Like the site, the project's overall schedule was tight, too, as evidenced by the 12-week turnaround time that fabricator FabArc Steel Supply of Oxford, Ala., faced to start supplying the project's steel. Overall, FabArc's assignment including producing more than 10,000 pieces of steel, along with more than 100,000 high-strength bolts. But that schedule "wasn't a challenge" for the specialty firm, Stone says.

Instead, Mother Nature proved to be a bigger challenge, with the contractor noting that rain and an extended, unusual cold snap combined to deliver 90 weather-impacted days out of the contract's roughly two-year construction schedule.

Due to Northrop Grumman's production requirements, no schedule extensions were possible, causing Austin to juggle the shift work of numerous subcontractors towards the latter stages of Phase 1 construction.

"As the work window gets compressed, your work sequences and interface between the trades (gets) complicated," says Stone. While wrapping up the main production facility, he adds, "managing that big floor space was one of the biggest challenges over the last few months" of final finish construction work for the first phase.

The new plant incorporates several modern touches, such as a band of windows that provide significant daylighting, complemented by LED lighting throughout and a rooftop solar system. Though originally slated for LEED certification, Austin says the project may yet achieve Gold status.

Another somewhat unusual feature, says Stone, is air conditioning in all parts of the building—a definite improvement over the previous plant.

"The building now is really a state-of-the-art manufacturing space," he says.