CM At Risk

Story by Gene Storm | September 28, 2010

A $66.3-million expansion and renovation project at the Fairbanks International Airport is providing a relatively new contracting experience for the owner, the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities.

The project, started in December 2005, is using a Construction Manager at Risk (CM@Risk) delivery system that requires the contractor, Davis Constructors & Engineers Inc., to provide estimating, scheduling, value engineering, constructability review services, and substantial design documents before being awarded the "task packages" for work on the ground. While the CM@Risk contracting method has found a foothold for private and public works projects in several other states, it represents a new direction for the state of Alaska, said Alan Braley, ADOT&PF's Fairbanks Airport project manager.

"We put in a formal request with the state procurement office so we could use CM@Risk on the project," Braley said. "It has better applicability for some projects, especially airports. It allows owners to bring on the contract management element during the design process."

For Carl Swanson, the Davis project manager, CM@Risk represents both a challenge and also a learning experience.

"It has been somewhat challenging taking what has been a private sector-type project delivery system and imprinting it on a public project," Swanson said. "There is definitely an educational component to my job as we go through the public CM@Risk process." Swanson also noted, "There has to be an element of trust and some give and take between the owner, designer and general contractor/contract manager in order for this process to work."

The process appears to be working. Swanson credits ADOT&PF, Rise Alaska — the firm managing the contract for the state — and the design team for the success the project has enjoyed to date. The design team includes architect Charles Bettisworth & Co. Inc.; DOWL Alaska, civil engineers; BBFM, structural engineers; and Design Alaska, responsible for the mechanical and electrical engineering. ADOT&PF's Braley agrees, calling the experience with Davis on the project excellent.

Three Components

For Davis, the phased project consists of three major components. They include first phase new construction of an 80,000-square-foot addition to the existing terminal with a completion date of May 1, 2008. That work includes reconfiguration of roadways, parking and the airside terminal area.

Phase two includes renovating 65,000 square feet of existing terminal with a completion date of May 1, 2009. That work will require completely gutting the structure built in 1985, reconfiguring the mechanical and electrical systems, and adding seismic upgrades to the building.

The final phase will result in the demolition of those portions of the terminal built prior to 1985 and the construction of an employee parking lot. Final project work is scheduled for completion by Sept. 30, 2009.

The peak project workforce will number approximately 100, not including support staff. Some 30 subcontractors will participate in the project.

Fairbanks weather is a key factor in planning a long-term construction project, according to Swanson.

"There are challenging environments and then there is Fairbanks. Work that is difficult but possible in Anchorage and points south is flat impossible in Fairbanks between October and March unless you are under cover and heat," Swanson said.

To meet the weather challenge and keep the project on schedule, Davis fast-tracked large portions of the civil and structural design packages.

"As planned, we were able to complete a majority of the airside and landside improvements and complete the foundations and underground baggage tunnels during the summer of 2006. Structural steel was procured, fabricated and delivered in time for its planned erection in April of 2007," Swanson said.

Remaining concrete and structural work were scheduled to be completed by mid-summer 2007. Building envelope systems will be in place by fall 2007, and remaining interior work will progress through this winter.

Being at the end of a global economy supply line represents another challenge for Davis. Freight can take weeks to make its way to Fairbanks, even after it reaches the port of Seattle.

"We are pressing all our vendors and subcontractors to get their materials here early, because we do have room to stage the materials and the arrival of no material is too soon," said Swanson. "However, what is more of a concern are the materials that are starting their journey from outside the United States. In our increasingly globalized economy, we are finding that many more parts and pieces are coming from outside the United States."

Swanson cited the aluminum curtain wall being fabricated in China; the metal siding materials for much of the exterior coming from France; plywood panels made in Finland; as well as other finishes and fixtures. "It requires additional planning, fast-tracking the shop drawing review process, and constant monitoring of our vendors and subcontractors to make sure everything stays on schedule," he added.

Airport Operations

Another major challenge for Davis is keeping the airport fully operational during construction. It means accommodating the various tenants and stakeholders involved in the airport. They include the airlines, car rental companies, vendors, U.S. Customs, TSA, FAA, airport security, visitor associations, and tour companies.

"They are all impacted by the design and construction process. Our first job is to keep the public safe, the airlines running on time and the terminal secure. After that, we still have to build it," said Swanson.

To meet the challenge much of the building, airside and landside improvements were designed to accommodate a phased approach to construction. The design and phasing of construction keeps a minimum of three boarding gates operational at all times, as well as baggage handling systems and ticketing positions capable of handling peak tourist season loads.

"The design and project management team has done a very good job incorporating public accommodations and phasing of construction into the design," Swanson noted, adding, "My superintendent likens all of this to operating on a patient without the benefit of anesthesia."

Another significant challenge for Davis is staying on top of the design, budget and schedule changes that occur in the fast-tracked, design-build project.

"You have to expect that there will be a significant number of modifications and 'work-arounds' because you do not have much time to back-check for errors, constructability and budget, as you would have in a traditional design-bid-build project," Swanson explained.

While the CM@Risk process is new for the state, all appear to be participating successfully in a complex project that will bring new and improved facilities to the Fairbanks International Airport.