Sacto State Completes Parking Deck Nine Months Ahead of Schedule
Construction projects often come with a great deal of uncertainty. Long design times and bidding processes, along with a lack of collaboration between design and build teams, can lead to setbacks, higher costs and waste. In fact, industry benchmarks show that 61 percent of typical projects are behind schedule, while 49 percent are over budget.
With prefabrication, the debris and materials that we would typically see around a construction site were lessened.
With the growing sentiment among owners that “there has to be a better way,” prefabrication is becoming the preferred go-to for high-quality parking structures at the lowest possible cost, in the shortest amount of time. Prefabricated parking structures offer a multitude of benefits over traditional construction, such as less disruption on site, cost and schedule certainty, and less risk.
Yet, moving from traditional construction methods to prefabrication represents a paradigm shift among owners and project teams. We recently sat down with Tania Nunez, a project manager at California State University, Sacramento, to get her take on prefabrication for parking structure design and construction.
As a state agency, we publicly bid our projects and Clark Pacific presented a bid for prefabrication that ultimately, got our attention. The proposed fees were dramatically less than those for traditional construction. The project was a 1,750 stall, six-level parking structure on campus and it was completed so fast that some campus employees were skeptical of its safety. They’re not used to seeing a project that would typically take two years get completed in nine months. There are a lot of misconceptions about prefabrication that aren’t true. The market just needs to be educated so they understand that prefabricated structures are high-quality and just as safe, if not safer, than those built with traditional construction.
One of the greatest benefits we realized is that prefabrication significantly reduced the project’s impact on the campus. The new structure was replacing two surface parking areas that provided parking for faculty and staff. Contractually, we’re required to provide a parking space for every faculty member. To achieve this, we had to utilize student parking for faculty, which meant we had a reduction in student parking areas.
The removal of the old surface parking and construction of the new parking structure were happening concurrently, which meant parking was strained and as a result, traffic was higher than normal. The structure was prefabricated at Clark Pacific’s plant, so everything was well coordinated and there was less traffic. With traditional construction, there would have been months and months of trucks driving in and out to pour concrete. With prefabrication, we could plan the timing of the deliveries so that most trucks arrived early in the morning without creating additional traffic problems. We also were surprised by the cleanliness of the site. With prefabrication, the debris and materials that we would typically see around a construction site were lessened to a drastic degree.
As I mentioned, the project timeframe was a big benefit. We planned for the project to take around 18 months, but it only took nine months from the moment they stuck a shovel in the ground to the moment the first car pulled in to park. This is half the time we projected and time is money.
Finally, as a college campus, safety and security are a top priority and we need our students, faculty and staff to feel safe when they’re here. Prefabrication required less structural elements within the structure itself. You can essentially stand in one corner of the parking structure and see all the way to the opposite corner. If you go into any of our other parking structures, that’s not possible because of huge bearing walls or columns in the middle of the spans that don’t allow for that kind of visibility. We heard people comment, “I love parking there because I can see so much and it’s so bright.” The interior was painted white so reflection of the light makes it very bright.
The sense of feeling comfortable when you’re in the parking structure is wonderful. Without prefabrication, you’re not going to get that same effect.
Education is the biggest thing. Owners and architects need to be provided with actual case studies containing data that speaks to their needs. Owners are going to respond to improvements in schedule and budget. If you can show actual projects and how those two things were improved or affected, owners are going to respond. For example, the way that our parking structure was completed in half the time we expected. Also, owners want to see a consistent history of improvement across projects, which we’ve seen with prefabrication, so they can have confidence that it didn’t just happen to work out well on a particular project. For us, prefabrication has been tested a number of times and it keeps working and delivering the same results.
Finding the right partner is probably the most important part of prefabrication. Our partner, Clark Pacific, helped us strategize and find ways to accomplish our priorities. They worked side-by-side with our team throughout the design phase and for the nine months of construction. Toward the end of the project the Fire Marshal questioned the water flow on site, a problem that surfaced unexpectedly. Even though it had nothing to do with Clark Pacific, they worked with us to get to the bottom of the issue. Their team helped us test valves and gather the data we needed to share with the city. They actively tried to get the issue resolved so the project could resume, even though they didn’t have to.
Jenn Pratt is senior content specialist with Carabiner Communications She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org