How Lewis/LMN team used 3-D design and ‘pull’ planning to build $22M gym in half the time

Lease Crutcher Lewis compressed the schedule by using technology, rapid collaboration and lots of planning.

In basketball there’s a notorious conditioning drill called the suicide, where players repeatedly sprint up and down the court, each time racing a different distance. Like the name suggests, it requires an all-out effort.

General contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis’ $22 million replacement of the gym at Seattle’s Lakeside School was also all out to the finish. (Well, except no one was gasping for air or wondering if it would be Mom’s turn to drive the carpool after practice.)

Lewis project manager John Crichton said the plan early on was to construct the 63,500-square-foot building in phases, following a 22- to 24-month schedule. But the phased schedule would have required temporary construction and redundant utility work, adding time and cost.

So the project team looked for ways to compress the schedule, and came up with a taut, 10.5-month timeline.

The result, Crichton said, was “an evolution toward a better way to deliver projects” that relies on technology, rapid collaboration and lots of planning.

The two-story building, called the Paul G. Allen Athletics Center, was built on the site of the former Ackerley Athletic Center, and shares nearly the same footprint.

The school says the new building uses the space more efficiently.

It holds a fieldhouse, a gym that seats 800 spectators, a mat room for wrestling or yoga, strength and conditioning areas, an athletic training room, two standard classrooms, a large-group classroom, locker rooms, offices for coaching and teaching staff, and a large lobby.

LMN Architects was the designer. Other design team members were Coughlin Porter Lundeen, civil engineer; Magnusson Klemencic Associates, structural engineer; PAE, mechanical engineer; Sparling, electrical engineer; dark/light, lighting design; and Karen Kiest Landscape Architects.

The tight construction schedule allowed crews to get started with demolition last March at the conclusion of basketball season, and open the new building in time for students to play a full slate of home games in 2014.

The grand opening was on Jan. 10. Staff started moving in by mid-December.


Fluid communications 

Crichton credited using lean construction methods such as ‘pull’ planning to allow the team to make the most efficient use of its time. Lewis held weekly meetings and worked closely with subcontractors to make sure the project stayed on track.

Technology was another key component. Project team members could communicate using an online project-management system that enabled them to quickly respond to questions, review details and submit documents.

“It was great, fluid, open-door communication,” Crichton said.

Designers used Revit building-information modeling software to complete 3-D plans of the architectural, structural and MEP systems.

With everyone, including LMN Architects, using a 3-D design system to flesh out the building details “it was a much more efficient process,” Crichton said.

Most architects still use two-dimensional CAD renderings, he added.

By using Autodesk Point Layout laser scanning and Robotic Total Stations, one layout person with a handheld device could instantly compare completed construction with the 3-D drawing grid. Scanning during installation of the roof trusses, for example, ensured accurate placement even while trusses were being bolted in. Then another scan ensured that each span’s flex was within tolerance.

The system was faster and more accurate than traditional surveying methods, Crichton said, with fewer errors and better transference of designs in the field.

“We broke it out for this job,” he said. “Using (Autodesk) to transfer the model into the Robotic Total Stations was definitely more accurate, more efficient. That’s a new approach — the way of the future, for sure.”

Field-point files sent to Yakima Steel, the steel contractor, enabled the company to fabricate precisely measured piping, sleeves and other parts that could then be installed on-site with fewer adjustments.

“There’s less field modification, and that helps the schedule,” Crichton said.

Matt Komisarz, project manager for Holaday-Parks, the mechanical contractor, said the increasing use of 3-D modeling allows mechanical contractors “the ability to pre-coordinate building systems, including spool and fabrication drawings, allowing for just-in-time deliveries. This reduces the on-site field labor, maximizing efficient use of labor.”


Planning ahead 

The downside of tight scheduling can be felt when something goes wrong, so it’s important to plan ahead for when things go sideways.

“You’ve got to be realistic about the compressed schedule,” Crichton said. “Does it have enough contingency? You have to go in with your eyes wide open.

“Everyone has to be on the same page. You’ve got to flag long lead items on the schedule, and see that the procurement is set and managed.” If something goes wrong, “you need to understand what the impacts are going to be and have some planning in place.”

Komisarz said tight schedules have become the new normal.

“Owners expect design and construction to happen as quickly as possible,” he said. “Schools routinely have drop-dead dates in their schedule that are driven by the start of something, either the academic year or, in this case, the first basketball game.”

So expect to see more fast-break scheduling in the future.

“It requires more up-front work, where we’re planning ahead of time instead of responding as construction is happening,” Crichton said.

The front-end planning and shorter schedules also mean that projects such as Lakeside’s have more cost certainty, he said.

“As we’re able to produce metrics, more folks are buying in. It’s a better way to delivery any project going forward.”