DPR Construction overcame significant challenges on the JW Marriott Charlotte project when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to affect construction progress.
“We were still going vertical when the economy and country shut down, but we still managed to overcome all of those challenges and finish a great project,” said Shawn Pratt, a DPR project manager.
In August 2021, the 381-guest room luxury hotel in Charlotte’s bustling Uptown opened its doors to welcome guests as the first JW Marriott located in the Carolinas.
“We are very pleased with the final product. Despite a large number and wide variety of unimaginable and unforeseen obstacles, White Lodging was committed to continuing, and DPR never stopped pushing the project forward and solving problems,” said Alan R. Orb, Director of Design, Project Management and Construction for White Lodging. White Lodging is the developer, owner and operator of the hotel.
From the coordination of deliveries to general daily production, the team had weekly meetings with neighboring project partners to discuss individual scopes of work and any challenges that would come up to mitigate risks and proactively find solutions. Throughout the pandemic, most of the weekly production tracking reports and 360° video walks were used to keep everyone on track and understand the current state of every floor and room.
Consistency, predictability and delivering superior results were the shared expected outcomes for DPR, trade partners and White Lodging.
“This whole team came together collaboratively, constantly talking about concerns and figuring out who could help out, who could backfill as needed. We just had a one-team mindset,” said Jackson Stricker, a DPR project engineer.
As one of the first DPR projects in Charlotte to use HammerTech, a safety management software, the project team was able to streamline site safety logistics including scissor lift training, rerouting of pedestrian traffic, and quarterly traffic control training.
Delivering Prefabrication in a Limited Space
Construction on the tight urban site with limited laydown areas necessitated innovative and time-saving solutions. One key method was the use of SurePods to prefabricate guest bathrooms in an offsite air-conditioned, controlled warehouse space.
“We saved time on the project schedule by reducing the number of trades and the amount of on-site manpower that we needed by doing all of that offsite,” said Pratt.
The prefabricated pods ultimately provided schedule and safety benefits. The project team prefabricated 335 identical bathrooms offsite and loaded them level by level into the 23-story building over 13 weeks—shaving two months off the schedule compared to traditional stick-built bathrooms. DPR also self-performed the delivery and loading of all pods into the building which took place at night on a crowded street bordered on two sides by other active construction sites.
In addition to the bathroom pods, the team also prefabricated the public restrooms and plumbing of the public bathrooms—all are pre-measured, built, set on a slab and framed.
The hanging boxes and open soffit architectural features over the exterior patio of one of the restaurants on the main level, Dean’s Italian Steakhouse, were also prefabricated. The hanging boxes house light fixtures, giant ceiling fans and infrared heaters. The city required the fixtures to be removable based on a sanitary and storm line that runs directly under the area. The boxes were fabricated on the ground as a unit, hoisted in place and bolted to the structure allowing all power to be disconnected at the bolted connection as needed.
The project team provided the owner with a design model with shop drawings from all MEPF trades.
“Hospitality has very limited overhead between ceilings and decks. 3-D modeling was essential for clash detection,” said Joseph Hartline, who joined the project as MEP coordinator and later transitioned to general superintendent.
Instead of a virtual walkthrough, the project team produced a full-scale hotel room mockup in DPR’s Charlotte office-warehouse space for the owner and interior designer to walk through before they were built. This enabled the team to validate design choices including materials, finishes and outlet design. “It’s always a pleasure to deliver a project to a repeat, experienced client like White Lodging,” said Tim Wuestefeld, DPR’s global account lead for White Lodging.
“Since opening for business and with the Bank of America Stadium nearby, the hotel has been buzzing, including a high demand in restaurant reservations at Dean’s Italian Steakhouse, Caroline’s Oyster Bar and Aura Rooftop,” said Pratt.