Louisville District hosts Chicago team to expand vertical construction capabilities

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District
Published Oct. 9, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District welcomed teammates from Chicago District to cross-train at the district through late November. 


Chicago team members arrived in Louisville in August and have been working with the district’s design branch in Engineering Division gaining a better understanding of vertical design aspects and processes for successful delivery of vertical construction projects.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, also known as LRD, asked the Louisville District to assist with establishing a vertical project design capability within the Chicago District. This vertical design capacity equips the region to better respond to a diverse mission set. 


“The Louisville District is the only district that executes military work within LRD,” said Louisville District Deputy District Engineer Linda Murphy. “We have executed vertical construction within the military program since the 1980s, and our knowledge and skillset of this, along with vertical construction experience in our expanding Interagency and International Services program, was the logical partnership to help maintain and expand Chicago District’s technical competencies.”


Chicago District will eventually become another resource within LRD to successfully support vertical project delivery, according to Murphy. 


“USACE is repeatedly being asked to meet the nation’s engineering needs (for example the recent Alternate Care Facility build-out), and this partnership builds upon that success in staffing a more resilient organization across our geographic areas of responsibility,” said Mike Braden, Louisville District Engineering Design Branch chief.


Monica Greenwell, Louisville District chief of Civil Branch in Engineering Division, and Braden coordinated with Chicago District’s John Groboski in selecting individuals to gain firsthand experience working alongside Louisville District technical mentors.  


“We gave our recommendations regarding which positions Chicago District needed to have and their recommended qualifications and training,” Greenwell said. “The team also tried to think of aspects of the business process that would be changed going from the civil works to military work flow.”


While Chicago’s staff will be continuously learning as they execute projects as part of the Louisville team, the approximately four month rotation in the district provides Chicago team members immediate access to senior design engineers and full immersion in Louisville District’s design processes, according to Brandon Martin, Louisville District Mechanical Section chief.


“Some of Chicago’s new team (members) have experience in the vertical construction field, but others are just beginning,” Martin said. “Onsite technical training and mentorship is far more effective than attempting the same remotely.”


Chicago teammates include Reed Wesolowski, architect; Ha Anh Le, mechanical engineer; Ada Lupa, electrical engineer; and Yohannes Assefa, Chicago District Vertical Construction Section chief. 


“The Louisville team has been very helpful and friendly,” Assefa said. “The team spirit and collaboration makes it very professional and enjoyable.”
Due to the ever-changing environment with the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest in Chicago and Louisville, there have been some challenges to overcome. 


“The biggest challenge has been consistency of being able to work in the Louisville District office,” said Tina Beavin, Louisville District Electrical Section chief. “Another challenge has been getting computers loaded with the necessary software and access to Louisville District folders.”


Murphy says she is looking forward to hearing about everyone’s experiences. 


“We are so happy to have the Chicago team here in Louisville learning from our experts in Engineering Division,” Murphy said. “We appreciate their patience and understanding as we are working through some uncertain, challenging times in the Louisville area. I’m looking forward to hearing about their progress and development while here in the district.”


When asked if the cross-training has been beneficial, Chicago teammates agree that it has. 


“I think the technical training will certainly prove helpful when working on future projects; however, establishing the relationships to contact for resources might prove even more helpful after the formal portion of the assignment is complete,” Wesolowski said. “I do hope that this continues after the assignment is over, and maybe I can be a resource to the Louisville District in the future as well.”


Since Chicago District does not have vertical construction experience, this cross-training is the best way to establish a new vertical construction team, according to Assefa. 


“Half the team came from the civil works side and the other half came from the private industry (with no government experience), so this is the best way to get firsthand experience on how to do MILCON (Military Construction) projects,” Assefa said. “And the networking will help for future team work.”


The next step is to assess and measure Louisville District’s progress in accomplishing various experiential targets with the current Chicago design team and provide continued support as they transition back to Chicago full time for more independent execution, according to Braden. 


“We will also host an additional design team in the spring of 2021 with similar goals and objectives,” Braden said. 


Louisville District vertical construction mentors include Daniel McNatt, architect; Vu Nguyen, mechanical engineer; Joel Greenwell, electrical engineer; and David Smith, structural engineer.


“It’s a testament to our Louisville District design professionals to be selected for this opportunity in fielding additional vertical design capability across our region without impacting our core project delivery responsibilities,” Braden said. “I have no doubt that given the commitment I’ve witnessed by the individuals involved across both districts that we will be successful in making the ‘one door to the Corps’ open a little wider.”