Turner Construction: Building Alexandria Center

Turner Construction: Building Alexandria Center

Produced by Tom Venturo


Since 1902, Turner Construction has earned a reputation for undertaking large, complex projects, fostering innovation, embracing emerging technologies, and making a difference for their clients, employees and community. Their latest project could be their biggest yet.


Located in the thriving metropolitan center of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Alexandria Center at Kendall Square is expecting its newest addition, a 910,000-sq mixed-use retail space that will include 10 stories and 6.5 levels of parking.


Unique methodology


One of the most distinctive aspects to the Alexandria Center project is the methodology being undertaken by Turner. In agreement with the owners, Turner Construction is utilizing the Up-Down construction methodology, a unique approach that requires the substructure and the superstructures to be built at the same time while the slurry walls are built around the building’s foundation.


“The up-down methodology is bit of an artwork and economics and it takes a lot of on-site construction management to manage that and make it work,” says project manager of the Alexandria Center, Greg Heiges.


“The approach helps to save time on the overall schedule and narrow the delivery time on the building. Turner was brought in for this project because of our expertise in up-down construction.”


Commencing construction in July of this year, Turner is expected to have the shellcor aspect of the project completed by December 2016.


“Right now we’re finishing up the slurry wall, which goes down 90 feet, and we’re putting in the down columns, which are 100 feet. Once those columns are set, we’ll start the race of digging down and putting those up,” says Heiges.


Integrated lean approach


In addition to the methodology, the company’s integrated lean approach is another interesting aspect to the project.


According to Heiges, Turner is utilizing its design team and subcontractors in collaboration to bring the best of both worlds to designing and building the project.

“We took a lean approach to find efficiencies for the project. First, the design team gets their work to 50 percent and then, based on the trade, they work with the subcontractors to finish drawing the job. Our subcontractors are drawing construction documents accompanied with the engineer of record.”


“It’s a different approach but it’s interesting because we find that a lot of time the person with the hammer and nail understands a little bit better than the person with the mouse and keyboard,” Heiges adds.


“Bringing those two together and finding the best way to design and build something is like getting the best of both worlds.”


One of the biggest reasons Turner is able to implement new approaches to the project is because of the owner. The owner of the building has allowed Turner to do what it does best, utilize new approaches and technology to develop the best possible outcome.


“We’re in a fortunate situation because the owner is pushing new innovations and to find better methodology and better systems,” says Heiges.


And new technology is what Turner is implementing. The company is applying a wide range of technological advances to the project.


“One of the big things we’re using is Bin360. The software allows us to virtually build the project in 3D, thus allowing the owner and their maintenance staff to virtually see the project before we build it,” says Heiges.


“We’re always pushing technology and with this project, as a testament to it, we had a full time VDC consultant on board who is a Turner employee. They basically manage, push and drive the whole technological effort.”




The one thing that really sets Turner apart from other construction companies is their strong relationships with subcontractors. One of the final pieces to the project has been Turner’s relationships with their subcontractors. In addition to helping with the integrated approach, the company’s long-term relationships have been an immense addition to the construction of the project.


“We stand by our subcontractors through thick and thin. We see them not as an extension of Turner but a part of the Turner family,” says Heiges.


“We work through difficult scenarios, through ups and downs, through tough economics and all kinds of stuff. They understand safety and quality is important to us, and we stick by them through difficult and complex scenarios on projects.”


According to Heiges, a vital part to Turner’s success has also been their commitment to safety.


“Safety is the very core of Turner Construction. Personally, I feel it’s our greatest attribute. We understand the ramifications of having an incident on site are not only detrimental to the person that could be injured, but its detrimental to the project and the value of the property if things are deemed unsafe. The ramifications and ripple effect for an unsafe work environment go well beyond the direct individuals involved in safety.”


He adds, “Safety is paramount for not only our success, but the success of our employees and our contractors. We drive the value and criticality of safety into every single employee.”