Developer�s Challenge to Construction: Innovate for Destiny
Planned hotel on lakeshore is next phase for former �Oil City.�
In Syracuse, N.Y., a developer with big ideas and pockets deep enough to pay for them is challenging his contractors to leap for a green, sustainable future. He has crews powering 70 pieces of equipment with the richest blend of biodiesel that temperatures will permit 100%, or B100 from May 1 through most of October. Up to 97% of construction waste will be recycled, and managers are piling on best-in-class information technology in a drive for paperless collaboration, equipment and materials tracking, GPS surveying and machine control, document management and communications. He also nurtures workforce development with generous pay, benefits and long-term commitments to career training.DestinyUSA founder Robert J. Congel says he wants his project to be a model of how developers can use renewable resources and advanced technology, not only to improve construction efficiency but to fight the nation’s addiction to fossil fuels. He demands that his contractors embrace the goal. “This is a very important project for our country,” says Congel, adding, “This whole fossil-energy situation annoys me.”
Congel’s dreams are huge and futuristic. The vision is to create the nation’s largest sustainable shopping, hotel and event destination. But the starting point is a relatively straightforward LEED Gold expansion by 850,000 leasable sq ft of Pyramid Cos.’ 17-year-old Carousel Mall. The next phase, whose initial designs were released on Nov. 8, is a LEED Platinum, 39-story, 1,300-room, $450-million hotel on the shore of Lake Onondaga, N.Y. Financing is in negotiation but construction is expected to start within 18 months to comply with Destiny’s agreement with the local industrial development agency. A Destiny spokesman says the design is a collaboration; the architect of record is Buffalo, N.Y.-based MWT Architects’ Mark Tiedemann. Thornton Tomasetti, New York City, is the structural engineer on the project.
Tom Sawyer / ENR
Destiny tanker keeps fleet fueled with biodiesel
Construction of the mall expansion began in late March, but it isn’t the driving of 220,000 ft of piles into weak ground and construction on a brownfield once known as Oil City that puts the worksite on the edge of innovation; it is the project’s wholesale commitment to renewable energy, sustainable practices, workforce development and digital collaboration. Congel’s construction team, led by Pittsfield, Maine-based Cianbro, as construction manager, is buying in with enthusiasm.
“This is a collaborative effort between Bob Congel and Cianbro,” says Peter Vigue, Cianbro’s president and CEO. “We are following his lead.”
Congel founded the Pyramid Cos. 43 years ago. It now is the largest private developer of shopping malls in the U.S. As an owner and developer, Congel has a stake in reducing waste in construction. Vigue says Congel is also passionate about improving the environment, as well as the regions’ economy around his hometown of Syracuse. “He is willing to do it at his own expense, on his own project, to demonstrate to the world and the construction and engineering industry that it can be better,” Vigue says.
Eight months into construction, Vigue says, early results show the commitment to innovation is delivering successes, as well as progress on a number of evolving technology implementations. Biodiesel has worked out well, as has embracing a paperless process with a commitment to moving everyone toward digital collaboration. “It has speeded up the project dramatically,” Vigue says.
“I don’t think it is a test or a pilot: it is the beginning,” says Brian Watson, phase-one project manager for Cianbro.
GPS controlling stakeout and grading achieve high precision with U.S. and Russian satellites.
Although challenged by the demands for transformation, equipment managers and operators say they love biodiesel. After starting with a 5% blend and moving up to 20% on excavation machines, they abandoned plans for a gradual escalation and went straight to 100%. They used that all summer with no problems and lots of benefits until chilling temperatures forced them back to blending to maintain viscosity. (Biodiesel gels at warmer temperatures than petroleum- based diesel.)
Melissa Perry, Destiny’s sustainability director, researched the biodiesel program. She modeled it after B100 use at Yellowstone National Park, which consumes 12,000 to 15,000 gallons per year, the same amount as Destiny did each month this summer as excavation contractor, A.P. Reale, Ticonderoga, N.Y., moved 105,000 cu yd of earth for site preparation. She also studies the fuel program of another B100 user, Earthwise Excavators, Snokomish, Wash., which has about a third of Destiny’s annual consumption. The climate conditions at the foot of the Cascades Mountain Range are similar to those of Syracuse.
The bid package calls for exclusive use of B100, although there is a clause for adjustments that allows for the blending in cold weather. Destiny delivers the fuel from a local distributor and subsidizes the $1-per-gallon premium.
Negotiations between the contractors, the leased equipment suppliers and Volvo and Caterpillar protected the equipment warranties on the job, which was a concern with the unconventional fuel, Perry says. “We had to take it to the equipment leasing companies to get their buy-in,” she says. “The subs were concerned the...