Five Ways Berglund Brought Innovation to the Tallest Building in Columbus

Reaching more than 600 feet high, the Rhodes State Office Tower is the tallest building in Columbus, Ohio. Built in 1974, the building houses 2,600 state employees. The 41-story building is clad in thousands of large granite panels.

In 2017, Berglund Construction was hired as a design-assist partner to develop the repair scope and, ultimately, perform a complete façade restoration. The project came to a successful conclusion at the end of 2021, $5 million under budget and right on schedule. Here are five ways Berglund brought innovative solutions to this challenging project.

1. Reducing the project budget by 3x during preconstruction
Corrosion at the underlying granite steel connections was the impetus for this significant repair program. In the initial analysis, the team assumed thousands of granite panels would need to be removed from the building to access this corroded steel and replace it. Initial cost estimates showed this would be extremely costly, blowing the state’s budget by a factor of three.

As a design-assist partner, Berglund helped develop a method for surgically removing the corroded steel without removing every granite panel. We also helped design a custom anchor to replace the steel connections.

Ultimately, we successfully performed this task on more than 6,000 granite panels throughout the building. This innovative solution allowed us to keep those panels on the building rather than removing and resetting them – allowing the project to come in $5 million under budget rather than three times over it.

2. Sending app-based training programs directly to the crew’s smart phones
Because many of the work tasks were custom developed for the project, no tradespeople showed up with experience in performing them. To overcome this challenge, we partnered with MindForge to use the technology company’s app-based training platform on the project.

First, we created custom, task-specific training videos. Here is an example of one:

Then, we used the MindForge platform to deliver the content directly to the smart phones of the 30 Berglund tradespeople tasked with performing these complex repairs on suspended scaffold systems hundreds of feet in the air. This innovative training program bolstered our crew’s confidence that they could perform these custom repairs from day one.

3. Installing the longest mast climber bridge ever erected in North America
On two sides of the building, Berglund tradespeople self-performed the installation of the longest mast climber bridge ever installed in North America. This 92-foot span created an ideal work platform for both our granite restoration work and the glazing contractor’s window replacement scope.

Add in the cantilevered ends of the system and workers could walk 150 feet from one end of the building to the next. Vertically, the system could travel more than 600 feet from the base of the building to the roof.

Often, mast climbers systems are gas-fueled, which makes them noisy and polluting. We partnered with Hydro Mobile to custom design this system as electric-powered, which made it silent – minimizing disruption to the state workers inside - and sustainable.

4. Controlling swing stage platforms by wireless remote
Our anchor solution significantly reduced the number of panels that had to be removed. But we still had to remove and reset approximately 1,200 of them. These large panels, weighing up to 2,000 pounds each, had to be removed from the wall and landed safely on swing stages.

Standard swing stages do not have the weight capacity to handle that large of a load. To increase the platform’s capacity, we designed an innovative system where the motors were mounted on the roof. And our tradespeople controlled them by wireless remote controls that sent a signal from the stage on the side of the building up to the rooftop.

This project was the first to use this technology. And it allowed us to safely handle these large panels without incident and successfully complete this challenging scope of work.

5. Putting down tools and picking up sticky notes

By now, lean pull planning is not uncommon in the industry. But the way we did it at Rhodes Tower was. Typically, no one below a foreman level is in the big room when the pull planning process occurs. We realized that to be a truly successful team, we needed to bring the people working with their tools off the side of the building and into the planning room.

To do this, we invested in 10 tradespeople from our crew to go through Lean Training. We completed “Phase Pulls” to create milestones for their work tasks. We agreed on standard processes for how work should be done. And we continued this process in weekly six week lookahead meetings, where all crew members were encouraged to participate and speak up.

This innovative process increased our average weekly Percent Plan Complete from approximately 30% to 80%. And it created a culture of empowerment, teamwork, respect, and accountability on the jobsite.

About the Author
Jeff Berglund

Jeff rep­re­sents the fourth gen­er­a­tion of the Berglund family to work at the company. He is pas­sion­ate about the work that Berglund does to make com­mu­ni­ties better places. This includes restoring important buildings that residents already know and love, and building exciting new places for them to explore. Outside of work, Jeff enjoys training for triathlon races and reading a good book.

President, Building Division & Chief Growth Officer