Doubling up in Las Vegas usually means doubling the size of your bet. At the new terminal at McCarran International Airport, the steel erector’s detailing subcontractors doubled the number of staff working on the project. That and other measures other measures paid off big.

Photo: SME Steel Contractors/Michael Moore

Terminal 3 is expected to open in mid-2012 and will cost approximately $2.4 billion. It will span 1.9 million square feet, and include 14 gates and a multistory parking garage.

The Terminal’s frame, 300 ft wide and a half mile long, rose from the desert floor this summer. General contractor Perini Building Co., Framingham, Mass. is obligated to project milestones in order to avoid financial penalties. According to Derek Bamberry, project manager with steel fabricator and erector SME Steel, “Perini wanted to accelerate the steel erection and concrete work to gain some time” on the project.

The contractual deadline for completed steel erection is October, 2009. To gain some breathing room on the overall project, Perini laid out a five-month erection schedule for SME, which is based in West Jordan, Utah, beginning in March and ending in August. Given the scale of the project, that is “not a lot of time to fabricate the steel, which involves over 200,000 shop drawings,” says Bamberry.

One of our biggest problems was getting drawings approved by all the project members. SME submitted drawings to Perini. The chain of approval then ran from owner’s representative Bechtel Infrastructure, to architect PGA and engineer Walter P. Moore and then back to Bechtel for final review. All the approvals needed doubled the typical approval time to 60 days.

“Because of the compressed schedule, our detailers doubled the number of people they had on this project, with 60 to 70 detailers working at the peak,” Bamberry said.

The 17,000 steel components were fabricated in five shops. SME used their plants in Utah and Idaho, while their fabrication partner, Hirschfeld Steel Group LP, San Angelo, Texas, parcelled out its work to their three plants in Texas. The plants delivered 15 to 20 truckloads of steel each week to each of the four erection teams. Each fabricator worked with a separate detailer — SME used Steel Systems Engineering, Sherman Oaks, Calif., while Hirschfeld used Pro Draft Inc., Surrey, B.C.

By carefully insuring that elements were delivered according to erection sequence, the project team avoided storing steel at the site until it was needed by each crane crew. Good logistics coordination, and having lots of room available for steel shakedown and handling, also contributed.

The slowdown that hit casino and commercial construction in Las Vegas worked to SME’s advantage as well. “Lots of other projects in Las Vegas were put on hold,” says Bamberry “Seven or eight hundred local ironworkers were on the out of work list. At our peak we employed 165 ironworkers, with 120 our normal staffing for four crews.”

Ironworkers Local 433 organizer Darrell Fagg backed that up. “The work on CityCenter project was slowing down at that time, so the Terminal 3 job came along at a perfect time.”

Erection topped out June 3rd, when the photos you see in the slide show were taken. Bamberry estimates that erection will be completed this month, well ahead of the October deadline. “We expect to beat our original internal schedule by six weeks.”