Urban Construction: Planning, Logistics and Challenges

During the current real estate cycle, big cities like Chicago have been abuzz with construction activity. However, that doesn’t mean they are the easiest places to build. Whether in the Loop or Edgewater, tight urban sites can create logistical challenges for any builder and unpredictable Midwest weather can set schedules back.

Summit project engineer, Gopal Pareek, breaks down the challenges his team faced at 6145 N. Broadway and the steps they took to overcome them.

By: Gopal Pareek

Merely 600 feet door to door from the Granville Red Line stands 6145 N. Broadway, what will soon be a 6-story transit-oriented development. With 105 units and just 45 parking spaces, the building is strategically located for tenants, however, its compact, urban site posed a challenge when starting construction. Summit worked closely with neighbors, the City of Chicago, subcontractors and the project team to establish a detailed logistics plan, keeping construction on schedule.

Location & Delivery Logistics

The project’s location on a major Chicago street posed the first challenge. Due to city regulations, Broadway could not be closed long enough for material deliveries, and the alley on the north side of the building was not wide enough to accommodate a 48-foot trailer stocked with cold-formed wall panels. It was critical to determine a delivery route that would cause minimal disruptions to the neighbors and on-site operations.

The first step required us to engage with the neighboring properties and tenants. It was ultimately decided that portions of the Walgreens and LA Fitness parking lots would be used to allow access for the trailer from Glenlake Avenue to the east alley. In addition to this, the plan also required:

  • a trial run with a similar sized trailer to ensure success and that the turn radius was not an issue,
  • removal of hurdles such as fencing, concrete curbs and landscaping, with a promise to the neighbors that any damage to their property would be corrected to their satisfaction, and
  • provisions for inclement weather, including a concrete island poured on top of the existing curb to avoid loaded trailers getting stuck in muddy areas due to rain or snow.

After paving a smooth way for material deliveries, the challenge at hand was to sequence them so that the critical path was not impacted. The team employed basics of pull planning and backed out the dates from the milestone of topping out the building. This process worked perfectly other than the days lost due to rain which were made up by crashing some activities and working Saturdays.

System Install

Not only did the logistics of delivery pose a challenge, but the supply and install of the cold form panels also tested the project team. Quick construction was the key to turning over and opening the project on time without impacting revenue. This meant selecting the best structural system that fit the schedule and that provided value for the client’s budget and ROI.

Given our knowledge of such systems and close relationships, we made a recommendation for the structural engineer and immediately went to work selecting the system. The cold-formed panelized framing system was the perfect solution as it is pre-fabricated, versatile and durable. The weight to strength ratio allowed us to use it for five floors of structural load bearing and non-load bearing walls for 64,000 square feet while keeping the supporting structures light.

We worked with i-Span Systems to install the framing, the first time in the Chicago market. As part of cost savings for ownership, engineering and supply of the system were kept separate. Thus, dealing with a new system and multiple stakeholders presented a challenge at the onset.

Through multiple coordination meetings with the engineer, architect and subcontractors, we ensured that we understood the design to avoid any surprises.

To install the system, the schedule included securing the perimeter of the poured floor, laying out wall locations, swinging wall panels, and installing the joists and deck for the next pour. We used all of our scheduled days to complete the second floor which was a learning curve for us. However, we were able to finish the upper floors ahead of schedule. This allowed us to get other trades inside the building to proceed with work as soon as all structural walls were up and exterior underground work was finished, all while adhering to OSHA requirements of maintaining two buffer floors.

Winter Conditions and Weather Delays

Construction of 6145 N. Broadway started in early November meaning that the height of foundation work and erection of masonry shafts was scheduled for the cold winter months. The team made provisions such as adding admixtures to the concrete for fast setting and blanket scaffolding for masonry workers to be productive. Even then, unpredictable weather presented challenges. For instance, our scaffolding blankets were torn apart due to high wind speeds.

All construction projects are susceptible to challenges and delays, some more than others due to logistics, schedules, weather and owner’s needs. At 6145 N. Broadway, we have faced our fair share but through out-of-the-box thinking, creative planning, and continuous coordination we have tackled them head on and on are schedule to deliver the project on time.

You can see more of 6145 N. Broadway in our project portfolio.