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Navigating Your Next Sensitive Construction Project

Sean Cullen

The schedule and operations of a construction project is heavily based on the location and environment. As the Tough Job Experts, JP Cullen teams have been navigating successful sensitive construction projects for decades. These projects can be in a busy downtown environment, require full stop shutdowns to a manufacturing company, fully occupied with residents or healthcare staff, among many other factors. Read on to learn about some of JP Cullen’s sensitive construction projects and how our teams prepared and executed them safely and successfully.

Downtown Atmosphere

The downtown atmosphere comes with many challenges. A few include, cars, pedestrians, adjacent buildings and structures, and navigating large machinery on narrow city streets.

JP Cullen has been a trusted partner with the City of Madison since 1989 to restore and update many of our state’s historic capitol buildings that include: Madison Municipal Building , the Capitol building,  State of Wisconsin Office building, and adjacent parking structures. The most recent project being the state capitol dome restoration. Over the years, JP Cullen has had to work around many challenges with the buildings located in a busy downtown location.

JP Cullen was awarded the contract to restore the exterior of the Milwaukee City Hall. Repair work included the rebuilding of the clock tower (south tower), restoring cracked and chipped terra cotta sculptures and other designs on the building, upgrading 1,900 windows, replacing copper roofing on the building’s two spires, upgrading the lightening protection, repairing exterior sandstone, and fixing or replacing hundreds of thousands of deteriorating bricks. The building had been enclosed in scaffolding equipped with netting for approximately three years to protect pedestrians from falling bricks and stonework.

The building’s age, downtown location, state of deterioration, and height made it an especially high-risk job. JP Cullen crews and trade contractors were working at heights upward of 390 feet while restoring the façade of this outstanding example of Flemish Renaissance architecture in the New World.

Occupied Buildings

Project strategic planning along with open communication is the key to success when performing work in an occupied building.  JP Cullen creates a plan, prior to mobilizing on site, and presents this plan to the occupants or stakeholders of the building for approval prior to working in any occupied facility.  As a guest to the facility, JP Cullen would hold a meeting to communicate our plan to the residents and staff to ensure everyone working on or near the project understands why we are there and what we will be doing. At the end of each workday, JP Cullen will conduct an end of shift meeting to discuss how the execution of the plan went during that work day and we will research any improvements that can be made to the next day’s plan.

In order to better serve the needs of their growing patient population, Advocate Aurora Health developed a strategic plan to relocate two clinics from the second floor Outpatient Health Center (OHC) building to the fifth floor Sinai Medical Center located across the street. To enable the clinic relocation, existing program elements occupying the fifth floor such as physician on-call sleep rooms, support service offices, etc. needed to be relocated to other areas of the hospital, the hospital campus and potentially off site. To minimize disruptions to patients, caregivers and daily operations this project was divided into several phases over the course of several months leading up to the clinic relocation.  Additionally, speed to market was critically important – there was no wiggle room with the go live date. The team came together through the Integrated Project Delivery process to figure out how to overcome these challenges. The solution: prefabrication of the interior walls and MEPF racks, as well as kitting doors and sinks/faucets. Bottom line is that prefabrication reduced construction activity durations by over 8 weeks resulting in less disruptions to patients and staff and reduced the congestion on site.

Data Center Project
Data Center

Any construction manager (CM) can build the shell of your facility, but the data center must operate 24/7 without exception – meaning there is no room for error. You need a CM that understands the extensive analysis and coordination that goes into this, as well as the knowledge of how the constantly changing technology impacts the design and operation of your data center.

JP Cullen has over $25 million in data center experience in the last five years, including new construction, expansion, and remodeling of existing operational facilities. The end results of these projects include substantial increases to IT load capacities and significant operating cost savings from MEPF system conversions to more energy efficient designs. Keys to a successful data center project include: use of technology such as 3D laser scanning to coordinate designs, prefabrication to improve project delivery, and close coordination with our clients to complete the work with no IT down-time.

JP Cullen constructed a new 15,000 sqft data center for a confidential client. The team managed BIM coordination to ensure all piping, panels, and equipment were coordinated before the trades were on site. The modeling process along with GPS surveying allowed us to turn over an accurate 3D model as an as-built. We utilized prefabrication to improve schedule, eliminate waste, and reduce exposure to safety hazards. The data center contains over three miles of underground conduit. The electrical contractor prefabricated conduit racks staged in nine lifts, saving weeks of schedule. The mechanical contractor prefabricated a pipe rack consisting of hydronic piping for an entire utility room. The rack was 45’ long and was built on wheels to be rolled into place and raised via chain falls.


VA Soldiers Home Historic Restoration project
Historical Restoration

Historical restoration of buildings in the Milwaukee area has been booming. One of the many requirements for historical buildings is to restore and keep a lot of the original aspects of the building which includes windows. We have been lucky enough to work on several historical restoration projects and have found a main way to save on costs and schedule is doing most of the restoration on-site. Restoring windows to working condition is a five-step process that includes:

  1. Removal: Windows are removed and tagged
  2. Abatement: Windows are sent for lead paint stripping and then returned to the jobsite
  3. Repair: Once back on site, windows are sanded and repaired
  4. Paint: Windows are re-painted
  5. Install: Windows are re-installed to their original locations

he VA Soldiers Home Renovation project required the restoration of hundreds historical windows. A typical construction approach would involve removing the windows, sending them off site to be restored and then bringing them back on site for install.

But when planning for the project the team found a way to complete all but one step of the window restoration process on site, saving the owner 39% on the cost of this operation.

After removing each window unit for restoration, they were tagged with their location and then sent off site so the lead paint could be stripped off the windows. After, they were brought back on site to our shop where we completed the restoration process of the windows (repairing and glazing) and re-installed them.

Beyond costs, completing most of the window restoration on site also saved on schedule and improved quality, as our carpenters could make any alterations to the fit or build back on the spot.

Planned Shutdowns

The word “shutdown” to manufacturing and production facilities renders hesitation. Every day, hour, and second is money lost when production lines are offline. There is extensive pressure to maintain high output and avoid as many backups as possible. With these concerns considered, shutdowns require an extreme amount of coordination, scheduling, and preparation, especially since food and beverage manufacturing facilities, power and energy stations, and auto manufacturing facilities are all different in nature. There are new, unique challenges at every shutdown and every moment is a cost to the client. To get facilities back up running as soon as possible, we have developed four steps necessary to prepare for the uniqueness of every facility and reduce the stress of a shutdown.

  1. Coordination of trades
  2. Use of NBIM
  3. Prefabrication
  4. Clean room practices and employee safety

Navigating these sensitive construction projects has become the norm for JP Cullen crews. If you’d like to talk through how JP Cullen can successfully complete your next project, send me an email at and I would be happy to talk through your needs.


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May 16, 2024