Spanning two years and involving many complicated processes, JSR Micro’s new H4-rated chemical processing plant was a challenging yet rewarding project from the get-go. With hurdles ranging from language barriers to custom mechanical system piping to building a fully fire-proofed and seismically stable structure, our team buckled down during the extensive preconstruction phase to gain a full understanding of what it would take to successfully complete this one-of-a-kind facility.
In this three part series, we will examine this project and the multi-layered methods it took to complete.
Perlo was introduced to the project in September of 2018. Our proposed team was invited by Mike Wells of Stratus Real Estate Developers, LLC to present to the client just why we were the right contractor to build their facility.
It was tough competition. It seemed as if we were the underdogs; but while others had a resume of similar projects, we had the strongest approach to the project. Ultimately, it was our efficiency, track record for expedited delivery and smartly allocated team that sold us. We were committed to avoiding any budget inflation and had the confidence to prove we could do whatever was needed to provide the client with the plant that they envisioned.
“Perlo’s proven record of fast-track construction, shown on their recently completed large and challenging tilt-up, project weighed heavily in decision maker’s minds, as well as their straightforward approach to design-build with Mackenzie/Corbin design professionals.”
Mike Wells, Principal | Stratus Real Estate Developers, LLC
(owner’s representative for JSR Micro)
The Preconstruction Process
Once we were awarded the project, the client’s biggest construction concerns were two-fold:
1) maintaining an accurate budget throughout all design iterations, and
2) the involvement and capabilities of the sub trades. As this was a highly technical project, accuracy was paramount and every person on the job needed to be operating at their best.
The client chose to follow the design-build delivery method for this project in order to complete the work as quickly as possible; as such, Perlo needed to work very closely with the designer to figure out what was feasible from both a cost and constructability standpoint. With this model, the contractor is involved before designs even begin, helping to develop clear expectations and analyze building structure types, components, and finishes with the design teams. When we came on board, we received a rough conceptual sketch and a limited precondition document. Together with the design team and JSR, we collaboratively worked to expand and solidify these into workable, detailed plans.
Originally, JSR had a location selected in Sunnyvale, California for their new facility. In addition to having the design roughly conceptualized, several long-lead items were also purchased. When that location didn’t pan out, our team had to figure out how to get a project that was originally planned to be built in California moved to Hillsboro, Oregon – and remain on time and on budget. Luckily, JSR had hired the best team for the job.
“We approached this project like you would in this old adage: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” commented Chris Gregg, Senior VP of Operations for Perlo, and team leader for the JSR project.
To allay any concerns, the team jumped right into reviewing the plans and maintained continuous communication, with extra accommodations for time-zone differences for Japan’s support team. The long-lead items were moved up, stored, and inspected. At intervals, any opportunities to value-engineer (VE) the project were completed to meet the budget.
Adapting to Changes
Mackenzie, long-time partners and friends of Perlo, was the chosen architectural firm for the job. Therma was on board to design the process piping, mechanical and plumbing for the building and Corbin Engineering was selected for electrical and chemical hazardous analysis. Unfortunately, since Therma is located in the Bay area nearer to the original Sunnyvale location, they were unable to provide onsite labor resources to support the project when it was relocated to Oregon. To adapt to this change, Perlo conducted interviews and selected another company to install all of the equipment and piping that Therma designed.
In the end, our mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) and fire sprinkler team included EC Electric, Harder Mechanical, Arctic Sheetmetal and Viking Sprinkler. The team dove right into analyzing each part of the precondition document provided by JSR, while Mackenzie concurrently developed permit drawings and Haz Mat Identification System (HMIS) and Perlo’s team continuously updated the budgets.
Utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) modeling and some clever VE tactics, materials and critical items such as each individual pipe length, skid sizes and generator capacities underwent intensely detailed analyses in order to get the budget to where it needed to be. In May of 2019, JSR received board approval of the final budget and construction began.
Due to the high volatility of JSR’s product, this structure was built in such a way that it could accommodate chemical containment, run-off, and even the ability to withstand an explosion. With that in mind, each construction step was well thought-out. The first step after cement-treating the site was to place the huge “brace frame footings” six-feet deep into the ground diagonally. This provided extra stability in case of any seismic events.
Once complete, Perlo jumped right into doing one of the things we do best: concrete slabs, pouring the walls and tilting them into place.
Explosion Proof Construction Components
Mentioned earlier was the requirement for this building to withstand the highly unlikely event of an explosion. Strange as it sounds, this is in fact, correct! The team needed to cover all bases and ensure the highest level of safety was maintained for its people, product and the community.
To achieve this feat, a steel superstructure was erected inside the tilt walls. The steel structure is the primary structure holding the building up and was erected by American Welding. The steel superstructure was designed to allow the structure to stay standing, protecting the valuable and temperamental components stored inside in the event of a seismic event or fire. In fact, the roof could fully collapse or explode out without compromising the steel structure.
To further fire-proof this space, intumescent paint was added directly to the steel. This paint protects the steel from being affected by the heat of a fire.
The roof deck was a concern as well. To address this, dry-clad mineral wool was added to the underside of the decking, providing another layer the fire would have to fight through.
A challenge that arose once the structure was in place was how to wrap the steel structure columns that were built just inches from the concrete walls. Many options were considered and vetted before the team applied some ingenuity and added the same dry-clad mineral wool from the roof deck around each column to create a fire barrier.
Each of these components were necessary and provided the cornerstone, so to speak, for the rest of the building’s success.
Containing Hazardous Chemicals
Dealing with chemicals is serious business; nothing can be left to chance. The concrete building slab was recessed 3” to collect any chemical spills. Additionally, a chemical resistant coating (CRC) was also applied to the floors and the elevator.
A tank farm was constructed to house the chemicals that JSR uses in their product production processes. The tank farm construction was completed during the wet and cold Pacific Northwest winter months, which posed some challenges for this scope of work. As Kyncade Hardy, one of the project superintendents noted, “We went ahead and built a tent over the entire tank farm area to keep it fully enclosed. The concrete couldn’t get cold, so the heated tent kept it protected.”
The concrete pads themselves were an unusual shape. Hexagon shapes were poured, to allow ample space for each of the eight large containment tanks. The City of Hillsboro required different types of containment areas for the various types of rated chemicals. To solve this, our team constructed a four-foot-tall wall between the H3 and H4 containment areas.
Utilizing the design-build delivery method, we applied our company’s tenet to ‘learn by listening’ and executed the work with optimal teamwork and cooperation. This groundbreaking facility was inherently challenging, and proved to be a testament to our team’s adaptability and resourcefulness.
By applying tried and true construction techniques, we further enhanced our knowledge of high-tech construction techniques and delivered a project that the ownership and design teams are all proud of.
In the next post on the JSR building, we will explore the ‘guts’ of the operation and take some time to understand the variety of complex systems involved in the work.