It took two tries for Indianapolis to win the hosting gig for a Super Bowl. The city sent in bids in 2007 and 2008, with the city winning the 2008 bid to host the 2012 Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium. To accommodate the expected 100,000 people for the big game, the city needed to boost hotel room capacity. That boost came in the form of the $450 million, seven-acre Marriott Place Indianapolis development — a new 34-story, 40,500-sq.-ft. JW Marriott Indianapolis, the 297-room Courtyard by Marriott, the 156-room Springhill Suites, and the 168-room Fairfield Inn and Suites. (The city is considering submitting a bid proposal for the 2018 Super Bowl.)

Hotel development and management company White Lodging is the franchisee owner of the four hotels. While the development’s concept was created before the recession, White Lodging decided to go ahead with the project. At the time it was built, the JW Marriott Indianapolis was not only the largest hotel in Indianapolis, it was the largest JW Marriott in the world — 1,005 guest rooms, 104,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and the Midwest’s largest ballroom at 40,500 sq. ft.

“The construction market in Indianapolis was pretty steady during the downturn, but we were still affected,” notes Greg L. Fuller, president of Indianapolis-based North Mechanical Contracting, chairman of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Indiana and a board member of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. “The JW Marriott project really helped us. We’ve done hotel projects before, but the scope of this project was very large.”

North Mechanical’s $14.3 million contract for the JW Marriott included a dewatering package, underslab work, the central plant of the building and all the infrastructure work up to the fourth floor — restaurants, meeting rooms and the convention area — project manager Rod Foley says. The guest rooms were subbed out to General Piping, also based in Indianapolis.

North fast-tracked the JW project because the only existing hotel at the site, the Fairfield Inn, was to be gutted under a separate contract and completed one year before the JW Marriott, explains Foley, a graduate of Purdue University’s Building and Construction Management program who joined North Mechanical in 2000. The JW infrastructure — chilled water, heating water, domestic hot water — was to be fed to the Fairfield.

“We had to have all that infrastructure completed in about a 10-month period,” Foley notes.

The North in North Mechanical Contracting comes from founder and former owner Bob North, P.E. Fuller apprenticed at North Mechanical, received his journeyman plumber’s license in 1985, and went to work at Fryen Brothers as a superintendent and project manager before returning to North Mechanical in 1991 as a project manager. In 1997, he bought the $5 million company from North, who still works at the company as a professional engineer for specialized projects. In 2012, North Mechanical took in more than $33 million in revenue.

Today, the company employs 125 field technicians and 25 office staff. About 70% of its business is from new construction, the rest from service/retrofit work through the company’s service arm, Ramsey & North Mechanical Services.

BIM, prefabrication

First on the agenda and one of the biggest challenges of the JW Marriott project was dewatering the construction site, which sits next to the White River. Infrastructure for the JW hotel would be built three stories underground, so it was crucial to drain the groundwater at the construction site. Large temporary wells were constructed and the water pumped out to dry the soil.

Another challenge was working in an urban site, Fuller notes. “The site was sidewalk to sidewalk, street to street. We had a limited access area and limited lay down area, so we needed to establish just-in-time delivery schedules.”

Foley and his team used the Autodesk Navisworks building information modeling software to design the piping system for the JW’s infrastructure. North Mechanical installed:

  • 30,000 ft. of steel pipe;
  • 18,000 ft. of cast-iron pipe;
  • 54,000 ft. of copper tube;
  • 4,000+ each of weld fittings and flanges;
  • 8,000+ each of Anvil International’s Gruvlok fittings and couplings (3 in. through 12 in.);
  • 15,000 each of cast-iron no-hub fittings and couplings;
  • 1,400+ copper wrot fittings;
  • Valves from Milwaukee Valve and ABZ Valves; and
  • 1,800+ Viega ProPress fittings for all copper piping system sizes 2 in. and below.

“The JW is a post-tensioned structure, so dealing with sleeves and inserts goes hand-in-hand with BIM,” Foley says. “We use BIM on most projects, but especially new construction.”

Fuller adds that using BIM allowed North Mechanical to complete extensive prefabrication work, which saved time and increased productivity on the jobsite.

Other equipment installed by North Mechanical in the JW Marriott’s central plant and restaurant areas were A.O. Smith water storage tanks, Taco plumbing pumps and expansion tanks, Tigerflow domestic water booster packages, Bell & Gossett HVAC pumps and heat exchangers, JR Smith Mfg. Co. drains and carriers, Kohler plumbing fixtures, Trane air-handling units and Energy Labs custom roof-mounted air-handling units.

Filling a Need

The $275 million Indiana Convention Center expansion substantially increased meeting space, from 725,000 sq. ft. to 1.2 million sq. ft. Completed in January 2011, it was another reason for Indianapolis to build more hotels.

“A thousand-room hotel, you don’t build a lot of them in a city the size of Indianapolis,” Fuller says. “Hotel construction goes as the need goes, and the JW Marriott filled the need that Indianapolis had because of the expanded convention center and the need for Super Bowl rooms. I don’t see the need for Indy to build a hotel of this size in the future.”

For a national perspective, industry consultant FMI reports in its 2013 U.S. Markets Construction Overview that lodging construction is estimated to grow 7% in 2013 and 8% in 2014 after rising 4% last year. Hotel owners are renovating more than they are building new properties, and more are investing in green construction technologies. 

In the Indianapolis market, the need continues for new hospitals and life sciences buildings, Fuller says. Over the last 10 years, the city has been rebuilding health-care facilities that are at the “end of life” stage. North Mechanical is currently working on an integrated project delivery job for the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

 Integrated project delivery is a collaborative approach to construction projects, bringing all the players together at the beginning of a project to enhance communication and information sharing between the design and construction teams and maximize productivity. These are the types of projects that would benefit from BIM and future collaborative software.