The final piece of structural steel was put in place – an achievement known as “topping out” -- on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility in north St. Louis Mar. 3, the latest milestone in construction that continues on-schedule, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain challenges.
The beam was the last piece of the more than 6,000 tons of structural steel that has gone into N2W’s construction, said Frank Cooper, NGA’s Next NGA West deputy program director for construction and security. Construction is projected to be complete in 2024, with NGA move-in complete by 2025.
“This steel beam is a symbol,” Cooper said. “It recognizes the achievements and hard work that has taken place so far in the construction timeline to-date and the seamless teamwork and professionalism of the Next NGA West construction team.” The team includes NGA; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing construction of the project on behalf of NGA; and McCarthy-HITT, the project’s design-build team.
In addition to the topping out, construction progress continues around the site. Approximately 500 workers are on-site daily to work on the campus, which will include NGA’s 700,000-square-foot, three-story main operations building. The main operations building is where most of the approximately 3,000 NGA employees and contractors will work on the new campus when it is open and fully operational. Cooper said that he expects the number of workers at the site daily to rise to approximately 1,000 this spring as construction begins to focus on interior work.
This winter, workers began installing windows on the main operations building, and work continues on the interior of the building, said Cooper, including the installation of temporary enclosure walls and temporary heating systems to support interior construction progress in the winter months. Workers also are installing framework for some of the permanent interior walls along with ductwork, conduit and fire-suppression systems within the main operations building, Cooper said.
The future NGA west campus also includes two 6,000-square-foot parking garages, a visitor control center and more. Cooper said that the majority of the construction has been completed on the west parking garage, and the construction team has ramped up its efforts on the east parking garage. At the visitor control center, Cooper said that concrete pre-cast panels walls have been raised up on all four sides, and iron workers are installing the structural steel roof beams. Paving continues on loop sidewalks and the fitness trail around the campus.
USACE’s Program Manager Gene Morisani said he is pleased with progress made in construction the past year. “When we look back at the progress over the past 11 months, we’ve gone from having just a foundation in March of 2021 to the structure complete and partially closed-in by February 2022,” Morisani said. “McCarthy HITT has overcome challenges with weather, COVID and the supply chain to make good progress.”
Jeff Boyer, vice president of operations for McCarthy Building Companies, said that in the past 5 years, “thousands of people have dedicated countless hours and a lot of hard work to get to this stage of construction.” With the topping out, Boyer said he wanted to specifically thank the ironworkers “for a job done well and a job done safely.”
Heather Cirre, manager for small business contracting and outreach for McCarthy HITT joint venture, the project’s design-build team, said the project is tracking federal labor goals for worker participation of 6.9 percent women and 14.7 percent minorities per trade.
Currently, approximately 19.3 percent of workforce hours have been minority participation with 5.9 percent of workforce hours being female participation.
“We’re pleased to be not just meeting, but exceeding, minority participation goals,” said Cirre. “With the makeup of the construction industry, the female participation goal presents a particular challenge. We will continue make significant efforts to meet and exceed both goals, partnering with pre-apprenticeship programs and regional employment resource centers to bring diverse workers into the construction field.”
Numerous contracts have been awarded to minority-owned business enterprises for a wide range of products and services. McCarthy HITT provides resources to identify minority business enterprise firms and evaluates proposed minority business enterprise participation from their bidders as part of the contract award process, said Cirre. More bids remain in-process and have not been finalized.
NGA, USACE and McCarthy HITT team members continue to engage with interested St. Louis community members. NGA and USACE regularly attending meetings of neighborhood and local organizations around the site to help inform the local community about construction activities and to answer questions about construction and NGA.
This past fall, NGA, McCarthy HITT and USACE hosted an open house for community members to view the construction progress, get their questions answered by NGA, USACE and McCarthy-HITT leaders, and speak to representatives from local organizations about construction careers and a representative from NGA about careers with the agency.
A construction hotline also is available for people to call to voice concerns or ask questions.
NGA also has been hosting guided tours of the site for NGA employees and team members, helping its workforce to stay engaged and informed on the status of the project.