Project Delivery at Lightning Speed

This article is included in the Great Things: Issue 8 edition of the DPR Newsletter.

Carlsbad cGMP Facility equipment
The 18,500-sq.-ft. cGMP biopharmaceutical manufacturing space, located in Southern California, was executed on a design-build contract. Photo: Haley Hill Photography

How do you improve on an already successful project? By delivering it faster and better.

At the height of the pandemic, with mounting global public need for vaccines, Thermo Fisher Scientific found itself in a position to move fast. Since time was of the essence, this project would need to be completed on a short schedule with high standards of quality. This provided a unique opportunity for the team to build upon past success with similar projects by incorporating best practices to plan strategically and develop approaches to control the critical path.

A Rare Opportunity to Set The Bar Higher

“With the types of technical projects we build, you don’t often get an opportunity to build it again,” said DPR’s Eric Scheidlinger, who served as the project executive. “We set the bar high, and then got to set it even higher. The team dynamic that carried into this project was important to continuing that momentum.”

The 18,500-sq.-ft. cGMP biopharmaceutical manufacturing space, located in Carlsbad, CA, was executed on a design-build contract with CE&IC and DPR teaming up. While the project arose from unique circumstances, the team’s ability to learn from, optimize and improve upon the consistent elements of the project scope allowed them to complete the project in only nine months—including design, permitting and construction.

At the heart of the project was the company’s goal to bring the facility online quickly, which united all project stakeholders, from the project team to the City of Carlsbad, in a common goal. “It was ultimately successful because everyone was rowing in the same direction,” said Scheidlinger.

room with lab equippment
Planning Strategies to Control the Critical Path

Two key strategies carried over from a similar project were a design-build approach and application of self-perform work (SPW). Both were critical to the speedy delivery and expanded upon.

A hallmark of design-build is that it establishes the collaboration and transparency needed to make design decisions earlier, and involves builders when they have the best chance of weighing in on constructability. That, in turn, leads to more predictability in schedule and cost. For this project DPR was able to bring on MEP, fire protection and design assist partners early to support the design team and expedite procurement.

The trust built previously among all partners and stakeholders enabled a smoother permitting process, which created avenues for condensing the build schedule.

“We had a well-thought-out plan for the way that we were going to have our different design packages to allow us to go as fast as we needed to in the field,” said Scheidlinger. “We talked about that strategy and got [the city’s] feedback. It was a collaborative effort in building the plan to design, permit and construct it. Before we had put pen to paper, we already had an approach and timeframe that the city supported.”

tables with lab equippment
At the height of the pandemic, with mounting need to manufacture much-needed components for vaccines, Thermo Fisher Scientific found itself in a position to move fast. Photo: Haley Hill Photography
VDC and Self-Perform Work Go Hand-In-Hand

Operating in the virtual model/BIM further enhanced the team’s collaboration. Doing so helped facilitate design and minimized conflicts in the field. “Every trade responsible for installing materials in the field had already done that coordination in a virtual environment,” added Scheidlinger.

One creative strategy that was modeled virtually first was the sequence of installing flooring and cove base prior to cleanroom panels. Typically, cleanroom panels are installed last to avoid damage, which requires teams to go back and bring the floors up to meet the bottom of the panel walls add then add the cove base. Using the model and laser imaging, the team made sure the floors were at the right level to support the base height needed for the panels. Not only did this change support the schedule, it also added a layer of protection to the cleanroom panels themselves by eliminating a portion of the work to be done while they were in place.

Additionally, the value of self-perform work in delivering high-quality results in a short period of time was evident. As a self-perform contractor, DPR was able to muster its own forces and complete complex work quickly. On this project, self-performed scopes included concrete, drywall, doors/frames/hardware and cleanroom panel installation, in addition to other specialties.

Lessons Applied

All these strategies used in conjunction—design-build, virtual design and construction, and SPW—ensured greater control and predictability along the project’s critical path. Quality improved thanks to the experience of the team and because they worked hard to plan out the project by accounting for what they learned in the past.

“There’s tons of little lessons applied and tweaks that we made to make sure the quality was there, but to also go fast and give us some flexibility,” said Scheidlinger.

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