Lifting Equipment Helps Build Alabama Condo

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

In Fairhope, Ala., concrete and cranes and careful attention to quality are bringing a major new condominium project from plans to reality.

The project, known as Bayview II at The Colony at the Grand, is a joint venture of Daniels Corporation, of Birmingham, Ala., and Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Located on a 175-acre site, Bayview II is the initial offering of residences at The Colony at the Grand. The eight-story building is designed with a central core and two angled wings, with seven condo units per floor.

White-Spunner Construction Inc. is general contractor on the project. The project team includes Tom Clutter, project executive; Jason Crowson, project manager; Jim Schjott, senior superintendent; Frank Salter, superintendent; Bobby Edmonds, labor foreman; Jill Plosczynski, project assistant; and Alex Norton, layout and field engineering.

Site Work and Augercast Piles

Work at the site began in July 2006 with preliminary site work and construction of a temporary road to provide access to the sales office. Childress Site works, Inc. handled this portion of the work, not only bringing the site to grade but also handling underground storm drain and utility construction as well as construction of the gravel pad for the parking area. Childress also constructed the crane pad. Later in the project, Childress will return to the site to finish the parking lot.

Attention then turned to foundation construction. This involved placement of more than 400 augercast piles, work which was handled by L.G. Barcus & Sons, Inc., Kansas City. These 16-inch piles averaged in depth from 60 feet to 66 feet. Typically, L.G. Barcus & Sons was able to construct about 25 piles per day.

With pile installation complete, White-Spunner's crews chipped the piles to grade. Ard Contracting, Inc. then moved in to construct pile caps and grade beams. Caps ranged from 2 feet by 2 feet to as much as 20 feet by 30 feet at elevator and stairwell locations. Grade beams measured 2 feet 6 inches by 2 feet. Concrete was supplied by Reynolds Ready Mix L.L.C.

Slab Construction

"At that point we skipped the slab-on-grade construction and went straight to work on the second-floor slab," notes Schjott, adding that this approach allowed work on underground utilities to continue while the building moved ahead. Otherwise, construction of the upper floors would have been delayed by more than a month. Floors were designed with extensive post-tensioning but no integral beams. This eliminated the need to form beams during slab construction and helped to speed construction. Flat deck flying table forms were used to form the floors. The only stickbuilt forming on this project was a very small amount in the middle of the building, where the building turns at an angle and it would have been very difficult to access with table forms.

The elevated post-tensioned slabs were constructed in multiple pours, with two separate pours used to construct each 21,000-square-foot slab. The first pour on each floor, on the south end, typically included about 12,000 square feet and had a nine- to 10-day cycle. The second pour on each floor, typically placed on a seven- to nine-day cycle, was a little smaller. Careful scheduling allowed the floor pours to move ahead smoothly on multiple fronts at any given time.

Most of the elevated slab concrete was placed with a bucket, though pumping was occasionally used to place concrete in difficult-to-access locations.

Post-tensioned concrete work, as well as forming, rebar placement and cast-in-place concrete, was handled by Ard Contracting. The design utilized "an enormous amount of post-tensioning," Schjott says, adding that the presence of the large number of post-tensioning cables complicated installation of plumbing, electrical and CMU (concrete masonry unit) grouting sleeves.

During floor construction, three floors of shoring remained in place to allow for concrete curing and subsequent post-tensioning.

After the fourth floor was completed, the underground plumbing, electrical and storm drain work began and the slab on grade was installed.

Exterior Walls and Interior Finishes

Meanwhile, work began on the exterior masonry block walls. Exterior walls moved up behind the slab placement operation.

Subcontractor MAS-CO Construction Co. Inc. has handled the block work, which followed the floors as the building moved ahead. The design calls for reinforcing and grouting of wall cells. Grout was placed through the floor slabs as the walls were constructed, placing the grout through grout sleeves that had been cast into the floor slabs. However, the large quantity of rebar and large number of post-tensioning cables within the slabs sometimes complicated installation of the grouting sleeves.

The exterior wall surfaces are finished with brick veneer or with direct-applied stucco. On the interior, walls are metal stud and sheetrock. Interior finishes are of a high level, with travertine floors, granite countertops and what Schjott calls "a lot of wood trim work."

"It's going to be nice," he says.

Two Cranes On-Site

Through much of the project, Schjott notes, the construction team had two large cranes from Maxim Crane Works on the site, moving forms and placing materials where needed.

Both were Manitowoc 4100 cranes with 180 feet of main boom and 175 feet of jib.

To ensure that the cranes were always on a solid footing, White-Spunner constructed a 16-inch-thick gravel base on which the cranes could travel and work.

The effort was not lost on the crane operator, either, who made the tongue-in-cheek observation that he was not able to work on the site because it was too level.

White-Spunner didn't stop there, however, but extended the graveled area as a 30-foot to 40-foot-wide perimeter running all the way around the building.

"That keeps the equipment out of the mud," he says, "and helps maintain a cleaner and safer site. It really does make for a much nicer working area."

Utility Challenges

Among the challenges faced by the construction team was the presence of existing underground utilities among them a high-voltage electrical line and a water line, both in the same trench.

The lines were carefully located prior to construction, and they were subsequently rerouted around the site prior to slab-on-grade construction. But Schjott notes that it was "a little hairy at times thinking that we were working by a major power line."

Mechanical Innovation

Mississippi-based MCC Mechanical, L.L.C. is handling the HVAC and plumbing on the project, and their extensive use of prefabricated assemblies has sped construction on the project. Water service lines, drain lines and other project components were prefabricated in MCC's shop in Bay St. Louis, then brought the project site as ready-to-install assemblies.

Also worth noting is a bit of value engineering in the area of the project's interior water lines.

"We worked with the engineers on value engineering the water line system to use PEX instead of copper piping," says Schjott. "PEX is a high-end system with high-end brass fittings that are very durable." The system, he adds is "cheaper than copper, and the labor costs are much lower too" since the material can simply be rolled off a spool without the need for constructing large numbers of joints.

To further enhance constructability, MCC utilized prefabricated 90-degree radius guides for the PEX lines — guides that were cast into slabs and walls.

"The guides eliminated sharp bends and protected the pipe," Schjott says, adding, "The electricians like them so much that they started using them too."

Moving Toward Completion

As the Bayview II project moves toward completion, the construction team will install the windows which utilized hurricane-resistant high-impact window glass and will finish the roof.

The roof area, in fact, is worth noting. The roof area, which features a mansard roof with trusses and standing seam metal roof, also utilizes a single-ply membrane roof system behind the mansard system on the flat portion of the roof. But there's more there than just roofing and decoration. On this project, the roof area includes a complete serving kitchen, as well as a trellis-covered plaza and seating area and fire pits.

Throughout the project, Schjott says, White-Spunner Construction has maintained a very strong focus on quality.

"Our goal is to provide as high a level of quality as we can," he says. "even when that means going above what is called for in the plans and specs."

By way of illustration, he adds, the construction team "went to extremes" when it came to construction of these and other underground utilities on the project.

"For example, we compacted utility trenches to a higher degree than required by the specs," he says, "and we placed gravel under each individual storm drain and drop inlet box to eliminate the risk of settlement later on. Our intent," he adds, "was to build a first-class project in every way."

As a further check on quality, he adds, White-Spunner utilizes what he calls "an extensive quality assurance checklist" and promotes continuous attention to overall jobsite quality. This includes such often-overlooked details as maintaining the parking area for workers' vehicles.

"A good graveled parking lot keeps you out of the mud," he says, adding that on a project such as this one where the sales office is nearby "the cleanliness of the job site is especially important."

The Bayview II project topped out in early May.

"The schedule calls for a completion date in February 2008," Schjott says. "But I intend to be completed and in the punch-out process by Thanksgiving weekend."