Compact Equipment Gets Into Tight Spaces

By Joanne Ray | September 28, 2010

After a late ground-breaking and difficult winter weather conditions, the Admiral Hill Apartment Complex project in Chelsea, MA, is moving along as scheduled thanks to Greener Excavating.

At Admiral Hill, JPI Developers is constructing a four-story building on Commandants Way, a former hospital site.

The project involves the manipulation and recycling of more than 100,000 cubic yards of urban fill, hundreds of wooden piles, tidal check gates, and several thousand feet of underground utilities.

The four-story, 160-unit apartment building abutting Admiral Hill's marina will have underground parking and an amenity center clubhouse leasing area, according to JPI Director of Construction Mark Theriault.

"A good description of the project is that we are building a podium garage composite deck with four floors of wood frame construction above," Theriault said.

The 250,000-square-foot project started in October 2007 and is scheduled to be completed in August 2009. JPI has hired out 30 to 35 subs to complete the approximately $30-million project.

Greener Landscaping, which has had a relationship with JPI for more than 11 years, is one of the subs — hired to do the site work and landscaping for the project.

It was 18 years ago that the then 16-year-old Tewksbury, MA, high school student Jeremy McSorely opened his Greener Landscaping business with just two of his high school buddies.

The business grew, and within the last five years McSorley has added three new companies to the Greener Landscaping family — Signature Service (a cleaning company), Greener Excavating and Green Industry Distributors (a retail grass distributor).

More companies mean more room, so three years ago McSorely relocated his 12,000-square-foot operation in Tewksbury to a 32,000-square-foot facility in Lowell, MA.

Today, all four companies have more than 170 full time employees and estimated sales of more than $10 million per year.

"We are the primary landscape contractor for at least five national builders," McSorely said. "We are a 24-hour operation. Our 2008 projected sales for all four companies are $18 million."

Texas-based JPI is a well-known builder of high-end luxury multifamily apartments. Because JPI has a branch office in Southborough, MA, Greener Landscaping was able to build a relationship with the company and in turn work at the Admiral Hill project. The company contracted out Greener Landscaping for its landscaping services, Greener Excavating for its site work and Signature Services for its building construction cleaning.

"Signature specializes in commercial cleaning, preventive equipment maintenance and floor care," McSorely said.

Frank Toste, general manager of Greener Excavating, said that the site work was done with a crew of about 15 laborers who worked with about 10 pieces of equipment.

Before the project started, the area had to be remediated because of contamination issues.

"There were three levels of contaminate. We had to put in 3 feet of clean material, plastic and clean fill and in some places up to 6 or 7 feet," Toste said.

Greener's part of the job included erosion control, site preparation, maintenance of traffic, earthwork, the excavation and backfilling of the foundation, sewers, drains, water, utilities, and a concrete sidewalk.

The earthwork consisted of installing utility test pits; pavement pulverizing and stock pile; removal and disposal of concrete sidewalks; cuts and fills; retaining walls; the 3-foot excavation below grade; the supply and installation of a visual warning barrier below the 3 feet of clean fill; 2-1/2 feet of clean fill and 6 inches of loam; elevator pits and pads; screen 6-inches minus and load out excess materials; install 12 inches of 3/4-inch stone under the building floors; fine grading and compacting for building slab; and respreading 6 inches of loam.

At the start of the project, Greener did all the sidewalk curbing and poured 200 cubic yards of cement with regular 300-psi concrete.

In the garage, laborers installed Geofoam commonly used in ground fill applications where a lightweight, engineered fill material is required to reduce stresses on underlying soils. Geofoam is a cellular plastic material that is strong but has a very low density — 1 percent of traditional earth materials. It is produced in block form and is easily positioned at the work site. Geofoam is unaffected by normally occurring weather at the time of installation and will retain its physical properties under engineered conditions of use.

"Because of the condition of the site, certain areas can't use regular dirt," Toste said. "This site was a loose 20 or 30 or 40 feet below the ground so we used lightweight fill to bring it up to grade. Then we installed the geofoam — then plastic carrier over the geofoam to keep out moisture along with 12 inches of 3/4-inch stone. Then we installed the rebar and pour 6 inches of concrete."

To complete the project, Greener will landscape the courtyard that will be housed on the top of the building.

"On the roof, Greener will install stone walls, trees and grass. The big thing is that we will have a crane on the site that will lift a mini-excavator up onto the roof. The landscape areas go 3 feet down and 3 feet of clean material will be installed," Toste said. "The courtyard gets filled in with geofoam and stone walls, etc. On the ground the site is very small because the building takes up the whole area, so there will be little landscape there."