About This Project
Economic growth leads to an increase in incomes, inspiring consumers to open up their wallets to buy more, which means a higher material quality of life or standard of living. Huntsville, Alabama — known for its rich history in aerospace engineering and national defense — is also establishing an extensive reputation in mobility. Mazda Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation chose the Limestone County portion of Huntsville to be the home of their new joint venture, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. This $1.6 billion project is expected to bring 4,000 jobs to the North Alabama area, as well as advance the growth of Alabama’s automotive sector. This development will have a vast economic impact on the state of Alabama.
On June 15, 2018, Reed Contracting Services, Inc. began the site preparation for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. This project was the largest construction site in the state of Alabama at the time. Due to the magnitude of this project, the site preparation phase was under a stringent deadline. The duration of this project was only six months and required Reed’s full attentiveness to complete the 250-acre site. We assembled a project management team that is among the most knowledgeable and advanced in this field, along with 40 on-site personnel and 25 pieces of equipment. This team completed the project under 20,971 accident-free man-hours to ensure that we met the deadline and expectations of our customer.
ESTABLISHING QUALITY CONTROL
The beginning phase of any project is site preparation. The site preparation for this project consisted of stripping off the topsoil and grading the fill areas of the site. Some areas required cutting soil out to reach the desired elevation, while other areas required filling the area with borrow soil, which is hauled in from an offsite location to help meet proper elevation. Any area that requires adding borrow soil requires it to be placed in layers called lifts, and then compacted to a specified density.
The specified density for this project was 96% of maximum density, as determined by a modified laboratory proctor. Compaction is achieved by conditioning the soil — either by disking or scarifying — in order to get the soil close to its optimum moisture, and then applying the compaction effort, usually with a compactor or roller. Compaction is the removal of air voids to increase the density by bringing the particles close together. Compaction ensures that the soils are suitable to support the foundation of the structures that are designed to rest on these soils.
Special effort and techniques are needed to obtain 96% compaction of a modified proctor. Each loose lift was placed approximately 8” thick and then compacted to about 6” thick when the soil is close to the optimum moisture. Moisture content is critical when trying to achieve compaction at this percentage rate. Most lifts had to be disked and aerated in order to obtain optimum moisture and allow us to achieve the specified compaction rate. Each lift was compacted by utilizing Caterpillar 815 compactors and other vibratory compactors. OMI, Inc. was our third-party testing firm. They were required to perform several compaction tests on each lift to ensure that we had achieved the 96% requirement before we were allowed to proceed with additional lifts.
THE ENGINEERING PROCESS
Modern technology in the form of computer software and drones also assisted us in the completion of this project. Microsoft Project was utilized to develop the schedule, assigned resources to tasks, tracked progress, managed the budget, and analyzed workloads. This software ensured that we remained on schedule and allowed us to monitor progress in real-time. Aerial drones equipped with GPS software were utilized to confirm the elevations and the engineering field layout of this large site. This new and innovative asset proved to be substantially beneficial to the completion of this project. The engineering firm in collaboration with the Reed management team made multiple grade changes in an effort to balance the site, or minimize the need for borrow or for exporting waste soil. Our drones proved to be a vital part of these changes and allowed us to stay on schedule.
Reed encountered a rare obstacle while working on this project. Work was suspended for approximately two weeks because of the discovery of a Spring Pygmy Sunfish habitat in a stream on the site. The Spring Pygmy Sunfish is a one-inch-long fish that can only be found in a stream near the plant site. This tiny fish was deemed a threatened species by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, which caused a two-week shutdown. This required Reed to vacate the site completely, resulting in the removal of all equipment. Work on this project was able to resume, but only after a $6 million agreement was reached with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. to restore the Spring Pygmy Fish habitat, and to monitor the Beaverdam Spring and creek watershed. This delay resulted in the need to increase overtime, scheduling in weekend work to ensure that the project was completed before the deadline.
THE DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES
The weather, coupled with the short timeline, created another difficult situation. This project required us to move over 1.5 million cubic yards, equivalent to 92,750 truckloads of dirt, in only 120 days. The movement of such an immense amount of dirt can prove to be quite challenging when working at the mercies of the weather and such a tight deadline. The rainfall was most prevalent at the beginning of the project in the month of June, with rainfall totals being higher than average at 5.53 inches. Rainfall causes the dirt to become wet, resulting in the need for extra measures in order to prepare it for compaction.
We were required to disk and aerate the dirt to lower the moisture content before we could apply compaction efforts. Some of these tasks had to be repeated in order to obtain specified compaction. The moisture content of the wet soils, along with the additional efforts needed, put our team behind schedule. The need to be on schedule became critical at this point and required an “all hands on deck” effort to catch up. Our dedicated team worked expeditiously to catch this project up to be on schedule as promised. Starting in July, our team worked seven days per week on-site, and these extraordinary efforts allowed us to again regain control of our schedule.
The materials testing for this project also created a challenge for our team. We were dependent on a third party to test and assure that the compaction requirement for each lift of fill dirt met or exceeded the specified percentage. These third-party materials testing firms were busy with other projects, as well as our project, and this sometimes caused delays in the progress of this project. We could not proceed until each lift of dirt had passed their tests. This was yet another obstacle that had to be alleviated in order to complete this project as scheduled.
INNOVATIVE PROGRAMS AND METHODS
The Reed team utilized GPS technology on our equipment. The Leica Geosystems Grading Solutions system proved to be a valuable tool on our dozers and tractors with pans. This innovative program increased productivity, and we avoided costly errors associated with the grading process. Our GPS system allowed us to be efficient, to remotely assign work, to know the true utilization of machine control operations, and provided positioning and reference data to equipment operators and grade checkers. We were able to upload planned cut and fill activities into the on-board computer systems of the grading equipment. Each activity contained information about geographical area, execution time, and type of work.
Reed Contracting Services, Inc. was the first construction company in the state of Alabama to use the articulated truck and scraper pan combination (Caterpillar 745C and Caterpillar MT-42LGP). This method was used to enhance production time while being fuel-efficient. Reed received specialized training from MTS and Caterpillar with the goal of recording load times, offload times, and cycle times of each system used to compare the results.
The project reached completion on November 30, 2018. Our extraordinary efforts allowed us to reach our goals and complete the project successfully and on schedule, as promised. Reed Contracting Services, Inc. was honored to be a part of such a tremendous project. It is a great feeling to be a part of such a project that will have a positive economic impact on our community as well as our home state of Alabama.
- Type of Work
- LocationHuntsville, Alabama
- OwnerMazda Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation
- Key Factors
- End ResultCompleted successfully and on schedule