Arthur Ashe Stadium: A Case Study in the Dimension of Logistics

In construction, the term 4D is often associated with 4D Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is 3D BIM with the addition of the fourth dimension — time — in the form of scheduling data. But, when turning a model that lives in a computer into a physical object in the real world, that fourth dimension is called logistics.

AECOM takes on some of the biggest logistical challenges in the construction world. In 2018, AECOM is involved in about a dozen complex and multifaceted projects that are each worth $1 billion or more.

AECOM displayed its logistical capabilities during the construction of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the United States Tennis Association’s National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. AECOM Hunt was the design-builder for the 6,500-ton retractable roof and complex structure that holds it in place – just 15 inches above the top edge of the pre-existing stadium.

Originally built in 1997, Arthur Ashe Stadium holds the most important matches of the U.S. Open, but for many years players and spectators faced rained-out events, so the USTA decided to build a retractable roof.

Before the architect could address the complications of designing the moveable roof, though, a bigger problem cropped up. The stadium was built on a former dumping ground with unstable soil, so it couldn’t tolerate additional weight. The solution was to suspend the roof independently from a framework of eight super columns driven 180 feet into the ground to reach bedrock. These were connected to a perimeter truss system and four main box trusses.

 

The roof itself was constructed from 1,700 individual pieces and covered with lightweight and durable Teflon-coated fiberglass membrane fabric (PTFE). The retractable section of the roof was designed with two identical moving panels, each weighing one million pounds, controlled by an eight-wheel rail system. The roof can open or close in approximately seven minutes.

The schedule added another layer of complexity. The U.S. Open lasts only two weeks and construction could not interfere with the 2014 and 2015 events. The first phase of construction began in fall 2013, and the roof was completed ahead of schedule a few weeks before the start of the 2016 Open.

When the roof was unveiled in August  2016, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with USTA President and U.S. Open Chairwoman Katrina Adams stating, “A lot of bold thinking, incredible hard work and strategic problem-solving went into getting us to this day.”

“Building Information Modeling (BIM) was critical in planning how the roof fit together. We had to coordinate three massive cranes working around the existing stadium to erect each structural piece,” said Ken Johnson, executive vice president, AECOM Hunt. “By reviewing the exact sequence in BIM, we were able to develop contingency plans and mitigate potential job hazards. Every possible consideration was addressed and vetted before any lifts happened in the field.”

BIM technology played a key role in planning and sequencing the construction and in coordinating AECOM Hunt’s work with the entire team, but the most important dimension of the project was the thorough execution to plan every step of the way.

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