Smart solutions and sheer determination: pushing through the limits of project schedule

Granite City High School, home to the Warriors of Granite City, Illinois, had run on coal power and old building technologies since its original construction in 1921. The facility badly needed modernization. When the district’s leaders kicked off their project, they first hired an architect before bringing in The Korte Company as construction manager to work with the architect to assist in developing the scope of work, project schedule and constructability. But major design failings put the project behind schedule and nearly doomed it from the start.

A slow start to design put the job in jeopardy

From the onset of the project, the architect struggled to design the school and required tight oversight. The design process lagged behind, throwing the project timeline in jeopardy. In fact, the start of construction was delayed by a full year, turning what was originally planned as a 30-month construction timeline into an 18-month timeline. Another issue was the lack of accurate and complete site analysis, which left many ambiguities in the original design. When it came time to bid out work to trade contractors, the bids came close to the budget, but it was clear that change orders and unanticipated costs would add up and become a major project hurdle. Ultimately, the school district decided to bring in a different architect to improve the design. The new architect, a former member of Korte Design who started an independent firm, worked closely with us to produce a superior design that met the budget. But the construction timeline was already truncated, and the job had other challenges in store for us too.

Due to the age of the school building, it required significant demolition and abatement. And the project team had to accommodate an active school environment that taught close to 1,000 students. Simply put, this was no picnic. But at The Korte Company, we like the tough jobs.

Solutions and results

To complete the project in time, we adapted the construction sequence to fit a more aggressive schedule, working with the school to build swing spaces. These areas would house temporary classrooms during the school year, allowing us to work on more areas simultaneously to meet the new, 18-month timeline. During the summer, we delivered the necessary demolition and abatement, replacing an old smokestack and retro coal boilers with a modern HVAC system. We had the project team abate the pipes and old mastic tile floors, eventually implementing new mechanical and electrical systems. We were able to downsize the mechanical area as well as reduce the space of an old shop room, transforming much of it into a new media center that served as swing-space classrooms during the next school year. Our project team then renovated about 50 classrooms in the two-story building during the school year, installed a new roof and delivered tuckpointing, an upgraded exterior and new windows.

In short, we solved the project and facility problems to get the job done — on-budget and on-time. The school district was pleased. And years later, they turned to The Korte Company again, this time to overhaul the nearly century-old foundation.

High school renovation: a case study in communication

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