Coordinating Installs on the Epic Wilshire Grand Project
Dan Watts, BIM Lead for Pan Pacific Mechanical outlines the difficulty of building a 1,100 foot tall building in earthquake country.
Although the new Los Angeles Wilshire Grand build only recently surpassed street level, once completed, the tower will be the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River, set right in the heart of earthquake country. Room for error on the project is virtually nonexistent. The formidable concrete core, currently under construction, boasts four-foot thick walls so any miscalculation with the core would result in a permanent, irreversible issue affecting nearly all project teams and tasks moving forward.
Here at Bluebeam, we were curious how one of our users, Dan Watts, BIM Lead for Pan Pacific Mechanical, felt about being a part of such a complex project. Here’s what he had to say.
What are the stakes on a project this complex and large?
All eyes are on us! Everyone is watching this job, and because of the nature of the project, it’s in the spotlight. Quite frankly, it’s one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. The stakes are high. This is an extremely fast-paced project and there is really no room for error in the schedule. The slightest deviation from the schedule impacts everyone, so we really have to try our best to do our part to be proactive and help things progress on time. I find myself having to take the ‘above and beyond’ approach more often than not.
How hard is it to be constructing such a tall building in earthquake country? What’s been different about this project because of that?
The tower is 1,100 feet tall and is designed to sway and move in the event of an earthquake. We have to take a similar approach to our plumbing system and provide expansion joints to allow for the movement of the tower. At Pan Pacific, we are very used to stringent seismic bracing requirements because we are a Southern California Contractor. We are well prepared to deal with a building of this caliber and have a strong understanding of the challenges we face seismically.
Tell us a little about design coordination on the project.
This building has been constantly evolving for the past couple years. It has come a long way since schematic design, and luckily, my team has been here to follow it and really be involved with the design. We went from design-assist to design-build last April and our team has been working hard over the last seven months to create a design that works!
What do you personally find the most unique about this design and how it’s being executed? Are you doing anything on this project that you’ve never done before?
There are quite a few “firsts” for me on this job. For one, I have never built a building this tall. That to me is the coolest thing! There is also a storm water retention tank. We are collecting all of the rain water from the site and filtering and recycling it. We use the water to feed some water towers and chillers on the podium roof. The architecture of this building is nothing short of awesome, so it is really kind of cool to be able to design plumbing systems that work with the building.
What are some of the unique design, construction and coordination challenges unique to this project?
It is fast-paced and very complex! Trying to get all of the teams on the same page and have the same momentum is always a challenge, but the teams on this project have really stepped up. We are working as a team to establish our design constraints early on in order to get the information to the design team for revisions. From a plumbing stand point, the atrium skylight and the storm water retention tank have been challenging to coordinate. At this point, the parking garage is nearly complete, so now the MEPF teams are pushing to try and get ahead of the structural steel, which has already started. Steel and metal deck construction goes very fast, so we all have our work cut out for us. From this point on, I am anxious to see the site grow and progress now that we are above the street level.
How big of a problem would a mistake or a miscalculation be at this stage? Are the teams generally aware of how costly a setback would be?
A miscalculation could potentially be a huge cost impact. As you can see, we are building the core wall right now. We have to pre-coordinate every single penetration through the wall, not only with other trades, but with rebar and concrete forms. Each sleeve is super critical for the hotel distribution. Every sleeve we install requires structural approval from the engineer. Mistakes happen, but we try our best not to make them. We are really focused on the core wall because we can’t make any mistakes here.
Describe your current general workflow today at the Wilshire Grand.
We use AutoCAD and Navisworks to detail and coordinate our plumbing systems. Upon completion, we create PDF shop drawings. We use Bluebeam Revu to turn our shop drawings into a dynamic set of documents that we can distribute to the fabrication shop and field staff using Bluebeam Studio. Using iPads and tablets in the field, our workers can access our drawings from anywhere on demand. Yes, we still print! Though we are not completely paperless, we are taking a step forward in the right direction. Bluebeam Studio Projects help keep us organized with everything in one place. I rarely get the question, “Where did you put that drawing again?”
This will be the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi, and you’re building it with Turner Construction—How huge is this project for you?
Every morning, I drive into work and look at the L.A. skyline. It still seems kind of surreal to me that we are going to change it! It is really cool to be a part of this team building Wilshire Grand, and there is really no place I would rather be.