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Contractor Tackles Tall Order With New Mexico High-Rise

Sat February 26, 2000 - West Edition
Emilie Haulenbeek

On the corner of a main street in downtown Albuquerque, NM, a skeleton stands where a building should be. Merely steel and a half-formed beginning of what will be the building’s skin, the new Steve Schiff District Attorney’s Building waits quietly as the unmistakable shrieks of construction ring through the air. Workers have been on this site, as well as its sister building, the Bernalillo County Courthouse located across the street, since March 1999.

The Steve Schiff Building, named for the New Mexican congressman who died in March 1998, has a circular center section with two large wings attached. Standing tall at eight stories, the building is a high-rise for Albuquerque’s relatively low-rise downtown. With a single-story Whataburger located on the opposite side of the street, the new building casts a shadow that reaches down the street and to the adjacent courthouse. Housing the District Attorney’s office and other administrative departments, the building will have seven occupied floors, plus basement parking and the roof. Funded by Bernalillo County, the two buildings are costing approximately $38 million. But construction has posed some significant difficulties for the primary contractor.

“It’s been a challenge from day one,” said Bob Mims, project superintendent for Bradbury Stamm Construction Company, the general contractor. “Customarily on a high- rise you have something on the outside that allows workman to get things up the building.”

On the Steve Schiff Building, this isn’t the case. Mims’ workers have been able to use the building’s structure to lift equipment to the second floor and small items to the third floor. But beyond that, they have had to “fly” equipment and supplies up with a crane.

“The upper floors are very difficult to get to,” said Mims, who mentioned that moving equipment and construction materials to the higher floors would be much easier once the elevators have been created. Unfortunately, he said, first he has to get the materials up the floors to build the elevator.

Because of the building’s design, pouring concrete for the roof also posed a problem. Without the ability to easily move pumping equipment to the upper floors, Hernandez Pumping, an Albuquerque concrete company, had to pump cement from the ground floor to all the upper floors. The company’s concrete pumping machine, a Schwing 1200/52-meter, was able to pump the concrete for every level, including the eighth story. Tim Romero, operations manager for Hernandez Pumping, said that all of the pumping equipment is made by Schwing and that the company purchases pumps directly from the manufacturer. Romero used several different pumps, including smaller 28-, 32- and 42-meter (92, 105 and 138 ft.) pumps to lay the concrete for the entire site. He was in charge of completing the concrete for all floors, from the basement to the rooftop. An intensive job, the company was on site for about eight months.

Another challenge that the contractors have faced has been the lack of work area. Located in the middle of Albuquerque’s downtown area, the building is on the small block between 4th and 5th streets. With construction fencing immediately surrounding the site and busy streets on the opposite side of the fences, there are few areas to park and store equipment.

And the site has required some major equipment. In March 1999, Bradbury Stamm began by excavating the building’s basement. Mims estimates that they moved a block of earth that measured about 6 meters (20 ft.) deep. They used a scraper to haul most of the dirt away, he said. Since then, they have used a variety of tractors, backhoes, forklifts, guy tracks, and various cranes. Because the building is a major steel structure, Hughes Erector, the steel subcontractor, has been on site with cranes up to 70 meters (230 ft.).

The area of the project site has also posed a crowding problem. Mims reports that he has more than 35 subcontractors and 15 to 20 main suppliers. During the morning hours, the site is teeming with about 125 workers and suppliers coming and going. Bradbury Stamm’s primary subs have included Les File Drywall Inc.; Miller Bonded Inc., who installed the plumbing; Dover Elevator; DKB Electric; Hughes Erection; and Hernandez Pumping. All of the companies are based in Albuquerque.

While the Steve Schiff Building is many months from completion, the Bernalillo County Courthouse is almost ready to be released to the owner. Mims said that only minor items have yet to be completed, and all the landscaping has been installed. While Mims was hesitant to say when the Steve Schiff Building would be completed, he estimated that it would be ready in late December.

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