American Shipper Magazine: High-rise logistics

Press - March 23, 2018

Plaza building in American Shipper Magazine

A high-rise condominium complex overlooking the Port of Miami that is currently being built has a very extensive construction supply chain.

Condominiums in a striking high rise tower now under construction in Miami called One Thousand Museum will overlook the Port of Miami, through which key elements of the 66-story building were imported. The 4,800 glossy glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels that form the tower’s curvy exoskeleton were made thousands of miles away in the United Arab Emirates, then loaded onto containerships in Jebel Ali and offloaded at the port. The reason for this extensive construction supply chain was architect Zaha Hadid’s desire for a finish of concrete that would be both unique in appearance and more consistent than could be achieved by having workers apply stucco and paint on site, said Brad Meltzer, president of Plaza Construction Group Florida, which is managing the One Thousand Museum’s construction. Having the panels made in the U.A.E. by the company Arabian Profiles was a way to “control the color and the consistency” of the concrete. “We spared virtually no expense in doing justice to Zaha’s original design and her wishes to have the design be as true to what she had initially intended,” he added.

Hadid, an Iraqi-born British architect, died suddenly in 2016 in Miami, just days after visiting the One Thousand Museum construction site. She was the recipient of many honors, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the U.K.’s Stirling Prize, and the Royal Gold Medal of the Institute of British Architects. Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame. Her name might ring a bell for some American Shipper readers for another reason: she designed the Marseilles headquarters of French liner carrier CMA CGM, which opened in 2011. GFRC panels are used in many new buildings today, and Meltzer said they are popular in Las Vegas, for example, because they can be molded into unusual shapes. The panels are mostly used as cladding, attached to the structural part of the building, and, indeed, this is how GFRC is used the lower floors of the One Thousand Museum. For the One Thousand Museum, the builders used GFRC in an innovative way. Instead of pouring concrete around steel rebar enclosed in forms made of plywood, the GFRC panels themselves were used as the forms and remain in place as the exterior of the building. Meltzer said he is unaware of GFRC being used this way in other buildings, and that the idea behind it was to speed construction. In a documentary about the construction of the tower, Harald Halvorsen, managing director of Arabian Profiles, called this technique “the future of high-rise construction.”

Careful Shipping. But the GFRC process also presented many challenges to both the builders and logisticians. High-strength concrete was used in the building’s construction, and Meltzer explained that because of the additives in the concrete it expands. The builders had to be careful during the assembling of the GFRC panels to prevent concrete from leaking, a job made all the more challenging because the curved pieces changed shape on nearly every floor. Christopher Rich, a project manager at CMR CS, who handled logistics for the project, said “a lot of careful design and long hours were put into coordinating” the movement of the panels, which is still ongoing. 

“Essentially you are shipping 4,800 concrete sculptures,” he said. The panels weigh up to a ton each. The panels “are strong, but they’re not meant to be banged around either. It’s important that they don’t get damaged,” Rich said, adding that 99 percent of the panels arrived without even a scratch. “This whole thing is somewhat of a miracle from the logistics standpoint that we were able to get all these things around the world and the amount of damage is so minimal, it’s almost nothing,” he said. Small chips and other damage that did occur can be repaired on site. The panels were padded with high density foam and loaded into purpose-built steel cradles at Arabian Profiles, so they could easily be moved in and out of ocean containers equipped with rails only a few workers. Most of the panels were shipped in 40-foot containers, each of which held two or three of the cradles. Some large panels moved in open-top containers. Speaking to American Shipper in March, Rich said 340 containers moving under 92 bills of lading had been shipped from the U.A.E. to Miami, and that eventually about 400 containers will be shipped. The panels were primarily carried by United Arab Shipping Co. (UASC), and then by Hapag-Lloyd after it acquired UASC. He said the Hanjin bankruptcy caused a short hiccup during the construction. In the U.A.E., the freight forwarder Charles Kendall helped arrange the shipments and in Miami the 3PL DGD Transport arranged the transport of the containers from the port to a storage yard in Davie, north of Miami. At the storage yard, the cradles are removed from the containers and the panels are staged. At any given time, Rich said there may be 100 to 200 cradles in that staging area. From there, they are transported on flatbed truck trailers to the construction site.

Building Buzz. Meltzer and Rich agree with Arabian Profiles’ Halvorsen that the techniques pioneered at the One Thousand Museum building have a future. For example, panels could be made in factories in countries where labor and material costs are lower, and then shipped to the United States. But Meltzer said his company carefully vetted Arabian Profiles for the job, because quality control was so paramount. “The last thing we want to have is when these pieces finally get here is for there to be a problem, because if there is, then the production of the building can’t move forward… We’re out of luck. So quality control when things come from overseas is always a big, big concern for us here in the U.S.,” he said. Rich explained that the ability to source GFRC panels this way could theoretically save six months on typical construction schedule. “When you have these huge construction loans carrying interest of $100,000 a day, that amount of time makes all the world of difference,” he said. “People are reaching out to me on a weekly basis for information about this, and how did we do it,” he said. “It’s not for every building, but for aggressive architectural designs it definitely has a place.” Meltzer said the cost of the concrete in the building was about twice that of a more conventional building, not because of the GFRC, but because the structure was much heavier. The beefy skeleton meant Hadid was able to create a skeleton with an interesting shape and floors with “large expanses of windows and very few columns in the way. That’s why she did this - she wanted you to be able to sit in your living room, or your dining room, or your kitchen as one big open area and not have columns obstructing your view,” he said. 

The $200 million building will have just 83 units selling for between $5.55 million to $20.7 million. “The question then becomes for any developer or investor, is that additional cost to create a magnificent piece of architecture, worthwhile? Like anything else in the world there’s a value add or a return on investment analysis that needs to be done,” Meltzer said. 

from American Shipper magazine