- Company: Austin Industries
- Industry: General Building
- Location: Austin, Texas
- Expected Completion Date: November 13, 2012
Circuit of the Americas is a multi-purpose facility that will host the most prestigious racing events in the world, including the Formula One United States Grand Prix™, MotoGP and V8 Supercars. It is the first purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the United States and is located in Austin, Texas. Built around a state-of-the-art 3.4-mile circuit track with capacity for 120,000 fans and an elevation change of 133 feet, the facility is designed for any and all classes of racing – from motor power, to human power. The circuit also includes five auxiliary buildings, a 27-acre Grand Plaza, and a 251-foot tall Observation Tower at the heart of the Austin360 Ampitheater, which seats up to 14,000 for special events.
Circuit of the Americas is ideally situated on approximately 1,000 acres in southeast Travis County, approximately two miles from Austin Bergstrom International Airport, with scenic views of downtown Austin.
Ground was broken on January 2011 on the $30 million project. It was a joint collaboration effort by both Austin Industries operating companies, Austin Commercial and Austin Bridge & Road.
What impact does this project have on America?
In addition to being a landmark facility for racing and other special events, the project was also a major boost to the Central Texas economy. The project created approximately 1,000 construction jobs, and more than 3,000 event-specific employees will be hired for major events. Circuit of The Americas is a world-class performance, education and meeting center to be used throughout the year for entertainment, business and community events.
Racing fans across the United States and the world can now permanently enjoy Formula One racing on American Soil. The City of Austin has another landmark associated with it and that is Circuit of the Americas.
What interesting obstacles or unusual circumstances did you overcome to complete the project?
The project schedule was a major challenge. Austin got the green light to start construction in February 2011, only to be stopped in June due to contract disputes that suspended construction. Progress was slowed from June through October while project details were ironed out.
Once construction restarted in fall 2011, the team was hit with another setback: 19 inches of rain in 30 days, exactly at the time of track excavation. Storm drains were not in place yet, so pumps were placed at various sites around track to remove water. Rain continued throughout the winter and early spring of 2012, finally ceasing in May to allow construction to start again in full force. With an original construction schedule of 21 months, these setbacks left the team with only 15 months to complete the complex facility.
One of the most detailed and challenging components of the project was paving the track. Complying with specifications of the asphalt mix design and tight tolerances for asphalt placement was a big challenge. The track had to meet specifications for evenness, smoothness and elevation as the Formula 1 cars would be traveling at speeds of up to 200 mph. The track was paved in echelon, using three pavers working in concert to achieve the desired “hot-to-hot” joints, introducing a fourth paver on the turns. This paving plan incorporated detailed beginning and ending points for each day of paving based on transverse joints being placed at the exit of turns.
In addition to the schedule challenges, difficult soil conditions were another hurdle. The team discovered that the existing clay beneath the track prevented achieving a consistent product. Crews excavated and replaced 10 feet of material below the bottom of the select fill and reinstalled the excavated clay in moisture/density controlled lifts.
What dangers and risks did you encounter, and describe any extraordinary methods used to keep workers safe?
The Circuit’s size, complexity and fast-track construction schedule required an extreme amount of coordination from all team members and subcontractors to ensure the highest safety standards for the project. All subcontractors were required to have a safety member on their team from the time they began work. These safety personnel made up the project’s unique Safety Committee, a group that had representatives onsite at all times. The Committee met weekly to determine focus areas during construction based upon the schedule and the smoothest coordination of work scopes. At the height of construction, with up to 1,200 workers onsite, daily orientations were held to communicate safety standards to the subcontractors.
Because the majority of construction took place in the extreme Texas summer, a program to “beat the heat” was implemented. Austin provided an ice machine and watering station open to all subcontractors. Fourteen shade tents were placed around the site. There were no lost time or recordable incidents due to heat effects on the project, largely due to these shared efforts to keep all team members safe.
Austin Industries requires safety training for all of its employee-owners, but the Circuit of the Americas was unique in that this same level of training was also available to all subcontractors at no cost. Training included 10 and 30 hour Competent Person classes, first aid and CPR. These shared safety standards allowed all team members to work together with the same goal in mind: towards a safe and successful project completion.
How did you leverage new technologies to work faster and reduce waste?
Austin’s Virtual Construction/Building Information Modeling (BIM) department worked extensively on the Circuit, from the earliest planning stages through completion. The team used Building Information Models provided by the architects, structural, and MEP engineers to internally create a master model to facilitate a variety of tools for the project, including 3D coordination, logistics planning, virtual mock-up and quality control in the field.
Austin’s team produced a 3D model of the entire site to identify the spaghetti bowl of utilities required to supply services to the buildings onsite, remove water from the track surface, provide communication pathways between vehicles and engineers, and allow production of televised events. This model was used to identify conflicts, inform civil revisions, incorporate added scope, and layout work using GPS survey methods.
While paving, Austin used Trimble 3D robotic survey equipment. The team presented the track designers with this solution, and were the first to successfully use the equipment for a Formula 1 track. This equipment automatically controlled the leveling accuracy of the paving machine to match the design 3D model.
Specialized paving machines were also used to complete the project. The wearing course and binder layers were installed at a rate of approximately 10 feet per minute – 3 times slower than average paving. The Vogele 2100 paver allowed for these slower speeds because of a High Density Screed which includes a tamper bar on the leading edge and two pressure bars located on the trailing edge of the screed. This pre-compaction allows the paver to move at slower speeds and still produce a very smooth mat.