California Precon Team Builds Foundation for Success Long Before Projects Break Ground

It’s a preconstruction professional’s job to build trust as much as it is a craft professional’s job to build quality structures. Estimating, partnering, resolving conflicts, or making major decisions, Sundt precon teams work together to understand clients’ needs and earn the right to carry out their vision.

How is this done, exactly? “By listening,” according to Preconstruction Project Manager Mari Tilzey. “Every successful project starts with listening.” This is true of Sundt projects across California, including our work at Paradise Valley Estates and the Sacramento Railyards mixed-use development.

Walking through Fire to Deliver on Budget

Sundt is nearing the home stretch on The Ridge at Paradise Valley Estates, a construction manager at risk project in Fairfield, California. The new 180,000-square-foot, eight-acre independent living campus features new cottages and villas, and will offer residents full access to the amenities of the larger Paradise Valley Estates 76-acre life plan community.

Work is scheduled to wrap up this summer, but at its start the project faced major setbacks including California’s unprecedented wildfires. Their impact on construction was felt in more ways than one, with a wildfire burning literally up to our project boundary in 2018.

aerial overview rendering of senior living community
The Ridge at Paradise Valley Estates adds a new eight-acre neighborhood including cottages and villas, significantly increasing the size of the overall PVE campus. Rendering: Perkins Eastman.

“In the summer of 2018, our team was at 50% construction drawings. Because of the fires, the market went crazy,” said Mari. “Materials were already high, and then labor costs shot up as well. Suddenly we were $10 million over budget and facing challenges with design and personnel changes.” Mari and her team had to work closely with the owner and architect to find solutions.

“We had to make some hard decisions, but we were honest with the owner and they were honest with us,” said Mari. “Had we not built that trust beforehand, both on this job and through prior work with PVE, these issues could have really derailed the project.” Instead, the team brought the project back within budget, and construction moved forward in accomplishing the owner’s goals.

view of nearly finished villas near hillside at Paradise Valley Estates
The new villas will feature spacious apartments with hillside views, multiple outdoor spaces, under-building parking and other amenities.

“Sundt has smart people—but we’re also kind. We listen to our clients. On the Paradise Valley Estates project, our team got into the details of functional goals, and we explored how those would look for the end-user. So, when challenges came up, we were able to adapt together.”

– Mari Tilzey, Sundt Preconstruction Project Manager

Laying the Tracks for a Landmark Project

Forty miles northeast in downtown Sacramento, Sundt is performing preconstruction services for the Railyards Paint Shop renovation. The construction manager at risk project involves historic building restoration and tenant improvement, converting the space to a 5,000-person concert hall for an international entertainment company. This is the first of many adaptive reuse projects in the Railyards development, a 250-acre unused industrial area that is being transformed into an urban, mixed-use environment. Once complete, the newly developed area will effectively double the size of downtown Sacramento.

artist's rendering of renovated paint shop building - large brick structure with metal roof
The Paint Shop renovation will turn a registered historic building in downtown Sacramento’s railyard district into a mixed-use entertainment venue for up to 5,000 people. Rendering: SWA Group

The Railyards are steeped in history, with their original construction rising out of the Gold Rush, the Great Flood of 1862, and the joining of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Preserving the site’s heritage is a core piece of the developer’s vision. However, it does make for some difficult dilemmas in adapting the space to meet the needs of a modern entertainment venue.

“Since the start, we’ve worked with the client to find a balance of preserving and modernizing this building, being careful to stay within budget but not rebuild it to the point that it loses its essence,” said Sundt Lead Estimator Justin McCapes. “We’re providing the early information everyone needs to make decisions with confidence.” Justin’s ongoing budget support and the data-based feedback from our VDC team have helped to strengthen Sundt’s relationship with the owner and architect.

In 1867, the first permanent Railyards buildings (above) were constructed as the “Central Shops” including the Car Shop and Planing Mill, Blacksmith Shop, and Paint Shop. The new district (on map below) retains its old name, but as a 500,000-square-foot retail, arts and entertainment plaza.

Justin and the design team are also working with the historic architect and State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). The goal is to maintain the Paint Shop’s historic character, but make it a lot more rock show-friendly.

historic paint shop building interior with original brick wall and arched doorways
Interior of the original Paint Shop building, which consists primarily of brick and steel.

“Since the start, we’ve worked with the client to find a balance of preserving and modernizing this building, being careful to stay within budget but not rebuild it to the point that it loses its essence. We’re providing the early information everyone needs to make decisions with confidence.”

– Sundt Lead Estimator Justin McCapes

“We’re using tools like 3D laser scanning to gauge floor flatness. This allows us to measure within a millimeter of accuracy before we decide what to do with the original slab,” said Justin. “Also, we’re using the architect’s Revit model to create model-based takeoffs for materials using a program called Assemble. We can then share these models with specialty subcontractors as we involve them early on.”

Throughout the preconstruction process, Justin and the design team are setting a high bar for attention to detail, which in turn is setting the stage for a successful construction phase.