By Chad McCullough
High-tech tools hold the promise of allowing construction project team members to achieve greater efficiency and produce a better product. Does it work in practice? Absolutely. A recent example is the transformation of the Stratford High School campus in Stratford, Conn., which includes a new 127,000sf addition. Currently under construction across from the existing school, the new addition will contain administrative offices, kitchen and dining facilities, special education, and general classrooms. Future phases include a new gymnasium, locker rooms, auditorium, music classrooms, and specialty classrooms.
The project’s dynamic team, including Antinozzi Associates, CREC Construction Services, Turner Construction Company, the Building Subcommittee, and town of Stratford department heads, embraced new technologies to advance the project’s mission.
Here are just two of the ways Turner’s project management team is leveraging technology to enhance and improve the construction process for the $125 million project.
During steel erection, Turner’s team utilized the project’s building information model (BIM) to take material placement tracking to a new level. BIM is a process for creating and managing the information on a project before, during, and after construction. The output is a 3D model of the built asset. Gone are the days of tattered steel erection drawings with different color highlighters to record the progress of steel installation. Instead, through software tools linked to the project BIM, the field team digitally tracked the installation of each piece with the tap of a finger. Using their tablets, the superintendent updated each day’s progress through the 3D model. Beyond the visual recognition of the completed work, the team harnessed data regarding productivity trends and tonnage, giving them better control over the project schedule and material inventory in their limited laydown area and allowed for more accurate billing.
While steel erection was in progress, the construction manager’s team was busy building out the kitchen and cafeteria spaces virtually to help ensure a smooth inspection and turnover process.
Using Antinozzi’s design BIM as a starting point, Turner’s virtual design and construction (VDC) engineers added all elements of the spaces down to the smallest details, providing a complete picture of the final product. The VDC group modeled all kitchen equipment based on approved submittals, all MEP finishes and devices, technology elements like security cameras, and FF&e items including point of sale terminals — even the condiment stations, complete with ketchup bottles.
After the model was developed, the VDC group rendered and created a lifelike virtual model of the kitchen, servery, and cafeteria. The team then conducted a series of collaborative team meetings using Turner’s virtual reality tools to allow a variety of stakeholders to explore and evaluate the spaces virtually. These meetings involved the project team, school administration, and their food service vendor, facilitating a clear understanding of the equipment layout and movement of the students and staff through the area.
In later sessions, local code officials, including the fire marshal, building inspector, director of public safety, and health department inspector reviewed the spaces through virtual reality. Officials had the opportunity to provide their feedback early — long before walls were built or services were roughed in. Changes were made to add splash guards at hand wash sinks, relocate fire alarm pull stations, and adjust soffit heights to provide better sight lines to exit signs. These interactive sessions produced a better understanding of the space by everyone and set the stage for a smooth inspection and turnover phase.
Implementing these tools has brought value to all project stakeholders and helped Turner’s team achieve its goal of eliminating rework, increasing client satisfaction and saving time and money.
Chad McCullough is the manager of business development for Turner Construction Company’s office in Shelton, Conn.