The good news is that it can be done, but only by a general contractor that understands that the keys to success for this kind of renovation include site logistics planning, communicating, and properly staffing the project in order to ensure it’s done safely, on time, and within budget.
1. Proper Logistics Planning
A renovation project that requires work in multiple locations (whether in the same building or geographically separated) also requires multiple logistics plans. Considerations such as site-specific traffic patterns, noise ordinances, neighbors’ concerns, and preferred delivery routes for materials are paramount. It’s also important to realize that the logistics plans must be flexible – what worked in one location might not work at another, and what worked last week might not work this week.
Additionally, you need to plan for laydown and staging, parking, and safety for all locations. When possible, activities should be sequenced in such a way that will minimize redundancy on other sites and maximize efficiency across the project as a whole. Leveraging lean construction principles such as pull-planning, just-in-time deliveries, and prefabrication helps to achieve a good experience for everyone involved.
Example: Noise Insulation Program Task Orders
The scope for the City of Atlanta’s Noise Insulation Program Task Orders 1 and 2 involved replacing the doors and windows in 652 apartment units, two smaller duplexes, and eight single-family homes. Winter worked simultaneously in 20 units between two fully occupied apartment complexes, in addition to the single-family homes, within strict work hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Adding to the challenge, we had to modify the logistics plan around school schedules, Federal and State holidays, individual work schedules, and many other considerations. Every minute of every day was occupied by a specifically engineered sequence of trade work. Due to carefully decided logistics planning, Winter successfully left each unit and home fully watertight at the end of each day and finished the largest apartment complex two months ahead of schedule.
2. Communicating and Coordinating
Keeping operations open is not as simple as putting up a temporary wall and commencing construction work as usual. Contractors need to know when to limit noisy construction activities, when to permit materials deliveries, and when to start and stop construction activities, in order to truly keep the facility operational. When there are multiple facilities or areas under construction, the coordination become even more complicated. The key is constant, consistent, and clear communication among every team member and stakeholder: the construction team, owner, architect, tenants, staff, and visitors.
Example: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Concession Build-Outs
In 2012 and 2013, Winter completed 19 concession space build-outs at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, a high-security facility that is open 24/7. Between three and six projects were active at the same time across multiple terminals, and each project averaged two months in duration. In order to work in the airport, each worker must meet strict security requirements, and all construction activities must be communicated and coordinated with airport officials. Some of the work was limited to certain hours, and Winter had to plan around those restrictions. Winter’s team utilized multiple communication tools, such as daily huddles, weekly photo reports, and weekly meetings, to discuss upcoming construction activities and associated safety precautions, expectations of airport officials, and needs of neighboring tenants at each location.
3. Adequate Staffing
Regardless of how many areas require construction work, each jobsite needs to have appropriate supervision onsite 100% of the time. This can get expensive for a construction manager to staff such a project, but by fostering a culture of empowerment, CMs can sufficiently staff renovations in multiple locations at a reasonable cost. A general superintendent should ultimately run the project, but he doesn’t need to be onsite all the time to ensure the project is being run safely and efficiently. Instead, the CM should utilize a tiered structure, assigning at least one field representative to each location (depending on size and scope), who reports to an assistant superintendent in charge of a couple locations, and so on. This facilitates accountability and clear lines of communication to ensure each project goes as planned.
Example: JC Penney Renovations
Winter renovated multiple areas in 11 JC Penney department stores in three neighboring metropolitan areas in Virginia. The stores were grouped according to proximity and sequenced into three phases, each of which was completed within six weeks. The scope of work for each location included the demolition and build-back of four areas within the store, including new finishes, display features, and floor polish and carpet. For security purposes, work was restricted to business hours, and the malls remained open and operational for the entire duration of the fast-tracked project. To isolate the customers and staff from the jobsite, Winter installed temporary barricades. Each mall was staffed with an onsite foreman and a superintendent overseeing the entire project. This allowed the team to drive the schedule forward while guaranteeing a safe environment for customers and staff at each of the stores.
4. Skilled Fast-Tracking
The decision to perform simultaneous renovations in multiple locations often comes along with the desire to finish the projects quickly, or “fast-track” them. If the projects are in schools, it’s necessary to work quickly and quietly in order to avoid disruptions to the school environment and school activities.
Fast-track is more than just hurrying – it’s a completely different mindset and approach to the goal of the project. Sometimes fast-tracking involves the contractor being involved in project planning while the architect is designing the renovation. This allows construction to begin sooner and to proceed at a faster pace. Sometimes fast-tracking involves moving forward with early phases of construction before the design is completely developed.
Some of the tools that are available in fast-track projects include compressing critical path activities, adding additional project supervision, and working extended work weeks. Some activities must be performed early, for example, obtaining hazardous material reports and, if necessary, work with remediation experts.
Example: Fulton County Schools CBI Classroom Renovations
At the time this article is published, Winter is performing renovations and upgrades to the Community Based Instruction facilities at five different high schools spread out in the Fulton County Schools system. Winter is upgrading classrooms and building new accessible restroom facilities. After receiving a Notice of Intent to Award in May, Winter will complete the five locations during summer break. Winter pre-ordered long lead items such as the wheelchair lift systems and door hardware for each school. Winter is also using concrete with a moisture vapor reduction admixture in order to accelerate the start of flooring installation, and therefore speed up project completion.
General contractors will incorporate all of these considerations into the schedule and sequencing, ultimately resulting in a successful project.
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