Since spring, a Plano-Coudon project team has been methodically burrowing its way across CCBC’s Catonsville campus.
The 17-month project may lack the drama of erecting a sparkling new academic building, but it’s no less vital to delivering education.
The project team is completely replacing the campus electrical infrastructure — adding new switchgear, increasing the site’s electrical capabilities and, yes, digging their way throughout the sprawling campus to install underground electrical duct banks. Furthermore, the team must execute the invasive work without blocking activities around campus or disrupting power to classes or ongoing research projects.
“It’s pretty challenging because there are existing utilities everywhere and you have to avoid them. Whenever you’re digging your way through a campus, you have to make sure you don’t hit a phone line, data line, gas line or water line,” said Cliff Milstead, Project Executive.
For Plano-Coudon, it is one of several dozen education projects the company will work on or complete this year. Decades of experience have equipped Plano-Coudon with skills that are key to serving higher education and K-12 clients especially well, including the abilities to work on active campuses without causing disruptions, to build a wide variety of educational facilities and to meet the needs of sophisticated clients.
“With higher education projects, you are dealing with a sophisticated owner who is looking at their project holistically from a campus-wide standpoint,” said Thomas Koch, a Senior Project Manager who has worked on multiple higher education projects, including the CCBC electrical upgrade.
Higher education clients can require more rigorous processes. Those can include: “mini site logistics plans” that map out work as a project (such as the CCBC electrical upgrade) moves around campus; meticulous subcontracting to meeting MBE, local hiring or other goals; expanded use of RFIs, coordinated drawings and other project documentation; and expanded use of BIM.
“Sophisticated owners with bigger campuses and multiple buildings are really trying to utilize BIM so that in the future, they have a more detailed and clearer understanding of their facilities — what they have, where it is and how they can interact with it,” Koch said.
Many education projects are bid through Construction Manager contracts — a model that Plano-Coudon has ample experience with.
“Our project managers and superintendents have good experience working in those environments,” Milstead said. “We can help with pre-construction and collaborate with the architect and project team to ensure the project comes in on budget.”
Through its logistics plans, safety program and extensive coordination with owners, facilities personnel and project team members, Plano-Coudon has honed its ability to complete projects without disrupting campus activities.
For example, when the University of Maryland contracted Plano-Coudon to replace the HVAC system in the natatorium at Eppley Recreation Center in College Park, the project team knew they would have to deal with sophisticated technology, uncommonly large equipment, near-daily inspections by university officials and a fluid work schedule that would have to be tailored to meet university requirements, extended notices of planned outages and coordination with multiple UMD departments. The project team, however, also had to tailor work to accommodate the heavy, daily flow of individuals to the rec center, including a summer day camp that funneled children to the rock-climbing wall and obstacle course next to the project’s scaffold.
Plano-Coudon has leveraged its experience with a wide variety of construction types to meet the needs of higher education and K-12 clients. The education projects have ranged from grand, signature projects like the Robert L. Bogomolny Library and Towson University Residence Tower to renovating a greenhouse for an agricultural studies program at North Harford High School and upgrading the sound room at the Peabody Institute — a project that required exact execution of a highly specialized design.
Plano-Coudon has built libraries, dining halls, student clinics, dormitories, classrooms, athletic facilities and an array of standard and specialized laboratories. In 2018, Plano-Coudon completely gutted and rebuilt the 4,200-square-foot veterinary sciences clinic at CCBC Essex. In addition to building new exam rooms, laboratories, kennels and x-ray rooms with lead-lined walls, the project team had to rebalance HVAC systems and add ductwork even though “we were working in the basement of an eight-story building and there were a lot of large pipes to work around,” said D.J. Widlake, Project Manager.
Plano-Coudon’s Small Projects Division (SPD) has proven to be especially well suited to executing K-12 and higher education projects, including on-call work for educational systems. The division completed 38 higher education projects in 2018 ranging in price from $5,000 to $650,000.
“We keep putting the same team together again and again to serve the same education client,” said Blair Radney, SPD Project Executive. “Each school system has slightly different issues, specs and procedures. By putting the same team on multiple projects for the same school system, they learn that environment well so they can work more efficiently and fully meet the client’s expectations.”