A tall order, but not an impossible one as proven by our team at REX. In the midst of the pandemic building momentum and civil unrest at the front door of their job-site, the folks at REX, led by Sr. Project Executive Dan Palencia, pitched, won and successfully completed a complex electrical job for high-profile client on-time and under budget.
In April 2020, as lockdowns were beginning across the country and there was more unknown than known about COVID-19, the team at REX had the opportunity to pursue an electrical, technology and fire alarm installment in the historical Old Post Office Building in the heart of Chicago. The space would be a new 175,000 sq. ft. office housing the headquarters for three separate and unique brands as well as the parent company’s North America Central Division. Completing the pitch via phone, REX won the job and began work in May 2020.
There were many challenges with the project. For one, the project was not a typical office building where the full space replicated itself throughout. Rather, there were unique brand spaces on a single floor transitioning in approximately 30,000 sq. ft. phases, each with its own unique design. This not only presented a technical complexity and challenge, but also presented a challenge for social distancing and conducting safe COVID-19 behaviors while completing the job efficiently for the 150-200 tradespeople working every day.
Further, COVID-19 precautions presented challenges at every corner. 40-person freight elevators limited capacity to 6 people per trip. Tradespeople hauled materials, tools and their lunch up and down four flights of stairs on a daily basis to compensate. Additionally, if one person tested positive for COVID-19, the jobsite would be shut down for a minimum of 2 days to allow a specialized cleaning crew to come in. This not only represented possible delays in the project, but also lost pay for nearly 200 people. Everyone needed to do their part to stay safe and healthy for the good of the project and their fellow employees. Thanks to the daily on-site leadership of REX Foreman, Joe Meyers, the project only had to be shut down for cleaning three times during the 7-month project.
Dan Palencia recalls, “Everything centered around COVID. For us, electrical, light fixtures are always the thing we battle to get on time. Lead times and shipping delays played a major role in this project. COVID was the center of everything. It still got built in its timeline which is amazing. It was a slower start overall on the project, but things started to pick up, we learned as we went.”
While the technical complexity and COVID-19 precautions offered more than their fair share of adverse environment for a successful job completion, a few weeks into the project extreme civil unrest landed at the doorstep of the job-site. Dan shared, “The civil unrest was almost more nerve-wracking than COVID. COVID we could control, I can wear a mask all day, I can hand sanitize and wash my hands all day, I can control that. The civil unrest, you just didn’t know… There was a morning last July, I was watching the news, and they showed the Starbucks right next to the office…They were shooting towards cops right outside of where we were, so that was nerve-wracking because you just didn’t know what was going to happen.”
He continued, “They [tradespeople employees] have families, I know them. I know they have young kids, know they have wives, and so I tried to pay better attention to what is going on in the world. If I thought that there may be an issue with them getting in or out of the city, I’d have to work with that. There was a time when the city was shut down, the bridges were up and the job and all the other jobs of the world were shut down.”
Despite the constant changes and challenges presented throughout the course of the project, the REX team proceeded in a way unwavering from the Chugach core behaviors, particularly building community and leaving things better than we found them. As a result of holding to these core behaviors along with sheer grit and determination, the REX team was an integral piece on a truly showcase project that was not only completed on-time and under budget, but the client was thrilled with the outcome.
Learn more about Chugach Commercial Holdings.