by Ron Simoneau
The future of construction in Rhode Island is bright, especially for education. Leaders in the marketplace are forecasting impressive growth. Shawmut Design and Construction is projecting a 51% increase, from $76.6 million in 2014 to $115 million in Rhode Island construction projects this year, with a large percentage coming from the academic sector.
Educational institutions are economic pillars in the Rhode Island community. For such a small state, we have a wealth of incredible colleges and universities. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen an uptick in Rhode Island’s academic construction projects. Last year, we saw major investments including: RISD’s 189 Canal St. building for the Apparel Department; Johnson and Wales’ new Physicians’ Assistant Building; and several projects for Brown University, all managed by Shawmut. The trend to invest in construction continues in 2015, as we embark on the following projects: Brown University’s New School of Engineering and the New Applied Math Building; St. George’s Science Building renovation and expansion; and Moses Brown’s New Performing Arts Center.
Academic institutions have specific needs when it comes to their construction projects. A combination of factors and approaches achieves successful projects: value, process, and logistical planning.
Yes, creating a superior product is a major focus. Beyond that, there is the emphasis on collaboration between clients and construction firms. In other words, the process is just as important as the result. Lean principles and alternative delivery methods such as design-build and integrated project delivery enhance collaboration and deliver even more value for clients.
Logistical factors are also closely tied to value. In Rhode Island, as well as in other states where we work, many academic institutions present the unique challenge of working in urban, occupied locations, which must be properly managed. This means coordinating with neighboring institutions and working effectively with neighborhood stakeholders and local residents. It also means overcoming complex logistical challenges such as mobility in narrow streets. This is why diligent, precise planning and collaboration with all parties are essential in ensuring successful projects.
When looking at the future of academic construction, we only need to look at recent history for guidance. The most successful undertakings are those where we all — owners, designers, consultants, builders, and community — work together throughout the entire process to ensure seamless delivery on every campus.
Ron Simoneau is vice president of Shawmut Design and Construction.