The construction industrys top Oscar award in the Design-Build New category was earned recently through a team approach by the Modular Space division of GE Equipment Services, one of the largest lessors of mobile and modular buildings in North America, and Clark Design Build/LLC, one of the nation's most experienced and respected providers of construction services.

The honors came from a team effort by GE and Clark to successfully complete a mega building project in 2004-- the site preparation of 102 acres and the installation of 199 custom buildings in just 142 days at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The project, built at the home of the U.S. Armys 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), now services almost 900 soldiers and other support personnel.

The award from the Associated General Contractors (AGC) and Aon Construction Services Group was presented during the annual convention of AGC in Las Vegas, NV, as part of the Aon Build America Awards. These awards symbolize excellence in construction, promoting quality, uniqueness and innovation within individual projects.

The Fort Stewart reservation covers close to 280,000 acres, and includes parts of five Georgia counties. At 39 miles across from east to west, and 19 miles from north to south, it has become a permanent post providing important training to its soldiers and assistance to its neighbors in the coastal southeast. Over the years, soldiers there have served in four of America's conflicts, and are now actively helping to stamp out terrorism around the world.

The $73 million U.S. Army Modularity campus project, jointly completed by GE and Clark, included a $25 million building portion, believed to be one of the largest such projects in the history of the modular industry. It comprises 467 separate units, joined to form buildings for barracks, offices, supply rooms, battalion headquarters, company operations offices, and laundry facilities. Other structures were erected for tank and vehicle maintenance facilities, and much more. As the Commander of the 3rd Infantry said, This is the fastest the army has seen construction completed since World War II.

Modularity is not only a type of construction, it also defines the new and more effective type of fighting force the Army has initiated this year. Individual Army units with special abilities, but sometimes from far-flung bases, are identified by commanders, and brought together at a single site for specialized joint training for a specific mission.

Thanks to GE's modular units, the Army base is expecting to optimize performance of the military units who reside in those structures during training and preparation for missions. The quick installation of the new facilities at Fort Stewart has helped the Army get this concept underway, in a timely and realistic fashion, particularly urgent when forces are being deployed to fight the Global War on Terrorism.

The 3rd Infantry Division is the first division in the Army to undergo the conversion to a modular structure, explained Col. John M. Kidd, Fort Stewart garrison commander at the time of the project, and part of garrisons mission was to accommodate the structures and facilities required for the new brigade. These barracks are going to go a long way. It gives these Soldiers a good place to live while we work on building the permanent facilities for them, and it relieves a greatly overcrowded condition that we had as result of adding nearly 2,000 more Soldiers to our post.

Overcoming Challenges in a Race to the Finish

In addition to the aggressive schedule to complete this mega-project, and intense pressure by the government to provide immediate training and housing facilities, the job included some site-specific challenges. Over 100 acres of forest needed to be cleared and grubbed, ponds had to be excavated, materials had to be disposed of without impact to the surrounding environment, and pipes and cable had to be buried and installed. All of this was completed in the face of some adverse weather conditions -- during three hurricanes that pounded the area over the late summer. But the teams charged ahead, partnering closely to overcome these challenges and staying committed to the tight schedule.

The project contract was awarded on May 25, 2004, and the entire design-build team, including the key subcontractors, was ready and had established temporary offices in local hotels. The Notice to Proceed was issued the following day at 10 a.m. to begin construction. At 10:10 a.m. that day, site clearing and silt fencing operations were off and running, involving more than 20 pieces of earth moving equipment, three survey crews, two silt fencing crews and related support personnel.

Approximately 102 acres of previously forested land was cleared and grubbed in only eight calendar days. Daily workshop Charette design meetings took place at the Army base, and at temporary Contractor offices in nearby hotels. Within two weeks, more than 16,000 square feet of modular office space was completely operational for use by the Clark staff, the USACE personnel and the key subcontractors on this fast-paced project. Temporary office telephone and Internet services for 40 design/build representatives were provided via a quick startup satellite service.

Throughout this fast pace project, national security sensitivities of a secure Army base with mandatory employee monitoring and scanning of equipment, materials and deliveries of all kinds had to be dealt with. The ongoing Army base had to remain functional in their operations without disruptions from our project that entailed significant construction equipment, personnel and delivery logistics. Detailed coordination, planning and completion of all activities on the base were mandatory. Traffic detours, utility outages, special staging and material delivery coordination all demanded significant pre-planning.

Excellence in Project Management

The Clark Design-Build Team had an excellent working relationship with both the US Army Corps representatives overseeing construction and the 3rd Infantry Army end user representatives. Working together, the project team overcame many design and construction challenges. Since this was the first of its kind, teamwork and continual brainstorming was needed to avoid obstacles. There were no past lessons learned that could apply to this undertaking.

Through the innovative Charette workshop efforts of all the team members and their commitment to work together, this very challenging project became a reality. The success of this rapid start-up challenge for the project team reinforced relationships and established a good foundation for teamwork on challenges to come.

A significant construction technique that permitted the critical site work to proceed expeditiously was the use of GPS devices to control all major equipment. The heavy equipment that cleared the land (dozers), grubbed the land (tillers), excavated the ponds (excavators), placed the new fill (dozers), final graded the sites (graders), and placed and finished the concrete (laser screeds), were all linked to computer software and GPS systems to control both site and concrete grades. The ends of the blades on the heavy equipment all have position indicators reporting via satellite to maintain the proper project grades/slopes/alignments and concrete elevations. This was a construction first" for both the Army and Clark where most all equipment was GPS enabled.

After clearing and preparing the site, a technique called pre-fabrication of the plumbing connection was used below GEs modular units, and over 400 of GEs modular units were set with water, sanitary and fire pipe connections.

Each barrack unit includes two living quarters, and within those quarters are three separate rooms, a central kitchen and bathroom. Each room is furnished with new furniture, including a computer desk, television stand, dresser, lamps and a twin-size bed. The project also included a number of appliances from GEs Consumer and Industrial business, including refrigerators, microwaves and commercial grade washers and dryers.

Clark worked over 240,000 hours on the project with no lost time incidents and only one (1) recordable injury. Its safety orientation program combined with a drug-free workplace policy helped to ensure a safe workplace. Random drug testing and often daily, Take 5 special safety training sessions also helped to make sure the Clark Think Safety First message was clear. The project safety goals were always communicated to workers in a very positive way by Clark field supervisors and its full-time safety manager.

This project was something new for the Army, because the Army did not previously employ comprehensive battalion facilities such as these. The battalion and company offices include the latest data, voice and security systems available, as well as spacious work areas. The result: barracks facilities that exceed the current Army quality of life guidelines for soldiers at home in the US.

Soldiers who have already made their home in the barracks are excited about the new living quarters.

The new barracks are very nice and are near luxurious, said Spc. Michael Fraire, A Company, 4-3 Brigade Troop Battalion. Having a single room is spacious, and you dont have to worry about anybody invading your privacy.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Harris, a commander with a private office in the new units, noted, We moved into our facility as part of our new Calvary Squadron Headquarters in October. The facility is very useful for us. We have enough room to get the entire squadron unit in here plus some extra. The other benefit we have is a classroom that sits up to 35 folks where we can run classes. We have a conference room where the entire staff, troop commander and first sergeant can set up a training meeting there. So I would say its very functional, compared to any other facility here on post that houses battalion and squadron levels.

In addition to GE Modular Space, other major sub-contractors to Clark Construction included: Design Partner LS3P Associates; Building Manufacturing -- Design Space Inc. (Archie McKinnon) and Kings Custom Builders (Rusty Taylor); Set-up -- Hunter Modular (Oscar Hunter); Appliances -- GE Appliances; and Steps--On-Ramp/Redd Team.

Colonel Roger Gerber, District Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District, said in a note to the general contractor, Thank you for support of our mission. Your can-do attitude and clear understanding of relevant factors help us quickly reach the right results.

To learn more about Modular Space from GE Equipment Services, please visit: http://www.modspace.com

To learn more about Clark Construction, please visit: http://www.clarkconstruction.com