Overcoming Challenges: Swinerton’s Teamwork Redeems High-End Call Center

Structural issues, flooded crawl spaces, procurement delays, and uneven floor plates in a 40-year-old cast-in-place concrete structure are all significant construction challenges to face on their own. Encountering all four simultaneously is a different battle altogether—one that the team on Swinerton’s recently completed call center project in Irving, TX, understands all too well.

Owned by a high-end retail client, project was conceived as a two-floor tenant improvement but evolved into an expansive two-building, three-floor renovation. Once underway, the client, design team, and Swinerton uncovered a significant number of preexisting building conditions that seemed insurmountable given the schedule and allotted budget.

“This project really had all of the markings of a disaster, but we mobilized early to mitigate the worst of it,” says Kris Harding, Swinerton’s Project Manager. “It took countless hours of coordination, but we were able to deliver a facility that not only exceeded expectations, but fully realized the client’s design intent.”

Completed in June 2023, the project now stands as a testament to the power of the team’s open communication, collaboration, and a true problem-solving mindset when uncovering and overcoming construction challenges.

At a Glance

  • 160,000 square feet
  • Two adjoined buildings
  • Open office space
  • Mission critical infrastructure
  • High-end finishes

Creative Problem-Solving in Construction Challenges

The client’s vision for the call center was an interconnected, open work environment that could combine the building’s separate functions into a streamlined customer service facility. The north and south wings converge at a central atrium, while a breezeway links the third building to the main hub. The ground levels house a showroom, training center, dining facility, repair center, and a conference room, and the upper floors contain core offices, open workstations, conference rooms for 300 employees, and additional undeveloped space for future expansion. The completed facility serves as a regional office hub, training facility, product repair center, and home base for the client’s shared support services.

To reflect the client’s brand, the design team wanted to include high-end finishes throughout, such as imported terrazzo tiles and millwork. However, the space and project itself made executing those details a challenge.

“To make it happen, we had our work cut out for us, from addressing the uneven floor plates and obstructions in the ceilings to the difficulties procuring the luxurious owner-supplied overseas finishes on time,” Harding said.

Coordinating the necessary structural work for the building alongside long-lead-item procurement became the center of delivering this project.

Collaborating with Trade Partners

Upon demolition of the original space, the primary issue that Swinerton faced was the uneven floor plates with low ceiling clearances in the existing cast-in-place concrete building, which caused cascading effects for the mechanical infrastructure and millwork.

“Each floor dipped and swayed, sometimes more than seven inches from one end to the other. In some areas, the floor bowed three or four inches in a matter of 20 to 50 feet,” said Joel Stephens, Assistant Project Manager. “It felt like a rollercoaster. We were also previously unaware of ceiling obstructions and deficiencies that severely disrupted the design plans for the mechanical room, MEP pathways, and ductwork layout.”

Open communication quickly became paramount. Swinerton’s project and self-perform teams worked closely with trade partners to identify issues, anticipate impacts, and devise plans to mitigate and solve problems prior to meeting with the architect and client.

“To minimize disruption to the schedule, we led the way on exploratory work in the field and dove headfirst into the building’s archives,” Harding said. “We pored over 40-year-old paper drawings to provide the engineering team the information needed to answer RFIs and keep work going.”

However, this extensive structural work paired with additional moisture mitigation on the first-floor showroom meant the showroom millwork had to be procured internationally prior to putting the floors, walls, and ceilings in place—or risk impacts to the schedule. At the time, the floor was three inches off from end to end.

To determine an achievable ceiling height, Swinerton spent dozens of hours measuring the ground floor and tapping the MEP trade partners’ expertise. The team redesigned the ductwork and MEP pathways, navigating extremely tight 1/8” tolerances to secure the highest possible ceiling height for the client. In order to hold to the dimensions in the provided millwork drawings, Swinerton conducted a slew of onsite inspections, leveling checks, and preinstall meetings following procurement to ensure the floors were floated with precision, the ceilings were built to specifications, and that the HVAC and lighting were carefully coordinated.

In the end, all that coordination paid off. “The showroom millwork was procured by the client from a boutique millwork shop out of Brazil,” Harding said. “When it arrived onsite, it was installed by the owner’s vendor without a single issue, as if it had been built to field measurements.”

Leveraging Industry Relationships To Overcome Construction Challenges

In addition to the Brazilian millwork, the client specified other high-end materials and finishes throughout the building. However, as the project’s scope grew beyond the original intent, complications arose with some of the overseas finish materials originally specified in the design. The sheer volume of space in the three-building facility and the extensive structural work began to strain the budget as well as possibly cause significant disruptions to the schedule.

“As soon as we started realizing that some of the high-end finishes were putting us way over budget, our team worked with key finish subcontractors to come up with finish materials and design modifications that helped reduce cost, but kept the design and quality of finish intact,” said Harding. “Our close relationship with our trade partners allowed us to procure wood veneer finishes that were identical to the overseas veneers that the client had desired—but with a much shorter lead time.”

Similarly, the design team had also specified a series of integrated curved glass features. However, the client-selected Brazilian millwork shop could not manufacture these, and so Swinerton sought out a demountable glazing provider who could provide a system that fit the design intent and could be delivered on schedule.

“Through an integrated shop drawing process between the owner’s millwork vendor, the design team, and our local glass vendor, we were able to provide an integrated system that looked fantastic,” Harding continued. “What’s better is that it was a fraction of the cost of the original glass budget.”
For Harding and Stephens, achieving the beautiful design with exceptional craftsmanship, and coming under budget felt like a serious victory. “It shows we honor the client’s vision, while also respecting the limits of the budget. Getting creative with how to make everything work and seeing it all come together was very satisfying,” Harding reflected.

The People Behind the Project

By tapping the expertise of trade partners early and remaining in consistent communication with the client, architect, and vendors, Swinerton was able to deliver a project that exceeded the client’s expectations despite construction challenges.

However, this success wouldn’t have been possible without the expertise and determination of our talented and hard-working employee-owners on the project team. Through challenges and triumphs, having the right people on the job is what makes projects successful.

“Our superintendent, Justin Haley, was fantastic at explaining changes,” said Stephens. “He would work with us to create detailed markups of our plans and explain what changed—not only so that our client and design team knew, but so our trade partners remained fully aware of what was happening too.”

Check out Swinerton’s Q&A with Superintendent Justin Haley to read more about the pivotal role that teamwork and collaboration played in the outcome of this project.