work on a complicated process concurrently.”