The steel is topped out and concrete decks are poured at the San Diego International Airport’s (SAN) new administration building; however, with the recent downpours in California, the team is racing to get a roof on the airport authority’s new home. This complex and technologically challenging build requires a tight schedule as it will house the new airport and emergency operation centers. Luckily, Sundt employee-owners are proving that collaboration and strategic planning help maintain the schedule despite some turbulence along the way.
Built on Trust
Sundt Aviation Project Director Brad Kirsch and much of his team have been collaborating with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority for over 13 years. The new administration building is Sundt’s fourth project with SAN, and along the way, Brad has worked with and built trust with the airport authority’s team.
“This is a really special building that we have the privilege to build for a client who we’ve built a close relationship with over 13 years. It will be the airport authority’s new home for years to come, so we’re lucky to be able to provide this for them.”—Brad Kirsch, Aviation Project Director, California Building
This relationship, along with a design-build approach, has proven to mitigate challenges the team faced along the way. The project requires extreme efficiency, coordination and attention to detail, and from the beginning, the team sought to provide cost savings for the client to help offset market escalation. “When the project began, we had funds set aside to demolish 30 trailers that were on site in lieu of salvaging them to maintain the project schedule. However, we had a desire to approach that demolition more sustainably. We found a subcontractor that was able to remove and reuse the trailers, all while maintaining schedule and saving the client money in the process,” Brad explained.
Shortly after the start of construction, the team also discovered that the existing electrical infrastructure needed to be upgraded and expanded to allow for additional electrical loads. Brad noted that Sundt was able to work closely with the airport to procure electrical feeders prior to the completion of design, saving months on the construction schedule. The team worked nights over several months to help install the upgraded 12 KV electrical loop, allowing for expanded electrical demand for both the new facility and additional airport needs. If that’s not complex enough, the electrical loop also feeds an active terminal, so the team has been extra diligent in developing work plans and preventing electrical service disruptions to the airport.
“Even though this was an unforeseen change, the team was able to work closely with the airport authority to procure the material for an upgraded 12 KV electrical loop, design it concurrently, and install it, all while maintaining the primary project schedule.” —Brad Kirsch, Aviation Project Director, California Building
Another schedule success came with procuring the switchgear that provides power to the new administration building. When there was a schedule delay in the original order, the team worked quickly to find an alternate vender to provide switchgear and maintain schedule. “All of these challenges in power and electric are essential in any project but are especially essential to our client,” Brad said. “Since this building will house the airport’s operation and emergency operation centers, a seamless transition is critical. There cannot be any disruption in airport operations so this logistical problem solving has been a top priority for our team.”
Attention to Detail
Building at an active airport presents unique safety challenges. The new administration building is 100 feet away from a plane parking position. Brad explained that the team is constantly vigilant of Foreign Object Debris, or FOD; it’s discussed in staff and craft safety meetings and reviewed on daily job walks and the client’s weekly safety walks. “FOD is a constant concern and one that we’ve been hyper focused on—the safety of our team and airport staff and passengers is of utmost importance.”
Overall, the planning and coordination that has been required to prepare for the implementation of the correct scope, commissioning and activation of these new spaces has been a tremendous amount of work for the team. “Successful delivery of this project later this year will be something to celebrate,” Brad said. “As we pursue more work in California, government/agency emergency operation centers or other critical operations centers are going to require a similar level of planning and coordination. We’ve gained more experience and expertise that will allow us to support similar projects in the future.”
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