Enhance Project Efficiency, Budgeting and Scheduling With More Meaningful Teamwork

Let’s be honest: Every project team says they collaborate, but do they really go as deep as they can to change their behavior and modus operandi? According to Kristin Hill, president of InsideOut Consulting, Inc., most project participants collaborate from their own (or their company’s) perspective, rather than examining the job from multiple perspectives.

“They tend to collaborate post-fact. They review things together and call that collaborating, but it should happen before
they go off and do the work. That’s where the real opportunities for innovation happen,” she says. “When you’re just reviewing or commenting on somebody’s work, you’ve narrowed the perspective to focusing on what they already produced.”

In short, the top opportunity for making project delivery improvements across the board is planning jointly and early. For example, examining how trades will interact onsite does a lot to eliminate waste and other constraints that slow down or stall projects.

“On the soft side, planning ahead changes the relationships of the people involved in the project,” Hill says. “When people understand each others’ work differently, they have a deeper level of respect and better ability to deal with each other. The way designers need to plan is different from how constructors think and plan. Both sides need to be patient with that.”

Ultimately, patience and planning yield more successful projects, which often leads to repeat business and the opportunity to make additional incremental improvements on future jobs. Such best practices for quality, innovative and collaborative project delivery are exemplified by Associated Builders and Contractors’ Excellence in Construction Awards. Following are highlights from a few recent award-winners that underscore advice from Hill on extracting high-level teamwork from project participants.

Invite Help
Even small design-bid-build projects offer opportunities to ask project team members if they would change anything to improve the jobsite atmosphere, reorganize materials deliveries or simplify the schedule.
Kristin Hill
“Instead of pushing a schedule on subcontractors, invite the trades to discuss actual handoffs so they can minimize disruptions to workflow,” Hill says. “This involves in-person, cross-group conversation. So often teams have a schedule but no real plan to deliver that schedule.”

W.G. Yates & Sons Construction, Fort Worth, Texas, put this philosophy to work on the Residences at Stoneleigh, a 22-story luxury residential high-rise in Uptown Dallas. The condo project was forced into bankruptcy during the recession, with the building shell remaining unfinished for three years before Maple Wolf Stoneleigh, LLC brought W.G. Yates & Sons on board in 2012 to turn the eyesore into a completed tower with beautiful city views and top-notch amenities.

In addition to reviewing drawings with the design team and recommending building systems and materials, W.G. Yates & Sons invited its field team staff and subcontractors to a building envelope review meeting so they could discuss and resolve any potential issues prior to commencing work. Meeting activities included reviewing transitions between envelope components to ensure compatibility and integration, confirming every scope had contractual assignments and ensuring continuity of all critical barriers.

Collaborative efforts like this allowed W.G. Yates & Sons to complete the $28.4 million job three months ahead of schedule in November 2013 and earn $700,000 in additional owner-initiated scope enhancements.

Share Expertise
Contractors, including third-tier subcontractors, also should ask to be given the opportunity to make the project more effective during the design phase. As firms amp up their collaboration, one of the biggest lessons they learn is how to build trust so team members feel confident to speak up when they have an idea.

“Subcontractors are often in a position of being told what to do, but they need to think of themselves as supporters and enablers of the design intent coming forward in the most effective way possible,” Hill says. “They are in a position to offer up their subject matter expertise to show how things can be done more efficiently.”

Kenpat USA, Apopka, Fla., did just that as the subcontractor responsible for designing, manufacturing and installing exterior metal façades and structural wall systems for Canaveral Port Authority’s seven-story Exploration Tower Welcome Center. The project, led by Skanska USA, features a dynamic form with a parabolic metal-panel shell, an exposed steel-tube canopy and iridescent skin.

The building’s huge structural panels had to achieve exceedingly tight tolerances in order to meet the dimensions of the cladding panels that were being manufactured simultaneously and before measurements could be taken onsite. Facing an installation challenge, Kenpat’s superintendent had to come up with a way to hoist the panels into position without a crane. He devised a plan based on how the ancient pyramids were built in which the panels were positioned on top of the slab in soft “containers” filled with sand. Gradually, the sand was released until the exact height was achieved, at which point the panels were clipped back to the steel/concrete and into permanent position.

Texas-based Aggregate Technologies, Inc., also had a chance to share its expertise on efficient installation during renovations to the 22-story G.T. “Mickey” Leland Federal Building, which takes up a city block in downtown Houston. The modernization project, led by Gilbane, Inc., required the removal of 340 concrete precast panels weighing more than 2,000 pounds each.

With no tower crane tall enough to perform the work, Aggregate Technologies collaborated with 3D Design & Engineering to design two specialty cranes that were mounted on the building’s roof. A crew comprised of one worker operating the crane, two workers on a mast climber, one worker inside the building and one worker on the ground would mobilize for 10 to 14 days and then leave the job for one to four weeks while Gilbane installed new perimeter walls and energy-efficient glass.

Over 19 months and 12 mobilizations, Aggregate Technologies removed every panel safely and without damaging the new building façade. Plus, all of the concrete from the panels was recycled.

Consider the Whole Budget
It’s not uncommon for contractors to walk out of a bid with an idea of how they could have saved money, but feel they must stick to building what they’ve been given. As a result, they just focus on their bucket of the budget.

“Teams should value engineer in real time and on an ongoing basis instead of after the fact, which causes rework. Constructability collaboration during design doesn’t change the design intent, but it could unfold to support the budget better,” Hill says. “In the lean world, this is called target value delivery. The team uses different collaborative approaches and stays focused on the budget without having big value engineering loopbacks.”

Continual attention to the bottom line was a hallmark of the addition to the Denver Housing Authority’s (DHA) dilapidated South Lowell Property. When Pinkard Construction Company, Lakewood, Colo., reviewed the project’s schematic plans as part of a request for proposal, it knew something wasn’t right. Although the structural engineer determined the existing building could support a third-story addition, Pinkard felt it was too much of a risk for the owner and tenants.

Rather than resign DHA to a straightforward renovation—and ignore its desperate need for more units—Pinkard proposed resurrecting and modifying an earlier idea of constructing a new four-story addition inside the courtyard of the existing building. The designer, WORKSHOP8, was eager to tackle the unique solution, and together the team members devised a plan that met dozens of city and county requirements as well as DHA’s $10 million budget.

That spirit of teamwork continued as the project faced serious obstacles, including rampant mold and asbestos and other unforeseen site conditions—plus occasional design input from DHA’s program manager. As construction manager at-risk, Pinkard was successful in finding corresponding cost savings elsewhere in the project to accommodate these ideas without adding to the overall budget. In addition, when installation costs for an elaborate water feature were deemed too high, Pinkard crews volunteered to do the work themselves so the residents’ children could have somewhere to play. 


Joanna Masterson is editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email masterson@abc.org, visit www.constructionexec.com or follow @ConstructionMag.