Equipment And Technology Help Tennessee Site Work Project Move Ahead

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

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BRIC Constructors, based in Franklin, TN, handles a variety of site prep and grading projects in the middle Tennessee area. The company fields two grade crews, four pipe crews, and even its own blasting crew.

“Typically, the only thing we sub is curb and paving,” notes Darrell Keeler, general superintendent.

On a recent project in Tennessee's Rutherford County southeast of Nashville, BRIC Constructors has been keeping those crews busy during site work at Westlawn, a 200-acre mixed-use project being developed by Holrob Investments. It is located near Interstate 24.

Preliminary Site Prep

When BRIC Constructors came onto the site early this year, preliminary clearing had already been completed. That allowed BRIC Constructors to immediately turn its attention to actual site work

Bulk grading on the project began early this year. Cuts of 8 to 9 feet were typical in many areas, with deeper cuts to about 14 feet required in the area where a pond will be constructed.

The excavated material was utilized on site. Some low areas required as much as 15 feet of fill, and the excavated material was well suited for bringing them up to grade.

Keeler notes that BRIC Constructors works with site owners early on “to do the value engineering that will help them balance their sites.” This one was no exception, and as a result the overall site balanced well.

Among the machines used during the grading phase were a number of John Deere 9520 tractors and 2112C pull pans. In some parts of the site the pull pans self-loaded; in other areas, or when conditions dictated, they were loaded by Caterpillar 330 excavators.

BRIC Constructors utilizes a combination of owned and rented tractors and pans on projects such as this one.

“If we see a job where we can rent additional tractors and pans to speed up the project,” Keeler says, “then we will rent them.”

Specialized Equipment For Specialized Crews

Other key pieces of equipment utilized by the grade crews include Caterpillar D6 and D8 dozers, a Caterpillar 140G motor grader, and a Caterpillar 815 roller. The grade crews utilize Ford F150 trucks to get around the site.

Throughout the project, BRIC's survey crews utilized a GPS-based survey system when setting and checking grades.

To provide good site access for grading and pipe crews, the BRIC team utilized its Caterpillar 140G motor grader to maintain haul and access roads. Meanwhile, as areas of the site were brought to rough grade, crews topped the red dirt fill with topsoil. That topsoil was then seeded and spread with straw.

The pipe crews typically utilize Cat 324 excavators to handle excavation. Cat 924 loaders help the pipe crews handle material and fill, and D8 dozers stay busy during backfilling. In addition, BRIC's pipe crews utilize Cat 563 rollers for compaction. Pipe crews get around the site in Ford F250 trucks.

Rental Trucks Supplement Off-Road Fleet

The excavation effort has also been aided by BRIC's fleet of off-road dump trucks. BRIC crews loaded the trucks with excavators, typically Caterpillar 330s.

When even more trucking capacity was needed, the contractor added a number of rented Volvo trucks to its Westlawn site. This allowed the project team to grow the size of its truck fleet at various points in the project where additional trucking capacity was required.

Dealing With Rock

One of the complications on this project, Keeler notes, has been what he calls “a pretty fair amount of rock.”

To handle the rock, BRIC called on its own blasting crew. Using an Ingersoll Rand 590 drill, supplemented by a second rented drill as required, the crew drilled and shot 50,000-plus cubic yards of rock. The resulting broken rock was utilized for backfill in some areas. Much of the shot rock is suitable for immediate use, though larger pieces may be broken up by a Komatsu excavator outfitted with a hoe ram attachment. Actually, two breaker setups have been busy on this project – one utilizing a 5,000-pound hammer and the other utilizing a 7,500-pound hammer.

When not working on the blasting crew, Keeler adds, “Our drillers work as operators on other crews.” This, he says, enhances efficiency and keeps everyone busy on the job.

“Versatility is something we strive for,” he says. “We look for it in our employees, and we like to find employees who can do a variety of things on the job.”

Unusual Challenges Include Sinkholes

During this project, BRIC Constructors has had to deal with a number of unusual factors present on this site. One challenge came in the form of 14 sinkholes – some of them fairly large – which were to remain functional and which had to be protected.

According to Keeler, the handling of the sinkholes was directed by careful geotechnical engineering. Some may be left alone, he says, but others are topped with engineered caps that allow the sinkhole to continue to function. Typically, the process begins with a clean-out of the sinkhole opening; this is accomplished using excavators. The opening is then filled with large rock (in this case, with shot rock from the site) and is further protected with a layer of filter fabric. The large rock, he says, allows water to flow unimpeded into the subsurface, while the filter fabric keeps out mud and silt. Finally, the rock is covered with finer material and with dirt.

A Cemetery – And Copperheads!

In addition to the presence of sinkholes, another factor which BRIC Constructors had to deal with was the presence of an old cemetery on the site. This, Keeler notes, was also delineated and protected.

And then there were the copperheads, he adds. Several have been found on the site, which sits in prime copperhead habitat, and crews keep their eyes open when working near likely copperhead habitat.

In-Truck Technology Saves Time, Money

With projects that may be spread over a large area, Keeler says, BRIC Constructors has seen the value of providing its key on-site personnel with in-truck technology to help them do their jobs. As a result, about two years ago, the company began outfitting their trucks with an arsenal of technology designed to take the office into the field.

“Right here in my truck,” he says, “I have pretty much the same setup that anybody would have in a regular office.” In his case, that includes a laptop with a wireless card plus a scanner and fax machine powered by an in-truck power inverter. A Blackberry provides additional e-mail access.

“That gives me access to all job records – anything you would want – right from the truck,” he says.

The benefits of such in-truck, on-site technology are tremendous, Keeler says.

“This way nothing gets away,” he says, “and I can keep up with everything from right here on the job site without having to go into the office. Folks can fax something to the office manager, who can then e-mail or fax it to me. I can then print it, edit it, scan it, and e-mail it back immediately without having to leave the site.”

He says, “It keeps us very mobile and very flexible.”

And the time savings are huge, he adds.

“It's 30 to 45 minutes back to the office from any of our projects,” he says. “If I had to make that trip two or three times a day it would really eat into my time.”