Bancroft Construction Co. – Longwood Gardens

BancroftBancroft Construction balanced classic style and modern technology to restore perhaps the most iconic feature within Longwood Gardens.

By Tim O’Connor

In 1906, Pierre du Pont, a 36-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist, purchased a former arboretum in southeast Pennsylvania to save the trees from a lumber mill. In the years that followed, du Pont used the grounds to satisfy his love of gardening and by the 1920s it had blossomed into a full public conservatory call Longwood Gardens.

Among those gardens was the Main Fountain Garden, a collection of impressive fountains that could shoot 10,000 gallons of water a minute 130 feet into the air. It quickly became one of the centerpieces of Longwood Gardens and has been a must-see for visitors ever since.Bancroft info box

Protecting that history for the next generation of guests took a careful touch and a skilled construction manager that could blend the innards and mechanical features of a modern fountain with the classical style of the nearly 90-year-old design. Longwood Gardens found that construction manager in Bancroft Construction Co.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to witness the transformation of the Main Fountain Garden,” Vice President of Preconstruction Mike Petka, who served as senior project manager, says. “From the research and exploration early on, to the subterranean world we concealed, to the finishing touches of the fountain display, it felt like we were making history and something we would all be proud of forever.”

The project involved the installation of 9,000 cubic yards of concrete, 1,4000 linear feet of tunnels, five miles of fountain pipes and nearly 340,000 gallons of underground water storage. Every part of the infrastructure installation and repair work had to be done in keeping with the original structure, a challenging feat. “Understanding the history of the fountains was critical to the success of the project; bringing the fountains into the 21st century while preserving Pierre du Pont’s vision,” Petka continues.

Longwood Gardens and Bancroft Construction have a shared history. In 2014, the company built the attraction’s newest feature, the expanded Meadow Garden, an 86-acre showcase of native plantings, ecological landscape design and sustainable practices meant to preserve the open space around the formal gardens. The expansion added thousands of plants, three miles of trails, three bridges and shelters, along with the renovation of a historic farmhouse.

The cooperation and familiarity between Longwood Gardens and Bancroft only grew during the fountain restoration. “The Main Fountain Project further strengthens our team’s knowledge of Longwood Gardens, both the site and the people who we interact and work with,” Director of Marketing Rob Jadick said. He added that the opportunity to develop relationships during the project will improve Bancroft Construction’s ability to understand its client’s goals and success factors on future projects.

Early Involvement

Bancroft Construction was the ideal partner for the Main Fountain Project because it understood the importance of early involvement in the preconstruction phase. Being able to give input on the design gives construction managers the greatest opportunity to capitalize on cost savings through true value engineering and constructability, the company believes, instead of reacting to cost overruns by reducing the scope or sacrificing features. Bancroft pic 2

To develop those value-engineering proposals and constructability assessments, Bancroft Construction maintains a full-service in-house preconstruction department comprised from a variety of fields. But the company truly excels when a project moves from a preconstruction concept into actual building.

Jadick says the handoff between those stages is a critical project milestone, so Bancroft seeks to make the process as seamless as possible. It starts with communication. The company establishes a project manager as the principal point of contact throughout the life of the project.

“No matter how complex a project may be, there can be simplicity created in lines of communication, in roles and responsibilities that ensure everyone not only has a clear understanding of their job, but can also go out and execute with a high level of proficiency,” he explains.

The skill needed to manage the transition into the construction phase and deliver a high-quality project is a credit to Bancroft Construction’s internal training efforts. Several years ago, the company launched an Assistant Project Manager (APM) Professional Development Program as part of its commitment to being a sustainable learning organization. Through the program, employees enhance their project management skills under the tutelage of a senior manager. Individual sessions cover a variety of topics, from scope writing and general conditions, to networking, project marketing, quality control and safety enforcement.

Exceptional Service

Talent development is only part of the equation. Construction managers and general contractors are always looking for new technology that can improve the building process and the communication with the owner and subcontractors.

One of the hottest trends in recent years has been the adoption of drones on construction sites for flyovers and monitor progress. On the Main Fountain Project, Bancroft used drones to take photos and update the logistics plan to maximize the material laydown area, vehicle access and other elements as activity on the site shifted during construction.

The real-time communication made possible by the drones enabled contractors to work more efficiently and better prepare for the work ahead. “The images we utilized were light years ahead of where we would be if we updated site logistics using a site plan or outdated Google Earth image,” Jadick says.

Investing in its employees and technology enables Bancroft Construction to deliver a consistent experience to its clients even as the construction industry changes. “Our employees are Bancroft’s greatest asset,” Jadick says. “Year in and year out, we focus on providing exceptional client-focused construction service that our customers have come to expect.”

Longwood Gardens is the latest client to benefit from Bancroft Construction’s care and service. More than 470,000 man-hours of construction went into the Main Fountain Garden preservation, with the fountain opening on May 27 after two years of construction. Guests can now appreciate the classic European look of the repaired hand-carved Italian limestone as they enjoy the movement of 1,719 illuminated water jets set to the music of artists as diverse as Aaron Copland and Katy Perry, made possible by state-of-the-art technology.

“Bancroft Construction is honored to have been a part of the Main Fountain Garden revitalization project team,” President and CEO Greg Sawka says. “We truly believe that we are better builders, collaborators, partners and better professionals because of the experiences afforded us by this most unique and prestigious project. The project serves as a fine example of excellence achieved through teamwork, collaboration and a commitment to excellence.”

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