Okland Construction

When building a large facility, some contractors might be tempted to subcontract portions such as the concrete work. But that is not the case for Okland Construction as it builds the new Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah. Project Manager John Cockrell says Okland can better manage the project by doing the concrete on its own. “It is one of the first activities that takes place,” he says. “We can help control the schedule and the quality of the concrete work.”

Okland is serving as the general contractor and construction manager on the new $40 million center, which will be a tall, three-story building with two mezzanine levels and cover 143,000 square feet. Cockrell says the center will feature an exhibition hall, ballrooms, meeting rooms, a complete kitchen and administration offices.

MHTN Architects Project Manager Robert Pinon adds that the center will provide ideal views of the Wasatch Mountain Range. “It is one of those assets that we have taken advantage of,” he says.

The Right Time

The Utah Valley Convention Center has been in development for several years, Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Joel Racker says. In 2002, Provo hoteliers and restaurateurs came together and agreed that the city needed a public meeting facility.

The county hired CSL to survey the level of interest among meeting planners and event professionals in building a convention center. At the time, “There was some very strong interest,” Racker recalls, adding that two projects were soon announced by private entities.

“[Our] initial approach was, ‘If private industry wants to develop, let’s let them do it,’” Racker says. But due to the recession, both projects fell apart. Since public demand for a center still existed, the county decided to move forward and build one on its own.

“The conditions were perfect because we were in the middle of the economic downturn,” Racker recalls, explaining that concrete, steel and other building material prices were low. “We’ve been able to build for approximately 15 [to] 30 percent less than we would have paid. The conditions were very favorable to build.” 

Racker adds that the public reaction to the project has been primarily positive. “There are a few of the conservative folks that have shown a skeptical eye on it,” he admits. “[These] are people who think there is no [room for public funds] to go into a facility like this.”

However, the project has won strong support from local businesses, according to Racker. “Many of our select-service or limited-service hotels within the area are excited,” he says. “We’ve got a couple signed contracts on the facility.” 

The county is in the process of hiring the center’s operator, Global Spectrum, a Comcast company that specializes in managing public assembly venues. “When it comes to marketing, they want the Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau to be involved, just as we were for the ground-breaking,” he says. 

Pushing Forward

Recently, Cockrell says, Okland has completed the pouring of the concrete shear walls of the building, which stand 100 feet in the air. 

“It was quite challenging to pour these walls as high as they are and get access to them,” he admits. “We poured the large shear walls up to the final height of 100 feet. In doing so, we dramatically improved the structural steel erection sequence although slightly more expensive, due to the additional costs for an engineered bracing solution (cables) put in place until such time that the walls are braced by the steel.”

Now, Cockrell says, Okland is coping with the challenge of building the large facility in a short period of time. “This challenging schedule will require extra effort to be accomplished on time,” he admits. To assist in getting the project completed on time, Okland is closely coordinating the subcontractors to ensure that they are starting and finishing their work per the project schedule.

In addition, Okland is required to work on an approximately three-acre project site next to Freedom Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in Provo. “That makes it quite challenging to construct the building so close to the roadway,” he says.

For instance, Okland has found it difficult to build a large building on a small site, which has very limited lay-down area. “When [materials] arrive on site, we will be required to move them into the building [immediately],” Cockrell says.

A Qualified Contractor

Based in Salt Lake City, Okland Construction started operations in 1918 and today the company earns 80 percent of its work from repeat clients. “At Okland, the words ‘partnership, quality and integrity’ best describe the manner in which we operate our business,” the company says.

“We wish to partner with owners, architects, engineers and other consultants in creating not only quality structures, but also quality relationships,” Okland continues. “We work hard to be an integral team player, dealing with owners and team members with integrity and giving [our client’s] project the quality attention it deserves.”

Cockrell, who has been with Okland for nearly 30 years, has had roles in project management and estimating. “I’ve enjoyed both responsibilities,” he says. “I think the estimating background helps me in dealing with any types of cost revisions that might be taking place. It also helps me in preparing contracts with subcontractors and understanding their scopes of work.”

Well-Coordinated Subs

Cockrell praises the project’s subcontractors, with whom Okland works closely. “We hold weekly coordination meetings with the subcontractors to make sure that all of the work is well coordinated,” he says. Okland’s key partners include SME Steel and LCG Facades.

“The meetings are successful because we review the project schedule, receive input from the subcontractors for their portion of work with each other, and we discuss the duration of their work activities and any other challenges that they might have,” he says. “These meetings create a team atmosphere and ensure that all the players have the same goal: that is to provide a quality project on time.” 

Despite the challenges, Cockrell expects Okland to meet the center’s April deadline. “We’re known to keep projects on budget and complete them on time,” he says. “The accomplishment of these two goals is the standard that Okland expects.”

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