When the owners of the New England Patriots football team decided to add a new office to a disused land next to their stadium, the project came to a halt with a major hurdle. Since the site is only a few feet away from a ramp that fans use to enter Gillette Stadium on game days, construction must take place when fans are not around so they are not walking steps from an active construction site. The ideal solution was to build all when no fans would be anywhere near the stadium. team owner, Craft GroupDecided to make it in the off-season.
It’s a fan-first approach, and one that sounds great on paper. But when it comes to actually building the building—a 120,000-square-foot four-story office building—six months off-season simply isn’t enough time. “A traditional building of this size could take at least 24 to 30 months, depending on its location,” says Michael Schroeder, a partner at the architecture firm. SGAwho designed the building.
Instead of throwing in the towel, SGA and The Craft Group narrowed the timeline to fit the off-season window. This required a combination of overlapping design and construction processes, pulling in contractors and engineers much earlier than usual, ordering materials before the design was finalized, and some good, old-fashioned team building.
“The schedule is really crazy,” says Schroeder, who leads SGA’s virtual design and construction practice, which focuses on using digital tools to improve the process behind complex projects. In most construction projects, designs are tweaked and reworked, engineering plans are revised, construction managers face budgetary issues, and each step along the way runs the risk of delays. Is. To overcome the crazy timeline, Schroeder developed a system for multiple sequential parts of the project to start at roughly the same time. “When we were in early design, we essentially had to have on board contractors,” he says.
So last summer, Schroeder and the Kraft Group convened a group of about 60 people who would be involved in various phases of the project, including designers, HVAC contractors, structural engineers, and construction companies, to put the whole thing together. This was partly to figure out how to line up each of their different schedules and priorities, but partly to create some synergy between parts of a team that would often be silent until the last minute. Huh. “It immediately breaks down barriers to communication and elevates trust,” Schroeder says. Keeping early-stage teams such as designers in the same room as general contractors helps late-stage implementers resolve disagreements before they arise.
To expedite project timelines, SGA developed a dashboard where all the various stakeholders can view a grand list of every part of the process and the next tasks that need to be completed. In the fall, Schroeder established a co-located work environment where members from each of the different teams could work side-by-side on the project. In a regular construction project, any issue or question that comes up between different teams is known as a request for information, which can take weeks to resolve. In a co-located environment, questions can be addressed much faster. While the system has been used in a physical location on other projects, the pandemic prompted the team to use video chat via Google Meet, with a large video chat open throughout the day. In fact, Schroeder says it has accelerated things significantly. “If a question comes up you just chat or talk face-to-face and you solve the issue,” he says.
The Crunched Timeline also gave rise to some unorthodox tricks, which involved ordering materials and equipment much earlier than a typical project. Schroeder says HVAC equipment takes a long time, so engineers and HVAC experts had to figure out how much cooling the building would need. And given the supply chain constraints, the project’s steel had to be ordered before it was clear how long each piece would need. It wasn’t really a problem, Schroeder says. The design showed what type of steel parts were needed and the total amount, and any cuts could be made at the building site once the blueprint was finalized.
And although all of these processes are happening simultaneously, the actual shovel-in-the-ground construction was still hampered by the team’s schedule. The builders couldn’t start construction until the season ended—and they didn’t know when it would. The end of the season was an unknown date until the Patriots lost their January 15 wild card playoff game. “It’s not like we want them to lose so we can start over,” Schroeder says. “But yeah, we’ll have to wait.”
But as soon as the season came to an end, the construction started in full swing. Schroeder says months of coordination and planning meant the project went quickly, and without unforeseen delays from subcontractors who tend to reduce their share of the job or debate the selection of materials. “We’re already working together, we worked together regardless of design, so there’s no misunderstanding,” he says. “We’re not going to second guess why we chose this metal instead of that metal, we’re not proposing all kinds of alterations and replacements.”
Overall, Schroeder says, the project is proceeding almost on auto-pilot. “It’s on time and on budget,” he says. Apart from some interior work, construction on the building will be complete until fans walk into the stadium for the Patriots’ first preseason game this season on August 11, almost a year after the project began and construction began. six months later. A typical building of this size and complexity would take at least two years, and construction alone is likely over a year.
However, there was a complication along the way. Schroeder says the owners decided a few months into the design process that perhaps the building should be six storeys instead of four. Such a substantial change would have been a major disruption to a finely crafted design and construction, so the idea was adapted. The foundation and structure of the building have been changed to allow the addition of two additional stories at a later date. Construction on those additional floors, Schroeder says, could happen a day after this season ends.