Behind the Project: American Dream Water Park
Dave Douglas is an Associate based out of our New York City office who specializes in construction engineering, project management and transit-related projects. Recently, we sat down with him to discuss the American Dream Water Park, a project he worked on in New Jersey.
Thanks for taking some time out of your day to speak with us, Dave. Can you tell us about the American Dream Water Park?
My pleasure. The Water Park is one part of a large development in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford, New Jersey. The total budget for the project, which includes the purchase of an existing mall and ski development as well as the building of a new water park, amusement park and retail expansion, is upwards of $5 billion.
The Water Park is 260,000 square feet in size comprised of a single, flat plate. In short, the scale of this project is immense.
Working for UCC Group, the concrete contractor on the project, Entuitive was hired to provide construction engineering, technical, and project management support. Where we could, we’d help unlock intricacies in the design, offer labor and material efficiencies and, in general, help create savings. We also had our clients’ back – advising them of potential risks to their contract and working to strengthen their relationship with their client and other project partners.
Wow, this project certainly sounds like no small feat. I’m sure it had some interesting challenges – can you tell me about some of those and how you overcame them?
For sure. On the project delivery side, we had to deal with several slowdowns during construction. To give you an idea, our contract was initially supposed to be for 18 months, but we ended up on the project for 4.5 years. This was a bit challenging for us and particularly for our client who had come to project organized with labour and materials and ready to hit the ground running at full speed.
We took this in stride, though, finding as many constructive ways as possible to utilize our time and maximize efficiencies so we could gain time back when construction resumed. Some of the things we did included looking at the work to identify questions we could ask that would help to speed up the construction process, reviewing our own processes to enhance efficiency and working to improve and simplify the owners’ consultants’ drawings.
We also kept open dialogue throughout – with our client, with the owner and with the construction manager – to ensure everyone knew we were committed to a successful delivery. This was also communicated through our consistent presence onsite.
So, that’s one challenge from more of a project delivery point of view. On the more technical side, was how to create the “negative formwork” used to impart the special concrete shape that that would generate waves in the Park’s wave pool.
Concrete pool construction is much more complicated than typical concrete construction, as it involves all the same challenges plus the additional complexities of embedded service, concrete hydration temperature monitoring, irregular shapes, and strict geometric tolerances.
After many conversations and meetings with the consultants and other trades, we decided that the most efficient and accurate method to create these forms was to use custom-cut geofoam blocks, suspended them in the air and held in place by a rigid, counterweighted frame, and then to fill the cavity below – the actual structure – with self-consolidating concrete. The result was that we achieved perfectly formed wave generation slopes in record time, an achievement made even more special considering that this was constructed at the lowest elevation in the site, where incoming natural tidal waters were being de-watered from the site – a costly and constant effort. The less time we could spend down at this elevation, the better it was for the project.
Wow, some ingenious problem solving and lots of collaboration. Sounds exciting! But, what was your favourite part of the project?
Honestly, it has to be the people. A project of this size and nature requires a lot of specialty consultants and contractors, and as a result attracts great people from all over the continent. Working basically full-time with the same group of talented people for over four years is truly rewarding. It is the little daily battles and the “working in the trenches” mentality that brings you closer to your colleagues. I have developed some close friendships that I mean to continue.
We’re also still in touch with and, to be honest, good friends with our client and still work with them regularly.
That’s great, Dave. Any final thoughts before we let you get back to it?
I think it’s important to note that this project served as a real personal and professional development opportunity for me.
At the time the project started I was based in Toronto and agreed to move to New York and New Jersey temporarily for 18 months. It was a big risk to do this, but the rewards were greater than the risks and I’m glad I took the opportunity. Now, five years later, we have an office in New York City, and I live here happily with my family.
Reflecting further, I think that’s one of the greatest things about working in a global and supportive organization like Entuitive. There are so many opportunities to move around and try a new location or to build on your professional or personal goals. I would encourage anyone from Entuitive reading this to consider taking an opportunity like this if it’s presented to you.
Thanks for sitting down with us today, Dave. It was great to learn more about such an exciting and challenging project!