A few more miles: Infrastructure

“We are so glad we selected Mead & Hunt. No other firm would have been able to complete this work in the timeframe you did. We hope this is the first of many projects with your team.”
– Client feedback following a fast-paced design effort

Six months from contract signing to bidding documents.

For those unfamiliar with design and construction, this may not sound impressive. After all, Americans of the Greatest Generation routinely designed and constructed facilities to support the demands of World War II within comparable timeframes. Today, complexities of bureaucratic oversight, the need to specify designs in greater detail, and the proliferation of technology have combined to lengthen building project timelines. This holds true for other construction efforts as well – dams, bridges, roadways and the like.

The introductory quote references a recent military project. Following a tornado that destroyed key structures, we were hired to design four new buildings, all with their own cost limits, and all to be “bid-ready” within six months. Early on, the team adopted a railroad metaphor to keep efforts on track. This reminded our client, and ourselves, that scope could not veer right or left if we were to arrive at “the station” on time. Mead & Hunt delivered, on time and within budget.

As a vital component of the nation’s transportation system, the railroad analogy is apt in another way for Mead & Hunt. We design dams, bridges, roadways, airports and buildings. Far from disjointed fragments, our efforts contribute to the long-term viability of America’s infrastructure. Within our archives, you won’t find blueprints for the Golden Gate Bridge. For that matter, you will not find buildings known by individual architects; our collaborative natures recognize the necessity of team efforts. What you will find are thousands of everyday projects that serve the needs of America’s economy, and that generally go unheralded until, for example, a tornado reduces serviceable buildings to rubble.

In Wisconsin, where I live, we have seen the importance of infrastructure firsthand in recent weeks as flooding has damaged bridges and roadways, and temporarily closed many businesses. Even for those who design infrastructure, we have been reminded of the importance of bridges and roads we use every day with nary a thought, or the favorite store we assume will always be open. My own family lamented the handful of days our nearby Costco was closed.

The devastating impact of heavy rains and flooding, and other natural disasters, cannot be ignored. Following the era when Mead & Hunt designed dams around the country, we now focus efforts largely on maintenance and rehabilitation. We perform safety inspections, and evaluate flood impacts should a dam breach, providing cost-benefit analyses to maximize the use of scarce resources. Similarly, those in Architecture & Building Engineering, Aviation and Municipal do much the same within our respective areas of expertise. And, with a nod to efforts of the Greatest Generation, our Cultural Resources group researches the nation’s inventory of World War II and post-war roads, bridges, dams and military facilities; their goal is to showcase the historical significance while identifying necessary efforts to maintain continued functionality.

While these efforts are technical in nature, involving complex engineering analyses, at their core they are more about people. For all the mathematical precision required to keep the “trains on track,” our fundamental mission provides the means for the American economy to thrive and grow… our own modest contribution of taking care of people.

Infrastructure. It’s what we do.

Jeff Gaard

About the Author

Jeff Gaard, AIA, is an architect and project manager for our Architecture & Building Engineering group, and specializes in aviation architecture. He writes about project management and the intersection of Mead & Hunt’s culture and history. A lifelong cyclist, he searches for unexplored routes and vernacular architecture in rural Wisconsin.

Other blog articles by Jeff include:

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