Construction Choreography


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The Art of Construction Staging: Design with the public in mind.
Improving mobility upon groundbreaking for major transportation and institutional projects.

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Construction Choreography

  1. 1. CONSTRUCTION CHOREOGRAPHY Michael Fishman – Urban Answers GOAL: Improve Customer Experience from Ground Breaking through Ribbon Cutting Construction Staging By Design. Construction staging is as an urban design exercise in and of itself, especially for facilities that need to maintain operations during reconstruction. Public infrastructure projects from highways to schools, hospitals and transit, can be easily accessible while under construction and improve levels of service upon ground breaking. When this approach is taken from the start of a project’s construction rather than simply as a goal for the final condition, the results can save time and money as well as become welcome processes in the evolution of facilities and communities. For the everyday users of these facilities to be at the forefront of decision making for construction staging, it is critical that mobility and safety are maintained or improved during construction. Beyond designing each phase of a given project with the public in mind, adjacent sites and communities must consider one another especially when they are in close proximity or multiple projects are taking place at one time. We must look at projects from two perspectives in this regard: Macro Scale - planning beyond the limits of a project site within the urban context. Micro Scale - way finding and signange elements on a phase by phase basis. Signage and way finding are critical elements to maintaining clarity and levels of service for pedestrian and vehicular patterns. Integrated design of each phase for the best passenger throughput can include all types of media, from radio and TV to internet and paper flyers, which train and inform the public. Often it is impossible to know the limits of the staging strategy until a project is underway. Anticipating this uncertainty with options and strategies for improvisation and flexibility in the field are required, such as redundant loading / unloading areas or multiple entrance / exit points. In this way construction choreography ensures that public access remains as good or better for facilities under reconstruction as it did before the construction process began. Precedents Consolidated Edison East River Repowering Project Herculean efforts were undertaken to decommission Consolidated Edison’s Waterside power plant on Manhattan’s east side and repower the 14th Street ‘East River’ power plant 20 blocks south. However, aside from awe inspired travelers on the adjacent FDR Drive who witnessed the complexities of this structure as it was dismantled; residents, tourists and businesses were largely unaware that a major infrastructure project instrumental in providing basic energy requirements to their communities was going on all around them.
  2. 2. At the macro scale, natural gas was being brought in from Canada affecting communities from the Upper West Side to the East Village. Steam needed to be connected along 1st Avenue between the Waterside and East River sites in a 10’ diameter main. Cut and cover technology was originally the preferred construction method to minimize costs. However, it was quickly determined that the inevitable disruption to major hospital facilities located along this stretch of roadway, minimal surface area for staging of equipment / materials and protection of the infrastructure asset itself all pointed to a better solution: tunnel the steam main 40’ below the City’s surface. In addition to making construction invisible to the community, hospitals and daily traffic patterns, the opportunity to piggy-back other utilities within this tunnel off-set costs and legal issues disappeared saving valuable time and money. At the micro scale, 80 ton boilers needed to be installed at the East River Site. Bringing the pieces in one by one and assembling the boilers on site was assumed to be the preferred construction method given the inability to move such large objects through bridges and tunnels to Manhattan. To save time, money and risk, the process it was determined that the process was better served by assembling the boilers off site and floating them in overnight to 14 th Street at the East River. The construction choreography required FDR Drive closures in the midnight hours but put no oversized vehicles on NYC streets, did not impact rush hour traffic and was accomplished in a fraction of the time. The Brooklyn Museum of Art During reconstruction, attendance at The Brooklyn Museum of Art increased. How did the massive internal and external renovation accommodate this growth? How did the reconstruction process not get in the way of accessibility?
  3. 3. By turning the reconstruction into a public event, people were not dissuaded from coming to the Museum during construction and often they were encouraged. First Saturday’s are now a tradition that makes use of the underutilized space in back of the Museum designated for parking. During reconstruction, the lobby was unavailable. Inviting people to the Museum, on its face, seemed counterintuitive. The theme of construction signage was used as way finding and education to connect the public to the reconstruction process. A mini exhibit on the history, staging and purpose of the project met people upon entrance to the museum, involving the public in the project itself. A Major Upcoming Challenge: Moynihan Station and Madison Square Garden (Micro) Either reconstruction project, Penn Station or Madison Square Garden has the potential to cause major disruption to travel patterns throughout the area. Staging for shows at the Garden is already quite extensive. Maintaining operations for both the Garden’s activities and the commuters who rely on Penn Station while reconstructing both facilities on top of one another must be dealt with head on as the primary goal for staging these projects reconstruction. Moynihan Station Adjacencies (Macro) The fact is that many New Yorkers will not know midtown west without massive construction projects once they finally get underway. How will all of these projects be coordinated to have the least possible impact? What are the advantages to considering them in relation to their neighbors? There are orders of magnitude here (capital construction, affected commuters, debris removal and material delivery) that require us to invent an area wide construction methodology. We can shift priorities to coordinate decision making, save time, money and improve the environmental quality of construction. Eliminating confusion for daily users, we must design each phase of construction with their commute time and safety as the top priority. It is important to answer these questions as planning for the west side proceeds. Striking findings can be revealed when the customer experience is put ahead of other factors during the construction staging process. Taking this concept to the extreme has already brought about conclusions that could save west side projects time and money. What if, for example, the multiple west side projects were considered with waterborne and rail as the primary means of material and debris transport in and out of Manhattan? The scale of the west side and the efficiencies of rebuilding by water (as NYC was originally built) could spawn an industry of construction staging regionally on our abandoned waterfronts. In this case, choreography of construction over the next quarter century will allow New Yorkers to be aware and proud of the progress being made in our City while we are under construction.