Tackling Excavation Challenges In Florida

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

In southwest Miami-Dade County, The Redland Company is well under way on site work and infrastructure construction at Kendall Town Center, a 120-acre development being constructed on one of the last undeveloped sites in the area. With hard rock, a high water table, and nearby neighbors on all sides, it's a challenging project — but as company president Charles "Pinky" Munz puts it, that's just the kind of project that Redland likes to take on.

Charlie Munz launched Redland Construction in the late 1950s as a roadway contractor. Pinky, his son, worked for his father for a number of years and eventually started The Redland Company, Inc., in 1989. Pinky continues to serve as Redland's president, and his own son — Chad Munz, now working in the family business as the general superintendent — marks the third Munz generation to be involved in construction.

Today, Redland works throughout southern and central Florida, taking on projects as far north as Orlando. The company is FDOT certified and handles turnkey site development and infrastructure projects as well as roadway and utility construction.

No Stranger To Challenging Projects

The Redland Company likes projects with "challenging time lines," notes company president Charles "Pinky" Munz.

One recent project involved 25 acres of challenging site work at the Turkey Point nuclear plant.

"On that job," Munz says, "we moved 700,000 yards of material in three months, working seven-day weeks and working nights." That project was further complicated, he says, by the need to move thousands of gallons of water per day to keep the site dry enough for work to continue.

Another challenging project was reconfiguration of the Miami Speedway, which involved a complete overhaul of the track as well as construction of 20-degree banking on the turns — and a very tight schedule.

"We got the go-ahead one afternoon at 5 p.m., and by 5:15 we were pulling out the first section of the old crash wall," Munz says. That very first night, he adds, "We finished demo of the crash wall and crash fence and completed 90 percent of the asphalt removal." Work continued at that pace throughout the project, he notes, adding that at some points crews delivered and placed as much as 25,000 tons of new fill material in a single day.

"Those are not the kind of projects that your everyday contractors go after," Munz says, "but we like a project with an aggressive schedule."

Commercial Development Near Miami

One Redland project, currently under way in the Kendall area of southwest Miami-Dade County, is Kendall Town Center.

Work at this 120-acre development began last December. Redland is handling sitework and infrastructure construction, including preliminary clearing, mass earthwork, utility construction (including water, sewer, storm drainage and lighting), and roadway construction.

Key Redland personnel on the project include Steve Pfoh, senior project manager; Jennifer Chillon, assistant project manager; and Gabriel "Gabe" Palaez, project superintendent.

Pond Excavation

Plans call for construction of five lakes on the site ranging from just under an acre to about 3.5 acres with depths up to about 30 feet.

"But no blasting is allowed because of the close proximity of residential developments," notes Steve Leon, vice president construction. Instead, he says, the lakes are being dug with excavators, using the largest available machines to maximize reach and digging ability in the hard rock.

Because of the shallow water table, lake construction consists almost entirely of underwater excavation. The excavators, equipped with Ugli rock buckets manufactured by H&H Manufacturing, first cut a level bench along each lake's perimeter. Then, sitting partly submerged on that bench, the excavators put the Ugli buckets to work to break out and remove the limestone.

Since actual excavation is out of sight under water, the excavator operators must have an especially deft touch.

"It's like digging by Braille," notes James Easom, Redland's vice president of preconstruction.

Overall, lake construction will yield close to 400,000 cubic yards of excavated material.

"Everything that comes out of the lakes will be reused on the site," Leon says. Some is crushed to produce limerock base for roadbed construction; other material is used elsewhere on site to bring various areas to grade.

High Tech Grading

To help achieve the high rates of production that Redland targets for its crews, the company has incorporated GPS-based grade control systems into its surveying and site work operations.

Working with Topcon dealer Lengemann of Florida, Redland has incorporated GPS technology on several fronts. The company's site survey crews quickly embraced the technology's capabilities, and GPS machine control has also been added to a number of the company's dozers.

As a partner in Topcon's statewide GPS network, Redland has set up a satellite receiving system at its corporate offices in nearby Homestead, Fla. That location serves as one of several base points around the state, allowing Redland and other participating contractors to effectively utilize their GPS systems throughout the state.

Major Utility Construction

Utility construction has been a major part of the Kendall Town Center project. Leon notes that the plan calls for installation of nearly 100 drainage structures and thousands of feet of related piping. Additionally, to provide water to the development, Redland's crews have installed more than 5,000 feet of ductile iron pipe.

A French drain system was also installed. Constructing this system required excavation of cuts as much as 15 feet deep in the site's hard limestone, and about 12,000 tons of washed aggregate was also required.

Even deeper excavation was required to construct the site's sanitary sewer system. Cuts of as much as 24 feet were required in some areas. The site will have its own lift station, and Redland's scope of work includes construction of a generator building to be used by the county to make sure that the lift station always has power.

A Bridge That Isn't

One unusual feature of the development will be its entry feature, which is designed to have the appearance of a bridge but will not be an actual bridge structure. Located between Ponds 2 and 3, this structure will be constructed using colored and textured concrete and will include culvert pipe inserts designed to make it look like a bridge crossing the ponds — even though the only real connection between the ponds will be a 12-inch pipe passing under the roadway.

Keys To Success

How does The Redland Company continue to achieve success on such challenging projects?

One key, notes company president Pinky Munz, is Redland's emphasis on what he calls "understanding our clients' needs." The company understands the importance of fast-track schedules and early completions, he says, and always has an eye out for ways to value-engineer a project to benefit the owner and thus earn a repeat customer.

Another related key is developing good relationships with equipment dealers. Working with dealer representatives like Carlos Rodriguez of Nortrax, Redland is able to get the equipment it needs, when and where it's needed.

"Key suppliers and rental companies are a vital part of Redland Company's team approach," he says.

He adds, "We like to have a single point of contact with our dealers," Munz says. "We expect our dealer reps to stay on top of what we need, just as we do with our own clients. We utilize vendors who mirror our approach of understanding our clients' needs and then meeting those needs when and where they arise."

"In a lot of ways," he adds, "a good dealer rep is kind of like one of our own employees."