School: Northeastern University Major: Architecture Company: Merritt Construction Services Internship from 01/05/2015 — 08/28/2015
My primary focus for the duration of my internship has been the $9 billion Sharq Crossing.
Designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava for the city of Doha, the project is comprised of three bridges interconnected by undersea tunnels in Doha Bay. The Sharq Crossing links Doha’s new Hamad International Airport with the city’s cultural district, Katara, and its central business district, West Bay. Dubbed by officials as one of the most ambitious engineering projects in the region, the system is capable of handling 6000 vehicles per hour, offers significant relief to Qatari commuters, and serves an iconic attraction for both the city itself and the country as a whole.
Personally, I focused on the development of the Cultural City Bridge and West Bay Bridge. The Cultural City Bridge begins and culminates with two portal islands connecting to undersea tunnels. The bridge’s span comprises a series of cable-stayed structures, evocative of masts that appear to skim across the bay. The West Bay Bridge is a complex tied arch structure that features two decks in addition to an arch-spanning cable car system. It’s the only structure of its kind in the world. The lower deck provides for six lanes of automotive traffic while the upper incorporates a longitudinal park for pedestrians. The park extends via elevated walkway from a land-based park to a terraced island offshore from the West Bay area. The island, primarily serving as a portal for West Bay Bridge automotive traffic and undersea tunnels, provides recreational facilities, a number of restaurants, and a marina. The bridge touches land with a helicoid pedestrian bridge, road traffic traveling through an immersed tunnel, and culminates in a boldly designed cable car terminal.
In addition to these two bridges, I also focused on a number of smaller scale aspects of the Sharq Crossing, such as its land-based tunnel portals. I’ve also worked with Calatrava on a small number of unrelated design projects, currently being developed for competition.
What results did you achieve on the project(s), and what impact did they have on the company?
Over the course of the internship I’ve helped develop, revise, update, and submit bills of materials, bills of quantities, and cost estimates for the Sharq Crossing. I’ve also assisted with scheduling the intricate development and have helped brainstorm innovative scheduling changes to better guarantee on-time delivery of a finished, operational project. As part of the cost analysis, I’ve lead independent research efforts to provide the project team with a database of sourcing information and have generated reports on cost projections for both materials and labor.
Utilizing HCSS, my team and I were able to enhance the software that we purchased by completing codebooks to CSI Master Format and further expand that to include compliance with CESMM4. In developing a codebook in European format, this enhancement to our library has increased Merritt’s database to roughly 50,000 items and has helped the company competitively seek new business overseas. Our work and my contributions with HCSS has now become the basis of estimating at Merritt Construction Services.
What real-life technical or business skills did you learn during the internship?
This internship has largely taught me the nuanced technical aspects of heavy construction. Through exposure to the colloquial languages, visual representations, and conventional methodologies of infrastructure design and construction, I’ve been able to hone my skills in estimating and scheduling, gaining new understandings of the industry as a whole. My mentors at Merritt taught me first how to execute take-offs, estimates, and schedules utilizing industry standard software and ultimately have vested me with the skills, vocabulary, and knowledge required to independently lead reporting for clients. I’m now equipped with proficiency in Microsoft Project, Primavera P6, On-Center Take Off, and HCSS’s own HeavyBid. My newfound ability to acutely dissect design and construction documents utilizing these tools has proven invaluable in producing precise and objective reporting over the course of my internship. With luck, these skills will serve as powerful building blocks for my career.
The base of technological skills has enabled me to confidently generate a variety of critical documentation. Not only am I now able to produce narratives, bills of materials, cost projections, scheduling, and other pre-construction reporting, but I am also able to better understand reporting produced by others. A cost valuation is much more valuable in my hands now than it was several months ago; I’m finding myself able to ask smarter questions and formulate more reasoned professional opinions on content produced by others. Through this I’ve found myself better situated contributing ideas to conversations and now search not for the first solution to problems, but for creative ones. The abilities I’ve picked up in my time at Merritt and the intrinsic understanding that has come along with their development has positioned me as a better professional. With them I look forward to what the future holds, both for me personally and for the construction industry at large.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
My biggest takeaways for personal growth from this internship have been an ability to break down large problems into incrementally smaller tasks and a refined sense of self-assurance. A big mantra at Merritt is there’s no job too large, and the Sharq Crossing proved to be Merritt’s largest job yet. The $9+ billion system of infrastructure is daunting when viewed from miles away, so getting up close and personal to price it down to the bolt seemed like an impossible task. To address it, our small team of engineers took to breaking the Sharq Crossing down into 7 defined workflows, each of which were further divided into several subdivisions. There’s a certain art form that accompanies breaking down large tasks, and Merritt continually demonstrates a Renaissance-caliber mastery of the skill. Working with Merritt’s engineers felt like learning from the best, and the successes I’ve had with my assigned tasks are owed largely to the lessons they’ve instilled. These lessons have helped me develop both professionally and personally; I’m now more adept in the office, field, and wherever else life takes me.
A large part of this development has been the advancement of my professional confidence. Construction as an industry is focused on an endless series of varyingly unique and increasingly challenging projects, all with ambitious goals. Success within the industry depends on an individual’s ability to address new situations and adapt to change, a capability rooted deeply in one’s confidence. The daily challenges I faced, successes I fulfilled, and lessons I learned through failure in my tenure with Merritt Construction Services have given me a newfound sense of confidence in my abilities as a professional. Like Merritt, I now believe that there is no challenge too large to handle and am personally looking forward to the challenges that accompany a fledging career in construction. Thanks to the professional guidance of my mentors, my team, and Merritt’s leadership, I’m walking away from this internship more than just an intern and excited to take on my career.
Where do you think technology will make the biggest impact in construction in the next few years, and how will it do that?
Personally I believe that advances in materials and systems in addition to digital fabrication and robotics will have the most profound effect on the construction industry in the coming years. Established and emerging research of new materials has introduced and continually develops laminates, composites, and other high performance materials that will change the tide of design and introduce innovative construction systems. These high-performance systems, working with advancements in optimization methods and computational design, will introduce new trends to the construction industry and new standards of building performance. Already, high strength fiber-reinforced concrete, building-integrated photovoltaics, and electrocromatic glazing are just a few of countless “smart material” developments that offer a whirlwind of advancement industry wide. In a world driven by sustainability and mobility, the performative qualities of new materials and systems create opportunity to build a more ideal version of tomorrow.
Bolstering these changes will be the leveraging of technology through the advancement of computer-controlled and robotic fabrication systems. The next generation of digital fabrication will introduce three-dimensional printing to large scale applications and expand the scope and capability of industrial robotics. Computer aided design has already opened the world up to aggressive feats of architecture, engineering, and sustainable development, but with fabrication advancements design speculation will be pushed to new heights. This will allow for more advanced, more efficient, and smarter structural systems. Through development and implementation of high-performance material systems and digital fabrication techniques, the construction industry will change, and in doing so will change the world.