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Weekly Grind: Titanic Replica, $300M Change Order


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Progress Stinks: Iconic Chanel No.5 Threatened by Construction

A proposed high-speed rail line in the French city of Grasse has the normally buttoned-down Chanel corporation in full panic mode. Company spokespersons say the rail line's construction will effectively destroy the utterly unique flowers in the area that are alone responsible for the world's most famous scent. 

China's Obsession: On the Rocks, Please

Sichuan province is located in the Chinese interior. Nevertheless, visitors to that region will one day soon be able to dine and chat and promenade calmly about the multiple decks of an enormous, beautifully appointed cruise ship. The Titanic, to be exact. When the 1997 hit movie swept the world, the Chinese were some of the film's most impassioned fans. This exact-size replica of the doomed liner is the culmination of that fandom. 

Mastodon Rudely Interrupts Construction at Wilshire/La Brea Station 

Some 10,000 years ago a Mastodon lay down for a little nap, probably unaware that he would much later inconvenience a subway project in Los Angeles. If the creature had been looking at the street signs way back then, he would have known he was approaching La Brea, a famously tarry tomb for ancient animals of all kinds. But maybe he couldn't read.

Incoming Transport Secretary Could Relax Drone Rules

Elaine Chao is our incoming Secretary of Transportation. As such, she is in charge of regulating things that fly in U.S. airspace, like airplanes and drones. Ms. Chao is also known for being ideologically opposed to lots of regulation, and construction industry watchers are wondering if that could mean a helpful loosening of restrictions on jobsite drones.

Worker Finds Nooses, Walks Off Job

An electrician's apprentice in Washington D.C. clocked out at the end of a bad day, and will not be returning to work. On two separate occasions on the jobsite that day, he stumbled upon a threatening racist symbol. Investigators have taken the matter in hand.  

San Diego MTA's $300M Change Order Nightmare

San Diego's Metropolitan Transportation Authority will fork over an extra $300 million to Kiewit Corp., the contractor whose widening of the 405 Freeway was complicated by disputes, delays, and cost overruns, and lots of finger-pointing. The Sepulveda Pass Project came in a year late, and at $1.6B cost 55% more than was budgeted. Metro's takeaway? “Detailed underground utilities investigations” will be thoroughly undertaken before heading into their next billion-dollar job. Ya think?!

New Documentary Explores Vegas' Star-Crossed  City Center Project

Construction of The Las Vegas City Center on the strip cost six lives, and one of the completed towers was so fraught with defects it eventually had to be torn down. Disputes and rumors swirled around the project for the entire duration of the build. A new documentary dives into the wild City Center story and looks for object lessons.

What is a Sidewalk Shed? Ask a New Yorker

Sidewalk sheds are those pipe-and-plywood structures that appear whenever a building is going up or being renovated. They are intended as temporary structures, there to protect passing pedestrians from falling objects. In NYC, however, some of them simply never come down. It's been calculated that there are 190 miles of them scattered throughout the city's 5 boroughs. The City Council is now attacking the problem.

Portland's Homeless and the Pod Solution

There is an estimated shortfall of 23,000 affordable homes in Portland, Oregon, when matched against population incomes. There are 3,800 people living on the streets or in temporary shelters in the county that includes Portland.  Architects and architecture students have attacked the problem and come up with a novel solution. One that needn't upset the housing balance in the city. 

Building Owners Overestimate "Smartness" of Their Babies 

A study was conducted in seven major cities. They asked 487 building managers to rate the "smartness" of their smart buildings. Many of the managers' buildings were dumber than they realized. So to speak. High-rise managers tended to over-equate beauty with smartness, while managers of private offices and retail buildings tended to be pessimistic about their buildings' smarts. Buildings themselves had no comment.

Barbed Wire and Angry Dogs. Jobsite Security Moves On

Construction jobsite theft costs the industry about $1B a year.  The night watchman and yapping guard dog have given way to high-tech cameras, geo-fencing, and mesh radio networks. One company effectively paid for three years' worth of their security investment when their GPS solution tipped them to a theft in progress of their $80,000 backhoe.