Technology Combination Ups Quality and Lowers Costs on Hilton High-rise Project

W.M. Jordan uses a combination of technologies to cut time, costs and risks on a high-rise project in downtown Norfolk, VA.

W.M. Jordan has used robotic total stations before, but this was the first time it used one for field work. It proved useful for a variety of surveying, layout and quality control tasks.
W.M. Jordan has used robotic total stations before, but this was the first time it used one for field work. It proved useful for a variety of surveying, layout and quality control tasks.

Norfolk, VA, has a history of adapting to change. With beginnings in 1636, the city has undergone war, epidemics, fires, and economic depression to grow into the state’s second largest city, the region's economic hub and home to the U.S. Naval Station, the largest Navy base in the world, spanning approximately 3,400 acres.

The Norfolk Hilton and Conference Center is the newest high-rise downtown. Topping out at more than 230 ft., the structure will dominate the Norfolk skyline, while respecting the historic buildings it abuts. Called The Main, the $126 million public/private initiative is expected to transform the corner of Main and Granby Streets. The facility will have 380,000 sq. ft. of space and will include a 22-story luxury hotel, a 50,000-sq.-ft. conference center known as The Exchange at The Main, and three premier restaurants.

Managing the construction and the more than 30 contractors working on this large, complex project is the construction management firm W. M. Jordan Company, based in Newport News.

The structure is a 22-story building with the mix of various contractors on the site, which meant the timing and sequencing of efforts was critical. Add to the challenge, the creative architectural design has many supports that have an angle, which tosses out the expectation they would be perpendicular from a level baseline.

“It was crucial to establish the building control lines that all the contractors could rely on,” says Dwayne Sellars, Virtual Construction Manager, with W. M. Jordan Company, “The building is an L-shape, with two contrary angles to make that shape. It’s not truly an L, since the column lines don’t run north-south through the building continuously.“

W. M. Jordan does not self-perform work, but with this project there was a quality control concern that construction errors would be too costly to discover after the fact. They needed to be prevented.

“There was too much potential for an error to occur that could have had very expensive repercussions down the line,” Sellars says. “That’s why we decided to invest in the robotic total station.”

Fewer Mistakes Plus Cost Savings

With the help of Atlantic Laser Supply, Chesapeake, VA, W. M. Jordan Company purchased a Sokkia SX-105T robotic total station which features auto-tracking technology, Windows CE 6.0 with Topcon MAGNET Field software, RED-Tech reflectorless measurement and an advanced angle measurement system.

“We initially purchased the Sokkia robotic total station for quality control and that use alone more than made the investment worthwhile, since there were several concrete slabs and sleeves that were off and we caught before the pours,” says Sellars. “We prevented some hugely costly mistakes from occurring. We also found many other beneficial uses for the technology.”

The company has owned and used robotic total stations before; but on this project, it was the company’s first time using a robotic total station for field work. The system was used for building control lines, resections, pile layout and as-built, utilities layout, foundation layout, wall layout and metal stud wall checks, quality control of driven piles and edge of slabs per-pour, embed layout and custom ceiling layout.

“There’s obviously a time- and cost-saving story behind each of our uses of the Sokkia but the as-built of utilities is worth elaborating on,” Sellars comments. “Because the complex is a zero lot line in downtown Norfolk, we worked with the city on the timing and how best to relocate utility boxes to fit with the needs and design of the new structure. We surveyed every box and then reviewed that with the city and the utility companies for logistics and accommodating the demands of our schedule while also ensuring minimal if any interruption of service to the neighboring buildings.”

Combined Technologies Boost Quality and Reduce Risk

On the front end of the project, W.M. Jordan used Autodesk Point Layout software to place points inside the building information model and to bring points captured in the field back into the model for comparison. Sellars was on site for the first month to troubleshoot and manage the process, while project engineer Austin Tempus learned the software and its capabilities.

“Quite honestly, the project is being completed with less risk and better quality because we’re using the Sokkia SX-105T robotic total station and AutoDesk software,” Sellars states. “David Rowe, our field manager with 35-plus years of surveyor experience, really jumped in and took responsibility for applying the robotic total station to the best benefits of the project.”

The Norfolk Hilton and Conference Center is on schedule for a 2017 opening.