Crummy Weather... No Problem

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Contractor completes site work despite odds with help of technology

They call it Stormy Monday
But Tuesday's just as bad.
They call it Stormy Monday
But Tuesday's just as bad.
Lord, and Wednesday's worse
And Thursday's all so sad.
—T-Bone Walker, blues guitarist, singer, songwriter

Rain. It sure makes stuff grow... crops, flowers, lawns, and, unfortunately... construction schedules.

"When we started the project we were confidently planning on completing it in 45 to 60 days," states Kevin Grant, project manager with Envision Contractors LLC, Owensboro, KY. "With the persistent rain we've had for the past month, our schedule is growing closer to 90 days."

The project Grant references is a 12-acre site prep project in Owensboro for the new location of the city's Rural King Farm and Home Supply store. The new 100,000-square-foot store will be twice as large as the old one and is located next to U.S. Route 60, which creates a beltline highway around the city.

"With the rain, we really have had to hustle on the clear days," said Grant. "There is no margin for error, which means we need to accurately achieve grade in one pass with our three dozers and a motor grader."

The grading machines Grant's crew of four uses are all equipped with Topcon GPS/GNSS grade control systems.

"We wouldn't be anywhere as efficient and accurate without the technology," Grant states. "To be honest, if I was told I need to go back to stakes and survey crews, I'd be out the door--we've been using Topcon GPS machine control since 2006 and it has become integral to the efficiency and quality results we base our reputation on."

The Rural King site was formerly soybean and corn farmland. Beneath the top approximately foot and a half of farm soil is moisture-retaining silty clay, typical for the region. Envision added cement stabilizer while grading the store's building pad, to ensure stability for the structure.

The site had a hill, which was leveled. The hill provided about 30,000 cubic yards of borrow used throughout the site. No additional soil was required.

In addition to the building pad, Envision constructed 247,000 square feet of parking and landscaping surrounding the building, and a 600-foot road extension leading to the facility.

Grant worked with Glenn Etienne of Construction Engineering Solutions, Leopold, IN. to create the digital model of the roadway extension, in conjunction with Envision Contractors' own modeling software. The digital model facilitated the use of machine control.

In total, the company moved 85,000 cubic yards of soil. They used two Caterpillar D6N LGP track-type tractors and a Cat D5N LGP track-type tractor. All three dozers were equipped with Topcon 3D-Millimeter GPS+TM machine control that combines laser and GPS capabilities. A Cat 120H motor grader equipped with a Topcon 3D GPS+ auto control system was also used on the project.

Envision also used two handheld Topcon GRS-1 GNSS receiver and field controllers, and three Topcon Tesla RTK GNSS rovers as construction grade checkers.

"I really like the Tesla RTK's large touch screen display and easy-to-use software," states Grant. "It's super fast at performing complex field calculations."

The Rural King farm and home supply store project fits into Envision Contractors' expertise niche. The company was founded in 2003 and has four production divisions: (1) site development, (2) general commercial construction, (3) new and replacement gas line construction, and (4) specialized concrete, such as curb and gutter. All four areas were employed on the project.

Envision has about 50 employees and has a significant presence in its local geographic market where it principally works within a 100-mile radius of Owensboro. On the Rural King farm and home supply store project, Envision has four employees dedicated to completing the site development and relied on product support from its local Topcon dealer, Earl Dudley, of Nashville, TN.

"The efficiency of the Topcon equipped machines is key to our ability to running productively and achieving exacting results in one pass," Grant said. "With this project--as with all of our projects today--there is no time for errors...rework is too costly."

Asked how he would have handled the project differently without machine control Grant states: "We'd be losing money on the project since we'd need two more employees on the site, another dozer, and all the survey time. It would take probably 30-percent longer without the technology."

And, then, the weather created unwanted delays.

"When we started the site development project, we expected to be completing the project much sooner than we are with all the rain delays we've been experiencing," Grant says. "Any clear days we have, we need to maximize our productivity. Clearly, here's where the machine control systems really helps. The operators can hop into their dozers and have the plan right there on their screens and know exactly what needs to be done."

In its tri-state market, Envision Contractors has developed a reputation as being a technology leader. It's not uncommon for allied subcontractors on a jobsite to ask Envision for help in identifying points. They know that Envision has ready access to the digital site plan in the machines and their rovers.

"We won the Rural King contract not only because of our price but because we have a technology advantage that others don't," Grant concludes. "Even with rainy weather delays, we're getting the job done quicker than others could and achieving the quality results they expect."

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. He can be reached through

A 1.348Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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