Golden Gate Constructors
San Francisco, CA
May 2021–September 2022
With over 16.4 million passengers and nearly 500,000 tons of cargo going through SFO in 2020, precise preplanning and close collaboration was essential to success on the $127 million SFO Runway 10L-28R Project. Built on landfill, the nature of the airfield’s substructure requires reconstruction of runways every ten to fifteen years. With touchdown zones beginning to deteriorate, general contractor Golden Gate Constructors, electrical subcontractor Royal Electric Company, and other trades worked together to remodel the 12,000’ long, 200’ wide runway and connecting taxiways. This involved placing approximately 120,000 tons of asphalt and installing over 1,000 light fixtures, along with associated electrical infrastructure. Working at SFO is not foreign to our team. In fact, Royal has completed a total of 18 projects there since 2012 with 12 of those jobs performed as a subcontractor to Golden Gate Constructors, leading to the establishment of exceptionally close relationships with the deepest trust. A history of strong relationships, proven management techniques, and several unique innovations enabled the project team to overcome a variety of challenges and give SFO’s longest runway a complete makeover on time and on budget.
Royal Electric’s scope of work on our $48,688,252 subcontract included both demolition of existing and installation of new conduit, cable, light fixtures, and signage in sequence with Golden Gate Constructors’ grinding and pavement operations. Additionally, our team was tasked with installing temporary electrical infrastructure to maintain existing airfield circuits during construction. Beginning with demolition on the eastern portion of the runway, asphalt was removed, infields were destroyed, and trenches were dug with rockwheels and excavators. During the course of the project our crews installed over 1,000,000 LF of #10 cable, over 270,000 LF of conduit, 96 airfield guidance signs with precast sign pad foundations, ten 4x4x4 aircraft rated manholes, four 16-unit sectionalizers, one 12-unit sectionalizer, one 6-unit sectionalizer, over 1,770 base cans and fixtures, over 100 junction cans, over 270,000 LF of 5kV cable, and FAA runway status lights (RWSL).
Even though the reconstruction of Runway 10L-28R represented Royal Electric Company’s most formidable project to date and our largest contract ever, valued at nearly $50 million, we were confident that our team had the expertise and manpower to tackle any challenge that might arise. This began with SFO deciding to accelerate the start of the project in order to capitalize on the reduced flight schedule during the COVID-19 Pandemic, minimizing the impact of construction activities on travelers. With the prospect of Golden Gate Constructors placing the equivalent of 75 football fields of asphalt, we developed several crucial innovations utilizing prefabrication and proactive workforce development to ensure synchronicity with our crews’ installation of all electrical infrastructure. Passengers at San Francisco International Airport may observe planes landing, taxing, and taking off smoothly and assume it to be no grand happening. Yet creating the appearance of ease while coordinating construction with 700 aircraft landings each day or one every minute during the busiest part of the day, would be impossible if not for the magic of an extraordinary team. With the collective brain power on the Runway 10L-28R Project, San Francisco International, Golden Gate Constructors, and Royal Electric Company proved that together we can do just about anything!
Taking advantage of a slowdown in air traffic due to the pandemic, San Francisco International Airport closed Runway 10L-28R for four months in 2021 instead of the originally scheduled start date in 2022. The schedule change enabled work on the runway to proceed in a normal shift sequence without being restricted to extended weekend closures or nights only. Yet this meant that SFO would only have one arrival runway available, 10R-28L, with instrument landing system (ILS) capabilities, thus requiring careful coordination with work in the runway safety area (RSA) to maintain airport operations. The pandemic also complicated material purchasing and available manpower which Royal faced head-on with incredible teamwork by various departments.
On a project of this magnitude the entire team’s collective experience was essential in meeting the logistical challenge of phasing the work and transporting crews onsite efficiently. San Francisco International has a set of two parallel runways that separate each other in a cross-shape. Therefore, phases were divided by locations in the East, West and middle of the runway to reduce impacts on airport operations. At times our team worked on both ends of Runway 10L-28R simultaneously. In a sense these areas were tackled as two sperate projects. Teams met in the morning prior to the shift’s start and at the end to ensure clarity on task assignments and preplan to share manpower and resources as needed, reducing crossover during the shift. Movement between sites was restricted to maintain airport operations and safety per SFO policy. Therefore, just getting our 50-80 person crew onsite in coordination with airfield safety officer (ASO) escorts was a difficult task: nearly every element of work was scheduled in sequence with their availability.
Utilizing proactive management methods to mitigate potential delays, $1 million in commodity materials were ordered and stored in our Sacramento, CA warehouse, multiple aggregate vendors were approved, available equipment onsite was doubled, and two full-time field mechanics were staffed for repairs. Lastly, because our talent development team members were constantly onsite to onboard and ensure labor compliance extra manpower was ready in the event of COVID quarantines. Thanks to these strong management techniques there was little to no downtime due to equipment shutdowns or lack of material and manpower.
Weekly construction meetings with all trades, when crew sheets and look ahead schedules were reviewed, in combination with daily call-ins, where urgent field issues were addressed in real-time, were instrumental in successfully navigating these logistics. As a result of this thorough and constant communication, not to mention an environment of exceptional teamwork due to strong relationships from a decade of our organizations working together, more time could be spent on planning work rather than processing questions. Simply put, it is the unexpected that make up for the greatest challenges, though how you come together, coordinate, collaborate, and tackle those challenges make all the difference.
Royal Electric’s foresight in developing prefabrication innovations in preparation for this project was perhaps the main key to our success on Runway 10L-28R. Although prefabrication has been utilized on residential and commercial projects for some time at Royal Electric, our airport and underground teams had not experimented with it until early 2021. Developed in collaboration with our virtual construction and prefabrication as well as project and field management teams, prefabricated duct banks quickly became a game changer. First virtual construction modelers created drawings and worked with field teams to resolve issues before the first prototype duct bank was built with pre-assembled conduit in 20-foot sections. Then crews performed field tests in February 2021 on an apron reconstruction project at Palo Alto Airport, providing feedback that enabled design improvements ahead of the SFO Runway 10L-28R Project where thousands of feet of duct banks would be installed. They later went through multiple review submissions for approval by SFO’s engineering team. The design team worked together to ensure proper concrete flow between conduit spacers to preserve the structural integrity of the backfill. Produced in a fraction of the time utilizing jigs in our warehouse instead of within a trench in the field, prefabricated duct bank ensured quality, enhanced safety by minimizing time in trenches, and improved efficiency at SFO. The pace of production was also dramatically increased, enabling crews to install the duct banks, concrete encase them, and then close up the trenches in the same day.
About one year before the SFO Runway 10L-28R project, another preplanning approach focused on manpower efficiency led to the development of a new crew support role for Royal Electric. Working alongside and mentored by our superintendents and foremen, field engineers assist crews with any task that might distract them from their time critical work. Field engineers quickly gained confidence in leading safety huddles, taking crews to their work areas, tracking quantities, and coordinating materials deliveries. The three field engineers staffed for the project proved essential in enabling crews to work as efficiently as possible, particularly when several unexpected challenges arose. Although the team originally planned to store material onsite, a huge accumulation and limited space necessitated just-in-time deliveries. Field engineers coordinated deliveries from suppliers as well as the duct banks assembled by the prefabrication team at our warehouse in Sacramento, CA. Intense winds on the runway up to 60 mph presented another obstacle for crews, until field engineers coordinated with our safety team to supply protective goggles for debris and tethers for hard hats.
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