When McCusker-Gill Inc. wrapped up its work for the Encore Boston Harbor (Wynn) Casino, the project was the largest sheet metal contract ever completed in the greater City of Boston. Opening last summer, the casino followed an “aggressive” schedule to be completed on time, and its ductwork system required more than 1 million pounds of sheet metal, according to McCusker-Gill Inc.

As the fabrication and installation contractor, prefabrication enabled the McCusker Gill team to complete the project ahead of schedule and under budget. “We relied on extensive planning and pre-construction throughout the project to identify bottlenecks,” explains Kevin Gill Jr., vice-president at McCusker-Gill Inc., under his father, Kevin Sr. “Due to the sheer volume of ductwork and sheet metal accessories on the project, as well as the extremely aggressive schedule, off-site prefabrication was crucial to meeting the demands of the project.” Here’s how they did it.

How did pre-fabrication affect the logistics of the project? Did it make it easier?

Planning for pre-fabrication started immediately upon award and continued throughout completion of the project. Duct sections were delivered to the job site in the longest allowable lengths with accessories already installed to expedite installation and minimize on site hours.

One million pounds of sheet metal! What software did you use to design the duct system?

The engineer designed the duct system using Revit. Our team modeled the duct system using a combination of Revit and AutoCAD.

McCusker Gill Inc Named Contractor of the Year

Michael Bailey

Why they won ...

“I have had the good fortunes to meet a lot of great contractors along the way during my 25 years. There are always that 20 percent rule and McCusker-Gill falls into that program as far as top contractors. The culture Kevin Gill, Kevin Gill Jr. and Tommy Hall have created at McCusker is certainly special. The company is a family-first organization that just so happens to perform on some very intricate bigger HVAC projects in the Boston area. I am just proud to be able to play a small part in it and call the folks at McCusker-Gill not only a customer but my friends as well. Thank you McCusker-Gill for letting me be part of the ride in a small manner.”— Michael Bailey, Vice President of Sales - Mestek Machinery

Read more about McCusker-Gill Inc’s Contractor of the Year win at snipsmag.com/contractor-of-the-year.

It looks like there was a mix of spiral and rectangular duct used in this project.

This was a decision made by the project engineer in collaboration with the owner, architect, and the rest of the design team. Most of the ductwork on this project was concealed above the ceiling space. Rectangular ductwork is commonly used in this application for the medium pressure duct distribution and the low pressure branch ducts. Spiral ducts were utilized for inlets to VAVs and to terminal outlets (RGD’s, linears, etc.). Typically you would only see more spiral duct called for if it were an exposed duct system, which this project was not.

Take us through the fabrication process. Did you use a laser or plasma to fabricate the ductwork for this job? Why were certain machines used over others?

Every machine in our shop was probably utilized at some point to meet the needs of this project. In our shop, like any sheet metal shop, it is much easier to manufacturer straight coil duct than it is fittings (offsets, transitions, elbows, etc.). On a normal project, about 50 percent of the duct is straight pipe and 50 percent is fittings. One of the things that excited us about this project was that it had about 75 percent straight coil pipe.

Therefore, the majority of the duct on this project was built with our Iowa Precision Coil Line. The remaining fittings were built with our new Lockformer Vulcan Fiber Laser as well as our plasma machine. The amount of straight coil duct helped us maximize duct manifolding and prefabrication for the project.

What was the bidding process like for a job like this?

This was a plan and spec bid process. We submitted our number to the mechanical contractor (J.C. Higgins, an EMCOR company) and they submitted a bid as the prime HVAC subcontractor to the General Contractor (Suffolk Construction).

Due to the sheer size and scope of the project, as well as it’s extremely aggressive schedule, there were only a handful of players who were qualified to bid on the project. The descoping and interview process was extremely thorough prior to award. Given the project’s size, as well as how busy the Boston market was in general, backlog and capacity were primary concerns that the owner had.

Why do you think McCusker-Gill was chosen over other bids?

McCusker-Gill has a proven track record of successfully completing the largest and most difficult projects in the Boston market. Clients and owners often seek us out for the projects with the highest degree of difficulty or the most compressed schedules. We perform a substantial portion of our sheet metal work as a subcontractor to J.C. Higgins and the General Contractor on this project had a lot of faith in our combined team’s ability to deliver on this project successfully. We were well equipped to manage the unique challenges of the project – size, schedule, site logistics, etc. – and this was a high priority project that had been targeted by our firms for a long time.

In order to continue taking on large jobs like this one, what would you say is one of the biggest challenges facing your company today?

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in the last year is an aging workforce. We are fortunate that we had the foresight to identify this turnover several years before it really hit us, and we have planned for it accordingly.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested a tremendous amount of resources into developing the next generation of leaders in our company by recruiting, interviewing, and ultimately selecting the right people for the local JATC apprenticeship program.

Throughout the apprenticeship, we rely on the superb training at our local JATC and the “on-the-job” experience gained in the field. We also utilize the many resources (seminars, workshops, etc.) that SMACNA offers to help develop young journeymen that are transitioning into field supervisory roles. This process has helped us to consistently develop the next generation of foremen in our company.

For a commercial space of this magnitude, are there any special considerations the contractor needs to make? Were there any special requests from the owner? How did those affect delivery?

Managing site logistics on this project was paramount. The footprint of the casino was massive, and the distance from the delivery areas to where the duct was to be installed was further than on any other project we’ve ever been on. It was critical that we delivered our ductwork on mobile carts with wheels that could be transported quickly and used for on-site staging until the duct was installed.

In most areas, the ducts were installed 30’-40’ in the air. We delivered most of the duct to the site pre-fabricated in 15’ sections and then set up manifolding areas on site to build the duct into 40’ or 50’ sections before hoisting and installing it.

How did you go about making sure the ducts were properly sealed on a job like this?

The majority of the ductwork connections were made at our shop in our prefabrication and manifolding department. We use both DP1010 Water Based Sealant and Airseal Zero High Performance Solvent Based Duct Sealant. We typically alternate between these two options depending on the temperature limits. Both products are very reputable with zero VOC’s and LEED credits.

All the ductwork that is assembled at the shop goes through a quality control checklist before leaving the shop and also upon arrival at the job site to make sure it adheres to the highest quality standards. Throughout on-site installation, quality control is a primary responsibility of our on-site foremen.

And after installation?

Following installation, the ducts are also pressure tested by our duct testing department, which is a witness test attended by the owner, engineer, and general contractor.

On this project, we were required to pressure test all of the medium pressure supply duct distribution system. This test is performed according to SMACNA guidelines and the allowable duct leakage is defined in the project specifications. As mentioned above, this is witnessed by varying members of the project team.

For McCusker-Gill, what was the significance of completing this job as a company. What made it special?

We are constantly looking for ways to become better and more efficient. We always challenge the status quo and try to stay on the cutting edge with ways to become better in the shop, CAD, or field. We have spent the last several years fine tuning our prefabrication and duct manifolding procedures to streamline the workflow from CAD to the shop to the field. This project allowed us to put our prefab operation to the test on the largest scale. We were ultimately able to utilize a cart system to deliver prefabricated ductwork needed to complete geographical areas. Our ductwork was assembled and delivered with all take-offs, flex, dampers, etc. to allow us to mobilize in an area just one time to complete all of our rough in work. This was crucial for our success on this project and required great planning, communication, and cooperation from our whole project team.  

Read more of our interview with Kevin Gill Sr. of McCusker-Gill at SNIPSmag.com. This story originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of SNIPS magazine.