After a fast-paced search process, the job for the new Seaford mill project was awarded to Younglove Construction LLC, of Sioux City, IA, with Loren Field serving as project manager. In the building and design services business, anytime you secure a project, it’s perfectly natural to be excited and allow yourself to bask in the glow of victory. However, Field and his team were facing a daunting task on several levels.
“Allen’s had a very aggressive construction schedule, and there was still a great deal of prep work at the site which needed to be done first, before we could mobilize trailers, equipment and manpower to the site,” says Field. “Since it was a ‘Green Field site,’ a road roughly a mile long had to be constructed from the highway to the site.
“The site contractor had to complete site access to allow for deliveries of concrete, rebar, structural steel, not to mention access by the construction crews,” Field recalls.
The first real success story of the project occurred before turning the first wheel on the site. Both the management team from Allen’s and Younglove’s project team worked diligently with local officials to attain the proper permitting and even worked with the local power company to move power lines to accommodate rail construction.
With soil and other environmental testing completed, all permitting in place, access roads built and the weather turning favorable, it was time to start building, and fast. It was April and the first deadline hung out there for all to see like blankets on a clothesline, only a scant few months away.
“Our two primary goals of receiving local grains by the fall and having the mill fully operational by July of 2008 hadn’t changed,” says Hevner, “And knowing what that entailed, we basically approached the receiving and milling work as two separate projects.”
Now that the receiving facility was first on the work docket, it was time to go to work and get wet.
Water, water everywhere
The nemesis of any building project is wet weather as rain often causes sloppy conditions and costly delays. Now imagine that wetness being a constant companion throughout the entire building process and you have a good idea of the conditions surrounding the project. Only instead of the water falling down on the project, imagine it coming up from ground itself.
A quick glance at an atlas tells you that the Seaford location — much like the entire state of Delaware — is surrounded by major bodies of water including a river less than five miles away, and Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean less than 30 miles in either direction of the facility.
What you have then is a location that is roughly 20 feet above sea level with a water table at 5 feet. Not the most ideal scenario for a major building project featuring several massive concrete structures and storage for more than 1 million bushels of corn.
“We had an immense dewatering task facing us and with the aggressive building schedule, it took a lot of planning, hard work and some luck with the weather to get the receiving tunnel built,” says Field. “The engineering work done ahead of time helped us ‘game-plan’ the dewatering process and create efficiencies so we didn’t incur any delays during the excavation.”
The receiving tunnel measured 20 feet wide, 90 feet long and 20 feet deep, and Younglove intended to use their typical concrete pour techniques to build the tunnel — setting forms and pouring to shape.
During the process, dewatering pumps were constantly moving water away from the excavation site at nearly 1,500 gallons/minute initially and 500 gallons/minute on a steady basis thereafter. However, a key ingredient, and it literally was an “ingredient,” that helped make the tunnel form hold fast was found in the concrete itself.
“We have worked with wet conditions before but nothing on the scale of what we would face with the Allen’s project,” says Field. “We added a compound called Xypex to the concrete mix which essentially makes the concrete impervious to water, which allowed us to do the pour and greatly reduce our risk for delay. It set beautifully and held firm so despite the challenging environment, we maintained our project schedule.”
Hevner points out that the company caught a break not only with the weather but with the local expertise of the subcontractors and workers on the job.