Tag Archives: Engineering

Working together better – a quiet construction trend

I’ve noticed a quiet trend over the last year: more and more teams are crediting each other on successful projects.

I’m not sure whether teams are actually collaborating more or whether they just say they

are. I don’t know if it’s related to the increasing use of integrated project delivery and more open bidding methods or if its culturally related to social media. But it’s happening. More and more people I talk to are highlighting the importance of different team members.

Sustainable design is inherently related to integrating. The whole point of green building is to cut down on waste and redundancies. The idea behind collaboration and working together, is that you accomplish that goal more efficiently.

Just to give you a few examples:

In December, I went to the AIA Seattle’s forum on IPD and wrote this story called “Form Right Team for Successful Construction Project.” The story condenses a big theme from the event, which is that the team is the most important element in creating good IPD projects. Speakers said more effort needs to go towards selecting team members for IPD projects, but the lessons seem to be worthwhile for any type of project.

Dave Kievet, group president of California operations for The Boldt Co., said all sorts of questions about experience, work ethic and outside interests are asked when a company hires a new employee.  But when a contractor is hired, very little time is spent on those issues. Instead, questions are about safety record, balance statements and licenses.

“You can have the best team assembled that can be absolutely destroyed by one bad apple on that team,” he said. “It’s the people that deliver a project, not the companies.”

The forum also highlighted the importance of working together to move through negative situations. Barb Jackson of California Polytechnic State University said she often counsels her IPD teams to have “you suck meetings” so everyone can clear the air. It’s better than dwelling on problems and letting them stifle a team, she said.

Last week, I toured this $56 million new water treatment plant in Anacortes. The team

Image by Katie Zemtseff
members were practically glowing with descriptions of each other (and these were real reactions – they weren’t just buttering me up). Fred Buckenmeyer, Anacortes public works director, said the camaraderie at project meetings is real. Matt Reynolds, assistant city engineer, said everyone has been fair with each other and works to solve problems when things go wrong, rather than place blame.

Brandt Barnes of MWW, the owner’s representative and construction manager, said all team members took a partnering approach to the project that they will be proud of for many years to come.

Todd Pike, project manager at Imco General Construction, said the construction process in general is becoming more open, due in part to the influence of new contracting methods like GC/CM and design-build. But he said being open is a conscious effort at Imco.  “You (can’t) miss one person… It’s a purposeful, intentional effort on all sides of the contract,” he said. “We don’t have to have a design-build contract or GC/CM contract to reach out and have this positive, open communication with the owners and the design team.”

Image courtesy SPU
Then in the Jan. 13 edition of the DJC here, I wrote about the “swale on Yale project.” The swale is an innovative public-private partnership, in which Vulcan contributed over $1 million to a city stormwater treatment project. The swale, once comple, will treat over 190 million gallons of stormwater per year that currently flows straight into Lake Union. Jason Sharpley, project manager with SPU, said both Vulcan and city team members went out of their way to work together, and put the good of the project above anything else. Team members included KPG, KPFF, The Berger Partnership and Runberg Architecture Group.

Now, it’s not like people have never talked about collaboration before. The difference is that more team members are talking about its importance. What do you think? Do you think this is a noticeable trend?


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King Street Station rehabilitation on track for platinum

This week, I toured King Street Station. For those of you who aren’t aware, the 1906-built-station is in the midst of a $50 million renovation. The project is absolutely, totally and utterly incredible.

The main thrust of the project is a much needed seismic renovation. Seriously, the tons of steel being put into this project are indescribable. But King Street Station is also a historic building and must be maintained as such. Once the rehabilitation is complete, it will be very sustainable: it’s on track to meet LEED platinum, up from a goal of LEED silver. Last year, the project’s sustainable efforts were honored by AIA Seattle with a gold level award from the What Makes It Green event. ZGF Architects is the architect. Sellen Construction is general contractor.

Obviously, the most sustainable thing about the project is the fact that it is a historic renovation of an old structure, which retains the embodied energy inherent in the building. But the team went much further. Geothermal wells in the building will likely provide all heating and cooling. The main waiting room will return to its 100-year-old state of being naturally ventilated. Incredible effort has been spent to save, clean and better old building materials. All of these elements will be detailed in a future DJC story.

For now, I’ll whet your interest with some photos of the space. As you can tell, I got to tour the inside of the clock tower, which is not part of the current project’s phase. However it is really cool. To see more photos of the clock tower or tour, follow my page on Facebook here. And if you haven’t voted for this blog yet as best of the web, please do so. For more info on that, see the post below.


The brown section above is original plaster work. The white part below is where the original plaster was ripped out and replaced mid-century. The white section will be renovated to match the brown section. All images copyright Katie Zemtseff.

This entryway has been hidden for decades. It will be cleaned up and opened to the public as part of the rehabilitation.

This is me behind one of the clock faces in the clock tower. This is not part of the current rehabilitation project (but it is awesome!)

Water pouring down a staircase that has been closed to the public for decades. It will be opened up as part of the project.
This is the office space on the station's third floor. In recent years, it has been the home of pigeons and dust.
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In a perfect world, what would our new waterfront look like?

If you’ve been paying attention, you know 2010 has been a pivotal year for Seattle’s waterfront.

In March, the city awarded a contract for seawall work, worth about $18 million, to a multi-disciplinary team led by TetraTech. At the same time, it sped up the schedule to redesign and redevelop its Central Waterfront Project

What the waterfront looks like today. Image courtesy Clair Enlow
. The timing will allow seawall and waterfront teams to spend more time working together.

Wednesday was the RFQ deadline for central waterfront work. A team is expected to be chosen by the end of September. The budget for design work over the first two years is expected to be about $6 million while the estimated budget for planning and design of the entire project is between $50 and $70 million. It got 30 proposals on the urban design/public space side.

Not to mention the process (or sometimes lack thereof) for the replacement on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which is crucial to how the city’s waterfront will be opened up.

Make no mistake about it, these projects combined will totally reshape our downtown. However, in all the hustle and bustle, it can be really hard to imagine just what that end result will be. Or what it is Seattleites want it to be.

If the city proceeds with the deep bore tunnel option, the goal is for the seawall to be done by the time the bored tunnel is complete, currently scheduled for 2016. Construction on the waterfront work could begin this same year.

The seawall may seem like the smallest of the three but how it is designed and managed will be incredibly important to the foundation of the other two projects. One big push is to create places along the waterfront for the public – for you and I – to interact with the water. Places that aren’t separated by physical walls but allow us to connect with water, the cultural backbone of our city.

In June, Bob Chandler, city program manager for the viaduct and seawall replacement, said the city is looking for a seawall that supports the waterfront while providing habitat value and creating space for people to interact with the water. “We have an opportunity,” he said. “We need to come up with an approach here that provides protection in a seismic event but that doesn’t necessarily mean this is a 35-foot high straight wall. It doesn’t mean that at all.”

My question is – how do you envision this?

What should it look like? How do you want to interact with the water, related to the seawall? Once the seawall is complete, what would your optimal redeveloped waterfront look like? Sustainably, what should its function really be?

Rhodes, Greece. The old town at night. Could we get this kind of energy along our waterfront?
At the core of this is the need to get normal people to want to hang out on Seattle’s waterfront during evenings and on the weekend, rather than just visiting when family and friends come into town.

I recently spent my honeymoon in Greece and Turkey. In each city I visited on the water, there were vibrant spaces located along its edge. I couldn’t help wondering what it would take to create the same kind of energy in our city: a bustling mix of tourists and locals that waxes on until the early hours of the morning every day. In Greece and Turkey, the answer is built on history, combined with making these spaces centers of tourism and city life.

These are a lot of questions, often without answer. Part of the point of the design process is to come up with that answer, and there will be a number of opportunities to participate in the formal process. One will be a meeting with teams shortlisted for the central waterfront design work at Benaroya Hall on Sept. 15 – mark your calendar. For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Rushing celebrates new (hopefully) LEED platinum space

On Thursday, Seattle-based Rushing hosted an open house for its new workspace. The mechanical and electrical engineering, and sustainability consulting firm, has moved to the third floor of 1725 Westlake Ave N., and is currently awaiting a LEED platinum certification for commercial interiors. In case you missed it, I’ve got some photos of the space – and the event – for you below.


Inside view of the space


Rae Anne Rushing in her new office


The ceiling


A wall of the different LEED points the space has targeted

Rushing also made handy little booklets that outline all the credits Rushing (again hopefully) achieved for LEED platinum. Each page in the booklet explains what Rushing did for each credit. For example, under Energy Use Measurement and Payment Accountability, the boooklet says Rushing installed submetering equipment to measure and recod gas and electricity use in the space. It also says a lease was negotiated where energy costs are paid by Rushing, and not paid in base rent.

Close up view of a couple LEED points
The food you missed!
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Is this the future of solar?

Wired magazine’s Wired Science blog had a great post recently about Solyndra, a three-year old company that makes very out of the ordinary solar panels indeed. Instead of the typical panel we know and love (or hate) that are flat and mounted up towards the sun, these solar cells are cylindrical and look like a long tube. They also contain no silicon.

The panels are marketed towards offices. According to Solyndra’s Web site, wind blows through the tubes so no rooftop anchoring is required, making them a cost-effective business solar solution (wow, what a mouthful!) So far, the company says it has $1.2 billion in multi-year contracts in Europe and the U.S.

 For more information, see the Wired  post here. Or visit the New York Times here.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!
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