High-Tech Extra Points
The $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium is a football field disguised as high-technology showcase. Visitors will encounter a quartet of 30-ft-high and 118-ft-wide high-definition LED video displays, a 360-degree video ribbon encircling the seating bowl, giant video screens at the stadium entrances and in the pedestrian plaza, more than 2,100 flat screen televisions spread across the facility, and wireless Internet access throughout.
But the real technology innovations in the project were actually behind the scenes in the construction effort.
One of the biggest technology contributions was the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to electronically track project materials during the construction process. Skanska USA Building, the construction manager, tracked all of the 3,200 precast concrete pieces for the project by affixing an RFID tag, roughly the size of a keychain, to each one. The approach, also used to track other materials on the job, greatly aided scheduling and logistics, says Frank Falciani, senior v.p. at Skanska and executive leader of its Sports Center of Excellence.
“By using this technology, we were able to track everything that was shipped from the manufacturing plant to the job site,” Falciani says. “This was vital to the success of the project because we knew exactly when the parts would be delivered. This was also one of the main reasons why we were able to complete New Meadowlands five months ahead of schedule.”
The team took the RFID information and plugged it into a Vela Systems material tracking database, which also fed into a 3-D precast model program that Skanska used to follow each piece of precast concrete in real time through arrival at the site, storage and transport onsite, and ultimately erection. It also helped the team schedule and coordinate handling of the precast pieces with other project activities, such as crane availability and structural steel erection progress.
The technology play-calling didn’t end there. The team also made extensive use of building information modeling (BIM) systems and other virtual design and construction tools in producing detailed shop drawings for structural steel design and construction. These helped the team meet an “aggressive design and construction schedule,” says Anjana Kadakia, principal at New York-based Thornton Tomasetti, the structural engineer.
“As the project continued, additional elements of the stadium such as the precast concrete seating units were added to the model, which was then used to assist the design team and contractors by helping coordinate architectural and MEP elements — such as a routing of a duct through a beam,” she adds.
In addition, the team used real-time webcams throughout the job to allow all participants to track the project’s progress. It tapped into document sharing software that allowed the entire team to have real-time access to all project paperwork, including construction drawings, progress reports, photos, schedules, and tracking logs. And it used tablet computers for electronic punch-listing, which significantly improved the accuracy of tracking project checklists while also saving time in producing and distributing the reports – a critical boost for a large, complex project.