Technology keeps massive project on track
At a cost of $189 million, Aurora Health Care’s new 802,000-square-foot medical center in the town of Summit was a massive project with many moving parts.
And with that much money on the line, builders were anxious to keep the project on track. But there was some question over how best to do that.
The project’s construction manager, Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson Co., has extensive experience with Virtual Design Construction and Building Information Modeling, both of which were used to keep the project on course. Relying so heavily on technology to complete the massive project was initially hard for some of the less experienced subcontractors, however.
“Some were a little skeptical at first,” said Roberta Oldenburg, the project’s integrated construction coordinator for Mortenson.
But as the smaller firms learned more about BIM and VDC, most became enthusiastic, she said. The contractors soon realized a coordinated system gave them a new level of confidence in the drawings, she said, and freed up their time.
The computer modeling allowed many components — including steam piping, ductwork and sprinkler systems — to be fabricated off-site and brought to the project in large pieces. Creating those pieces in a controlled environment saved time and increased quality, Oldenburg said. As each piece was fitted into the building, it came together like a puzzle, she said.
Though there was an added cost to the project for incorporating the technology — extra money for buying software and hiring people to use it — Andy Ostrand, Mortenson construction manager, said the company believes cost is more than offset by the efficiencies.
“You’re not having to go back to fix changes after installation,” he said.
As Oldenburg updated changes using the technology, errors and conflicts were immediately identified by all of the contractors and designers. At one point, the technology led to the critical discovery of an issue in the operating rooms moments before ductwork was set for prefabrication. When Oldenburg spotted the problem, prefabrication was stopped and work in the area was put on hold. If that had not happened, a costly remodel might have been the result.
Especially crucial in a hospital setting, Oldenburg said, the technology ensured every embedded steel plate was in the correct place so medical equipment could be mounted where needed and systems operated correctly.
“We modeled everything,” Ostrand said, “as comprehensively as I’ve ever seen.”