Digging up pieces of history on our construction sites

On both coasts, 2016 was a year of big discoveries for Skanska USA, including digging up a mastodon and uncovering a shipwreck. The finds gave us two very different pictures of what life in these areas must have been like at different points in history: mastodons roamed the earth more than 10,000 years ago, and the 19th century ship is believed to have been delivering barrels of lime to merchants. We also had the pleasure of assisting our client, The Burke Museum, in safely moving their own dinosaur discovery in Montana.

Unearthing the mastodon in Los Angeles, examining the shipwreck in Boston and transporting the T. rex in Seattle.

Los Angeles

In November 2016, Station Engineer Chris Booze and General Superintendent Peter Daboul were excavating at the future Wilshire/LaBrea Station of the Purple Line Extension in Los Angeles. Up until this particular day, the most exciting relics they’d uncovered on jobsites included small parts of old railroad crossings, bottles and other debris. To work near La Brea Tar Pits, one of the world’s most famous fossil sites, they trained in preparation for the possibility of uncovering prehistoric fossils or remnants.

The tools being used on site as well as the small fossils and rocks collected for further examination.

“Everyone working within two miles of La Brea Tar Pits is required to participate in a paleontology class before beginning work. However, building a subway through Los Angeles is no small feat and we all were completely absorbed in digging out dirt at the station so the discovery came as a huge surprise that day,” explained Booze.

“As we dug deeper into the ground, onsite paleontologists were thrilled when they noticed part of a tusk being uncovered in the dirt and we moved quickly to partition off the area for the paleontologists to come in with their brushes and microscopes while we kept working around them. A few days after the tusk discovery, a skull was also found and that’s when it really became big news,” said Daboul.

A paleontologist examines the mastodon in a secured area surrounding the discovery site.

Ultimately, the teeth of an adult mastodon and a three-foot tusk fragment were found, as well as parts of the skull and tusks of a younger mastodon that may turn out to be a mammoth. “These mammoth and mastodon remains found during construction on the new Purple Line stops are by far the coolest things I’ve discovered in my career. With the project close to the famed La Brea Tar Pits, it was more of a ‘when’ than ‘if’,” said Booze.

“Finding the fossils was awesome and memorable, but we were anxious to get them safely removed so we could resume our work.  This is a unique and challenging job, given the potential for fossil discoveries, the gassy underground conditions, and the dynamic, high density urban environment. We all have a real sense of pride and accomplishment at what we are doing for the city and the residents of Los Angeles,” said Daboul.

The fossils will be delivered to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The findings are currently being examined in a paleontological lab and will be delivered to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County upon completion. Mastodons used to roam present-day California, but went extinct around 10,000 years ago.

Boston

In May 2016, Field Engineer Ripley Swan was working a normal day at 121 Seaport, Skanska’s 17-story, 400,000-square-foot Class-A office development currently under construction in Boston’s Seaport District. The team was wrapping up the first phase of the site excavation with a PC-800 hydraulic excavator pulling dirt out of the ground into trucks to be disposed of when something caught his attention.

“I noticed some wood so a smaller machine was called in to help dig around it. Digging revealed a structure that required us to use even smaller equipment to proceed until we realized we had found something that looked like the outline of a boat. Right away, we brought in an archaeologist from the City of Boston,” said Swan.

Our team carefully resumed work around the object, which eventually revealed the remains of a 50-foot wooden ship.

The 121 Seaport ship was wooden, about 50 feet long, and built sometime between the late 18th and mid-19th century.

“I felt kind of amazed. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Shawn Hurley, president and CEO overseeing Skanska’s real estate development operations in the U.S., said to the New York Times. “What do we need to do here? What are the next steps?”

“Everyone was excited. The Boston office just moved next door so we had a steady stream of people checking the site out through the window. As news continued to spread, helicopters started flying over us. It ended with Skanska hosting a press conference right in front of the excavation. All of the local news reporters were in attendance and it was awesome to see that what we did made major news,” said Swan.

City of Boston Archeologist Joe Bagley, Skanska USA Commercial Development President & CEO Shawn Hurley and Field Engineer Ripley Swan on the 121 Seaport site of the shipwreck discovery.

To excavate as much of the ship remains as possible, work in the area was stopped to allow a full investigation by the City of Boston archaeologist. Our teams have the highest consideration and care for the communities where we work and try to take care of anything found that could have historical significance.

As the owner of the development site, we convened a team of archaeologists including the Public Archaeology Laboratory, City of Boston archaeologist, nautical archaeologists, and archaeologists with the State of Massachusetts convened at the site to document the shipwreck.

Most of the wood uncovered is charred, suggesting that the ship burned because when lime gets wet it reacts to produce heat, which can cause fires.

Some cool facts about the shipwreck include:

The 121 Seaport ship was wooden, about 50 feet long, and built sometime between the late 18th and mid-19th century. It had at least two masts.

It held a large cargo of wooden barrels that contained lime, possibly from the Rockland area of Maine. The team found several dozen barrels of lime, suggesting the entire bottom of the ship was covered with lime barrels.

The ship contained two knives, two forks and a stack of burned plates in the rear of the ship.

The ship sunk sometime between 1850 and 1880. The ship itself is likely older than the date it went down. It could have been made in the late 1700s or early 1800s.

Most of the wood is charred, suggesting that the ship burned because when lime gets wet it reacts to produce heat, which can cause fires. The team was unable to determine if the 121 Seaport ship burned causing it to sink, if it was deliberately scuttled in the low-lying mudflats when the fire started, or if it ran aground and then burned.

The team found a fork at the shipwreck site. Additionally, we identified two knives and a stack of burned plates.ar.

Read more about the 121 Seaport Shipwreck here.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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Looking Back on 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the projects, the people, and the values that propelled our company in building what matters this past year.  Across the country, in urban centers and suburban neighborhoods, we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to develop and construct the roads and bridges, hospitals and schools, aviation and transit projects and more that connect communities and make our world a better place. These are just a few of our favorites.

We’d love to know what your favorite Constructive Thinking post was from the past year. Follow us on twitter and share a post – and tag @SkanskaUSA in the message.

Northeast

A worker’s perspective on the Oculus and PATH Hall at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub – One of our workers coined it “the most important project I’ll ever build,” because if its significance not only to New York but to the entire country. From our work on the original Twin Towers in the 1970s to the Santiago Calatrava-designed terminal dubbed “an instant selfie magnet” by the New York Times, Skanska has come full circle at the 16-acre site.

A Seaport Renaissance in Boston – The news that we sold our 101 Seaport commercial development property in Boston was reason for celebration. The 17-story, 440,000-square-foot LEED® Platinum office building in the Seaport District was completed in record time, helping this neighborhood springing to new life.

Southeast

Road Trip! Midtown Tunnel Opens To Public Ahead of Schedule – The Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project opened one lane of its new Midtown Tunnel to traffic on Friday, June 17, six months early, marking the first time the public could use the new passage under the Elizabeth River connecting Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia.  It was the first of two deadlines we hit early for this massive public-private partnership that will help reduce commute times and vehicle emissions in the area.

At Duke University, a Remarkable Transformation – Our Duke West Union project restored the beloved on-campus dining halls designed by Horace Trumbauer in 1920 while inserting a new full-service dining environment and activity spaces for students to interact and socialize.  This ambitious renovation began in 2013 and was needed to accommodate a growing student body, while also providing a modern and exciting campus experience.

Central

Not Your Grandpa’s Library – Asked to envision a library, one might conjure up images of stacks of musty books, dimly-lit wood-paneled rooms in hushed silence and cabinets of Dewey Decimal cards that lead to a prized tome. Our Dayton Metro Main Library project in Ohio is anything but that: with design elements that include glass, steel and earth tones that bring in natural light, open space and encourage social interaction in a model that turns traditional library construction on its head.

Building a home where Alzheimer’s patients can thrive – With the U.S. population aging, Alzheimer’s has become the sixth leading cause of death, affecting more than 5.3 million people.  Alzheimer patients require specific environments designed to alleviate some of the disease’s unique challenges. Abe’s Garden in Nashville, Tenn. was a special project for us, believed to be the first memory care community in the U.S. designed and built to demonstrate and disseminate best practices that will improve the lives of individuals and their care takers affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

West

Building What Matters: From “Grand to the Sand” in Los Angeles – Building what matters took on a new definition for our Los Angeles EVP Mike Aparicio, as he took us inside the Expo Line Phase 2 project, which opened to the public for the first time in May, connecting downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica beach by rail for the first time in 60 years. The project is getting people out of their cars (and out of legendary Los Angeles traffic), in some cases, cutting commute times in half.

Building Communities, Changing Lives, South of the Border – For the second year in a row, Skanska USA employees took time out of their weekends to lend a hand on a building project that would change people’s lives in a community in need. It was before dawn on Saturday, May 14, when approximately 30 Skanska colleagues piled into a bus to make the trip from our Riverside, CA office to Tecate, Mexico, to participate in the Skanska Corazon Build project.

Innovation

Getting Ahead of the Curve – When it comes to driving value for customers, bringing innovative solutions to problems is a powerful asset. In our Skanska USA Building Business Unit, the preconstruction group has been utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and parametric estimating technology to help accelerate the building process from concept design to final estimate – to the growing delight of customers and colleagues. It started – as most great ideas do – with the need to solve a problem.

Sustainability

Living Buildings take Sustainability to the Next Level – For years, sustainability has been more than just a buzzword in the construction industry – and with good reason.  As stewards of a planet with limited natural resources, it’s in our own interest to build projects that consume less. The concept of Net-Zero construction has pushed the boundaries of sustainable green building farther, as we enter the era of the Living Building, the industry’s most rigorous performance standard to date.

 

Just like our Skanska USA projects aim to create new possibilities for our customers, this blog aims to help give a peek behind the curtain at our company and our industry.  Thank you for being part of our stories – here’s to more great projects in 2017.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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Getting Ahead of the Curve

When it comes to driving value for customers, bringing innovative solutions to problems is a powerful asset.

In Skanska’s Building Division, the preconstruction group has been utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and parametric estimating technology to help accelerate the building process from concept design to final estimate – to the growing delight of customers and colleagues.

It started – as most great ideas do – with the need to solve a problem.

In Boston, Preconstruction Estimator Tony Meade and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) Managers Matt Emond and Jeremy Thibodeau  realized that their preconstruction work of estimating costs for projects was made challenging by the limited availability of information at the early stages of design. They knew enhancing early design concepts from designers by using advanced BIM technology tools could speed projects and help customers. So they developed a way to create their own models that would allow them to start their estimating work sooner.

“In early designs, the detailed information we rely on to estimate a job is often lacking,” says Matt Emond. “Estimating needs to start before a design has been fully fleshed out. By creating a 3D model and sharing it with the entire team, you eliminate those delays.”

2016-07 PHOTO-ParametricEstimatingTeam2-smaller

(left to right:) Kelsey Stein, David Kabasin, Jeff Courtney, and Teresa Morales, of the Tampa Preconstruction department, look over a parametric estimating job, also displayed on the screen behind them. Credit: Skanska USA.

Our preconstruction team in Tampa, FL is utilizing what it calls a “Revit Takeoff Template” to extract material quantities using 3D models. Estimator Kelsey Stein says the process helps express a design intent and include costs. The “Takeoff Template” is proving to be a very helpful estimate expediting tool, one which was developed along with a training lesson to share the knowledge with other Skanska Preconstruction Teams throughout the US, according to the team.

“We spend less time counting and measuring so we are able to spend more time addressing issues that make the project better,” says Stein. “We are also standardizing how we can express the quantities for a building.”

Some iterations of the technologies allow project details to be changed on the fly and provide cost changes for the customer, instantly. “We can move a wall or change a finish and the estimate can rise or fall based on the change, right there on the screen. That’s an enormous advantage,” says Emond.

USF - Parametric Estimating

An example of parametric estimating that allows real-time adjustments to material costs (at left) as the design of a building is modified (at right). The result speeds projects through multiple iterations keeping a close eye on cost.

The innovation has had added benefits – with seasoned estimators and younger technical experts sharing information in both directions – a kind of two-way mentoring system.  “Experienced team members are learning model usage to their benefit and our tech savvy model users are climbing the estimating learning curve quicker by working together behind the wheel of a BIM model,” says Steve Stouthamer, EVP for Project Planning.

“From an architectural standpoint, this is the future of construction,” says Tampa-based Preconstruction Manager Jeff Courtney. “We’re looking to take lessons learned from this template to develop other 3D tools; this is just the beginning.”

Thibodeau, a member of Skanska’s Innovative Construction Solutions Group, says the merger of images and bottom-line cost can help avoid having customers fixate only on the budget of a project, and allow a discussion about the benefits of building something to its maximum potential.

“A client was flipping through a project cost proposal and had a question, and recalled the model we had created. It demonstrated the power of images and how they connect to the data. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment for us, knowing we had moved the project in the right direction,” says Thibodeau.

“We want to use the extra time the models give us to add value to the project,” says Stein. “With the time we get back, we can more carefully scrutinize pricing levels, analyze sustainability options and review other important elements.  Everything we do in advance of construction makes the project better for the people who build it.”

“I see us doing more and more of this because it’s a benefit to the client, and it helps us build better,” says Emond.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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Connecting with the Community at 1350 Boylston

When Skanska crews mobilized for work on the 1350 Boylston Street project in Boston, MA, one of the first things they did was go next door to McKinley Prep, a local high school, to introduce themselves as the new neighbors for a couple of years.

What they didn’t expect to find was a student body in need of a helping hand.

2016-05-11 PHOTO-1350Boylston-Mural1

Skanska USA President & CEO Rich Cavallaro (left) visits with some of the workers at 1350 Boylston and the students who painted the mural at the left.

Senior Project Superintendent Jim McDonald and the team discovered some of the kids lacked winter coats (they could be seen walking to and from school in freezing temperatures) and some got their only meal of the day when they were in school. McDonald says it was common to see teachers making trips to the local supermarket with groceries in tow; teachers told crewmembers they would buy breakfast and lunch for kids who needed it.

“We started taking up collections on the jobsite to buy the school gift cards for things they needed” says McDonald. “We wanted to help in any way we could.”

The students responded to the teams’ generosity by delivering handwritten thank you cards and started to spend more and more time around the job site chatting about the project. Slowly an idea to get the kids involved in an arts project on the site took shape.

The 1350 Boylston project is a Skanska Commercial Development project – our fifth in Boston and our second multifamily development. It’s also in the heart of the Fenway district.

With the jobsite perimeter fence bordering the school property McDonald and the “three Marks” – Terrien, MacIsaac, and Contrado – invited the students to decorate it. The kids used their imaginations, taking photos of some of the workers on site and making silhouette stencils that were painted on the plywood sheathing surrounding a Skanska logo in the center.

During a Safety Week 2016 visit to the site, Skanska USA President & CEO Rich Cavallaro took the time to visit with kids and snap a few pictures in front of their artwork.

“Rich’s visit had a special impact on the kids and some of them have become interested in careers in construction,” says McDonald. “When we first mobilized here the plan was to work with the school in the hopes of using their parking lot to benefit our job. What we found out was that they needed our help more than we needed theirs. Stepping up to do the right thing is part of who we are, and we’re glad we can lend them a hand.”

2016-05-11 PHOTO-1350Boylston-Mural2-smaller

Jim “Jimmy Mac” McDonald, second from left, with the McKinley Prep students and Skanska crew members, in front of the mural in Boston.

Read more about the project in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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A Seaport Renaissance in Boston

The news this week that Skanska USA has successfully sold our 101 Seaport property in Boston is reason for celebration.

We are understandably excited that we were able to successfully complete the project, a 17-story, 440,000-square-foot LEED® Platinum office building in the Seaport District in record time.

What truly excites us is what this building represents – our desire to build projects with purpose – in this case, creating a jewel in a Boston neighborhood that is springing back to new life.

101 Seaport

Our unique business model allows us to develop, finance, and construct properties that make significant contributions to the cities in which they are built. And so we feel strongly that the buildings we create should maximize open space, offer amenities that contribute to a healthy work-life balance, and are stocked with features including better views and increased daylighting, which have been shown to improve employee collaboration and productivity. All of these elements – thoughtfully and intentionally designed into the project – are investments in the future of the people who will work in the building, and of the larger community to which the building contributes and helps to grow.

101 Seaport has truly been a catalyst for the transformation of the neighborhood – and it is just the beginning. Our other projects in Boston include 121 Seaport, a neighboring office tower with ground-floor retail targeting LEED® Platinum currently under construction; and Watermark Seaport, a recently opened luxury residential tower with ground-floor retail which Skanska developed in partnership with Twining Properties. When completed, Skanska’s developments along Seaport Boulevard will make up the most sustainable row of office and residential buildings in Boston history.

We are using that same philosophy to transform the workplaces of tomorrow across the country in our home markets of Houston, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Building projects with purpose is what Skanska is all about.

For more information about our Commercial Development Projects, visit us at www.usa.skanska.com/Business-Units/Commercial_Development/.

 

How do you move a fragile 15-ton painting?

With the recent opening of our Harvard Art Museums renovation and expansion project in Cambridge, Mass., it’s worth recapping one of the most significant activities of this landmark project. That was moving and lifting a 76-year-old, 13- by 12-foot irreplaceable painting that’s integral to fragile plaster affixed to a 16-inch-thick masonry wall. Rarely do lifts personally matter so much to all involved, as this painting – called a fresco – depicts the builders of the original art museum in action in the 1920s. The fresco had to be moved for the project to proceed, and our team was determined to protect their predecessors’ legacy.

Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Mass.

Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Mass.

Skanska’s sophisticated approach involved encapsulating the fresco and its supporting wall in a massive steel frame, then using a diamond-bladed cable saw to cut the 15-ton section free of the surrounding structure, and finally using a crane – with its boom towering 140 feet in the air – to land the fresco in its final location. At every step, the loading on the fresco needed to be constant so the artwork wouldn’t crack. Thanks to our team’s unrelenting precision, it didn’t.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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