The Engineering News-Record has released its “Best of the Best Projects” for 2017. The list, published annually, highlights 20 of the most successful and effectively executed commercial and public construction projects completed between May 2016 and June 2017. Approximately 700 project teams submitted this year. A panel composed of architecture and construction experts from across the country reviewed the submissions and decided on the final awards, which address numerous building specialties, including sustainable construction and manufacturing facility design.
Project of the Year
The Virginia Department of Transportation embarked on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project in July 2015, when crews lowered 11 concrete tubes into the waters surrounding Norfolk, Virginia, according to ENR. The $1 billion initiative aimed to streamline road travel in the Hampton Roads region, which had for 50 years relied upon the rapidly declining Midtown Tunnel, the most used two-lane highway on the east coast, according to VDOT. Private and public entities collaborated on the project, which involved the creation of an immersed deepwater tube tunnel measuring 3,800 feet – the first of its kind in the U.S. – and the development of an extension for the existing Martin Luther King Boulevard.
The initiative came to a close this past September, one year ahead of schedule, Roads and Bridges reported. The new tunnel, which boasts a lifespan of 120 years, is expected drive $170 million to $254 million in economic development, while reducing round-trip travel times by 30 minutes.
Green Project of the Year
The Salt Lake City, Utah-based architecture firm Architectural Nexus transformed a battered single-story office building located in the Southside Park neighborhood into a sustainable space complete with a photovoltaic solar panel system and sustainable building materials. Together, these components reduced energy consumption considerably. Prior to the redesign, the 8,200 foot building consistently consumed more than 10,000 kilowatt hours of energy per month, sometimes topping 15,000 kwh during the summer. In the year following the conclusion of the project, the space consumed fewer than 7,500 kwh monthly, beating pre-project energy consumption targets by between 20 percent and 30 percent on a per-month basis.
Landscape Project of the Year
Metropolitan areas across the globe are adding acres of green space – and for good reason. In addition to aiding the natural environment, these areas reduce crime, according to researchers at Rutgers University, Pennsylvania University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forestry Service. Green spaces also positively affect the economy bolstering local real estate markets, the Conversation reported.
With these potential benefits in mind, Chicago in 2011 set out to transform a pedestrian crossing near the where Lake Michigan and the north and south branches of the Chicago River meet. The project, costing approximately $200 million, aimed to revitalize this specific portion of the waterway which had devolved into a “polluted eyesore,” according to ENS.
The city’s Department of Transportation ended up adding six new outdoor spaces surrounding the zone, including a plaza, green walkways and floating wetland gardens complete with interactive learning features. The new-and-improved green features are generating so much traffic and commerce, that the city expects to pay back the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act loan it borrowed from the federal government early.
Excellence in Safety Award
The ENR’s Best of the Best Projects list spotlights workplace welfare leaders with the Excellence in Safety Award. This year, the team that executed the extension of the Yuma Regional Medical Center Emergency Department in Yuma, Arizona took home the prize. The project group, which included the design firm Archsol, the architecture firm Norris Design, general contractor McCarthy Building Companies, civil engineer Dahl, Robins and Associates, structural engineer PK Associates and mechanical, electrical and plumbing provider Bridgers and Paxton Consulting, managed to replace the entire 147,000-square-foot structure with few roadblocks.
However, the most significant aspect of the project was the safety strategy. Crews created secure passages for staff members and patients, and coordinated dangerous operational activities – the transportation of heavy loads via crane, for example – to reduce risk to workers, hospital personnel and passersby. The project team also worked with worksite leaders to cultivate a culture of safety wherein workers help each other avoid dangerous hazards.
Construction required more than 1 million manhours, over which time there were zero lost-time incidents. This resulted in a recordable incident rate of 0.19 per 100 full-time workers, well below the industry average of approximately 3 injuries per 100 full-time workers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health awarded the $120 million project Voluntary Protection Program Star status as a result.