Insight  |  Aug 14, 2018  |  Arora

Employee Spotlight: Tom Cook, Project Construction Manager

  • Tom Cook at ABE
  • ABE Multi-Modal Facility

As an extension of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority (LNAA) staff, Arora Engineers, Inc. (Arora) led the design and procurement efforts for a new Multi-modal Transportation Facility at Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE). Arora’s scope included mechanical, electrical, plumbing, area lighting, wayfinding, security, and special systems design.

Arora also provided construction management services, led by Thomas Cook, Project Construction Manager, to ensure the project remained within budget and on schedule until its completion last summer. We recently spoke with Tom about the challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned from this project, as well as how he is preparing for the next phase of work at ABE.

What was your role in the Multi-modal Transportation Facility project at ABE?

I was the owner’s representative. I oversaw the construction project, schedule, invoicing, safety, coordination with airport operations, and was the liaison between the contractors, architects, and engineers. I also handled the permitting and closeout documents for the project. One of my main priorities was meeting with the client to keep them updated. This included detailed daily reports, cost tracking, and scheduling.

How was this project similar to other projects you’ve managed? How was it different?

The coordination was the same, it was just a different building (laughs). This was, however, the first time I was dealing with a grant. Part of the project was a grant from PennDOT, which meant that I had to look at quantities and keep a close record of them.

Speaking of the grant, how did you work with the customer to manage the finances of the project?

I worked directly with PennDOT. This included becoming familiar with PennDOT forms and constant communication with them, so when invoicing happened, the back-up would be there and in proper form, per their requirements. PennDOT’s Project Manager was very pleased with the way I managed everything and is looking forward to working with our team on the upcoming runway project. We are starting a 4 ½ year project to resurface the runway. The challenge for this project will be coordination among the FAA, OPS, Contractors, and the Engineering team. We will be limited in our working hours, working primarily at night, and it is crucial that each morning the runway is open for business. If there are any issues during the daily construction period, the team needs to be prepared and ready with solutions.

How did you work with the client to make the Multi-modal project successful?

I keep my eye on the moving ball, including invoicing and project change orders, which potentially lead to additional monies and issues with scheduling and safety. I focus on the money side of it, so we can keep the client well-informed of what they are headed for. It is also very important to keep good records as the client must explain all the details of this process to their Board of Governors. I would hold weekly meetings with the client to give updates, discuss the challenges of the week, dollar values, where we are on the schedule, and where we are headed. I would also organize the meeting minutes and distribute them to everyone, even those who did not attend the meetings, so we would all be on the same page.

Did you encounter any challenges on this project? If so, how did you adapt and overcome them?

There are always challenges because you have no idea what is going to hit you or what might cause the project to go sideways. During this project, we encountered issues with soil and permitting, which caused us to be delayed into the winter weather. We couldn’t compact the soils the way we had hoped, so we had to bring in more stone and outside materials to keep the project moving. Consequently, we had to rethink the original design intent. When design specifications couldn’t be met, we worked with the Engineering team and Contractors to change our methodology and keep moving forward. We overcame all of this as a team.

Can you apply what you’ve learned from this project to a future project?

I believe every project has new and exciting challenges. During this job we had a lot of collaborative efforts among the contractors, the engineers, and the architects. As we move forward, we will use what we have learned and experienced with the soil and be prepared to use better equipment for the Runway Project. We are a unique company in that we are involved in the entire project lifecycle, from the engineering portion of a project, to the construction, all the way through to the final closeout. Therefore, coordination is a must in order for the project to be a complete success and for our client to see our value, thus continuing to use us on upcoming projects.

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