Named consistently as a top state in the nation for business, Georgia, like many other states, still experiences a gap between jobs available and the skillsets required to fill those jobs. To help bridge that gap, Georgia Northwestern Technical College sought funding to enlarge its Whitfield County campus to support developing business growth in the surrounding area.
This expansion allowed the campus to increase service to 4,000 students and broaden offerings to programs such as chemical technology, machine tool technology, computer information systems, criminal justice, diesel mechanic, engineering technology and welding. Working with the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), Georgia State Financing Investment Council (GSFIC), the College and local leaders, Balfour Beatty was retained as the construction manager for the new facility.
Minimizing Unavoidable Impacts
No matter how much planning a team conducts ahead of project mobilization, one of the largest contributing factors to project delays, the weather, is unpredictable. On the Whitfield Murray project, where the area saw more rain than it had in 15 years, the impact could have been devastating. Working diligently to mitigate rainfall impacts, Balfour Beatty claimed only 19 days—less than 9% of the 214 days allotted for weather delays.
Though weather alone would have pushed the project well beyond the planned opening, our team was able to incorporate close to $3 million of the owner and architect-initiated change orders with minimal schedule impacts. And when asked to manage over $1 million in scope outside of the original contract, such as the installation of donated flooring, our team remained engaged to help the project across the finish line. An amazing feat, we kept the overall delays to 45 days, even preserving a 30-day window for the College to acclimate to its new space ahead of class start.
It’s Contingent on Early Planning
Many in the industry point to the benefits of early planning and preconstruction. On this project, Balfour Beatty leveraged our knowledge of the local marketplace and internal resources to retain 81% of the contractor contingency (nearly $429,000) and return it to add value to the project.
This contribution was made possible through a thorough buy-out of the job and a deep understanding of project elements, such as the glass façade and changing roof elevations, which were some of the project’s main cost drivers. Our team’s proactive management of the contractor contingency helped the project overcome challenges that arose later related to the welding lab, underground provisions for future campus expansion and supported many miscellaneous contributions to the enhancement of the facilities overall program.
Asking the Right Questions
When it comes to construction and acting on the owner and end-user’s behalf, every question is worth asking. On this project, we asked more than 500 questions (double what is expected on a project of this size). As an advocate for the College, we spent time checking and rechecking work, drawings and details to ensure every need was met and that the owner was provided the best environment to maximize operations and most importantly, be able to effectively educate tomorrow’s workforce.
Balfour Beatty understands the potential impacts our projects can have on a local economy. We work diligently to buy local when possible and always give back to the surrounding community. On this project, with the generous support of our trade partners, we made a $30,000 donation to Make-A-Wish Georgia and brought in the local Boys and Girls Club to walk the site and provide insight into jobs in technical fields.
Every construction project is fraught with its own unique set of challenges. It is how contractors manage those challenges and advocate for the owner that leaves a lasting impression. On the Whitfield Murray project at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, we can truly say we rose to the challenge.