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    Correctional News: Construction's Current Changes & Challenges

    October 20, 2021

    by CN Staff

    Correctional News touched based recently with a pair of top execs with Balfour Beatty, Eric Stenman, president of Balfour Beatty US and Mike Macon, Balfour Beatty senior vice president of operations and business unit leader in Georgia, to take a deep dive into what their firm has seen recently with top construction trends, COVID's fallout, compelling projects and more.

    What are some of the biggest challenges presented by the pandemic for your firm, and how did you approach them? 

    The pandemic presented unique challenges for the construction industry including experiencing challenges around various guidelines issued by health agencies that were everchanging, along with conflicting mandates from states, counties and local governments. Our businesses had to sort through these mandates and protocols at a rapid rate and communicate with project teams to keep them highly coordinated and up to date with the evolving situation.

    Innovation and technology played an important role in keeping our connective culture intact, transforming the industry’s nontraditional ways of operating and shifting to a new normal where health screenings and modified work plans allowed for proper physical distancing. Through technology platforms we were able to implement remote work for office team members to support our field staff without missing a beat, implement virtual job walks with our clients and partners and further our Zero Harm commitment to safety through digital solutions that provided additional health and safety at work locations across the nation.

    In addition, the industry experienced supply chain impacts across the nation. To help procure high-demand materials, our company developed a COVID-19 supply index that provides up to date prices and availability of key materials and commodities, empowering our teammates to mitigate risk. We also assisted our subcontractors in staying in direct contact with manufacturers and suppliers so we could plan accordingly in the field due to longer lead times. 

    Our company has soldiered through the pandemic and built resilience into our business continuity plan and core competencies to limit the long-term impacts of COVID-19 or insulate from future crises. At Balfour Beatty, we believe that lean and agile practices are key to thriving times of change and challenge.

    -    Eric Stenman, president of Balfour Beatty US

    Were there lessons learned from the pandemic that your firm can apply to other building projects moving forward? 

    Every construction project is unique, and the pandemic gave us the opportunity to reconsider many of the traditional ways we build. COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to operate a large-scale matrix organization with a remote workforce, supporting our frontline project team members through virtual technology tools. This unique experience has given Balfour Beatty the opportunity to evaluate how we build remote/flexible work plans to our work program moving forward. It also taught us that meetings, document reviews and even inspections can be held virtually with our partners, reducing commute times for our teams and project partners and creating less time on the road and more time focused on our projects. 

    Enhanced sanitation and cleaning from COVID-19 safety measures has created a new normal at our jobsites. Our teams across the country have tested and implemented innovative solutions for the foreseeable future that keeps our workforce safe, healthy and available to continue the delivery of critical, essential work. These additional solutions include cleaning and disinfecting of materials, equipment and high-touch areas. Additionally, we’ve leveraged technology to create safe and healthy solutions for those who come in contact with our work including QR codes that link important jobsite materials, touchless doors and air system cleaning capabilities among other solutions. 

    Additionally, all project stakeholders have a heightened awareness around lead times and the pandemic has further demonstrated that the global supply chain can be very fragile. Our industry has seen this before in pockets, but never to the scale we have seen during the pandemic. Working collaboratively to remain present in key decisions and coordination efforts is critical so materials can be released earlier.

    -    Eric Stenman, president of Balfour Beatty US

    What do you think has been the most noteworthy project your firm has been involved in recently?

    Our teammates take great pride in our community involvement. One project that has special meaning for our team is the Atlanta Mission’s Restoration House project, a client who we have supported over the years. The project is a homeless shelter for women and children, many coming from abusive situations. The safety considerations and rehabilitation aspects of the project have called upon much of what we have learned in the corrections market over the years.  

    Another notable project is the Forsyth County Courthouse in Winston Salem, NC, which broke ground in March of this year. This project will expand the existing justice center by 50 percent and will include infrastructure allowing for state-of-the-art technology to be utilized to efficiently conduct judiciary operations and bring Forsyth community’s justice standards to the 21st century.

    -    Mike Macon, Balfour Beatty senior vice president of operations and business unit leader in Georgia

    In a nutshell, what do you think is the most crucial aspect of successful justice/corrections construction in 2021? 

    Availability of labor and materials is crucial in the delivery of construction projects. Material cost escalation has resulted from the pandemic and has created challenges for project budgets.  As with any justice or corrections project, the fundamentals of extensive planning commencing early in the construction process with a clear identification and understanding of the facility’s operational needs and long-term goals are critical to its success.  Those fundamental considerations allow for strategic analysis in planning the specialized make-up of the facility’s needs such as detention equipment and security electronics that are tailored to suit the client’s and community’s goals. These simple but crucial aspects foreshadow the overall and systematic project plan to identify the right partners with available labor force to deliver; the necessary materials to adequately forecast procurement needs; a communicated initiative to deliver a facility where there is no margin for error; and the construction methods set forth to withstand the extended lifecycle required of the justice and correctional market sector.  

    -    Mike Macon, Balfour Beatty senior vice president of operations and business unit leader in Georgia

    What do you see on the horizon for corrections/justice construction in the near future?

    Leveraging the latest developments in creating normative environments for rehabilitation rather than penal and punitive environments is a focus for the industry in delivering corrections and justice facilities. At Balfour Beatty, we saw this focus shift in the delivery of the Las Colinas Detention and Re-entry facility in San Diego where our project teams made it their priority to deliver a facility that encompasses an atmosphere of hope while maintaining security, safety and restraint. The goal of the design was to create a soothing environment to help reduce recidivism over time. The project sets a new standard for detention facility design that builds on the well-documented precept that the environment cues behavior, and that the character of the site development and the architecture can encourage productive interaction and outcomes. 

    -    Eric Stenman, president of Balfour Beatty US

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