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Seattle Weather Makes Life Especially Tricky For Contractors

Commercial construction projects are always complicated, but Seattle-area projects have additional challenges because of the region's climate. Recently Bisnow spoke with Abbott Construction president and CEO Troy Stedman about his company's work on the 300K SF Federal Aviation Administration regional HQ in the Des Moines Creek Business Park.

FAA regional HQ in Des Moines, May 2017

Bisnow: What is an example of a challenge in building a project like the FAA HQ, and how did you overcome it?

Stedman: A challenge is starting a major site area work project in the fall season and developing a high level of production momentum to maintain schedule. Due to issues outside the contractor’s control, the start date for the project was shifted to start in fall of 2017.

Bisnow: Why was that a concern?

Stedman: Given the wet weather in the Northwest, Abbott had significant concerns about the potential weather impacts the project could face if we had to perform excavation and site work activities during the fall and winter months.

To address the concern, we proposed to start site work activities early to complete the majority of it in the summer months. That required that the site work and foundation design for the project be issued in advance of the balance of the project design. Working in collaboration with the design team and project developer, we were able to create an “early design” package that covered the site elements of the project. 

Abbott Construction president and CEO Troy Stedman

Bisnow: Did the process happen as planned?

Stedman: Yes. Abbott performed the work during the dry summer months and was able to grade the site, install underground utilities, install first course of pavement and the building’s foundation all by mid-fall. In hindsight, this was an excellent idea, due to the extremely wet season that Seattle had in fall 2016 and winter 2017 (nearly four feet of rain since October).

That approach also provided a paved site for laydown for storage of material and equipment, which helped to facilitate subsequent construction activities such as structural steel erection, concrete activities and building skin, which has kept the project on schedule.

The FAA facility will be a case study at our Seattle Construction & Development event May 25 at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel, with Stedman as one of the speakers.