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Tacoma Convention and Trade Center

November 12, 2004

Sticking to schedule, bound to the budget

  • Design-build contracts, frequent reviews helped contractors to manage the convention center project.
    M.A. Mortenson Co.

    Photo courtesy of M.A. Mortenson Co
    The Tacoma convention center was completed two months ahead of schedule.

    The newest world-class conference and meeting center in the Pacific Northwest was delivered ahead of schedule.

    Trademark 45-degree glass walls, breathtaking mountain and water views, impressive architectural details and high-quality interiors are just a few features of the newest anchor in the heart of downtown Tacoma.

    Before construction

    In order to receive the most responsive and accurate bids from trade contractors, Mortenson, the general contractor/construction manager, had extensive constructability reviews early, assisting the design team on issues pertaining to water infiltration, durability, scope gaps and required detailing.

    This review was completed at various design phase intervals including 50 percent, 75 percent and final design documents. The process also included estimating services to ensure that the design was concurrent with the original budget set for the project, and that value engineering options were set to help the city manage its budget.

    Also, in order to meet the original schedule, Mortenson worked with the city and the design team to allow major portions of the design to be handled by the trades. This design-build approach was implemented on mechanical, electrical, plumbing, curtain wall and exterior wall construction and secondary support for the pre-cast spandrel panels.

    Quality assurance

    Trade package management included changes to scope as well as value engineering options in order to help the city manage its funds. An extensive quality-assurance/quality-control program was used to ensure that the work put in place was consistent with the contract documents and the expectations of the city.

    This process involved not only the general contractor, but the city, Krei Architecture, MulvannyG2 Architecture and trade contractors.

    Pace of progress

    The convention center's first phase encompassed approximately 236,000 square feet, with the potential to double in size in a future phase. The ultimate size of the convention center determined how to design it without destroying the scale of the community.

    Approximately 229,000 square feet of enclosed building space was completed, along with 53,270 square feet of unenclosed building space, 72,799 square feet of enclosed parking and 86,153 square feet of unenclosed parking — for a grand total of 439,671 square feet of completed construction and a parking area large enough for 637 stalls.

    Construction began on Dec. 9, 2001 with the earthwork activities. Footings and foundations were completed by early summer of 2003. Structural steel was "topped out" on Sept. 12, 2003, and the facility quickly became a grand new addition to the downtown skyline.

    Building enclosure systems followed, including roofing, curtain wall and metal wall panel systems. Once enclosure was achieved, interior finishes proceeded throughout summer and fall of 2004, with substantial completion in September — two months ahead of schedule.

    Sequencing challenges

    The structural steel design was about 75 percent complete at time of bid. This created several problems associated with the sequence of construction.

    The steel had to be sequenced in a way that not only accommodated the available completed design areas, but also allowed other trades to work in completed areas safely and efficiently.

    Innovative practices

    By using salvaged crushed masonry for structural backfill and temporary road base, we were able to save nearly $180,000 and contribute to the environmental sustainability of the project.

    Also, several concerns regarding water infiltration were identified as a result of the constructability reviews.

    Mortenson managed several trades as design-build contracts in order to maintain the projected completion date of September 2004. Coordination was conducted on a floor-by-floor basis in order to ensure the evolution of the architectural design was consistent with the mechanical, electrical and plumbing requirements.


    Mortenson participated extensively in the city's Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) program as well as the Local Employment Apprenticeship Program (LEAP). We have secured over $2 million in HUB participation and logged over 30,000 man-hours of LEAP participation.

    Maureen Dilley is a senior project manager at M.A. Mortenson Co.

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