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Q+A: Balfour Beatty’s Eric Krueger on Maintaining Construction Projects Amidst a Pandemic

Technology, additional health and safety guidelines, and working with industry partners has helped Balfour Beatty keep projects moving, such as JPMorgan Chase’s 12-story office tower and 540,000-square-foot high-rise building in Plano's Legacy West.

Balfour Beatty’s U.S. Buildings group is a leading U.S. construction management and design-build firm, which makes its line of business essential to the economy. Eric Krueger, Executive Vice President of Balfour Beatty, provides insights on the Dallas Region’s steady construction and new developments amid a pandemic.

Q: What are some of the Dallas Region’s current projects and new developments?

A: North Texas is a magnet for economic growth, and we take pride in having an influential impact in building one of the top regions in the nation for business development. In 2017, we announced that we were selected by Westdale and KDC to build The Epic I, a 16-story office tower located in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. Completed last year, the 290,000-square-foot office tower with an 847-car garage, was the first phase of the planned 8-acre, mixed-use development that combines Class A office, multifamily, retail, and boutique hotel. Not only will this project’s world-class amenities help attract businesses, visitors, and residents to the city’s most unique urban neighborhood, it will for the first time provide a pedestrian-friendly connection from downtown Dallas to the Deep Ellum entertainment district.

This year, we completed the Pittman Hotel, a 164-room Kimpton-flagged property that is part of The Epic I, and we were also contracted to deliver The Epic II office tower, which will be the exciting new home of Uber Technologies Inc. The 480,000-square-foot office tower will house at least 3,000 Uber employees, becoming the company’s largest hub outside its San Francisco headquarters.

Additionally, Balfour Beatty is constructing JPMorgan Chase’s 12-story office tower and 540,000-square-foot high-rise building in Legacy West, the second phase of one of Plano’s biggest building projects. With developer KDC, Chase’s new office tower will allow the financial giant to expand its workforce by an additional 4,000 employees. This development is set to open next spring.

With many corporate headquarters making their way to North Texas, we are honored to partner with the Dallas Regional Chamber to attract corporate powerhouse companies to the Dallas Region.

Q: Construction during a pandemic can present rare challenges. What are some challenges and solutions for contractors that are unique to project sites?

A: Over the past few years, we were given the opportunity to deliver transformative projects across the region, as well as develop a backlog of interesting and innovative projects to come. The COVID-19 pandemic quickly caused us to adjust our response to meet the rapidly changing situation in the Dallas Region community. These adjustments are providing Balfour Beatty with valuable opportunities to learn and focus on our people-first commitment to continue the delivery of essential, critical work across the region, and ensure that the safety, health, and wellbeing of our employees, clients, trade partners, and the public are always at the forefront of our operations.

As an essential business, we have seen an impact on our operations as it relates to adopting additional health and safety guidelines to help stop the spread of the virus at our jobsites. These additional measures include implementing six-foot physical distancing, proper workplace sanitization and hygiene, split shift work, temperature and wellness screenings, and wearing appropriate PPE, including face covering, among many others at our jobsites.

The practicalities of how to implement physical distancing on a construction site are complex, but our teams are committed to meeting these needs knowing that each decision has an impact on not only the team’s ability to deliver and our production flow, but the health and wellbeing of everyone. During our pre-task planning, our teams are identifying activities that cannot be achieved with physical distancing, and proactively planning health and safety measures into these specific tasks. For example, on high-rise projects it is challenging to get workers up multiple stories using vertical transportation. By implementing shift work for employees to come in early and putting a few people masked on a hoist, we are able to safely transport our workers to complete project work safely.

Visual disturbance while wearing face coverings has also presented a challenge for our employees on construction sites. Thanks to our safety and strategic procurement teams, we’ve been able to source anti-fog glasses for our workforce to provide additional comfort while keeping our employees safe and protected.

Lastly, with Texas summer in full effect, hotter temperatures have become an additional hazard on the jobsite in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a face covering during the heat of Texas summer can become uncomfortable, so we’ve incorporated more work breaks, access to cold individually served water, and multiple cooling station locations that allow for physical distancing and keeps our workforce rested and comfortable.

Q: What internal processes have you taken to address and minimize the impact of COVID-19 on employees, clients, and partners?

A: During the pandemic, Balfour Beatty has leveraged the use and implementation of our technology platforms to create safe environments to collaborate and plan with our clients and partners. Even when shelter-in-place mandates where in place, we were able to sustain our strong connective company culture and found that technology has been a great enabler in keeping this culture intact. Leveraging virtual 360-degree jobsite walks allows us to share construction progress and troubleshoot issues in real-time with our clients and partners, giving our teams the capability to maintain construction without slowing down. This technology and many others have been employed in new and creative ways, allowing us to continuously deliver projects that our North Texas clients have entrusted us to build.

To keep health and safety at the forefront, our company produced a jobsite orientation video specific to the safety measures and protocols put in place due to COVID-19. The video details our processes of entering the jobsite safely with temperature and wellness checks, wearing appropriate PPE, including face coverings, and how to effectively implement six-foot physical distancing.

Balfour Beatty also partners with leading construction firms and industry partners across the nation to form local advisory groups who collaborate on industry best practices and standards to keep the workforce safe and healthy. We also rely on our Pandemic Task Force to continuously monitor federal, state, county, and local guidance so our teams can remain adaptable and agile. It is our goal to make sure we are sharing these ideas and safety best practices with our teams and trade partners so we can continue to reduce the risk of COVID-19, not only on our project sites, but throughout the Dallas Region community.

A version of this story first appeared on the Dallas Regional Chamber site. Dallas Innovates is a collaboration of D Magazine Partners and the Dallas Regional Chamber. This Q&A is part of an ongoing series of DRC interviews with representatives from our member organizations about how they are facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Michael Wood currently serves as Manager of Education & Workforce for the Dallas Regional Chamber. In this role, Michael leads the DRC’s early childhood education efforts, promotes collaboration(...)

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