Go behind-the-scenes with our industrial machines team – Q&A with engineer Dan Goebel

DGoebel_04Dan Goebel – Industrial machines discipline lead, Evansville, Ind.

The aluminum mill needing a machine developed to tip a 30,000-pound aluminum ingot, the manufacturer searching for an apparatus to simultaneously coat both sides of roofing material, and the non-profit organization wanting to develop a custom power wheelchair all came to the same team for solutions: PCI Skanska’s Industrial Machines Group. Here, we catch up with Dan Goebel, the former Air Force F-15 crew chief who leads this engineering team of about 10.

We define industrial machines broadly: anything that’s not process piping and for which a novel mechanical solution is needed. Every time somebody says, ‘It’s not my specialty,’ and it’s mechanical, it comes to my team.

Our group focuses primarily on the metals industry, but we work with several other industries too, including power, pharmaceuticals, nutritional and some automotive. We plan to be a big part of the automotive industry’s shift to using more aluminum in vehicle bodies, such as with the Ford F-150 pickup.

A lot of clients prefer turnkey delivery: They want a partner to design the equipment, build it and support it once it’s running. Skanska is unique in that we offer all of those services.

One of the most interesting solutions we’ve developed is a machine that produces a specialty roofing material. The machine – weighing about 10,000 pounds – simultaneously coats one side of the material with waterproofing and the other side with adhesive. For three years, the client had been trying to find a way to do this at another plant, but couldn’t make it work. Then we came in and provided a turnkey solution that was exactly what they needed. All of our internal resources were tapped to make that happen.

Developing these machines requires knowledge of mechanical engineering, controls and automation, and often structural engineering as well to evaluate supporting frames and foundations. At the other extreme of our work is the power wheelchair we helped the Easter Seals charity develop. Electric wheelchairs generally have drive wheels in fixed positions and those locations – front, middle or rear – each offer certain advantages, such as being able to go over curbs or make tight turns. Our design enables the user to move the drive wheels, providing them with greater mobility than with a typical power wheelchair.

It’s very rewarding seeing my team develop and grow, and watching our design capabilities improve with each project.

As an F-15 crew chief, I oversaw maintenance for a squadron of 25 F-15s based at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. It was high stress and high visibility – and a lot of fun. That role taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic and acting with integrity.

I attended the Air Force Academy because I wanted to be a pilot. But the earliest I’d have been able to leave the service would be age 38, and I didn’t want to be starting a new career then. Whenever the Blue Angels flight squadron comes to Evansville, I wonder what it would have been like to be a fighter pilot. But all I have to do is look at my four kids to realize I made the right choice.

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Building bridges and getting to net zero: what we’re reading this week

How do you sum up a week like this past one? For a company with sustainability as one of its Core Values, the energy and impact of Climate Week has been tremendously heartening. One message that resonated with us came from President Obama’s address at the United Nations in New York City, where he spoke of the nation’s work to reduce carbon emissions, stating:

We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and our buildings and our appliances, all of which will save consumers billions of dollars. And we are committed to helping communities build climate-resilient infrastructure. These advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades — proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”

What about Climate Week stood out for you? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below or on Twitter with @SkanskaUSA.

Here’s what else we’ve been reading and thinking about this week:

Better offices mean better work

How productive were you this week? If the answer is “not very” – perhaps it’s the result of poor office design. A new World Green Building Council report (that we co-sponsored) found that office design can have a significant impact on staff health, wellbeing and productivity. As Skanska USA Chief Sustainability Officer Beth Heider noted, “The equation for our clients is very simple: a small percentage improvement in the health and productivity of your staff far outweighs any additional costs associated with commissioning or occupying a greener, healthier office. Giving employees the best possible conditions to perform and stay healthy is not only wise from a financial perspective, it’s just the right thing to do.”

Building a road map to net-zero

On Wednesday, 75 global leaders in sustainability joined Skanska, the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group and Track 0 at a Climate Week event at our Empire State Building flagship office in New York City to discuss the role of the built environment in moving toward a net-zero world. What was the biggest takeaway? The world of development, design and construction has a tremendous opportunity – with every project created – to make a huge difference in energy consumption and C02 emissions. Read the full recap, here.

Like magic, we made a bridge suddenly appear at this airport

Airports are some of the most challenging places to build. Since you cannot disrupt the flow of passengers or planes, projects require seamless coordination between numerous stakeholders – from the airlines, to airport operations and security. When our team at Philadelphia International Airport was tasked with erecting a pre-assembled baggage conveyor bridge over the main airport departure road, they had in less than eight hours to complete the project overnight before the airport re-opened. Sound impossible? Find out how they did it, here.

In Boston, a riveting bridge assignment

Skanska is proud to have worked on many prestigious bridges, including New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and Charleston, S.C.’s Cooper River Bridge. In Boston, our joint venture is restoring the 106-year-old Longfellow – or Salt and Pepper – Bridge. Our job is to replace the bridge’s structural elements while retaining its remarkable design features. With construction slated to finish in 2016, ENR gets an inside look at the project.

Putting builders in the driver’s seat for sustainability

Skanska’s Stacy Smedley is a leader in green building – she was the architect behind the design of our Bertschi School Science Classroom Addition in Seattle, the world’s fourth Living Building. Today, she is a preconstruction manager for sustainability, providing strategic guidance across Skanska projects in the Seattle area. Stacy makes sure that Skanska, as a builder and developer, is not just implementing green practices but leading the charge for innovation in green strategies and solutions. In the Daily Journal of Commerce, she explains how and why builders need to be – and can be – active participants in sustainability.

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How do we make the built environment part of a net-zero world?


As part of Climate Week, Skanska – along with the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group and Track 0 – hosted an event at our Empire State Building flagship office in New York City. Some 75 leaders  in government, sustainability and design – from the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister to the World Bank’s special envoy for climate change – came together to discuss the future of the urban environment and how we can move toward a net-zero world. This occurred the day after hundreds of world leaders gathered at the United Nations for the 2014 Climate Summit.

Harry Verhaar, Philips Lighting’s head of global public and government affairs, set the tone for the discussion at our office when he said, “We are past the tipping point.” A net -zero future is within sight and within reach. Here are some of the highlights from the discussion. 

Beth Heider, Skanska USA’s chief sustainability officer, spoke on the green transformation of the Empire State Building – and why that matters. When Skanska moved its flagship U.S. office to that skyscraper, we decided that the space should attain LEED Platinum certification. Our goal was to “walk the walk,” demonstrating that by retrofitting our offices to this higher green building standard, we would not only be lessening our environmental footprint but also recouping our investment and even saving money over our 15-year lease.

This green retrofit will reduce our electrical bill by $683,200 over the lease (a 57 percent cost reduction), reduce our carbon footprint by nearly 80 tons per year, and diminish sick leave by 15 percent. This decision paved the way for the Empire State Building’s owner to retrofit the entire building, and has demonstrated that green building can have major cost savings over a structure’s lifecycle and can greatly improve the health and well-being of its occupants. As Heider stated, our office retrofit shows that, “We have an opportunity, through individual spaces, aggregated together, to make a difference.”

Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, a non-profit dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, built on Heider’s presentation. He said that we’ve reached a seminal moment in history, in which, by promoting green building practices, we can “set out the agenda for built spaces for the next 100 years.” According to Mazria, 900 billion square feet will be added to the world’s existing building stock in the next decades. That’s equivalent to building a new New York City every five days. Fifty-three percent of that building will happen in China, the U.S. and Canada. With so much building poised to happen soon, now is the time to set the standards needed to make sure that it is done in a green and carbon-friendly way. Since Architecture 360 called for carbon neutral standards in 2006, there has been steady adoption from AEC professional groups, the federal government, states and cities. Thanks to this effort, “We’ve added 20 billion square feet of building stock, and we’ve saved over $4 trillion in energy costs.” As Mazria stated, “Design to better standards, we can save even more.” Architecture 2030 has laid out a Roadmap to Zero Emissions, which has been adopted by 124 global organizations and such cities as New York. Mazria’s paradigm shift is well underway.

Heider and Ferguson 1

Beth Heider, Skanska USA chief sustainability officer, and George Ferguson, mayor of the City of Bristol, UK, meet before the event.

George Ferguson, an architect and mayor of the city of Bristol, UK, offered some boots on the ground insight as to how roadmaps to zero emissions are being enacted around the world. Under Ferguson’s leadership, Bristol has been named a 2015 European Green Capital – this award recognizes cities that are making efforts to improve the urban environment and move towards healthier and sustainable living. Ferguson addressed the ways that city leaders – the doers as he called them – can push net-zero forward. He emphasized the need to act quickly, to make the roadmap digestible and fun, and to achieve quick wins that demonstrate the green building is not only good for the environment, but also more affordable.

Amory Lovins, chief scientist and chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit aiming to foster efficient and sustainable use of resources, echoed both Ferguson’s and Heider’s statements about the return on investment for net zero. In Denver, the retrofit of the historic Byron Rogers Federal Building has resulted in a 70 percent reduction in energy costs – making it one of the most energy efficient buildings in that city. As impressive as that may be, Lovins noted that it is only half as efficient as the next-generation of office buildings in the pipeline, demonstrating just how rapidly green building and the integrated design process is improving. As Lovins stated, more and more people are recognizing that “It’s easier to build things right than fix things later.” This ethos is “spreading quickly. It makes sense and saves money.”

To close, moderator Nicolette Bartlett of The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group invited the panel to share a final thought on Climate Week with the group. Here’s what they said:

“Partnership is the new leadership. We need to come together.” – Beth Heider, Skanska

 “Cities are where the change will happen.” – George Ferguson, The City of Bristol, UK

 “Everything is going to turn all right in the end, if it’s not alright now it’s not the end yet.” – Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute (paraphrasing John Lennon)

  “There’s a transformation on the way. When our daughter got her first bike, we made her wear a helmet. This was before everyone wore helmets and it was a struggle to get her to put it on. Then, as all the kids started wearing helmets, suddenly our daughter wouldn’t be caught without one. That’s what’s happening now with buildings. It’s going to be bad to build bad buildings.”   Ed Mazria, Architecture 2030

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Overnight, our team erects a new bridge at Philadelphia’s airport

After six months of detailed planning and intense coordination, our Philadelphia International Airport team last month erected a 91,000-pound, 100-foot-long pre-assembled baggage conveyor bridge over the main airport departure road in less than eight hours. While this was a very complicated activity, our team got it done smoothly, and even four days ahead of the original schedule for this milestone event.


To ensure that nothing would hamper the erection, our team had a variety of contingency plans in place. For example, while extensive surveys had been done to ensure that the anchor bolts on the bridge piers would match with the holes on the pre-assembled bridge, temperature changes and flexing caused by the lifting could have slightly varied the geometry. So before the lift, our team developed a procedure for field repairs that the structural engineer approved.

Also, this task done overnight at the airport required closing the departures road, but if an airport emergency occurred, emergency response vehicles might have needed to go beyond the construction area. So they built a temporary blacktop road for that use.

“This was truly a collaborative effort involving the airlines, Division of Aviation, airport operations, Philadelphia airport police, PennDOT, the construction manager, trade contractors, the design team and Inspectors,” said Brian Maguire, project director. “Thank you to everyone who helped make this event a tremendous success!”

This lift is part of a $44 million lump sum general contract we have with client US Airways. Our work also includes building a 35,000-square-foot bag-clam facility and 40,000 square feet of phased renovations to Terminal F and an adjacent connector.


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Introducing Constructive Thinking’s weekend edition

Welcome to Skanska Weekend Reading! The world of construction and development is constantly evolving: every week brings new ideas and concepts for how we can better deliver places and spaces that are more efficient, sustainable and engaging. Yet, in the rush of the workweek, it can be tough to find the time to digest all this information.

That’s where Weekend Reading comes in: this is designed to be our way of compiling and sharing the best stories and innovations we’ve discovered during the week. Think we’ve missed an important trend? Share it with us in the comments or tweet it to @SkanskaUSA. Happy reading!

As our latest Nemours project nears completion, looking back on what made this project special

Of everything that we build, hospitals are special projects, and children’s hospitals are even more special.  This was the case at our Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children project in Wilmington, Del., which the hospital showcased this past week as it nears completion. Our team took their mission to build a second home for patients and their families to heart. On this campus, children could watch construction from their rooms, so our team made sure to include them: this included inviting kids to participating in our morning Stretch and Flex activity or signing Happy Birthday to them over a two-way radio. This project included two new patient-care towers connected by a five-story atrium, designed to be a welcoming and relaxing space for patients, their families and whole hospital community. To ensure an efficient and safe building process, our team used multi-trade prefabrication methods to construct the towers’ headwalls, bathroom pods, dividing walls and nurse stations. Read more in the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Learn to build safely, in any language

PegasusWhen your project includes building a 110-foot statue of the mythological Pegasus stallion fighting a fire-breathing dragon, you need to be prepared to tackle some unique building challenges. For our team at the Pegasus Park project in South Florida, one challenge including integrating a team of 38 craft workers from China into our Injury-Free Environment® culture. Since the craft workers didn’t speak English, it was up to the team to establish frameworks for safety that transcended the language barrier. Check out their story here.

LEEDing the way in energy efficiency
How has LEED increased energy efficiency in buildings over the last decade? GreenBiz offers a deep dive into 10 years of LEED that offers important insight into the way that improvements in LEED building standards have increased average design efficiency across the industry. LEED works – by motivating AEC professionals to design and build better buildings.

Is this the hardhat of the future?
Digital tools like iPads have had a huge impact on the way we do our jobs. Could the next transformation come in the form of a high-tech hard hat?  Business Insider reveals what could be the hardhat of the future – a “smart helmet” that provides “laptop computing power at a glance,” so you can access measurement apps, scheduling apps, maps, cameras, and more without having to use your hands!

Go behind-the-scenes on construction at Charleston’s Gaillard Center
The Gaillard Center is Charleston, S.C.’s center for art and music. Today, our team is in charge of building the city’s biggest construction project in a half-century: delivering an expanded and improved 250,000-square-foot Gaillard, featuring a new 1,800-seat performance hall.  The Charleston City Paper got a sneak preview of this building with its intricate limestone work and special acoustical considerations, as our team pushes forward on the project’s spring 2015 opening.

Prince Charles and Skanska team up to fight climate change
This Wednesday, the day after the United Nation’s Climate Summit in New York City, we’ll join the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group in urging government leaders to take concrete action to reduce carbon emissions. We’re excited and proud to be playing an important part of this effort that reflects our core value of sustainability. As part of this effort, we’re joining with the Prince’s organization and Track 0, an initiative driving action for zero emissions, to host a special event on what net zero could mean for cities at our flagship office in the Empire State Building. Said our Chief Sustainability Officer Beth Heider: “Climate change is a critical issue that is increasingly influencing major business decisions. By setting clear and binding energy efficiency targets, in the context of a coherent and ambitious overall climate change and energy security strategy, governments would send the right signal to businesses wanting to invest.”

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Finding a common language in safety

Our project sites’ increasing diversity is providing a great need – and a great opportunity – to develop effective ways of communicating with workers speaking limited or no English. Bridging any language divide is particularly critical regarding safety.

Our Pegasus Park project team in South Florida faced both of these challenges, as 38 craft workers came from China to assemble the project’s centerpiece: a 110-foot-tall statue of the mythological Pegasus stallion fighting a fire-breathing dragon. Those workers – there to perform specialized work – only spoke Chinese.

Given those circumstances, how did our team develop a strong project safety culture, and what was most helpful to the Chinese workers regarding that? Below, we hear from Analyn Nunez, Skanska’s environment, health and safety coordinator who is responsible for day-to-day safety leadership on the project site. Following that, Wei Ensheng, a project manager with trade contractor Yuda, shares his thoughts on the project’s safety culture through Li Yang, a translator.


This team worked safely despite language differences (from left): Li Yang (translator), Analyn Nunez (Skanska EHS coordinator), Wei Ensheng (Yuda project manager) and Chai Weibin (translator).

Skanska’s Analyn Nunez

What has been key to ensuring safety on this project? 

Communication is most important. So that the Chinese workers complied with all safety requirements, we found it was crucial to have at least two translators on the job site every day. But just having translators isn’t enough. Instead, we have worked to build positive relationships with the translators – they’ve become part of my safety team. Numerous times I’ve walked the site with them to train them and show them what I look for on my inspections. By seeing me doing safety walks with the translators, it’s clear to the Chinese workers that safety is Skanska’s top priority. Also, the translators have been amazing at assisting in all new worker orientations, as well as with various safety trainings.

How do you keep the project’s native Chinese speakers engaged on safety?

Stretch and Flex has become a key time to communicate with the Chinese employees. After these pre-work morning group exercises, I always – with the help of the translators – talk to the whole crew to share with them any safety issues that I might have observed or any safety topics that need to be addressed. Additionally, l continually walk the jobsite each day, and for those I make sure at least one of the translators is present in case we need to address any safety issues.

Being bilingual with English and Spanish helps me interact with different cultures and languages. On previous jobs, I’ve found that when safety forms are in workers’ native language, communication increases between the crews and Skanska as construction manager. What I mean by this is that if a translator fills out the pre-task plan, often the rest of the crew isn’t involved – that’s not good, as with work conditions changing every day, everyone’s input is needed. At Pegasus Park, we had all the safety forms translated to Chinese and Spanish to get all trade workers involved. Beyond increased understanding of what we’re asking the teams to do, this helps create conversations between the crews.

How do you make sure native Chinese speakers feel like they can share their safety concerns effectively?

I have tried to establish personal relationships with the workers, and I have taken the time to learn such simple Chinese words as those for hi, thank you, great job and safety – although the workers need to remind me of the correct pronunciations every day! But by doing this, I have opened a channel of communication: If they see me walking on the site, they will smile at me and start pointing at all their safety equipment, showing me that they are in compliance. At the same time, when I have a safety concern and there is no translator around, by using hand signals and pictures on my iPhone I try to explain what’s wrong and how to fix it. Trust me, communicating this way is not easy, but I can manage to get my point across.

Most importantly, by making an effort to get to know the workers, they know if they have a safety concern, all they have to do is go get the translator and find me. We have spent numerous times creating pre-task plans together, translating all safety forms and planning their work with other trade contractors.

Anything else you would like to share about this effort?

The Chinese employees on the Pegasus jobsite are role models. They have taken to heart the Skanska Injury-Free Environment® culture, especially how everyone on site needs to look out for each other. Even though the Chinese can’t directly speak with the other crews – those speaking English, German and Spanish – you’ll see the Chinese smiling and opening lines of communication by using their smart phones. They’ll speak into the phone, and the translate app will convert their words to English or another language. It’s amazing: They have figured out not only how to communicate, but also how to become part of the team.

Walking around the site, it’s great to see people of such different cultures laughing and working together! That, to me, is very satisfying, because at the end of the day the IFE culture is making sure all workers go home safely at the end of the day. And I can assure you the relationships that have been built on the Pegasus Park project will make this happen: We have each other’s back.


Chinese team members plan to continue doing Stretch and Flex when they return to China.

Yuda’s Wei Ensheng

How is safety generally viewed on commercial construction sites in China?

In China, while people pay a lot of attention to safety issues, enforcement is a lot less strict than here in America. There aren’t full-time safety specialists walking around.

Also in China, safety equipment generally includes hard hats, gloves, harnesses, steel-toe boots and glasses. But there, safety glasses typically aren’t worn all the time, and certainly not under welding helmets and face shields as we have to do here at Pegasus Park. And the harnesses are usually fixed lanyards, like ropes: unlike in the U.S., retractable lines that absorb impacts aren’t used.

Also, scaffolding is safer and of better quality in the U.S. Scaffolds in China are sometimes made out of bamboo planks and steel pipes, and they don’t have to be fully planked to work on as they are here.

Did you find it helpful to have the pre-task plan and other forms translated into Chinese?

That was very helpful. It helps us communicate with each other before starting work and helps us plan better.

What was your first impression of Stretch and Flex?

It was a little weird at the beginning. Now, we’re used to it. In China, we only clean the site before starting work for the day.

Are there any safety practices from Pegasus Park that you hope to continue using back in China?

I want to apply your standards for working in confined spaces. In China, there are no strict requirements for ventilation in closed spaces. It’s mostly that if a worker going inside a confined space feels that something is wrong, then a fan is installed. But there are not air quality monitors like here in the U.S.

Also, I will emphasize safety requirements during pre-task planning as you do here. In China, we do pre-task planning but it focuses on carrying out the work to be done.

And Stretch and Flex is very impressive. I will do this back in China.

Are there any Chinese approaches to safety that could benefit us here in the U.S.?

There’s some good to be had in how China is more flexible regarding safety. For example, when we got here we were required to wear a Tyvek body suit while applying patina chemicals to the statue’s bronze exterior. That caused us to sweat all the time, making it hard for us to do our job. We were grateful that Skanska was open to further studying this risk, and we ended up being able to wear our thinner welding jackets instead.


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What you missed from the Build America Infrastructure Investment Summit

American infrastructure is in great need of investment, and it will take strong political leadership to make meaningful improvements. As one step toward that larger goal, it was great that the Obama Administration on October 9 hosted the Infrastructure Investment Summit to rally support for the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide effort launched in July to advance the U.S. market for public-private partnerships. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of the Department of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew were among those who spoke at this D.C. event to an audience that included leaders from state and local governments and businesses, including Skanska.

While this entire event was great, our favorite part was directly related to Skanska’s latest P3, the I-4 Ultimate project for which our I-4 Mobility Partners team is providing finance, design, construction, operations and maintenance services to reconstruct and widen 21 miles of Interstate 4 through Orlando, Fla. Before the crowd, Foxx announced a $950 million Transportation Department loan to help pay for this project. This is the largest loan that the U.S. DOT has awarded to a public-private partnership, and is a significant step forward for P3s in America.

In case you missed this event, below is the conversation about it from social media.

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Keeping the “ring of risk” in the middle

Brad Pollitt has dedicated his career to healthcare design and construction, having since 1989 overseen University of Florida Health/Shands’ more than six million square feet of facilities. With planning underway for Skanska’s second hospital for UF Health/Shands – the $225 million expansion for their hospital’s cardiovascular/neuroscience programs – we talked with Pollitt about succeeding through integrated teams and the future of healthcare project delivery.

Brad Pollitt, vice president of facilities University of Florida Health/Shands – Gainesville, Fla.
Brad Pollitt, vice president of facilities
University of Florida Health/Shands – Gainesville, Fla.

How do you select project partners?

I take great care in interviewing the people that want to work with us. I want not just a corporate commitment, but a personal commitment too. We hire people, not companies.

What’s something you do to bring project teams together?

Construction projects have what I call the ring of risk. The ring starts out in the center of the table, with everybody generally knowing how much risk they have to own. But traditional construction delivery is antagonistic, and soon everybody is pushing on the ring to try and keep it away from them. If everyone pushes equally, the ring stays in the middle and everyone knows where they are. But not all companies and not all people are equal, so the ring eventually begins to slide. And then you see adverse and unexpected behaviors as people do what they can to get it back in the middle. You end up with the ring moving all over, causing uncertainty in a project and putting someone in a losing situation.

On the UF Health/Shands Cancer Hospital that was completed in 2009 with Skanska, the overall project team decided that if for some reason the ring of risk started to shift, everyone would work together to put it back in the middle of the table. I’d see this in action over and over again: one of the assistant superintendents would work with the engineer or the architect to help solve a problem. If money was involved, we as the owner would pitch in too. We all worked together to maintain the project’s schedule, its quality and its ultimate success.

What do you predict about the future of delivering healthcare facilities?

With capital becoming less available to healthcare providers, we have to get smarter about delivering facilities. Every hospital out there is a one-off with a unique design. And while we’re prefabricating select areas of projects – such as headwalls, bathrooms and overhead MEP system racks – those are still unique designs. The next step is having a selection of maybe five patient bathroom types from which hospitals nationwide can choose. Maybe we can do the same thing for operating rooms too. Creativity is good to a point, but efficiency is becoming more important to healthcare providers.

Shands_Interior_surgery 3
Industry-standard designs for operating rooms and patient bathrooms should help increase the efficiency of healthcare facility delivery, Pollitt said.

What’s something that design and construction professionals may not realize about those wearing the owner’s hat?

For the outside people we hire to work on a project, their day job is designing or constructing buildings. For the medical professionals or physical plant staff or even the executives who support these projects from the owner’s side, they’re doing so in addition to their full-time jobs – whether that’s caring for patients or operating buildings or so on. While our people may know a lot about open-heart surgeries, for example, they don’t know a lot about constructing buildings. All they know is their hospital is about to spend a lot of money on a project, and with so much money on the line, they need to trust you.

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Unlikely partners in green building


News broke yesterday that the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Chemistry Council will be working together to improve LEED, the foremost green building certification system. That’s a partnership that personally matters a lot to me.

Creating buildings that have minimal environmental impacts – and that even seek to improve the health of those living and working inside – requires more than just inspired clients, designers and builders. Doing so also requires manufacturers that are committed to producing harm-free building materials.

But as you may recall, for too long the chemistry council had been working against LEED, believing that material transparency requirements in the recent LEED version 4 might result in fewer chemicals used in buildings. Last year, a group affiliated with the ACC – and supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – proposed language that would effectively ban the use of LEED in federal buildings, unless certain chemical-related LEED provisions were removed.

What a difference a year makes. In this new partnership, LEED will benefit from the materials expertise of ACC and its member companies. We believe this has the potential to be transformational. And it’s much more than we hoped for last year, when Skanska publicly pulled out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest its support of the chemistry council’s activities.

That powerful chemical companies with their sizeable research and development budgets are working for LEED, rather than against, is tremendous. When companies like those get behind green, it should really propel green building materials forward – and help others see that doing what’s good for a sustainable future is generally good business.

The USGBC refers to LEED as a big tent in which all are welcome. There’s no better example of that than this partnership.

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Michael McNally

posted by Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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This Calatrava masterpiece comes to life – exactly as envisioned

This Saturday, Florida’s first STEM-focused college, Florida Polytechnic University, will mark its formal opening and the beginning of the 2015 school year. The Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building that is the centerpiece of the campus was designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and built by Skanska, as part of a collaborative team of numerous design and construction partners.

You might be impressed by the project’s facts: this 160,000-square-foot structure was completed on-time and within the strict $60 million budget. This was accomplished despite such immense challenges as 90 percent of the structure being on a radius and having to find a way to build never-done-before louver arms that rise up to 12 stories above grade, and then hydraulically lower – all to ensure the optimum amount of daylight enters the building. And importantly,  there were no lost-time injuries over the four years of work,  thanks to each team member staying highly engaged.

But what made this project really special was the intense trust developed between the designers and our construction team, how every craft worker understood they were creating a structure of which they could be forever proud, and how through our team’s hard work to truly understand Calatrava’s intent for the project so they could convey that to our trade partners, the IST building has been delivered exactly in line with Calatrava’s original vision. It’s rare that that happens, even more so on a project like this.

“Completing this project makes my team and I feel extremely happy and at the same time somewhat sad,” said Chuck Jablon, the Skanska vice president who has overseen this project from the beginning. “This Skanska team wishes it would never end. We felt challenged every day and each day brought our team closer together, as everyone had different skill sets that we all relied on to overcome the greatest of opportunities. I am most proud of each and every one of my Skanska team members and look forward to see how they continue with the knowledge and experience gained on this magical modern marvel of the 21st century.”

So before the crowds arrive for tomorrow’s celebration, we invite you to explore this building.


The butterfly-like aluminum louver arms are raised to let in the evening sun. Of the design, Jablon said, “You can’t tell me that this design hasn’t captured you. Calatrava captures your curiosity on the drawings alone. Then, when you start building it and you see it evolve, he gets your heart. And when the building is far enough along so you can see the full design realized, he’s damn sure captured your soul.” (Credit for all photos: Macbeth Photography)


Construction was a collaborative process, in which Skanska focused on engaging all the stakeholders in the construction and design process from beginning to end. As Scott Judy of ENR writes, we worked to “break down traditional silos of silence between the design and construction team.”


Inside, the roof’s exposed underbelly reveals concrete rakers that converge at an apex containing a skylight. A grand staircase takes center stage. Throughout the building, the concrete is clean and crisp – which required tremendous attention to detail and concrete craftsmanship from our team.


The complex rooftop system is supported by a concrete ring beam – 72 inches deep and 30 inches wide – that encircles the interior of the second floor’s grand common area. On the building’s radii, each column rotates on another angle. This building has about 300 radius points, with an incredible 90 percent of everything done on a radius. As Jablon said, “You see the radius – do you feel it?”


Calatrava designed the building to inspire students with a sense of optimism: “My first aim is to make an inspirational environment for the students and the professors and everyone working here.”


Executing this design required forging a sincere bond between Skanska and Calatrava’s team. “This has been one of the best relationships I’ve had professionally with a contractor,” said Frank Lorino, chief architect of Calatrava’s New York office. “It hasn’t been without disagreement, but we know we’re both working for the same goal – the highest quality of project possible for the means that we have.”


The building’s exterior is wrapped by a pergola of lightweight aluminum trellis that covers walkways and gathering spaces. In addition to being visually stunning, the pergola also helps the building function efficiently, reducing the structure’s solar load by 30 percent.


The building’s amphitheater showcases the team’s craftsmanship. So much of the building’s detail is understated: from the rotation of the columns, to the quality of the concrete pours and the challenging patterns cut into the floors. As students embark on their STEM education, they’ll appreciate the work that went into achieving these features even more.


Jablon and the Skanska team relished the building process. “I wanted to do it,” he said. “If you’re a builder, this is what you dream about doing in your career. It’s an opportunity to take your experience and your knowledge and gather people you’ve worked with throughout your career and say, ‘Friends, we’ve got one. We’ve got what we’ve been dreaming about our whole career.’ That’s what it is about.”

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