Before the terrorist attack on 9-11, the Pentagon was in the midst of one of the most complex renovation projects in contemporary history. By the 1990’s, the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and information technology systems in the Pentagon were inadequate for the needs of contemporary office workers. With the deterioration of the building infrastructure came constant problems. For example, facility maintenance crews reset more than 100 electrical breakers or fuses every day. Renovation was clearly needed, and a traditional design-bid-build project began in 1992. However, six years later, serious budget and schedule overruns endangered the entire project. Design-build came to the rescue.
Walker Lee Evey, a contracting officer at the time and later CEO of DBIA, pioneered an innovative design-build contract that would combine the Pentagon wedges under a single contract with a single line of responsibility. The new contract was conceived and the request for qualifications (RFQ) issued in late 1999. The procurement method was not the only innovation. Where most federal RFQs/RFPs run thousands of pages with drawings and design specifications, this proposal was a mere half-inch thick. It was a set of “performance guidelines,” giving interested firms the opportunity for innovation. The project presented a challenge: design and then build a new vision of the Pentagon, one that would keep the historic structure, while enabling it to meet the needs of the future. Staying on budget and on schedule would also fall to the design-builder.
When Flight 77 hurtled into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, reconstruction of Wedge 1 was near completion as part of the Pentagon Renovation Program (PenRen). After the attack, the Phoenix Project was born with a promise to rebuild the damaged area before the one-year anniversary. Project leaders based much of the Phoenix Project’s structure on the PenRen program’s organization and the contract for Wedges 2 through 5 was awarded to the Hensel Phelps Construction Co., just three days later. At that point, two facts were clear: 1) the already completed renovations at the site of the plane crash proved their worth. The section of the Pentagon struck by the plane had been renovated earlier to include blast-proof windows and Kevlar in the walls, helped minimize the human toll of the terror attack. The same antiterrorist measures, and more, were planned as part of the modernization of the remaining four wedges. 2) The renovation of the rest of the building needed to be completed more quickly than originally planned. The contract originally called for the complete Pentagon renovation project to be finished in 14 years. After 9/11, that schedule was reduced to four years. The 3,000-member Phoenix project team completed demolition and reconstruction of the damaged section 28 days ahead of schedule, before the one-year anniversary of the attack, and approximately $194 million under budget.
Efficient and Productive Systems:
The design-build contract’s flexibility and the design-build team’s dedication and originality were vital to the Pentagon project’s success. The team planned every phase of the work for maximum efficiency. The usual renovation practice would be to move all staff out of one wedge, complete that wedge, move everyone back and then repeat for each segment. Instead, the Hensel Phelps team developed a phasing scheme that moved people to and from swing spaces and other sections of the building within 17 overlapping phased turnovers. Other government contractors installing communications systems and moving furniture were also able to use this method for efficiency. The team refined their design and phasing so that there was almost no disruption of services to any of the tenants during the project, an unusual accomplishment. This process also allowed the Pentagon’s leadership, including the secretary of defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff, to enjoy a smooth, phased move, permitting them to continue their important work with minimum interruptions.
Throughout the project, Hensel Phelps adapted systems to improve communication, collaboration and team efficiency. The team motto became, “On time, on budget and built for the next 50 years.”
Hensel Phelps systematically re-sequenced the design effort to support construction, while still allowing for a proper design review process. It developed a short interval production scheduling system, known as SIPS, by analyzing the design and construction process for common, repetitive elements. Hensel Phelps grouped related activities into five-day workweek blocks that were then organized to produce a constant and predictable flow of work. The SIPS blocks were arranged into a “SIPS train,” which, once started, progressed through the entire sequence of activities until completed. These simplified scheduling and disseminating plans aligned the design and construction teams and produced a highly effective and very fast-paced project.
In addition to innovative design and construction processes, the team developed a universal space plan (USP) for the Pentagon. The USP provides a flexible use of space that can be quickly reconfigured to accommodate changing needs. Hensel Phelps used the concept of “flexibility through rigidity” to pre-define workspace configurations that allow for different needs while staying within the floor plan. As needs and personnel change, the office areas can be reorganized quickly, without disrupting the overall plan.
The final project met its design mandate. It stays true to the Pentagon’s historic past but embraces the future with innovative and flexible elements to anticipate future needs. Designed to provide a comfortable workplace for a large workforce (25,000 at the time), with the most stringent anti terrorist protections possible, we can expect the Pentagon to stand strong for another half century.
Owner: U.S. Department of Defense/Washington Headquarters Services/Pentagon Renovation & Construction Office
Design-Build Team Leader: Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
General Contractor: Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
Architects: Shalom Baranes Associates (Architect of Record) Studios Architecture (Interior/Space Planning) MCLA (Lighting Designer)
Engineers: Tadjer Cohen & Edelson Associates (Structural Engineers) Timmons Group (Civil Engineers) Schirmer Engineering (Fire Suppression)