Banding Together to Build The Yards at Old State

Nov 30, 2021

Kinsley’s Building team recently delivered one of their largest residential projects to date – an off-campus student housing community in State College, Pennsylvania, for national developer Toll Brothers Apartment Living. Made up of 268 residential units spread across 145 separate buildings totaling 514,945 square feet on a 45-acre site, it took a team of dedicated master builders to orchestrate its successful on-time completion.

Construction of The Yards at Old State began in the summer of 2019. It included two phased-occupancy dates with final completion set for June 2021. Because of its size and aggressive schedule, all construction phases, from foundations to finishes, were happening concurrently for almost two years.

To put things in perspective, turning over these 268 units involved purchasing, inspecting and installing:

Managing this work took careful planning, coordination, and supervision by a full-time crew led by Senior Project Manager, Dallas DiFiore and Project Manager, Dave Yantis. Assistant Project Manager, Curtis Laughman, worked on site as the conduit between project management and our four superintendents. Leading the charge on site was Superintendent Dave Erney. He was the glue that held the team together. Rounding out his crew were Superintendents Jesse Yablonski, overseeing foundations, concrete and framing work; Eric Fahringer, supervising the MEP trades; and Tom Beck, directing the finishing work.

Sequencing the myriad of construction activities happening daily was the biggest challenge. Every day during the project’s peak, our on-site team was managing the work of 250 people across 80 buildings – doing everything from foundations and underground utilities, to framing and painting. Curtis explained, “The whole thing was about finding our rhythm. Even though we had a great plan up front, it took time to nail down the coordination and sequencing process. But by phase two, we found our rhythm.” And by the end of the project, the team doubled their turnover rate from five to ten units a week.

In addition to MEP supervision, Eric jumped in to manage the unit turnover process. As his ultimate role was pushing the finish subcontractors to complete their punch list work to keep the sequencing intact, he became known by the team as “The Pusher.” Dallas said, “The work was like cars on a train. If one fell off track, it would derail the whole project. Eric’s role was essential to prevent this from happening.”

Fine tuning the schedule was key to this increased efficiency. Early on, Dave realized the importance of a detailed but clear schedule. By converting the P6 schedule format to an Excel format, with work broken down by individual units, the subcontractors could easily see what work needed to be complete and by when. They could hold themselves and others accountable for meeting dates by knowing who was coming before and after them. It was so effective that it eventually replaced the three-week look ahead schedule, too.

Communicating daily (sometimes hourly) changes in the field happened via the morning team meetings, text messages and phone calls between the on-site team and the subcontractors. But shop talk did not end there for our team; it continued into the evening back at the house. Because the project was two-hours away and required overtime and weekend work, our full-time, on-site staff shared a house near the site. Dallas noted, “I was amazed that they could have a stressful conversation at the end of the day, find a solution and then an hour later figure out who was cooking dinner that night.” They not only shared the cooking and cleaning of the house, but shared project responsibilities as well.

In addition to the apartments, Kinsley managed the 4,000-square-foot temporary leasing office renovation, completed in 2019, and construction of the new Clubhouse. Led by Project Manager, Kaitlin Stough; Superintendent, Gerry Rangel; and Project Engineer, Andrew Baughman; construction of the 20,200-square-foot luxury Clubhouse was completed in 2020 and features exposed timber trusses, five fireplaces, a pool and hot tubs, a rock-climbing wall, a basketball half-court, a sauna, a spray-tan booth, a sports simulator and a 3,900-square-foot fitness center. Even though all three projects were managed separately, the teams supported each other – including covering weekends for each other.

Our work for The Yards at Old State has been applauded by the owner and the Penn State community. In August, Toll Brothers had leased 80% of the units, filling 893 beds before the fall semester! They appreciated our team’s follow-through and sense of urgency. If we needed to push a subcontractor, we did. If Toll Brothers needed something unrelated to the task at hand, we came through. For example, Tom made frequent trips to their leasing office to handle maintenance issues. For the Penn State community, our team helped college professors by conducting several job site tours for classes studying engineering, design and construction.

Banding together around a common goal, whether it was planning a meal, coordinating a tour, or meeting a project milestone, is what made this master builder team and project a success.

Categories: Completed Projects

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