Post-Covid Projects: Considering Supply Chain Disruption

by Abdullah Khaliqi

Since the early days of COVID-19, Wentworth Institute of Technology has been actively improving ventilation throughout its campus. Wentworth partnered with Fitzemeyer & Tocci Associates (F&T) for the replacement of an Air Handling Unit (AHU) serving classrooms within Watson Hall. Watson Hall was built in 1927 and currently provides space for classrooms, the counseling center, health services and offices.

Wentworth Institute of Technology, Watson Hall

The new AHU was intended to be slightly bigger (to offer more ventilation air) and utilize Merv-13 filters to help with the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Per the design ethos at Wentworth, the project was designed and ready for bid almost a full year ahead of the intended construction window, allowing for the AHU to be reviewed by the design team, approved, and ordered approximately 10 months prior to the completion of construction.

While a 10 month lead time on HVAC equipment has traditionally been more than enough time to receive equipment, supply chain issues upended the university’s careful planning. The reputable manufacturer scheduled the delivery early in the ordering process, as typically expected, but the construction team was aware of supply issues that have been creeping into every facet of daily life. The delivery date was confirmed, checked, and reconfirmed, yet the manufacturer held the initially projected delivery date. Once the expected delivery day arrived, the HVAC contractor and Wentworth coordinated to have a forklift available to unload the newly received AHU.

Watson Hall ductwork

Imagine everyone’s surprise when the truck door opened to reveal the filters and only the filters for the new AHU on the truck. While the manufacturer honored its commitment on the delivery date, it would still be about four months before the actual AHU arrived on site. Wentworth and the HVAC contractor pivoted as best they could, completing all prep work (ductwork, smoke detectors, ceilings, etc.) to minimize installation time once the AHU arrived. The Watson Hall is inarguably a high-priority student service provider and, at the time of writing this article, is on track to be ready for the start of the fall semester.

While supply chain issues likely won’t be a struggle indefinitely, they currently must be considered for any project that has a firm end date requirement. Fitzemeyer & Tocci Associates new Construction Management (FTCM) service allows for stream-lined speed to market. Large infrastructure (AHUs, chillers, switchgear, generators, etc.) are the starting point in our design process, meaning that those selections are considered early in the CD phase of a project. FTCM can start a procurement process as soon as equipment selection is finalized and start the lead time counter before a design is complete and advertised for contractor bidding. While lead times themselves are not malleable, when the ticking clock starts can be. Bringing a construction management firm on board early in the process can help you minimize the wait for equipment arrival by immediately starting procurement.

Abdullah Khaliqi

Abdullah Khaliqi, PE, CPQ is academic market leader and associate principal at Fitzemeyer & Tocci.