Collaboration and Technology Accelerate Construction of an Emergency Command Center

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KCI, SEI, Widewaters and Motorola worked together on the county’s existing 911 call center that came online in 2011. The team’s experience with the specialized technology and functional requirements that are inherent in emergency operation facilities helped expedite this fast track project.

No matter the size, every emergency is a local event, meaning that every county, city, borough and town needs to consider preparedness. When Prince George’s County wanted to quickly build a new public safety complex, they worked with technology integrator and advisor Motorola Solutions to assemble a design-build team familiar with their needs. KCI is serving as engineer of record for the facility alongside Widewaters Construction Inc. and Smolen-Emr-Ilkovich Architects (SEI). All four firms previously worked together on the county’s primary 911 call center located in Bowie, Maryland.

The new 46,000-square-foot building will house several county departments, including Homeland Security’s Emergency Management Office, a backup 911 call center, the Office of Human Resource Management’s Public Safety Investigations Division, and a state-of-the-art emergency command center.

Prince George’s County faces various emergencies and disasters every year, and it is imperative that we provide our emergency team with advanced technology and facilities they need to do their jobs. This new facility will help us save lives and build on our successful record of responding and supporting residents during emergencies.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III

Together, architects and engineers incorporated a host of unique site and building features to support emergency operations, while also working to meet the aggressive schedule that will take the building from concept to ribbon cutting in one year, and complete operation and occupancy in less than 15 months.

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Separate entrances and stairwells allow each of the operating units within the building to maintain their required separation of space.

The design-build delivery process allowed all the players to be on board from day one, joining forces to identify critical path milestones early on. “We had to work out of sequence in order to meet the schedule, identifying key systems and components ahead of time, then designing system infrastructure to ensure all project objectives were still satisfied,” said KCI project manager Matthew E. Hulcher, PE. “Traditional engineering schedules ramp up as construction drawings are created, but this project required a significant front-end surge to identify potential pitfalls that we might not have time to address later.”

The team strategized with regulatory authorities from the outset of the project to address permitting, one of the most significant challenges to the schedule. The county elected to pursue a grading permit first, followed by a standard base building permit for the building shell, and then permitting for tenant fit-out. Reviewers have been involved throughout project development, meeting with designers regularly. “They have really bought into this accelerated process,” said KCI Senior Vice President Charles A. Phillips Jr., RPLS. “Their support has been critical to keeping us on track for final completion.” This permit sequence allowed crews to expedite site work and building construction while design was still ongoing.

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We worked nights and weekends to push the design from 65 to 100 percent in just 20 days. That’s an astonishing amount of work in a very small time frame.

Matthew E. Hulcher, PEPractice Leader, Fire Protection Engineer

Matthew E. Hulcher, PE

The firms also worked together to identify materials required for construction, including the unique features required to support the specialized functionality of an emergency operations center. Motorola and Widewaters developed a detailed list of pre-selected fixtures and equipment to eliminate time consuming reviews of subcontractor proposed equivalencies during bidding and inspection. Although setting a baseline specification as a general contractor is unusual—normally subcontractors can bid on and install comparable products—in this instance it expedited completion of design drawings without open-ended questions about mechanical and telecommunications components, lighting, paint, carpet and other finishes. Motorola and Widewaters were also able to work with manufacturers and distributors to identify and pre-order equipment with long lead times.

Coordination between technical disciplines also had a significant impact on schedule. The team elected to model nearly all aspects of the project utilizing Autodesk Revit® so that engineers and architects could coordinate their designs every step of the way. Autodesk Navisworks® was also employed to facilitate quality control efforts. Virtual walk-throughs were analyzed on a regular basis to identify conflicts and evaluate constructability. “It also allowed us to collaborate with the owner and for them to see and tour the building from an end-user standpoint,” said Widewaters project manager Andrew Saskowski. “Their input could be incorporated earlier in the design process, reducing change requests that might cause delays later on.”

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The design team chose to model the project using Autodesk Revit® and render it in Navisworks® to serve as an illustrative coordination tool. Designers could identify conflicts in 3-D, while owners could virtually walk through the building from an end-user perspective.

The county celebrated with an official groundbreaking ceremony on July 16, and the project remains on track. “The collaboration between the owners, contractors and design team has definitely been a success thus far,” said Saskowski. “When all is said and done, the entire design and permit process is going to take less than six months, and that is a huge achievement.”

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