2009 Vision Awards
Winners of the 2009 Constructech Vision Awards were selected by an independent panel of judges: John Jurewicz of A-Architects, www.aarchitects.net; Christian Burger of Burger Consulting Group, www.burgerconsulting.com; Clark Ellis and Glenn Matteson of FMI, www.fminet.com; Jeff Ton of Confluence Dynamics, www.confluencedynamics.net; Mark Federle of Marquette University, www.marquette.edu; Steve Maltzman of SMA Consulting, www.smaconsulting.net; and Bob Stewart of Construction Change Partners, www.constructionchange.com.
Winners of the 2009 Constructech Vision Awards represent multiple segments of construction. Below you will find detailed write-ups for a few select winning companies.
Builder/GC Commercial—$26 million - $100 million
Silver Award: IMTC-MEI
When a disaster occurs at a refinery or industrial processing facility, one of the companies that can get the call to do the rebuilding is IMTC-MEI, www.imtc-mei.com, Houston, Texas. IMTC-MEI is recognized by the petrochemical industry and the insurance industry as a leader in catastrophic rebuilds and capital construction program management. IMTC-MEI rebuilds the damaged parts of the facility to avoid or eliminate the possibility of future negative effects caused by natural catastrophes.
Although the company is considered one of the best in the business at doing fire rebuilds, it encountered a problem recently when dealing with backoffice and project management processes. IMTC-MEI had disparate systems for cost control, procurement, document management, and many other functions, each one disconnected from the others and that created inefficiencies. More important, this created problems in delivering timely and accurate status reports to clients. It was hard to provide dashboard reports on budget costs and completion percentages. As IMTC-MEI’s project workload increased, the need to standardize on one system became obvious.
After extensive research of more than a dozen systems—it even considered building its own—the company selected Prolog, a project management system from Meridian Systems, www.meridiansystems.com, Folsom, Calif., through Project 3 Technologies, www.project3tech.com, Dallas, Texas. Knowing its forte was in fire rebuilding and not software implementation, IMTC-MEI left this project to the experts at Project 3 Technologies.
IMTC-MEI also recognized the need for a third party Web hosting service so its projects, located anywhere in the world, could be accessed easily. For this they turned to ProjectXnet by The Cram Group, www.thecramgroup.com, New York, N.Y. The Web-based ProjectXnet Portal provides a hub for users to access all the applications they work with via any Internet connection. The portal is integrated with Web technologies to create a state-of-the-art user administration console.
The phase one implementation was completed in November 2008 and the first project using the new system was a fire rebuild project that required close cost and version control. A fire rebuild requires the ability to track the items to the lowest, most detailed level and have the capability to segregate out specific types of expenditures.
All levels of detail must be rolled up to a 10,000 foot view of the project with drill-down functions that were available in Meridian’s Prolog. By using ProjectXnet, employees can access their projects from anywhere in the world. Systems must be available 24/7; there is no allowance for system failure in fire rebuilding.
Currently, IMTC-MEI is working on a catastrophic reconstruction project with a value of $35-50 million and plans to roll out even more functionality of its system as needed. So far, the world-wide resources of IMTC-MEI are accessing the data they need, the centralized administration and standardized reporting they need, and the security they must have in this industry.
Builder/GC Commercial—More than $500 Million
Gold Award (tie): McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.
St. Louis, Mo.
In 1864, Irish immigrant Timothy McCarthy founded the predecessor to McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., www.mccarthy.com, St. Louis, Mo., as a family-owned business; 138 years later, McCarthy became an employee-owned construction company. McCarthy builds a wide variety of projects across the nation with each having one common element: Clients have complex, tough, and demanding challenges and McCarthy provides them with value-added solutions built around the idea of teamwork and collaboration. After all, each employee is a stakeholder with responsibility to innovate and succeed for the good of all.
If one project can be used to emphasize this approach it would be the Kaiser-Downey Medical Center in Downey, Calif. The $300 million medical center includes a new 657,047-sq.ft. hospital, a 117,060-sq.ft. medical office building, a second medical office building encompassing 178,431-sq.ft., a 50,000-sq.ft. central plant, and a 650-space parking structure. From the beginning of the project, McCarthy incorporated an online construction management tool, FreightTrain from the FreightTrain division of HTS, LLC, www.freighttrain.com, Los Angeles, Calif. Using color-coded “rooms,” computerized construction maps were created by the FreightTrain staff and the site was used to establish the quality control protocols necessary to manage the inspection process. FreightTrain’s Inspection Request Module helped McCarthy and the inspection team to develop a process that communicated inspection issues that were identified and tracked work from re-inspection through closure.
Subcontractors and field staff were able to see the status of their work online to resolve issues that might slow down construction. FreightTrain’s Visual Fragnet drawings provided color maps of the status by date and many other parameters. FreightTrain also provided tablet PCs from Motion Computing, www.motioncomputing.com, Austin, Texas, for field staff so they were able to access information as needed.
McCarthy’s team and the A/E (architect/engineering) team were able to make observations of the project using the Construction Observation Walkthrough module to get a centralized view of each item under construction and visual assurance of work being done to address issues as they came up. The FreightTrain Architectural Punchlist module was then used to find the actual status of each of the 2,500 spaces or features on the project. This reduced the work load and allowed both the McCarthy and A/E teams to maintain a field presence by having the punchlist on the tablet PC.
Using the technology from FreightTrain, McCarthy brought the project to certificate of occupancy 106 days ahead of schedule and more than $40 million under budget.
Builder/GC Commercial—More than $500 Million
Gold Award (tie): Messer Construction Co.
Focusing on work in four states—Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana—Messer Construction Co., www.messer.com, Cincinnati, Ohio, put in place $670 million worth of construction in 2008. Fully employee-owned, everyone from the front office though crafts and trades are stakeholders with a commitment to quality and performance. The company has more than 220 project management employees with the in-house support from departments such as IT (information technology), cost planning, risk management, and estimating. With additional staff in the trades, Messer is able to self perform work to ensure quality, safety, schedule maintenance, and accountability.
A growing company always has problems keeping up with certain aspects of that growth. Messer found itself with more than 600 computer users in eight regions across its four state operating areas. To fulfill the needs of these employees, Messer needed at least 30 high-capacity servers but lacked the physical space and environmental requirements for such a “server farm.” In addition, the company had experienced the classic problem of having hardware misallocated at times, with some servers being underutilized while others were overworked. To address these issues, Messer turned to virtualization.
This method allowed Messer to reduce the hardware requirements for its offices by a ratio of 10 to 1, allowing three servers to do the work of 30. To be sure of the growth potential, and because the in-house IT facility was at its limits, Messer uses a co-location facility. But by going the virtualization route, Messer was able to save money on power and space at the new facility and take advantage of clustering techniques to improve uptime.
This allows Messer to run the equivalent of 30 servers on three physical servers, reducing the hardware and operating costs and positively impacting the energy costs of running the IT functions. As much as 70% of the time required to provision the servers was also eliminated and hardware utilization increased from 15% to nearly 70%. These are figures that might seem common to the firms on Wall Street’s list of successful corporations but not to mid-sized contractors.
The reduction in servers also provides “green” benefits because fewer servers means less energy is required to operate and cool them; Messer didn’t have to purchase new space to house a growing collection of hardware, reducing its IT footprint and impact on the business. The numbers speak loudly to these advantages of virtualization: Annual energy usage for 30 servers, estimated at more than $242,000, was able to come in at $43,535 using virtualization, a savings of $198,000. In addition, Messer’s carbon footprint is reduced, saving 266,282 Kg of CO2 emissions per year. The cost of underutilizing servers is estimated at $150,000 versus the cost of virtualizing those servers at $66,000, a savings of $84,000 for the one-time cost of the changeover.
Builder/GC Residential—$26 million - $100 million
Silver Award: Fairmont Pacific Rim/299 Burrard Development
Established as a joint venture between Westbank Projects Corp. and Peterson Investment Group, 299 Burrard Development, www.fairmontpacificrim.com, Vancouver, B.C., has as a primary mission to oversee construction of The Fairmont Pacific Rim multi-use project at Coal Harbor in Vancouver. The 48-storey Fairmont is scheduled to be completed this year after 40 months of construction, just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The project features a five-star, 22-floor hotel with 415 rooms, and 173 residential condos on the upper 26 floors. The residential units will range from 727 to 2,700-sq.ft. A 2,700-sq.ft.-unit costs $5.7 million (Canadian). This will be the most expensive residential address in Canada.
Working in this environment presents many challenges and 299 Burrard Development invested in the most up-to-date technology it could find to assist in the project. The integrated software helps it to efficiently manage the scope, schedule, cost, and changes for accurate accountability and timely reporting. 299 Burrard Development wanted an integrated system complete with policies, processes, and procedures so they could complete the project on time and on budget. Features they sought included document management and control, accountability and contract management, and team collaboration among the architects, consultants, subcontractors, suppliers, and the internal team members. A centralized database with high security and the capability of generating timely, accurate, and quick reports were also considered important features.
The solution created integrates many top-level software applications and was done in a multi-phased deployment starting with the core program, Prolog Manager from Meridian Systems, www.meridiansystems.com, Folsom, Calif. The group integrated Prolog with Sage Timberline Accounting, www.sagecre.com, Beaverton, Ore., with help from Sage’s business partner Constructive Solutions, www.constructivesolutions.com, Vancouver, B.C.; Integrator for Prolog and Timberline from Event 1 Software, www.event1software.com, Vancouver, BC; Primavera Project Manager Professional from Oracle, www.oracle.com, Redwood Shores, Calif.; Multi Vista Construction Documentation by Multi Vista, www.multivista.com, North Vancouver, B.C.; and an online plan room.
The integration project has given the Pacific Rim Construction office a comprehensive set of tools that offers complete control over all their project activities.
Builder/GC Residential—$251 million - $500 million
Silver Award: Clark Builders Group
Throughout the past several years, Clark Builders Group (CBG), www.clarkbuildersgroup.com, Arlington, Va., has become the leading builder of privatized military housing in the United States. CBG is involved in efforts spanning $4.9 billion of development and more than 34,000 homes for military personnel and their families.
A nationwide construction company, Clark’s employees are often tasked with splitting their time among widely spaced offices and traveling to jobsites from coast to coast. To manage their workload efficiently, these staff members need access to a shared network from any remote location of when working from their home. CBG was concerned about training employees on complicated access systems or having a network that required large scale IT (information technology) support or that was not fully secured to handle the often sensitive and proprietary information that was being transmitted.
In seeking a secure and easy to use network, CBG decided on a SSL/VPN (secure socket layer/virtual private network). This software creates a VPN over the Internet between company headquarters and individual employees. The equipment is housed at the company’s main office and provides a virtual way to transfer company traffic over an encrypted network. The result is a secure network with access from anywhere an employee can get on the Internet. The equipment is also an enterprise class firewall that incorporates additional security for users accessing the VPN from non-company computers.
In addition to providing security, the SSL/VPN is easy to use. Employees log onto the company SSL Website from any location and can then access data through common methods, the same as they would in the office. No special credentials are needed for remote access. The VPN client software is downloaded and installed quickly without IT support and by using a mobile broadband card, employees in the field can use internal network resources even while in locations such as airports and coffee shops. This also aides in creating new office access locations as employees can be up and running without waiting for cabling or other infrastructure changes to get them network connections.
CBG has created home offices for employees to cut down on travel time commuting between jobsites and the regional or main office. With the SSL/VPN no additional wiring or infrastructure at the employee’s home is needed and the employee can be productive there. The employee can work well from a hotel room or jobsite.
Winner: Tocci Building Corp.
In an industry where builders often have a wide variety of subcontractors to work with depending on the project, forming an interdisciplinary team usually is more a case of hiring people or contracting with companies. Creating partnerships is secondary to getting the job done. This year’s Team Award honors a firm that found a better way to do team building and gained success because of it.
Tocci Building Corp., www.tocci.com, Woburn, Mass., is a family-managed firm that specializes in multifamily, hospitality, retail, corporate, and senior living facilities in the $5-125 million range. Throughout the 87 years Tocci has been in business, it has transitioned to being focused on green buildings and techniques, lean production approaches, and the use of virtual technology. But its efforts to improve the environment don’t stop with building green.
Each year Tocci contributes 10% of its net gain from constructing middle-class and upscale communities toward building basic housing and infrastructure systems in countries and communities less fortunate. For more than 20 years Tocci has been a major supporter of charities such as World Vision and Habitat for Humanity.
Tocci sought and found like-minded leaders for a large scale project, the Autodesk AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) Headquarters in Waltham, Mass. Starting with the owner, Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., and including the architect/engineer firm, the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), plumbing, and fire protection systems contractor, electrical contractor, and the drywall subcontractor, Tocci, as general contractor, found firms that were willing to participate under a joint IPD (integrated project delivery) contract, a first for New England.
Autodesk challenged the team to not only create a new 60,000-sq.ft. home for its AEC division in an exciting and expressive space, but also to reinvent the design and construction process with the IPD agreement—one contract signed by the owner, architect, and all contractors—and enabled with the latest Autodesk BIM (building information modeling) software. Autodesk will develop, test, and market Revit and other BIM tools from this facility, programs that were actually used to design and build the project.
While the project’s challenges were significant, the process challenges were even more intense. All signatories agreed to share risks and rewards throughout the fast-tracked
32-week project cycle. VDC (virtual design and construction), a digital process based on the creation of BIM models fostered collaboration and assured on-time delivery. Many teams use BIM and VDC in some ways but this project used Autodesk’s full suite of products including Revit Architecture, Revit MEP, AutoCAD Architecture, and NavisWorks Manage. The building’s owner, Autodesk, benefited from having its products tested in an intense project as each tool was used for different functions.
Design and construction team members shared central files so they could add both design intent and means and methods information to the model. The BIM was used to virtually design and virtually construct the project, helping the team to work together in a compressed cycle.
One feature of BIM, the ability to create a “live walk through” model came in handy when there was a discussion about the impact of the three story atrium. Once the owner and team saw the effect of the atrium, the design was approved on the spot. This was aided by the construction team members who were able to extract quantities for each design options and provide the cost figures and schedule impacts to make the decision easier. With the decisions made, the team used the BIM to generate construction documents and communicate the design intent to the trades and fabricators. The team used the BIM to implement the design by exporting the data directly to the contractors, accelerating the approvals.
The results are evident in the building itself. Autodesk’s AEC Solutions Group Headquarters was the recipient of an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Fifth Annual Technology in Architectural Practice BIM Award at the AIA’s National Convention in San Francisco in 2009. The project was honored in the “Design/Delivery Process Innovation Using BIM” category, recognizing the exemplary collaboration between design team, general contractor Tocci Building, and owner Autodesk. Overall, the team improved collaboration by sharing files and models through software, enabling the IPD agreement.