December 23, 2020
In the midst of the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, DPR Construction overcame a variety of challenges to complete a ground-up, three-story office building for satellite internet provider Viasat on a six-acre site in Germantown, MD. The project is a structural steel-framed building with a curtain wall, brick, and composite metal panel exterior envelope. The project also included a 200-car parking garage and extensive site work. Designed by Gensler, the facility will be the new East Coast home for 150 of Viasat’s engineers and support staff.
Effects from the pandemic hit the Viasat team in March of 2020, well into the project and during a time of critical project activities. In compliance with local and state government mandates, the job site was initially shut down for three weeks. Once work resumed, construction workers had to be 6-ft. apart at all times, which significantly impacted the schedule.
To communicate the schedule impact to the client, the team relied on the DPR data team (based in the Washington D.C office) to support an extended construction schedule. Utilizing data from CMiC, the data team created a graph that included pre-and post-shutdown productivity levels. This graph visually identified the project shutdowns and lost productivity, and it created a consensus around a realistic end date for the project.
“COVID-19 was one of the biggest challenges and most uncertain situations I've encountered in my career. The entire team’s ability to adapt to the environment that COVID created for us was phenomenal,” noted Stephen Hatch, Viasat Project Manager, and Levine Investment Owner Representative.
To adapt to the pandemic's challenges, the team utilized a large shell space inside the new building that allowed them to conduct daily meetings with trade partners while maintaining a safe distance. The team relied on virtual tools to continue to keep the lines of communication open between all stakeholders. Daniel Burson, DPR’s project manager noted, “Viasat’s West Coast headquarters is in Carlsbad, CA, the building owner and architect Gensler are both located in Phoenix, AZ, and the project itself took place in Maryland. Even before the pandemic, we were utilizing video conferencing, so we didn’t skip a beat when everyone else was going virtual for the first time.”
Pandemic effects asides, a constructability challenge was the significant amount of earthwork that had to be done early on in construction. Breaking ground in early 2019, the team overcame the challenge of mass excavation during the wettest year on record for the area.
“Our successful solution was introducing lime into the soil, which allowed us to achieve moisture and compaction requirements that would otherwise have been unattainable. This solution helped us meet our scheduled date for earthwork, even with all the rain in that year,” Burson said.
Ultimately, the project was completed in Fall 2020 with plaudits to go around. “The DPR team’s adaptability and consistent communication throughout the course of this project were impeccable,” Hatch said. “Their reporting techniques were clear and never left me with questions on cost or schedule.”