Mortenson Uses Lean Construction Techniques to Top Off Home2 Suites Flagship Hotel in Chicago Six Weeks Early

Mortenson’s innovative building techniques including Lean and prefabrication are streamlining construction and bolstering safety at the first urban high-rise Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel, located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Mortenson recently topped off the 17-story concrete structure six weeks ahead of schedule and has acheived 293 days and 90,000 work hours without an injury.  

“We are bringing together a range of advanced construction technologies and techniques to the Home2 Suites by Hilton project,” says Greg Werner, Mortenson senior vice president. “We focus on deploying innovative methods that improve quality, safety and value for our customers, employees and trade partners. We are seeing the real benefits that these approaches can deliver with this flagship Chicago hotel.”

With virtually no room to stage or store materials and equipment on site because of the property’s zero lot lines, Mortenson worked with its mechanical, electrical and plumbing trade contractors and utilized Trimble equipment and technologies, which integrates GPS with 3D building models to pinpoint exact locations to install required materials within the concrete decks. With this process, it took just 4 hours to lay out an entire floor compared to the typical one-and-a-half days. Over time the concrete subcontractor, Pepper Construction Company, was able to shave a day per floor off of the project schedule, installing the concrete decks every three days versus the planned four days.

To add greater efficiency and productivity, Mortenson used a number of Lean techniques:

  • 5S, which stands for sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain.  This Lean approach, first used in manufacturing, makes for safer, cleaner and more productive construction sites. Deliveries to support concrete construction were just-in-time, with the team minimizing onsite stored materials, which in turn eliminates obstructions and multiple handling for construction crews. 
  • The Last Planner System streamlines the work schedule. Instead of a mix of trades working on each floor simultaneously, individual contractors are given full control of a designated area for a specific period of time. This increases accountability, efficiency and the overall effectiveness of all contractors on site.  The success of this strategy on the Home 2Suites project has led Mortenson to expand its use to other projects in the Chicago area.
  • Pull Planning emphasizes optimal team productivity rather than individual self-interest.  For each phase of the project, Mortenson and key contractors gather to discuss, as a team, the proper sequence, durations, identify conflicts and develop solutions for the work. This collaborative approach to scheduling, effectively identifies the optimal sequencing and leads to the lowest cost and most productive construction schedule.

“Compared to other hotels we’ve worked on, the Home2 Suites project is far and away the cleanest, most organized and fastest site. The trades are moving at lighting speed,” said Andrew D. Yonkus, PE, LEED AP, vice president of State Mechanical, the project’s Design/Build HVAC contractor. “Implementing the 5S program and pull plan has been critcal. This approach has been a huge help to State Mechanical in managing risk and being able to maintain productivity in the field.”

The Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel is Mortenson’s first development project in Chicago. Mortenson, which has developed more than $600 million in U.S. hotel properties in the past five years, teamed up with lead developer Akara Partners and Norr Architects on the flagship 206-room extended stay hotel at 110 West Huron Street. Mortenson has completed more than 100 hospitality projects nationwide, including modernizing the Cambria Hotel on East Superior Street and the Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Avenue.

“This flagship Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel project is breaking new ground in a number of important ways, from being the first urban highrise for this brand to Mortenson’s innovative construction methods that are delivering exceptional safety, quality and efficiency,” said Rajen Shastri, the founder/CEO of Akara Partners. “We are proud to be developing this important addition to the hospitality market in River North and Chicago.”