Under Development - Maintaining Quality on a Fast Track Schedule

Fall 2011
Erland built a fully functioning mockup of one office — with walls, power outlets, carpet and doors — which was approved by the owner and architect before any additional offices were built. Photos courtesy of Andrew Bordwin

A short project timeline is no excuse for poor execution and sloppy work. Quality does not have to be forfeited to meet a demanding schedule. In late 2009, Erland Construction was awarded a major renovation for Avid Technology, a digital audio and video solutions firm. Avid was moving its corporate   headquarters from Tewksbury, Massachusetts, to Burlington, Massachusetts — leasing 203,000 square feet in three buildings from the Nordblom Company of Burlington. Erland committed multiple construction crews to simultaneously manage the various components of the project because Avid needed its new corporate headquarters to be move-in ready in just six months.

“The entire building at 75 Network Drive, as well as two floors of 65 Network Drive, were gutted and fully built out to feature a high-tech lobby with holographic displays; conference, demonstration and training areas; as well as executive offices and technical lab space. Erland also constructed a 143-foot long enclosed pedestrian bridge to provide all-weather access between the two buildings,” said Bruce Kelly, project manager, Erland Construction, Burlington, Massachusetts.

Bruce Kelly

Bruce Kelly

He noted that the final portion of this project included renovations and a new loading dock addition to 10 North Avenue in neighboring Northwest Park to house Avid’s stockroom and distribution functions. Erland also constructed a new connecting road between North Avenue and the Network Drive ring road.

A Case Study in Collaboration

“There were several operating businesses located within Buildings 65 and 75 and surrounding buildings,” Kelly recalled. “They all relied on the utilities located underneath the planned location of the pedestrian bridge and couldn’t be interrupted during construction. The records on file that identified the locations were inaccurate. Erland used ground-penetrating radar to locate the utility lines and determined where to place the piers to ground the bridge, based on the locations of the lines. In the end, only one gas line had to be moved to make room for the bridge.”

There is also a significant elevation change from Building 75 to Building 65, noted Kelly. This became an issue when pouring concrete because the crew had to follow strict ADA guidelines. The slope on the ramp had to be exact – with a flat spot for every 30 feet of pitch and a length of 20 feet to elevate the pitch one foot – in order to get approval.

One of the more complex project components, according to Kelly, was the construction of the demonstration conference room. “This room is very important for Avid’s business because it is used to showcase their capabilities and products to clients,” explained Kelly. “To function properly, the room required acoustical tiles and a special sound/vibration-absorbing ceiling. The sound ceiling had to be suspended below the mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment in order to accurately block sound in both directions, so installing the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems early was crucial to meeting the schedule.”

View of the lobby of Avid’s Building 75

The lobby of Building 75 features specialty glass panels that project streaming videos and holographic glass cabinets that hold Avid’s prestigious awards, including Emmys and Oscars.

With so many project elements, it was inevitable that the team would be large and diverse. There were two clients – Nordblom Company, the building owner and private development firm, and Avid, the tenant – each with its own interests and priorities. There were three architects – one to design the renovations for 65 and 75 Network Drive, one for the connector bridge, and a third to design the renovations to 10 North Avenue. Several engineering firms, a relocation firm and hundreds of workers from subcontractor firms rounded out the team. Erland had to coordinate the overall construction effort by collaborating with each of these firms on individual portions of the project, while also ensuring there was cohesion to the entire project and both owners were happy and satisfied with the final outcome.

Life in the Fast Lane

“Every construction project is unique and the approach to setting quality standards must reflect that,” asserted Kelly. “It’s important for the construction manager to have a quality control plan that encompasses the base-line quality standards for every project. In addition, it’s essential for the project team to develop a specific plan that identifies potential performance or aesthetic challenges particular to that project.

Erland developed a Pre-Plan Checklist – a proactive assessment tool that identifies every potential quality-related issue that might be encountered on each job. For the Avid project, a quality team consisting of representatives from Erland, the architect, developer, owner, engineers and major subcontractors was convened early in pre-construction to complete this checklist. Because of the compressed timeline and multiple project components, the team decided to build mock-ups for almost everything – from fire safety details and glass office fronts to acoustical panels and all-window systems. These mock-ups set the absolute quality standard for aesthetics and functionality while eliminating errors due to subjective interpretation.

While many quality teams on Erland projects typically meet quarterly, the Avid team met monthly to ensure the plan was strictly followed. This decision proved to be vital, as critical reviews and updates were performed more frequently, allowing for timely approvals by the design team, which ensured the six-month schedule remained intact.

The finished bridge between Avid’s buildings

Erland used ground-penetrating radar in locating utility lines to determine the placement of the bridge piers — resulting in the move of only one gas line.

Since the fast-track schedule required working two shifts – with very little procurement time – the team decided to use “rolling mock-ups,” which are built in place within the building, rather than remotely. Once the mock-up was tested and approved during the day, work could continue seamlessly through to the night shift with the visual standard ensuring that quality expectations were maintained from one shift to another without compromise to the final product.

Daily Mockups – A Driver of Project Success

Kelly said that representatives from the owner, architect, construction manager and engineering firms must support the quality control plan and maintain the high standards of work throughout the entire project. When the schedule is extremely tight, communication becomes that much more important because any lapse in execution could result in a loss of time.

Prior to work onsite, Erland’s team scheduled one-on-one pre-installation meetings with each subcontractor to review the responsibilities allocated to that firm and discuss the quality standards set for the project. The subcontractor’s project manager attended this meeting and Erland also mandated that the lead field personnel – the individuals that would actually oversee construction in the field – also participate. During these meetings, Erland’s representatives discussed each mock-up in detail, expressing potential concerns and reviewing means and methods for building the mock-up. This forum also gave the subcontractors an opportunity to offer suggestions to improve the mock-up, express their own concerns for quality and clarify any confusion.

To ensure that everyone was clear on assignments, Erland created a list of all the mock-ups to be built and identified the subcontractors responsible for performing each component of the work. This list was then posted in the construction trailer and copies were distributed to each subcontractor.

Ken Tessitore

Ken Tessitore

Erland’s lead superintendent on the Avid project, Ken Tessitore, managed the overall effort in the field and oversaw the three simultaneous projects. “Because there were three crews working double shifts and so much interfacing with project team members, organization and diligence was critical,” said Tessitore. “We couldn’t afford to lose any time debating the benefits of a quality program and needed to be on the same page. The entire project team bought in early, allowing us to turn over a superior product to the customer on time – without any sacrifice to quality work.”

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