Monday, January 23, 2017

Modular Construction Delivering Great Results in Allston

Creating a new residential apartment community in a crowded section of Boston’s Allston neighborhood has presented a number of challenges.

Building apartments at the site – located between the Massachusetts Turnpike to the north and a crowded neighborhood to the south – has required a different approach to be more successful.

Many people think of modular construction and envision seeing single-family homes on double-wide tractor trailers. But with advances in technology and building process, modular has evolved over the past few decades to become an important technique for all types of construction – allowing for high quality design and terrific finishes. At the Allston construction site, our crew is busy setting 136 modular units in place to create 80 new apartments, which will feature studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Each unit arrives on site with many of the finishes already complete – cabinets and backsplashes set in the kitchen, pre-painted drywall and resilient flooring installed, and bathroom fixtures in place with tiling laid out but not yet grouted.

The units are staged offsite, individually trucked over to Braintree Street, lifted into place using a crane, and set by workers. After they’re placed, construction workers move through to complete corridors and common spaces and install HVAC, plumbing and electrical. The building has a concrete foundation and units are anchored in place with steel. With the right planning, our teams are able to place up to 20 units in a single day.



It’s the second modular project for CTA Construction. In 2010, we completed a 95-unit, four-story senior housing facility for the Somerville Housing Authority. At Capen Court, we installed 95 prefabricated one-bedroom apartments and support spaces, foundations, water and sewage systems, HVAC, fire protection, site utilities and improvements, and landscaping within the project site.

Modular construction provides a cost savings to developers – units are built offsite, providing for greater quality control because units are built in a factory environment. Projects can also save money by minimizing the amount of time spent on site.

All methods have their challenges and every site is different, but modular construction can be a useful tool for a number of buildings. Hotels, apartment buildings, college dormitories and school classrooms often use the exact same layouts and features for each unit.

At CTA Construction, we have enjoyed solving project challenges by using modular units as a solution. Modular construction requires planning and collaboration and a high level of execution to ensure a great project. We’re problem solvers and engineers at heart, so we look forward to new challenges in new methods of construction.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Maximizing Efficiency in Public School Construction: What Every City and Town Needs to Know

Municipalities face a number of choices and key decision points when approaching a large construction project such as a school building, public safety complex or community center.

One of the most important decisions – because it can mean the difference in saving millions of dollars – is how the project will be procured by the community and paid for by taxpayers.

There’s more than one way for a project “owner” such as a city or town to procure a building project.  But reliable data suggests that one procurement method offers the best value for municipalities: the traditional “Design Bid Build” (DBB) process.

Design Bid Build falls under the traditional “competitive-bid” category. A design team working closely with a municipality and their Owner’s Project Manager creates construction documents that represent the vision for a project and a very specific design plan for executing it. Those documents become the key component of a bidding package that is used to solicit competitive bids or sealed proposals. Cities and towns can also include pre-qualification criteria and a review of references and past projects to ensure that winning bidders can meet all work obligations and standards.
According to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), competitive bidding is the hallmark of DBB and can offer a clear advantage in producing “the best available price” for cities and towns.

CTA Construction became a leader in school construction across Massachusetts by competitively bidding municipal construction work – and offering not just value but real accountability to cities and towns. Our company has completed more than 35 school building projects – representing the high-quality end product of more than $1 billion of public investment in municipal projects.

Many municipalities prefer to avoid this type of competition and have sought to procure their projects under what is called the “Construction Manager-at-Risk” (CMR) mode, where decision making is made in a more subjective manner. This approach to design and construction – where the general contractor is involved beginning with the design process – places total cost as a secondary factor in choosing the construction manager. In theory the idea is that CMR makes project owners less exposed to potential cost overruns or change orders, and that there is more focus on qualifications when choosing a construction manager.

But the reality is that traditional DBB provides transparency from start to finish on a project – and the bidding process requires competitors to demonstrate their qualifications and track record. Analyses, such as those by the MSBA and other organizations, show that the number of change orders are not actually reduced on CMR projects. 

Most important: the cost savings to municipalities is significant with DBB. An analysis by the Massachusetts School Building Authority of public school construction found that CMR is consistently more expensive than DBB by over 10 percent. In fact, some of the most expensive schools ever built in the Commonwealth utilized CMR, including Newtown North High School – which saw costs soar from $109 million to nearly $200 million in the seven year period when the project was proposed and completed.

In 2009 and 2010, Massachusetts communities that built schools using DBB generated nearly four times the savings of projects that used CMR, according to a study by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts. And a recent study by the Beacon Hill Institute found that CMR projects cost about $26.49 more per square foot than DBB. Massive cost gaps like these mean CMR often results in added dollars for cities and towns.


Project owners should closely examine qualifications for their general contractor/construction manager as well as the design team. Due diligence at each stage will help ensure a quality outcome and a smooth process. If the project is being managed through a Design Bid Build process – it’s also very likely it will come in at the lowest possible cost.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Is It? Can You Guess the Purpose of This Structure Next to New High School?


A lot of people have been asking, what is that two-story rectangular structure on site of the new North Middlesex Regional High School?  Guesses have included:

  • An elevator shaft
  • A booth for a parking lot attendant
  • A scoreboard and announcer’s booth for a football field

CTA’s Project Executive Jeff Hazelwood provides us the answer:  It’s a mock up.

He explains:

“It is typical on construction projects.  A mock up is built to mimic the sequence of installation for exterior building components (concrete foundation, metal framing, sheathing, air/vapor barrier, masonry, precast concrete, stonework, windows, curtain wall, doors, roofing, sealants, etc.) so that all of the intricate details are reviewed, potentially modified and agreed upon by the General Contractor, Architect and Owner’s Project Manager before the actual installation starts on the building itself.  Think of it as working out potential conflicts between the complex exterior building systems in advance so there are little to no issues when we install them on the actual building.  It also provides an opportunity to view the exterior materials, colors, features and finishes to get a sense of the final product.”

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Look at This Fine Work by CTA Construction on Putnam Gardens in Cambridge



Renovating an occupied apartment complex takes good scheduling and planning.  CTA Construction Co. Inc. recently finished the first of 10 phases on a $22 million renovation of the Putnam Garden apartment complex owned by the Cambridge Housing Authority.

Large-scale residential construction is a growing part of our portfolio.  CTA previously renovated the Harry S. Truman Apartment Building for the Cambridge Housing Authority.  In Allston, CTA is currently constructing a $20 million, five-story residential building.

The project included updating finishes and fixtures in the kitchens and bathrooms.

CTA crews also did a fine job with new electrical systems, fire sprinklers, insulation, baseboard heating, ceilings and soffits.



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New Video: 8 Steps to a Great Groundbreaking

We attend a lot of groundbreaking ceremonies and each is special and important.  They are a chance for project owners and supporters to celebrate an important milestone.  They have worked hard to plan the project and the groundbreaking marks the start of a dream becoming a reality.

For some, it may be their first time planning a groundbreaking for a building project. To help them get started, we created this short video, "8 Steps to a Great Groundbreaking."


Monday, March 14, 2016

CTA Construction Joins Hopkinton to Renovate, Expand Library

Here are photos from Friday's groundbreaking ceremony at the Hopkinton Public Library.  You can read more details about this project on www.CTAConstruction.com.  
Hopkinton and state officials mark the start of construction.

The library addition will go on this parking lot.

The library is emptied of its books and equipment and ready for the renovations to begin.