RSA Union – Beating The Schedule

Union SignOnce David Bronner had made up his mind on something, he allowed nothing to get in the way.  He drove us relentlessly.  PH&J was never known for speed–care and thoroughness was our forte.  And this time we were facing $100 Million in the construction of two office buildings, both of which were the biggest, tallest, most complex structures we had ever done.  Bronner demanded that we meet deadlines that were beyond our capability, and our biweekly planning meetings became painful when our progress failures were put in evidence.

The first buildings of the Monroe Street group scheduled to bid was one of 2WR’s two parking decks, and for some weeks Mike Watson of that firm took all the hits because he was also behind.  But by mid-1992 he had his deck on the street for bids, and that put yours truly as next batter to put out the two huge office buildings.  For a while I was able to hide behind the removal of the Rice-Semple House, as noted earlier.  But then Bronner ordered that it be moved off the property even if it had no site to move to.  That’s when I proposed, and Bronner agreed, that we put out an “advance package” which would include the site excavation and “cut-off wall” which would hold back the earth sides of the excavation during construction.

The site prep package was bid on September 22, 1992, and the ploy bought us enough time to complete the main Union bid package.  Bear Brothers Contractors, still weaving in and out of my career, was low bidder and did an excellent job.

The real problem for us was the RSA Tower.  Bronner wanted it to bid at the same time as the Union, which was for PH&J an impossible goal.  Nothing could dissuade David Bronner, and he grew more and more frustrated at our failure.  Finally, in the middle of a planning conference, he declared that if we could not produce the Tower drawings to meet his schedule that he was going to turn the work over to an Atlanta architect.  I considered his ultimatum for a few moments and then gave him the only retort I had available, “Do you have his telephone number or should I get it for you?”

My bluff worked and a decision was made that the Tower Building would go on the street for bidding some two months after the Union.  It was not as much additional time as we needed, but at least the new target date was something that was possible for us.

-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)

This is one of many RSA Union stories. The rest can be found here.

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