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Managing an UnCommon Project

Managing an UnCommon Project

By Luke Carothers

Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, UnCommons recently broke ground on Phase II of the 40-acre development.  Although the project has only recently started its second phase of development, the space is already gaining notoriety for its growing list of tenants, which includes DraftKings, CBRE, Morgan Stanley, BDO, Sotheby’s International Realty, and Berkadia. Phase I, which broke ground in early 2021 and finished in early 2022, consisted of two office buildings, two parking garages, and retail space. The other large portion of Phase I includes a significant amount of grading as well as the installation of both wet and dry utilities to support the development moving forward. When the project is completed, this space will house more than 500,000 square feet of modern office space, 800 residential units, curated restaurants, cafes, health and fitness studios, and more.  In addition, this development will be the first in Nevada to be built with criteria set by the International WELL Building Institute.

UnCommons is unique in both the innovative construction techniques and engineering expertise that were needed to support a project of this magnitude.  One of the key firms making this influential development possible is Universal Engineering Sciences (UES), a national engineering and consulting firm.  UES provided all construction materials testing and inspections on the project, along with all quality assurance, which consists largely of tilt-up concrete construction.  On a project of this scale, there are many moving parts, and the coordination of schedules for inspections and work is paramount to the project’s timeline and ultimately its budget. 

The size and design of this mixed-use development meant that there were challenges in Phase I surrounding both team communication and the sheer number of permits.  Ben Mayhew, Materials Department Manager for UES’ Las Vegas office, notes that maintaining 6-8 different permits at a time between the different parties involved in the project, along with local building officials and inspectors provided an extra layer to the challenge. They overcame the challenges by approaching it from the perspective of “ultra-organization.”  For the UnCommons project that meant clear and constant communication with the contractors about how each permit progresses.  Mayhew also points out that, unlike other projects of its kind, the UES team added a full-time project manager for the UnCommons.  This decision was made due to the unique organizational requirements, and it has paid dividends as Phase I was completed earlier this year, and Phase II is currently progressing on schedule.  

With Phase II recently breaking ground, UES has maintained the same plan that yielded success in the project’s first phase in some respects.  Corina Ortega, a Senior Project Manager for UES, says that the scope of work for Phase II is relatively similar to Phase I with more retail,  office buildings, and parking garages and the addition of residential buildings, pavilions, and a conference center.  Ortega notes that there have been several changes in the organizational structure of Phase II that came from lessons learned in the project’s first phase.  By adding more teams and involving more people, the goal is to lessen the burden of handling permits making it a team effort.   

With the addition of new building types in Phase II, even more consistent communication between the parties was needed.  According to Mayhew, this particular jurisdiction has stringent requirements when it comes to the accuracy of inspection reports.  Failing to meet these requirements would mean added time on the project.  To ensure that time won’t be lost to permitting requirements in Phase II, Mayhew, Ortega, and the UES team meet with the contractor and project team every two weeks.  Mayhew also notes the importance of utilizing robust reporting software equipped with a “safety net” feature that prevents inspectors from signing out a report without the necessary signatures and information.

One of the other organizational challenges of both Phase I and II of the UnCommons project was the necessity of working around the clock.  Several structures in the development, such as the parking garages, require large volumes of poured concrete, which, in the Las Vegas climate, won’t cure properly in the heat of the day.  As such,  Mayhew points out the specific challenges of scheduling work on a project with so many moving parts.  It takes a significant amount of coordination to schedule shifts of different working groups, which can stack up to 36 hours on end.  However, the size of UES’ team as well as their decision to involve more team members on the project has made this kind of coordination possible for Phase II.

The UnCommons project is scheduled for completion in the Summer of 2023.  Upon completion, UnCommons will boast five office buildings and four parking garages as well as retail and residential space.  Despite the inherent challenges of constructing this type of development in its jurisdiction and environment, UES and the other teams involved in the project have adapted a strong strategy to overcome these challenges and deliver a truly uncommon and unique community to the Southwest Las Vegas area.

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.