About a year ago, the finishing touches of a ten-story office building were being made. This tower stood as an homage to the late J.B. Hunt, the founder of J.B. Hunt transportation services. This structure was the tallest of its kind in northwest Arkansas. It still stands as a beacon for development and prosperity to the people there. Most of the people in the area don’t realize the teamwork that took place to make this building a reality though.
A little over two-years ago, my previous firm got the civil engineering contract to handle the site work on this 9-acre campus. A local architecture firm would be handling the building interior and exterior. A local structural engineering firm would be handling the building support and foundation. A local mechanical engineering firm was brought on to design the utilities within this behemoth. After the team was assembled, collaboration too began. Each participant was using their unique skillsets to bring this structure to life. Each member had a stake in something that was much bigger than themselves.
After the design was completed and the construction company was selected, the discussions continued. The meetings were held at regular intervals. Each member of the team were called upon for their expertise. Often times, there were problems that came out of construction that affected multiple disciplines. In this case, the members would utilize their individual strengths to discuss the issues and how it would affect their designs. Then the team would discuss ways to remedy the problem without affecting another element of the design. Each team member respected the experience brought by each of the other members. Although each member brought a unique skillset, the common goal of building the structure, brought us together.
Oftentimes, there was disagreement between disciplines. This regularly happens when you have several people from different values and backgrounds adding input into a certain process or problem. Our group was very diverse, so disagreements happened all too often. It’s what we did with these disagreements that made our group, and thus, our project successful. Collectively, this was the first “high-rise” structure that this group had designed. With this designation came many unique requirements not normally seen with smaller projects. Most of the disagreements came from conflicts associated with different aspects of the mechanical systems with certain architectural and civil features. Each party involved in the conflict would discuss their need for the space or location and then all parties in the construction meeting would give input on alternatives as a whole. This gave each designer a different viewpoint to see the conflict through.
After about 18-months, the tower was completed. The structure was constructed on-time with very few complications. The design team exhibited collaboration, communication, accountability, and the team member’s individual strengths. Collaboration was necessary to ensure that each piece of the puzzle would fit into place. Communication was utilized at every step of the way. If effective communication was not in place, this story could’ve ended badly. Communication was necessary to transmit the ideas of each discipline to each other in a language we could all understand.
Accountability was paramount in this project. If a certain member or firm did not take accountability, the results could be disastrous or even deadly in the case of a ten-story office building. Each member maintained a sense of ownership on the project. The construction company even created apparel with the finished product for their tradesman to wear. It gave them a sense of possession on the project. They became proud of the work they were doing and would understand that it was much bigger than their individual tasks. Individual strengths were exploited often in between disciplines to make this project a success. Each team member brought their own individual knowledge to the table. This allowed the team to identify conflict that might have been overlooked.
That office building still stands as a testament to success for the individuals in that region, but for me, it stands for much more. It stands as evidence for the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teamwork.