It’s time to make MLB stadiums safer

Late this summer, an Atlanta Braves fan fell 40 feet to his death at Turner Field, after falling over the upper deck railing above home plate. This is not the first incident of someone being killed or seriously hurt at a major league ballpark in recent years – or even this season. But it needs to be the last.

As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, a father to four kids who also love baseball, and someone who has worked in the sports construction and design industry for more than 25 years, it is becoming more and more apparent that we simply cannot wait until more fans die to change the stadium guidelines. Currently, there are no official stadium design guidelines adopted by Major League Baseball. Design standards have historically evolved over time within the league, typically with the latest and greatest stadium setting the new standards. The time is now to implement new, official policies that will both preserve the integrity of the game and make the experience safer for everyone. Here are three first steps that I think can be taken to achieve this:

Rethink railing codes

The International Building Code regulation for front-row railing height in front of fixed seating is only 26 inches, a standard that was put into place in 1929 (though some stadiums install railings above the minimum height). While 26 inches may seem safe while sitting, once a fan stands up and walks in front of other fans on the way to the aisle, he or she has to be very careful as the rail is lower than one’s center of gravity – even the slightest bump could lead to going over the rail. As the Atlanta incident showed, a railing of that height makes it all too possible to fall over. On the other hand, all railings in front of aisle steps require a 42-inch railing. If a person is walking down the stadium steps and trips or loses his or her balance, the railing is above the average person’s center of gravity, and thus the railing can safely break the fall.

To further make my case, when Skanska is building a stadium, we use 42-inch railings where there is a fall hazard during construction in any seating deck overhang to protect our crews. These safer construction railings are eventually replaced by the shorter 26-inch front row railings, which meet IBC standards and preferred sight lines. Shouldn’t the millions of fans receive the same level of protection as our construction crews?

Some people fear increasing the railing height will impact game views if traditional pipe rails are used. However, structural glass railings can be installed and still preserve the game-watching experience and prevent falls. Glass railing technology has improved greatly in recent years and is often used in premium seating areas, so why not use them in general seating areas as well? Isn’t the added expense worth the cost to ensure fan safety? The evidence is clear: Major League Baseball should require the front rows of cantilevered seating decks to have a 42-inch railing.

Regulate minimum backstop netting height

Baseball Backstop Net

Surprisingly, there is no prescribed height for backstop netting. The only rule is that it must be installed. Without a determined height, nearby fans are not necessarily protected from balls in action. The nets used to extend to the press box at an angle, so foul balls would roll back down to the field. However, when the 1994-1995 MLB strike occurred, ending the season early over players’ salaries, stadiums removed this netting the following season to draw fans back into the stands with the hopes that they could catch foul ball pop-ups. Catching a foul ball is part of the game experience, but when line drives go into the stands, it’s a different, dangerous story. The height of the net is generally determined by the height of the home plate camera, but fan safety should prevail over television broadcasts.

At the very least, MLB needs to come forward and determine a minimum netting height, somewhere in the 25- to 30-foot high range to protect spectators and employees who are navigating the aisles and tending to fans.

Increase the backstop netting distance down each foul ball line

The rules of baseball do not specify how long backstop netting should extend. Over time, this length has varied with each new stadium. Eventually, a general guideline was accepted: the edges of the backstop netting should align with the foul ball lines, meaning that currently there is only netting behind the home plate in most stadiums. To protect fans, it should be extended down the first and third base lines.

For example, some recent stadium designs have located premium seating between the edge of the netting and the home plate end of the dugouts, meaning these fans are both close to the field and not protected by netting. Dugout configurations vary in each stadium, but they are always located between home plate and first and third bases, beyond where most backstops end. These seats are great for watching the game, but it’s important to ensure these fans are out of harm’s way from foul balls, since the protective netting often does not extend to this point.

Another group of fans that are at risk are those in the front rows. The first row of seats in some ballparks is between 52 and 60 feet from home plate. This is even closer than the pitcher, who is 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. In 2013, the average MLB pitch reached 92 mph, which gives people not even half a second to react. And with a baseball often reaching over 120 mph when leaving the bat, this gives spectators less time to move out of the way. Add to this fact that fans are often distracted as they socialize or eat, and aren’t always paying as close attention as they should be to the pop-ups and foul balls that fly over the backstop net. It is quite telling when most MLB players won’t even allow their families to sit outside of the netting for fear of a ball hitting them.

It is time to establish a new requirement for backstop nettings, one that is consistent in all ballparks. Backstop netting should be extended down each foul line until they align with first and third base. Limited backstop netting, wicked line drive foul balls and an occasional flying broken bat and distracted fans add up to a recipe for disaster.

As the great American pastime, baseball is among the last affordable family entertainment, especially as ticket prices in other sports rapidly increase. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to protect the fans – they want to get close to the action, and hear the players and the crack of the bat. But families won’t take their kids to a game if they feel their families are not safe. It took the 2002 death of 13-year-old girl from a puck that flew over safety glass for the National Hockey League to update its netting regulations. Today, this netting has become accepted as just another part of the game. We cannot wait for a similar incident to happen in a MLB stadium. Action must be taken before another innocent life is taken for the love of the game.

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Tom Tingle

posted by Tom Tingle

Skanska USA senior vice president and national director, Sports and Entertainment Center of Excellence

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These 3 emerging technologies may help improve jobsite safety

Skanska is relentless in our efforts to ensure that project sites are injury-free, and a key aspect of that is developing, testing and evaluating solutions intended to reduce risk and prevent incidents. Below are three such technologies we’re currently exploring. For an even deeper dive, we’ll be discussing some of this at ENR’s FutureTech East Conference September 30 to October 1 in New York City.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) ties construction processes and safety protocols together by harnessing the potential that comes from being immersed in a 3-D environment: there’s no need to imagine a safety scenario when you’re able to physically experience a space that may not yet be built. Our virtual reality and gaming journey has included conducting research with the University of Washington and Virginia Tech, testing cave automatic virtual environments – better known by the acronym CAVE – and determining the possibilities of smart helmets such as DAQRI, an augmented reality helmet that projects data and models directly onto a hands-free display to provide intuitive instructions for jobsite teams. We’re excited about where we are today with this: employing technology to find better ways to achieve injury-free environments.

A great example of this is how we’re seeking to leverage VR to improve the Global Safety Stand Downs we hold whenever a serious incident occurs on any of our projects. Today, this important aspect of our safety culture involves our teams, company-wide, stopping work to discuss what occurred, sometimes with 3-D renderings of the incident scene supporting those conversations. But imagine how much more effective these stand downs would be if they included interactive animations of what happened. Even better, what if – through gaming technology – you could make choices, possibly leading to a different outcome in the animation? By engaging people on so many levels, VR enables learning via empathy since it places individuals at the center of the experience, which is quite powerful. Creating a library of interactive safety simulations is a current focus of ours, and we’re glad that OSHA shares our thinking, as seen through its Hazard Identification Training Tool.


We’re creating a library of interactive safety simulations to improve our safety training.

Real-time location systems

Real-time location systems (RTLS), such as Bluetooth-powered beacons or sensors, are being deployed to connect the physical and digital worlds in ways that make our lives easier and safer: they essentially function as an indoor GPS. For example, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority in Boston is testing beacons that utilize a smartphone app to better track and understand rider behavior. And in healthcare, RTLS helps hospitals track critical equipment such as dialysis machines and “crash carts” for medical emergencies so they can be instantly located by staff.

We see great potential for RTLS in construction, especially as it relates to synchronizing BIM with the built environment to increase jobsite safety and efficiency. At our 101 Seaport commercial development project in Boston, we are teaming with Redpoint Positioning to test their RTLS technology with our BIM models to accurately and dynamically track materials and team members, giving us real-time visibility into jobsite operations. The safety implications here are tremendous: at any given time we can tell where a tool, material or person is on the jobsite and plan accordingly. For example, our teams can use the sensors with BIM models to define a hazardous area, such as a fall hazard. When a worker wearing a safety vest connected to the location system enters that hazardous zone, the vest will start flashing to warn of the danger, providing instant feedback and environmental awareness. This information is also transmitted to the appropriate manager, who can use it to log incidents and plan for more learning opportunities. Additionally, for lean planning, we will be exploring how RTLS helps drive manpower efficiency and continuous improvement for our construction schedules.

We see RTLS powering better ways of operating buildings too, such as  creating an interactive wayfinding experience for customers in an airport terminal or large mall; adding a layer of augmented reality to a hospitality or entertainment experience; increasing security for personnel or critical assets; or creating the infrastructure for a smart building that can aid building management and operations.  To further explore this technology, we’re building it into Skanska’s new Boston office, which will be at 101 Seaport. For more on how we’re testing real time location systems, check out this video:


By enabling us to better understand projects, drones have tremendous potential to help mitigate jobsite risks and enable smarter ways of building. And now that we have received our first drone certification from the FAA, we are excited to start using drones on some of our projects. For example, our joint venture on San Diego’s I-5 North Coast Corridor highway widening project is planning to use a drone for surveying in an environmentally sensitive lagoon that is off-limits to a conventional manned survey. Overall, we see drones becoming an important part of our project planning process. There are huge upsides with this emerging technology, and also significant challenges too. We’re working closely with the FAA to determine the best practices for jobsites.

Civil drone training session - CA

As we train more employees to use drones, we expect scenes like this to become more common on our construction sites. 

The future

Looking even further into the future of construction, we see artificial intelligence becoming key This might involve predictive analytics to forecast future outcomes and trends, self-driving construction vehicle, and robots – such as what we’re researching in the UK – that reduce the chance for human error. Furthermore, we see project sites becoming more industrialized through the use of prefabricated and modular construction, and 3-D printing becoming more mainstream.

Ultimately, these advances have significant potential to help both Skanska and the broader construction industry eliminate jobsite injuries. We can’t reach that target soon enough.

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Tony Colonna

posted by Tony Colonna

Senior vice president of innovative construction solutions

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Taking aerial work platform safety to new heights

The single greatest risk on a construction site is falling, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Skanska and other leading builders are striving to eliminate that risk, in part by reducing the use of ladders on our project sites. A safer and more flexible solution is aerial work platforms, but even with AWPs, the number of serious accidents is astonishing. So Skanska is pushing the industry for higher levels of AWP safety.

In 2013, the most recent year for which the International Powered Access Federation has compiled data, AWPs accounted for 53 fatalities worldwide, including 30 deaths in the U.S. Specific causes of those fatalities included AWPs overturning and operators being electrocuted, falling and being trapped while at the controls. Those numbers frustrate and sadden me, because those deaths were all preventable.  How can Skanska help drive the change needed in our industry to eliminate jobsite incidents?

Transbay 1 (1)

These crew members who are part of our project erecting 24,000 tons of superstructure steel for San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center work from an aerial work platform equipped with anti-entrapment technology.

An important step we’re taking is that by the end of this year, all AWPs on Skanska USA project sites – both owned, rented and through trade partners – must be equipped with active anti-entrapment technology. By this, I chiefly mean a pressure-sensitive strip that’s installed above or below the control panel, so that if the operator is pinned against an overhead object that pushes his or her chest down on that panel, the machine stops working and sounds an alarm, and might even retract slightly.

We’ve been able to get AWP manufacturers and major equipment rental companies to update their fleets with anti-entrapment technology by joining on this issue with 11 other major U.S. contractors. Now, with so much of the industry demanding anti-entrapment technology, it is on its way to becoming standard. That will both improve safety and lower the technology’s cost, and it will level the playing field for all of us. The AWPs on many Skanska project sites already meet this requirement.

Skanska is already looking to do more with AWP safety. For instance, we’re testing wearable sensors that would shut off an AWP if it comes in close proximity with a pinch point. I’m excited about these advances, but let me emphasize that technology alone will not end incidents. At the heart of an Injury-Free Environment® is a workforce that genuinely cares for their own safety and the safety of those around them. We as leaders – and we’re all leaders in some way – need to do everything we can to build that culture of caring.

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Paul Haining

posted by Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

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Our journey to Deep Green™: a 2 degree solution

Over two weeks in December, close to 50,000 leaders will come to Paris for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) and also known as Paris 2015. COP21 is poised to be a crucial and historic conference for sustainability. For the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations, the conference aim is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the goal of keeping global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).

As part of a series of blog posts to mark #100daysToParis, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership invited Jennifer Clark, Skanska senior vice president of green and corporate community investment, to share what we see as the key climate change challenges and opportunities for our industry.

In the face of challenges like extreme weather and depleting resources, Jennifer argues that our industry needs to better integrate climate and natural resource considerations into our business decisions and focus on delivering more resilient green buildings and infrastructure. This means changing our approach to materials and systems selection, and embracing green building to minimize the usage of natural resources and help customers reduce carbon emissions and cost.

Stone34 Brooks Sports

Our Stone34 development, home to Brooks Sports’ headquarters, demonstrates our commitment to building green and is the pioneering project in Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program, a platform to encourage the use and acceptance of deeper, sustainable development strategies. Stone34 was designed to reduce water and energy by more than 75 percent of other comparable buildings, and capture and use at least 50 percent of stormwater on site.

“Green building is a great business opportunity for us,” said Jennifer. “It is right for the planet, attractive to clients, communities and employees alike, and it creates value for our shareholders.”

As such, Skanska’s drive to Deep Green represents a new approach to construction and development, and puts climate and resource considerations at the heart of our business.

To learn more about Skanska’s approach to Deep Green building and our hopes for COP21, check out Jennifer’s full blog post here:

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3 ways to build a strong team

How do you build a strong team? This was the question posed to Skanska Chief Sustainability Officer Beth Heider in a recent Fortune Leadership Insider column, where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute their advice on careers and leadership.  Check out Beth’s response below and stay tuned for more insights from Skanska’s leadership team on Fortune and the blog.

Beth Heider LEED v4

My job as chief sustainability officer requires me to focus on creating sustainable buildings. The decisions my teams make today have an impact for generations, because unlike cell phones and automobiles, buildings and infrastructure last for decades. The teams at Skanska are large and complex, harboring different priorities and multiple perspectives. So my role as a team leader is to clarify the vision and pull all of the individual stars together into a constellation of talent: harnessing the brilliance of different perspectives — owner, designer, engineer, builder, facility manager, etc — and focusing them on a common vision. A vision that is bigger than any one company or person. By working together we can deliver truly great things.

Here are three key concepts that can help achieve harmony in any team:

Empower differences
When I was a young architect, there were very few women in the architecture and construction space. I worked for a man who saw my ability to articulate our architectural vision, allowing me to present our work in client meetings. He often told me, “You are the only woman in the room. They don’t know what you are thinking and that gives you a lot of power.” Instead of seeing convention or bias as a problem, I embraced the power of having a different point of view. Be open to the unique perspective each individual brings to the team and harness that diversity of thought.

Respect the power of collaboration
Early in my career, I was in charge of a major renovation of a 100-year-old federal building in Washington, D.C. I was very young, the only woman on the job and the head architect. According to the male construction superintendent in charge, these three qualifiers were automatic strikes against me– at least initially. During the renovation, we discovered a lot of unforeseen conditions.This meant we would need to work together in order to come up with the best solutions. So when the superintendent realized that I valued his opinion, he was interested in making the project better. It was immediately obvious that two heads were better than one, and we finished the project more quickly than originally planned. I realized that when everyone pulls together toward a common vision that is when the real magic happens. This realization was a tremendous turning point in my career. I learned that if you confront problems or differing opinions with curiosity and include the broader team in coming up with a solution, everyone has ownership.

Build inclusive teams
Every voice is important. It is not enough to have diverse perspectives, they need to be recognized. I find today’s intergenerational, diverse workforce where baby boomers work alongside millennials to be energizing and humbling. We all have a lot to learn from each other regardless of gender, race, age or work experience. When we create a safe space to explore different ideas we unlock multilateral growth and innovation.

So here’s the bottom line: we can’t build teams centered on one person having a big idea that everyone else executes. All of the players have a perspective that is essential to the outcome and every team member’s voice needs to be heard at the table in order to enhance business performance.

This post originally appeared on

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Elizabeth Heider

posted by Elizabeth Heider

Chief Sustainability Officer, Skanska USA

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New York City’s 7 Line Extension opens to the public

The 1.5-mile subway extension and new 34th Street-Hudson Yards station in Manhattan’s fast-growing far west side opened September 13 to the public, after nearly eight years of construction. For this project, Skanska-led joint ventures executed both the 22-foot-diameter twin-bore tunnels and installed architectural finishes and mechanical, signal and other systems.


Two colorful overhead mosaics adorn the new station, which also features architectural finishes of a high standard. The station has no interior columns, giving it an open layout.

This is the first new subway station to open in New York in 26 years. It brings notable features to New York’s subway system, including:

- Indoor air is tempered to cool it several degrees below outdoor summer air temperatures, but not cooled as much as an air conditioned space. This station is among the few in New York’s subway having this.

- Two inclined elevators – pivoted 30 degrees – will transport riders, with these being the first in the subway system.

- The escalators are among the longest in the country.

Furthermore, trains along the extension will travel on low-vibration track – common in Europe – that uses concrete ties encased in rubber boots for a smoother ride. Skanska completed the tunneling work in June 2012, five months ahead of schedule and under budget. Innovative aspects of the project included the first double-shielded tunnel-boring machines to tunnel under the city while placing precast concrete segments to form the tunnel walls. Another highlight was that for the first time in New York City, a ground freezing method was used to harden soil to act as rock, aiding in the tunneling process. For such accomplishments, this initial project – for which we had a $1.1 billion contract – was named the 2013 Construction Project of the Year by the New York State Society of Professional Engineers.


Our team’s innovative tunneling approach included New York City’s first use of ground freezing to stabilize the soil.

Since August 2011, another Skanska joint venture has been working under a $513 million contract to fit out the new station with walls and architectural finishes; lace the tunnels and station with a myriad of wires and pipes for utilities and communications systems; place the tracks; and outfit four major ventilation facilities with all mechanical, electrical and communications systems.


The station has track features that should improve reliability and efficiency along the entire 7 Line.

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From atop the Empire State Building on 9/11, pride in our work rebuilding the World Trade Center

We all have heard the term circle of life. Most say it refers to the symbolic representation of birth, survival and death. In school, we were taught that a circle has no beginning or end. In other words, we can say a circle ends at the start point; life ends at the beginning point, and starts over again. At some point in your life, you will experience some form of this. For me, it seems that 9/11 has opened my eyes to this circle.

Forty years and four months ago, I was a young tourist from Holland, Pa., on a Catholic grade school class trip to New York City, a place of mind-blowing vastness. While visiting, back in 1975, the place everyone had to go was the Empire State Building. It opened a new world for us, as until then the trees we climbed as kids were the highest places we had even been. It was everything the chaperones could do to keep the bunch of us rowdy kids from climbing up on the metal bars high atop on the observation deck. We had no fear – truly, we were at the top of the world! Like every other person who has visited, we took countless pictures: of course, one shot was a picture of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, new to the skyline by only a few years and boasting of kingship in the city’s silhouette. Truly, it was a childhood experience that no one ever forgets.

The original World Trade Center stands proudly in this photo taken by Irvin on his 1975 grade school class trip to New York City. It hangs in his office today.

The original World Trade Center stands proudly in this photo taken by General Superintendent Mark Irvin on his 1975 grade school class trip to New York City. It hangs in his office today.

I never came back to the city, not until September 2001. Four days after 9/11, I found myself at the World Trade Center site along with other construction workers, drawn to the city to help in any way possible. We spent the day – 16 hours – simply carrying water to the rescue teams. Then we went home to our families, to sob, like most of the world. Again, I thought I would never go back, believing that the circle was complete. Then, a few years later I was asked to join the Skanska joint venture that was helping reconstruct the World Trade Center: I committed without hesitation, obligated by my honor, pride and emotion. Those that know me, those that have read my novelettes about the years I spent working to rebuild the World Trade Center, know the passion, pride and commitment I and my teammates have to be part of such a construction project, one that is a testament to the strength of the American people. It’s ironic that I came back to New York City for a purpose of which one would never think.

And yet, the circle of life – having no ending – continues. I finished my tour of duty at the World Trade Center, near six years of memories, tears and smiles. And as life continues, so do new opportunities, new construction projects. As I write this on September 11, I am high atop the Empire State Building once again, almost in the exact same spot that I visited as a kid. Now, I am rejuvenating the 84-year-old building’s mooring mast, which runs between the 90th and 101st floors, some quarter mile in the air. Call it fate or destiny, but I see the new World Trade Center every night my team and I are up here: it’s back in our hearts, and back to having a commanding position in the city’s skyline.


One World Trade Center, as seen in the distance from Irvin’s current project atop the Empire State Building.

On September 11, we remember, honor and respect those who have lost, and those who have fought for us and continue to do so. On this night, my team – a small part of the many millions who bow their heads today – are especially proud to be Americans. We are even prouder when we look south and see resiliency at its finest.

The circle of life is not a myth, for I have witnessed birth, survival, death and full-circle re-birth. I truly am proud to have been part of bringing the World Trade Center back to life, proud of my teammates who continue to strive to reach its completion and proud to be part of this nation. Please don’t judge any step of life’s path as more important or advanced than the others. Wherever we are, it’s perfect!

For just a moment, take a break and bask in the greatness that’s all around you. See your family, your friends and all of your life. Never forget that day, I ask. The circle is never complete.


Skanska cranes last year working to build the Oculus entrance portal to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Our teams bring much passion, pride and commitment to the World Trade Center rebuilding effort. 

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posted by Mark Irvin

General superintendent, Skanska USA

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The path to ENR magazine’s highest honor

We didn’t set out to win awards when tasked with constructing Florida Polytechnic University’s Innovation, Science and Technology Building. We were too focused on the great puzzle before us: finding a way to erect this Santiago Calatrava design – with the centerpiece being incredible rooftop louver arms that would raise and lower each day like butterfly wings to shade the interior – on a strict academic year schedule and an immovable $60 million budget. Even more, there was the extreme precision the design required. There was no roadmap for a project like this. Still, the entire project team – Skanska, the architects, engineers and specialty contractors – was motivated by the opportunity to execute Calatrava’s design without compromise.  If anyone could realize his vision, surely it was this team.


This week, a year after students moved into this 160,000-square-foot sculpture of classrooms, research and teaching labs, grand public spaces and offices, we learned that the IST Building has won Engineering News-Record (ENR) magazine’s highest honor: Global Project of the Year. This building, the founding structure of a new university dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is “the most outstanding example of the risks and rewards – and the hurdles overcome – of designing and building internationally.” The entire team couldn’t be more honored and proud of this recognition. Days later, I’m still smiling from hearing the news.

All involved with the project learned a great deal. Here are a few highlights of our approach and of what this team created.

Work as a broader team:  We pushed team members to break down the barriers that normally exist between designers and builders, and between construction trades. As I’ve described to ENR, I wanted each partner firm to work beyond contractual responsibilities to seek broader, shared solutions. This included having specialty contractors and design consultants participate early in the project in design-assist roles. All of us were a team that worked as one. How did we do this? By making the project personal. From the day anyone stepped onto the site, we let them know that through this special project, they had an opportunity to make America stronger and smarter. Florida Polytechnic students are going to challenge the limits of STEM just like we were challenging the limits of building. John F. Kennedy once spoke of the great outcomes that come from closely collaborating and never accepting average – that’s the approach we took at Polytechnic.

Don’t compromise the design:  The biggest issue to world-renowned architects like Calatrava is that they’re worried their design is going to be compromised during construction. If anything, Skanska wants to enhance it, if we can. Understanding the complex geometry of the Polytechnic design – where nearly everything is on a radius – required my team to become one with it. That helped build trust between Skanska and the architects, and it enabled us to convey our understanding to the specialty contractors. At first, Calatrava’s design captures your curiosity, then it captures your heart, and then your soul. There are not many architects in the world about which you can say that. For us as builders, this is the type of project we dream about doing in our careers.


Collaborate to fly: The building’s identity is tied to the rooftop louver arms. Originally, the design concept for those wings was a pair of matched structural-steel elements – each with 47 arms – that would move via hydraulic equipment at each end. That approach proved unfeasible because of the extreme stresses it would have put on the building. The path forward became a series of charrettes over two years, which typified our teamwork approach. Out of those collaborations, the team proposed an alternative system of lighter aluminum louvers, each operating with an independent hydraulic cylinder at the base of each arm. Today those louvers rise to 12 stories above the ground to ensure the proper amount of light enters the building. This approach maintained the look and functionality that Calatrava had intended.

Be precise:  Precision was fundamental, given that it would not be possible to cover any imperfections. The rooftop louvers – with a 1/16 of an inch tolerance – had to function. The interior concrete is exposed, including the dramatic concrete raker beams at both ends of the building that converge at oval skylights. Building information modeling (BIM) was part of the solution, and so was bringing in the best craft workers from across Florida. More importantly, we made sure everyone understood the effect that even the smallest deviance would have on other components. Our team’s mindset was to make sure all components were installed with zero tolerance, or the design intent would not be achieved. We convinced the craft workers that if any project was worth their best effort, it was this.


Building up the team: To me, building and motivating my Skanska team was just as important as constructing this magnificent structure. My approach is this: I discover what each person is best at doing that helps the project, and then I challenge them to develop those skills even more. I involve them with as much as they can handle. I motivate them every day. I reward them. I compliment them as much as I possibly can, and I have their back at all times so they can do what I need them to do.

Safety above all else: From everything I’ve shared so far, you might think that delivering this showpiece project was our team’s highest priority. If so, you are wrong. You can build the most beautiful, the most perfect building in the world, but if someone gets hurt doing so, the end result doesn’t mean anything. For the IST project, our most important target was achieving an Injury-Free Environment®. We managed that goal on a daily basis, starting with the safety orientations we provided to some 1,200 workers. In those sessions, we made it clear that our top priorities are safety, jobsite cleanliness and quality – and really, those three items are intertwined. We reached our target, with no lost-time incidents over the 750,000 hours it took to build the project.


Moving ahead, the IST Building demonstrates how Skanska is committed to challenging the limits of design and construction. We want to continually find more effective ways of providing safe work environments, efficiently delivering high-quality projects, realizing the architect’s intent, and maximizing what the client can obtain for a given budget. I’ve spent 12 years building for Skanska, and I’m prouder than ever to be part of one of the world’s premier builders – especially when I get to be part of projects that shape the future of America, like this one.

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Chuck Jablon

posted by Chuck Jablon

Vice president of operations, Skanska USA

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A 20-hour concrete pour, planned to the minute

Our 35-story Capitol Tower office project – which Skanska is developing and building in Houston – started in part recently with a 19-hour, 20-minute concrete pour to create a mat foundation that varies between seven and nine-and-a-half feet thick. Our planning and execution of this 9,020 cubic yard continuous pour was so precise that the actual duration was within three minutes of what we had planned.

2015-08-22 16.45.55

Our Capitol Tower team estimated the pour’s duration to within three minutes of the actual 19-hour, 20-minute duration.

The operation went smoothly and safely, thanks to the detailed planning and coordination that began months before. This included specifying all aspects of the operation – which lasted from the afternoon of Saturday, August 22 to the morning of Sunday, August 23 – in a 340-page manual. Some 350 individuals worked more than 4,500 total hours without any incidents or accidents. (Check out the time-lapse video of the pour below.)

The large volume of the pour; that it was occurring on a downtown site with limited perimeter access; and the hot Texas summer weather were some of the major challenges for which we had to account. Our approach to overcoming these hurdles included:

- Maintaining an Injury-Free Environment: Heat stress was a major concern for all parties involved. We provided cooling stations equipped with tents, fan misters and ice water in several locations around the site. Work hours were limited by mandatory shift changes and regular breaks to avoid exhaustion. For added assistance, an emergency medical technician was stationed on-site to monitor the wellbeing of the workers.

- Overcoming site limitations: Significant site constraints – including an active light-rail line adjacent to the long side of the mat – meant the pour had to be accomplished with only four mobile pumps, requiring exact timing of the 902 concrete deliveries. Skanska monitored the pour production in real-time throughout the duration to ensure production milestones were being met. The pour was planned and executed in 10-minute increments, which was established as the cycle time for concrete truck discharge at the pumps.

- Controlling concrete temperatures: To reduce the heat of hydration and minimize the risk of thermal cracking, 55 percent of the cement in the custom concrete mix was replaced with fly ash, a safe industrial byproduct that otherwise would have gone to landfill. Furthermore, aggregates were pre-cooled with water spray to reduce the placement temperature of the concrete. Concrete placement temperatures ranged from 88 degrees to 92 degrees Fahrenheit, well below the 98 degree threshold.

- Planning for “what ifs”: Any interruption on a pour of this magnitude could have caused detrimental delays to the overall completion of the foundation. To account for potential interruptions, we built redundancies into our plan. Should one of the four concrete pumps have failed, a tow truck was on standby to tow it away and a backup pumper was stationed on site. Additional batch plants were engaged to maintain concrete production.

Capitol Tower’s construction beyond the substructure will proceed when we achieve pre-leasing goals. We elected to pour the foundation now as the work fit well with the parking structure our team is building on the same site. The 750,000-square-foot Capitol Tower is Platinum pre-certified under the LEED version 4 beta program.


 This 9,020 cubic yard pour went smoothly and safely, thanks in part to our team’s 340-page installation procedure manual.

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Metrics demonstrate how BIM benefits building owners – and more

BIM is talked about so much in the world of architecture, engineering and construction, but what value does it bring to the AEC team and more importantly, to the building owner?

We now have solid metrics that demonstrate BIM’s benefits to stakeholders, thanks to the just-released SmartMarket Report entitled “Measuring the Impact of BIM on Complex Buildings,” as published by Dodge Data and Analytics and with support by Skanska. Based on interviews and surveys done with nearly 400 owners, general contractors, architects and engineers, the findings show that the use of BIM has a high impact on reducing the risks and increasing the success of such complex projects as hospitals, labs, airports and high-tech manufacturing facilities. (Click here to access the free 58-page report.)

Specific benefits from BIM cited by respondents included:

- Lower final construction costs, according to 85 percent of those surveyed,

- Accelerated completion, said 88 percent of survey participants,

- Reportable incident declines, according to 76 percent of the group, and

- Increased labor productivity, 87 percent said.

“This report underscores what many of us working in BIM and VDC have known: these technologies drive value for project owners and their stakeholders,” said Tony Colonna, Skanska USA senior vice president. “The report should be a call to action for everyone involved with delivering buildings – and we are ready to answer.”


BIM–enabled multi-trade prefabrication – including 144 bathroom pods – saved about two months on the overall schedule for our Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children project.

We are proud to share some of our own BIM successes in the report. Most notably, how using BIM helped us successfully deliver a 450,000-square-foot expansion for Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. The entire building was designed on a six-degree radius, so such BIM uses as digital layout, prefabrication and 4-D scheduling helped us ensure accurate, safe and high-quality work on a tight schedule. BIM enabled our ability to prefabricate bathroom pods, patient room headwalls and overhead utility racks, which saved about two months on the overall project schedule.

We’re also excited about a new way we’re using BIM: virtual reality. For example, on healthcare projects virtual reality models – built with technology used for video games – enables nurses to help us identify possible patient flow and safety issues.  And on projects of any type, virtual reality helps us see behind walls to identify potential hazards.

Furthermore, we are developing a virtual reality simulation that systematically guides superintendents through a series of scenarios to see if they can identify different hazards. It uses industry safety data to present scenarios that pull from real-life circumstances. This simulation is a collaboration between our Environment, Health and Safety group and Innovation team, and we hope this tool can soon be used to enhance safety training for our field personnel.

To learn more about how using BIM as part of virtual design and construction can benefit your project, please click here.


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