From Design through Delivery, Balfour Beatty Delights Cobb County School District
Every Balfour Beatty project begins with one main purpose: to be a Relentless Ally for the success of each and every dream we are entrusted to build. At Wheeler High School, the dream was all about creating more – more space, more functionality, and building a place for students to do more, together.
This project completed for Cobb County School District (CCSD) included a 108,000-square-foot addition to an existing and occupied 52-year-old building, as well as demolition of existing buildings. The addition includes a new 3,000-seat competition gymnasium and a 750-seat performing arts center. The project scope also included new baseball/softball field houses, tennis court resurfacing, a new running track and home field stadium bleachers with lighting upgrades. In February 2014, our team set out to create a state-of-the-art facility that could serve not only as a place of creative expression and athletic activity for Wheeler High School students but also a place for the community to rally in support of local athletics and arts programs.
Our team was aware from day one that this project would be making a profound impact on the school and community. From design through delivery, our focus was always on providing a thoughtful facility that could serve the public, yet while remaining as invisible as possible on campus.
Team Alignment, Transparency and Greater Integration
Balfour Beatty held weekly coordination meetings with CCSD, the project architect, Croft & Associates, and key Wheeler High School staff. Our proactive communication resolved any potential issues before they had the opportunity to become real conflicts in the field. Part of this success is due to the preliminary SmartStart session held with all project stakeholders at project kickoff during which the collective team discussed topics such as behavioral alignment, project values, governance and decision making. From this discussion, the team developed a greater understanding of effective lines of communication, the strengths of each team member’s personality and the potential synergies that could be leveraged to create a high-performance team. The team also agreed from this meeting that one of the project’s most important goals would be functionality – in other words, features that are logical, maintainable, high-quality and meet both academic and athletic needs. It was with this mindset that we moved forward with selecting processes and technologies.
Schedule Success Starts in Preconstruction
As construction commenced, the entire team relied heavily on Balfour Beatty’s leadership to fine-tune constructability details. Notwithstanding obstacles such as more than 70 recorded weather days, we were able to deliver the project on time due to two strategic decisions:
First, the team adopted a phased construction and delivery approach that allowed demolition and sitework to commence as soon as possible, even while the design documents were still progressing. The Balfour Beatty project team worked hand-in-hand with Croft & Associates from the very beginning, making key recommendations such as converting a foundation wall to a retaining wall, a decision that ultimately decreased the project duration by thirty days due to reduced cure time, which allowed the wall to be backfilled more quickly. Second, a lean construction technique known as pull planning served as the engine behind this schedule. Facilitated by our corporate staff, pull planning sessions became a group effort owned by everyone, with the results feeding back into the routine master project schedule updates.
Yet another challenge the team faced was complex site logistics around the existing gym. Since the existing basketball area and practice space tied in directly to the new gymnasium, the team not only needed to coordinate all work with the athletic director but also create an egress between the two gymnasiums to allow students to exit and enter the existing gym safely and securely. The team worked at night and on weekends to provide 100% access into the occupied gymnasium.
A Proactive Approach to Ensuring Quality
At Wheeler High School, we executed a proactive approach to prevent defects and maintain uniformly high levels of quality workmanship through procurement, fabrication, construction, start-up and testing. In a true testament to quality management, when the architect performed pre-punch, they found only 65 punch items in the 65,000-square-foot gymnasium and 40 punch items in the 35,000-square-foot performing arts center. By comparison, typical pre-punch walkthroughs uncover thousands of issues in need of correction or attention. To achieve this, Balfour Beatty utilized BIM360 for continuous quality control throughout the job as well as created and maintained multiple internal punch lists.
Going Above & Beyond to Ensure Client Satisfaction
Yet another instrumental way the team overcame unusual project constraints at Wheeler High School was through the dedication of superintendent, Justin Riggin. He consistently went above and beyond to ensure the construction work did not cause any disruption to the school. Justin and school principal, Dr. David Chiprani, met on a weekly basis to drive the site and discuss any needs for the project.
Our team, the Cobb County Fire Marshal and Wheeler High School leadership worked together to create updated egress plans for all emergency situations. In addition, the students, faculty, staff and workers on the jobsite participated in fire drills and tornado warnings in an effort to keep everyone aware of safety procedures should such an unfortunate event occur during the construction phase. Making students and faculty more aware of their environment kept everyone on the site safe and secure to ensure Zero Harm. “The construction zone was controlled and [the project team] were very focused on safety issues for our staff and students,” commented Dr. Chiprany.
Although the site offered many challenges, the Balfour Beatty team was able to successfully overcome the design constraints, out-of-date as-built drawings and other difficulties, turning the project over on-time and under-budget for CCSD.
In recognition of Balfour Beatty’s exceptional performance, we were awarded an Honors Award from AGC (Associated General Contractors) of Georgia and an Excellence in Constriction Award from ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) of Georgia for our work at Wheeler High School.