Turner Improves Efficiency with Switch to Lean Construction Methods on E.M. Dirksen Courthouse, Chicago

July 30, 2012

Turner began upgrades and renovations to Chicago’s Everett McKinley Dirksen Courthouse – also known as the Dirksen Federal Building – in September, 2009, with a scheduled completion date of September, 2012. The 1.3 million-square-foot, 30-story courthouse, designed in the early 1960s by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, has remained open and operational throughout three years of round-the-clock renovations and upgrades. 
The project team implemented Lean Construction practices midway through the project, in the spring of 2011, establishing a culture of experimentation, and continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement is an important element of Lean culture. And understanding that a project team can manage best what they measure, the project team at Dirksen established a productivity baseline, formulated hypotheses about how to improve processes, implemented the improvements and then compared before and after data to confirm whether the implemented improvements actually increased efficiency.
Because the Dirksen project began using traditional construction practices and the transition to Lean methods came partway through the project, data and metrics from before the Lean implementation can be directly compared to those from after the Lean implementation, which makes the project a unique case study.
The project team has measured increases in productivity, cost and schedule savings, and improvement in project communication since transitioning to Lean methods. Some notable accomplishments of the project are:
  • Zero subcontractor claims
  • A 200% increase in electrical installation productivity due to on-site prefabrication by electricians
  • A 50% reduction in waste-management time due to 5S implementation.
  • An 86% reduction in RFI and document updates due to use of synched, hyperlinked, electronic documents that are shared by all project members
  • A 12.5% decrease in the time it takes to construct a typical floor, largely due to application of pull planning methods and the Last Planner System and trade communication through visual updates
  • A dramatic increase in the efficiency and quality of communication between all project team members due to suggestion boards, new meeting structures and electronic collaboration.

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