Planning and Scheduling with SOCOTEC Mitigated USDA Project Delays

Planning and Scheduling with SOCOTEC Mitigated USDA Project Delays


Project name: Ames Modernization Project

Client: USDA

Location: Ames, Iowa, USA

End Market: Industrial, Commercial

Services Provided: Planning and Scheduling

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Efficiency in planning and scheduling

SOCOTEC recently assisted a USDA lab modernization project with planning and scheduling oversight to prevent delays. Adhering to lab safety protocols and construction guidelines can be complex and overwhelming. When the first phase of the project encountered delays, the USDA brought in third-party experts: SOCOTEC.

The $461 million overhaul of research and laboratory facilities in Ames, IA included the construction of three new facilities. Because of prompt engagement, the SOCOTEC project advisory team was able to assist the USDA in mitigating any additional delays. Organizations can help build efficiency into any project by proactively analyzing their planning and scheduling efforts.

Trials of laboratory improvements

Beginning any large-scale construction effort requires a lot of planning, budgeting, and contractor coordination. Additionally, adhering to protocols is critical when potentially hazardous materials and live animals are involved. The Ames project included the construction of the following:

  • 156k square foot Biosafety Level 3 Agricultural Hazards (BSL3-Ag) Large Animal Housing Facility

  • 637k square foot Consolidated Laboratory Facility (CLF)

  • 100k square foot Low Containment Large Animal Facility (LCLAF)

There are unique challenges related to modernizing a laboratory environment. Access is generally restricted, even beyond the general public, and there are various levels of containment and cleaning for sterile areas. When modernizing a facility, applying technology and new regulations come into play. SOCOTEC expert Phil Helmes, Senior Principal, took all these design and usage factors into account when evaluating the construction schedule.

The benefits of early planning and scheduling help

One of the three facilities at the USDA’s site had already experienced significant delays. Therefore, Helmes and his team had to balance multiple contractors and their supply needs as well as existing planning and scheduling delays. SOCOTEC performed a detailed review of the baseline schedule on both the CLF and LCLAF facilities. Throughout the project, the team conducted periodic contractor schedule reviews and impact analyses. These efforts ensured that earlier delays did not hinder a reasonable project completion time.

The USDA brought SOCOTEC on board because of its stellar track record, like with the New York City Housing Authority. Project Advisory services previously assisted the NYCHA with its planning and scheduling efforts at East 28th Street. The team developed a customized plan and monitored the work in progress with complete documentation. Due to SOCOTEC’s depth of talent, multiple layers of work were consolidated under one team. Finally, SOCOTEC’s budget analysis reduced project spending by nearly a third, saving $230,000. That’s the level of efficiency and oversight SOCOTEC can provide from pre-planning through the commencement of a project.

As evident in the Ames project, proactive planning and scheduling are crucial to a smooth project lifecycle. Working with an experienced third-party provider such as SOCOTEC allows an owner or GC to benefit from the broader experience of more experts. Here, Helmes’ team developed a customized schedule for the modernization project. Partnering with SOCOTEC from the start, and adding in customizations, can alleviate further chances of delays like the Ames project.

SOCOTEC experts to meet every need

Helmes was an excellent fit for this project due to more than forty years of practical project management experience, over a dozen of those years with SOCOTEC. His project forensic analysis planning spans all stages of project development, from preliminary services through final closeout. He has advised or led multiple multi-billion dollar construction projects to successful completion.

Within the project advisory division, SOCOTEC has experts with diverse and specialized backgrounds across multiple offices. Beyond advisory services, SOCOTEC excels within the TIC (Testing, Inspection, Certification) industry in the construction and infrastructure sectors by coordinating teams to solve clients’ most complex problems. SOCOTEC offers six Service Lines: Building Envelope, Energy & Sustainability, Code & Planning, Dispute Resolution, Project Advisory, and Specialty Engineering.