Early planning, high-tech tools help keep Jefferson High School project on schedule

Nov. 25, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Journey Group.

To the outside world, the future Jefferson High School is beginning to take shape.

Steel and precast are starting to rise, and the construction site in northwest Sioux Falls is filled with more than 50 workers daily.

But behind the scenes – and before even a ceremonial shovel was put in the ground – construction manager at risk Journey Group was taking steps to ensure the city’s first new high school in 30 years would stay on schedule.

“Building a plan is critical before you build a building, especially one this large and involved,” senior project manager Joe Niewohner said.

“We did a design pull plan that was all about getting us, the design team and the school district all on the same page. That way, as design progressed, we could identify bid packages and start getting packages bid out early.”

Since spring, three bid packages have gone out.

“And that’s really allowed us to get everybody on board and secured early enough that we can do a lot of pre-planning,” Niewohner said.

“We’ve been working with our steel and precast partners since June, just planning so all the pieces can come together.”

The plan always was to start steel and precast work in early November, a milestone the team hit on schedule and a big one as winter approaches.

“I feel like we’ve set it up well. Winter is a good time to be doing steel and precast. You’re fighting the elements, but it’s not like you have things that are temperature-sensitive going into place,” Niewohner said.

“In the next few months, it’s really going to be taking shape from a building standpoint.”

Crews also have about 75 percent of the site utilities in, all 2,400 geopiers done, the foundations in the gym area nearly all installed, foundation going in for the rest of the building through the end of the year and a partially paved parking lot done so materials can be staged for winter.

“They’re doing wonderful,” said Jeff Kreiter, director of operational services for the Sioux Falls School District. “We’re in a good position, and everybody is pretty comfortable. I think the design team and Journey, using the construction manager at risk approach, can continue through the winter without delay in the end product.”

Journey’s virtual design and construction manager, Jamison Mutschelknaus, has been involved all along helping virtually model the building from behind the scenes.

“We have all our subcontractors on board, and we’re modeling all the HVAC trades as well as fire suppression,” he said.

“We’ve ensured it’s coordinated, and we’ve used clash detection on it. So we’re virtually building the building, making sure everything will fit, that we have no issues and that the construction is correct prior to constructing that portion of the building. So that way we can keep the process moving and we don’t encounter issues that slow the process down.”

He has created virtual tours of the site that the team can pull up in its construction trailer and navigate using an Xbox controller.

“It allows them to walk the site using virtual reality, so as they’re meeting they can be walking through the building virtually and discussing where things are at,” Mutschelknaus said.

A drone is flown over the site weekly to help map and track progress.

“I’m overlaying our models on top of those drone images so we can track the progress and see where people are working and what we need to keep clear, plus it helps with safety,” Mutschelknaus said.

“A lot of times it’s simple – a CAD site plan laid over the site images so we can see where people are at. But it’s so much easier to look at drone images and say where people need to be.”

It’s a project that’s leveraging all of Journey’s most high-tech tools, he added.

“We almost have to with as big as it is. Even though it’s a school, there’s a lot of complexity, so being able to virtually build it saves us a lot of time and headaches,” he said. “It’s going well. We broke the building up into nine different pieces, and we’re working through the third one right now, and we have a timeline of where we need to be to stay ahead of construction on site, so it’s going really well.”

On the ground, Niewohner and his team are constantly communicating and coordinating.

“We constantly monitor the plan,” he said. “There are always going to be things that come up, but to me it’s just about identifying challenges early on so we can adjust our plan. That’s part of the lean culture we’re building out here, identifying constraints and finding ways to adjust. I feel like we have a really good team all around, and that’s what makes it fun and exciting to be part of a big project like this.”

For Kreiter, Jefferson High School is his first experience with the construction manager at risk approach, and he said he’s recognizing the benefits of bringing in Journey early in the process. The building is on track to open in the fall of 2021.

“We positioned ourselves well pre-design before we even started,” he said. “So we know what the best practices are, the best materials to get us through the time period we’re dealing with. We know when things are arriving. It’s very well thought out, and they’ve done a great job managing the bids, the construction sequencing and how they’re working through it on site with multiple contractors.”

The team is consistently looking ahead, he added.

“They’re always looking at where people need to be. It’s amazing when I see the map there of timeframes and when things will be completed, and they’re holding to those schedules. I don’t see that in a lot of projects,” he said. “I’m really happy with the team we’re working with, the group Journey has put together. I think they’re doing an outstanding job.”

Early planning, high-tech tools help keep Jefferson High School project on schedule

Winter might be in the air, but that isn’t slowing construction progress at the new Jefferson High School. Here’s why.

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