Indianapolis has a game plan for the February 2012 Super Bowl XLVI.
By Sue McCraven
When thousands of football fans invade downtown Indianapolis in February, they’ll be doing their own version of the Super Bowl shuffle on a festive new three-block Pedestrian Promenade that will be a focal point of the revelry surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts and site of the big game. While the party goes on above ground, one of the more unique aspects of the Georgia Street Improvements will be buried underground – an innovative water-recycling stormwater sluiceway constructed from a series of custom-designed precast concrete elements.
Cast-in-place utility vaults and stormwater culverts were part of the initial construction plans for the Georgia Street Reconstruction Project, also called Indy’s Super Bowl Pedestrian Promenade. On those plans, only the grade beams were to be of precast concrete. John Lendrum of Norwalk Concrete Industries, the precaster for the project, spotted an opportunity and pounced.
“As producers, it is a daily challenge for our sales force to educate specifiers and owners on the advantages of precast components versus cast-in-place construction,” said Lendrum. While looking at the drawings, he saw that precast utility structures would not require as large an excavation, as lengthy a delivery and installation time, nor create as much site disruption as cast-in-place site work. He deftly used this consulting opportunity to present his case to gain possession of additional underground work.
After submitting his proposal to Hunt Construction Group, the contractor for the project, Lendrum contacted Delta Engineers, Architects & Land Surveyors, a specialty precast engineering firm, requesting the load calculations for a precast concrete drainage system (see Precast Solutions magazine, Fall 2011 issue, “Precast Tackles Super Bowl Walk”).
Precast staff loves a challenge
The people on Norwalk’s staff contributed their ideas too. While many of the precast elements required custom casting, “our staff found the sluiceway work challenging, fun and mind-expanding,” said Lendrum. New custom forms were built in-house and, once fabricated, were used for all the culvert pieces. In the planning stages for the project, “production staff constantly suggested ways to make the project better, and their enthusiasm made the project all the more exciting.”
Precasters often relish unusual assignments, because a challenge perks up the staff. Unique applications are more invigorating than just stamping out identical pieces. It’s a misconception, said Lendrum, that production staff is adversely affected by novel or difficult projects. Quite the opposite, in fact: By involving the precaster at the early planning stages, the contractor was able to take advantage of many decades of precasting experience at the production level that gave the project added value.
Precasters need to get off the bench
In business, no different from the gridiron, opportunity is where you find it. Especially in today’s uncertain business outlook, producers must go after projects that have routinely been the home field of cast-in-place construction. “Designers often specify cast-in-place concrete, because they don’t fully understand the added value and construction savings that may result from using precast,” said Lendrum. “Conversion of a cast-in-place design to precast is an option that producers can pursue to increase sales.”
By getting in the game early to convince owners and engineers of the advantages of precast and by staying close to design engineers, producers can gain new work. Here’s Lendrum’s game plan:
1. Propose alternative solutions to owners and emphasize precast’s lower labor costs for high-quality, plant-produced product. By convincing owners to look at precast concrete’s measurable benefits, including rapid delivery and installation with minimal site disruption, producers like Norwalk and specialty precast engineers like Delta can gain new market territory.
2. Cultivate relationships with engineers so that they view precast solutions as a value-added product. To accomplish this, it is essential that producers provide engineers with the “nuts and bolts” of precast systems, because engineers determine the building systems used, particularly in regard to subgrade work. For example, once the cross section of the footing design for Indy’s Super Bowl Promenade was redesigned in precast, Delta Engineers substantially reduced the trench’s material weight, project timetable and site disruption.
3. Huddle with architects so that they are aware that precast building cladding offers many aesthetic, color, dimension and textural possibilities that improve the conceptual appearance.
4. Allow the plant staff to carry the ball. An important aspect of competing with CIP for non-commodity precast work is found on the plant floor.
In today’s business climate, precasters need to think outside the box to capture new business opportunities beyond traditional product lines.
With the lengthy official name “A New Urban Outdoor Event Venue: Georgia Street Improvements, Indianapolis,” this unusual and innovative project will literally “deck out” downtown Indy in grand style for Super Bowl XLVI fans. And while the above-ground wooden boardwalk, beautiful architectural treatments and gorgeous landscaping will likely wow the crowd, it is what now lies under the street that is the really good news for the precast industry currently struggling in a sluggish business climate.
Sue McCraven, NPCA technical consultant and Precast Solutions magazine editor, is a civil and environmental engineer.