J.E. Richards’ Reach For Excellence

The Reach at The Kennedy Center
Kennedy Center The Reach

A Q&A with Charlie DePhillip, Foreman for J.E. Richards’ work on The Reach at The Kennedy Center

J.E. Richards work on The Reach at The Kennedy Center earned the Electrical Alliance contractor two Craftsmanship Awards as well as nomination of the Star Award from The Washington Business Congress.

What is The Reach at The Kennedy Center?

It is an expansion of the existing Kennedy Center. The south end of the Kennedy Center was demoed and expanded outwards for the new project that is mostly underground. Three tiers come out of the ground; which is what you see from the outside. It was created to be a public place for people to come in and actually see practices, it has educational rooms for kids to come and learn during the day and interact with the arts. It is open to the public.

In broad terms, what was the scope of the electrical needs and requirements for this project?

That included the demo of the existing electrical system on the south end of the building. We ran new feeders from the existing gear rooms in the Kennedy center to the new expansion. We installed all the new raceways for IT, Security, and AV throughout the Kennedy Center expansion, including new raceways to tie into the existing system.  Installed new Lutron control panels and integrated it back into the existing Kennedy Center main hub.

How did JE Richards team and its expertise align so well for this type of project and scope of work?

We’re really versed in BIM coordination and CAD drawing and this job was very heavy in that with design. Specifically, with concrete walls and plaster ceilings…we spent a lot of time and coordination to get pathways for our conduits in the walls and slabs so that they would not be seen. Also, the quality of craftsman working on the project and the support on the job. These were the contributing factors that really aligned our team so well for this job.

What was the timeframe for JE Richards work?

The entire project took four years. It was originally planned for no more than two and a half years, but unforeseen complications with soil conditions, design conflicts, changing of general contractors and other items extended the completion dates. Despite the extension of time, J.E. Richards’s team still provided work on time (often even earlier than scheduled), as developed by the shifts in the plan and scope.

Who was the general contractor on the job?

We started with Davis on the job in October of 2015. In October 2017, Whiting Turner took over, to finish out the job; which was completed in October 2019 (when JE Richards finished its part). J.E. Richards was on the job the entire time.

Approximately how many electricians did J.E. Richards have on the job site?

We were there almost 4 years. Much of the time we had about a dozen. Though at the max, probably about 30 people at a time that was especially the case near the end. (This was a moderate project to man for us, in comparison to some jobs where we might have 300 electricians onsite for one year.)

Please tell me about any of the more technical or complicated specifications.

The job itself used a bubble deck system, new to this area. Instead of a typical concrete slab, this uses large, round, plastic ball like voids through the deck.  This method displaces concrete to make a lighter slab that could span longer distances between structural supports. We had a lot of BIM coordination to show the quantity of pipe and junction boxes for devices, to coordinated with Whiting Turner with structural engineers in order to be able to run all systems in the slab. The majority of the walls are architectural designed typed concrete walls (board form – looks like wood wall or crinkle walls to look like a rocky face). To add to the complication of the rough in, some of the rooms required all devices that would stack on top of each other had to align with the outside edge (typically we would align centers). Coordinating this was very time consuming and necessitated figuring out the dimensions of the exact layout prior to a concrete pour. This really proved our union team’s skill and ability to deliver a top-notch product. With architectural concrete walls, there was no going back to adjust anything later – once poured it was done.

What made this job unique?

The different design of the building, the finishes, the lighting (up-light walls, down-light walls) all the coordination. Also, The Kennedy Center Reach was built to withstand a flood.  This was done by creating a bathtub effect with the waterproofing by waterproofing up to a datum elevation of 16’8”.  They have flood doors that are manually installed at all the doorways to protect the building from water coming inside the building.  This waterproofing design did not allow us to have any penetrations going thru the waterproofing below or thru that elevation. Our original intent to run our feeders underground was not allowed and we had to redesign the conduit routes to bring them overhead but keep the aesthetically pleasing and as far out of sight as possible.  As I said, the finishes are beautiful – take look at the video.

Did you have any JATC apprentices working on the job site during the time? If so, what was their experience?
Yes. Thru out the 4 years we had dozens of apprentices pass thru the job. Typically, we had at least one apprentice to 3 journeymen as part of the team. For the apprentices, especially, it was a great learning experience, allowing them to see work from the ground up and experiencing a different type of construction.

Were there any unexpected discoveries or bumps in the road that required adjustments to plan or scope?

The bathtub type waterproofing and not being allowed to penetrate it, we were not aware of that going into the job, Also, all the coordination of the actual bubbles being removed to allow for all the conduit we had to install and not decreasing the integrity of the concrete structure.

What are you most proud of with regard to your team, the work done or anything else specifically, with regard to this project?

The quality and craftsmanship of the workers. Through all the rough-in phases, we never had to go back and chip up a finished product for a misalignment, forgotten device or a lost conduit. If we lost a conduit, we always had planned a back way get to it. Towards the end there were a lot of finished product installed and we didn’t have any damages from our team. Our workers really did their due diligence to protect what other tradesmen had installed while we completed our work around them.


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