50 + 60 Binney Street
Cambridge, Mass.
Best Project, Office/Retail/Mixed-Use

Owner: Alexandria Real Estate
Lead Designer: Spagnolo Giness & Associates
General Contractor: Turner Construction Co.
Structural Engineer: McNamara / Salvia Inc.
Civil Engineer: Kleinfelder/S E A
MEP Engineer: WSP
Landscape Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Association
Infrastructure & Traffic Engineers: Vanasse Hangen Brustlin

Motivated by the owner’s directive for collaboration, the team for the mixed-use development at Alexandria Center in Cambridge, Mass., adopted an “integrated project delivery-lite” strategy mixed with Lean Construction principles that helped get to the finish line under budget and eight months ahead of schedule.

“Our goal was for an IPD-like project without the [tri-party agreement], but with that level of collaboration,” says Andy Reinach, vice president of development and construction at Alexandria Real Estate. “We did nine months of full collocation on this project and the collaboration carried on through the entire duration of the project.”

The project, which took about 28 months to complete, includes two 10-story buildings containing 907,000 sq ft of laboratories, offices and retail space. The project also benefited from up-down construction and design-assist contracts.

Turner Construction Co., the design-bid-build contractor, was engaged during the preconstruction phase. Turner, lead designer Spagnolo Giness & Associates, the steel subcontractor and all mechanical, electrical and plumbing subcontractors collocated for nine months to finalize design and coordinate building systems.  The team declined to give a value for the project.

Design-assist delivery was used for the curtain wall and mechanical, electrical and plumbing subcontractors. Turner was able to purchase these trade contractors and stay on budget during the collocation effort. By integrating design-assist contractors with the designers, the team was able to develop a single integrated document set during the collocation period.

Early in the preconstruction phase, there were 30 requests for information, says Brian Chase, Turner’s project executive. After the team collocated, there were no more RFIs, he says.

Collocation and design-assist for document completion prevented “a lot of issues,” Chase says. “The best moments came when you could bring people together.” That allowed the review or preview of many submittals  in person.

The buildings at Kendall Square sit atop a 6.5-level below-grade parking garage that the team claims is one of the deepest in Cambridge.

A standard steel frame with composite concrete and metal decking supports the buildings. Separate elevator banks service the parking levels and the above-grade floors.

To accelerate the schedule of a project with a deep foundation, Turner selected an up-down construction method, with the substructure and superstructure constructed concurrently. In up-down, work typically begins with a perimeter slurry-wall, the foundations and subgrade load-bearing elements before the excavation, from the top down, for the basement slabs. 

Turner used several Lean Construction techniques on the project, including the Last Planner scheduling system, the continuous improvement process and almost no waste of materials.

To cut the drywall, installed metal studs were laser-scanned to bring their position into the building information model. Based on scanning information, drywall was cut at a fabrication area within the building. Laser projectors showed the image of the fabricated sections on a wall, like pieces of a puzzle. The finished pieces were then moved to their positions and installed.

Buried sensors were used to measure concrete strength. Crews used laser scanning of post-tensioned concrete slabs to document permanent locations of strands and cables. This helped prevent future penetrations from affecting the structure, the project team says.

One Best Projects judge, impressed with the use of technology, said, “It’s more than that,” calling the up-down method “an innovative way to do the work.” He also called the management approach “innovative.”

The players built the project using a less-than-common method, “but they also made sure they managed how they built it effectively,” said the judge.

Crews used temporary lighting for the up-down construction, which involved installing the lights on a cable hoist system. During the excavation, lighting was lowered to each new level.

A “zero punch-list” process was used for the repetitive bathrooms. First, workers perfected one bathroom. That became the quality standard for all. Crews were then expected to replicate the bathroom and check it prior to final review.

While turning over the project to the owner, the construction team used a mobile app that allowed the facilities management staff to access all information about building systems and contents, ticketing and contacts. Operations and maintenance manuals, floor plans, riser diagrams and other documents were all included, as well as 3D views of the installed equipment. A quick response matrix barcode was integrated in the app so that all information on the equipment was available.

The buildings were designed to achieve LEED Silver certification and comply with Cambridge’s Stretch Energy Code. The design incorporates natural light, which informed the floor plate geometry; extensive stormwater management techniques; and a cogeneration power system.

There are also public-space improvements. These include on-street parking, the Cambridge cycle-track for bicycles and a new sidewalk. The eastern edge of the site acts as the gateway to the Binney Street development corridor and faces a planned public park, named Triangle Park.

Owner-pushed collaboration aside, Chase says the team was only able to achieve results thanks to the individuals involved. “We had the spirit to do something a little different on this project,” he says. “You have to be committed to the process.”

The owner and the design team were willing participants. “On most jobs, you get some resistance because people are not willing to let go,” Chase says. “You can’t have that on a project like this and expect it to be successful.”

“A lot of great CMs do this kind of stuff but [Turner] went above and beyond [what great CMs do],” said a judge, impressed, among other reasons, because there was a nurse on site, full time. “This isn’t what I would consider a typical project.”

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