Building a Sustainable Community: Behind the Scenes with Dart’s Design and Construction Teams

On the heels of CI$120 million worth of construction at Camana Bay to deliver the expanded Cayman International School (CIS) and new Foster’s flagship store, Dart is preparing to further expand the town’s residential and commercial offerings with two new developments.

As Dart’s design and construction teams prepare to build another 10-storey building – their tallest project since Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Residences at Seafire – there is a great deal of work going on behind the scenes to deliver better employee retention, safer worksites, reduced waste, and greater project value.

President Development Delivery & Infrastructure Cameron Graham says process improvement in the construction industry has the potential for wide-reaching benefits across the community. 

“As of 2017, the local construction industry employed 5,114 people, a number we can be almost certain has grown since then,” he says. “Large-scale construction projects have the potential to employ dozens of contractors and hundreds of people. As one of the largest local developers, we want to positively influence the industry to help reduce waste and contribute to sustainability across environmental, social and economic aspects of our community”

Resilient infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable urbanisation, and technological innovation are essential components of sustainable development. In addition to their economic impact, Dart’s three most recent projects – the CIS Early Childhood Centre, CIS high school expansion, and new Fosters flagship store - employed over 100 local contractors and more than 700 individual employees to date.

Committed to sustainable development in the Cayman Islands, Dart is taking extra steps and going beyond what is required to ensure the wider community benefits from its construction activity by supporting workforce development in the construction industry, refining existing processes, and introducing new standards for sustainable design to the Cayman Islands.

Investing in tomorrow’s workforce

As headlines declared earlier this year, the Cayman Islands is experiencing record growth in the construction industry. Recognising the importance of high-quality vocational training in developing the next generation of design and construction professionals, Dart has leant its support to both the Cayman Islands Public Works Department (PWD) City & Guilds vocational training programme and the recently opened Inspire Cayman Training Ltd., a new vocational centre certified through the U.S.-based National Center for Construction Education and Research.

Earlier this year, Dart hired two graduates of the PWD training initiative to its Property Management team and sponsored its Chief Building Engineer Kevin Line to complete the City & Guilds Assessor training course through PWD, qualifying him to assess mentors for the trainees.

In addition to in-kind donations to get the new Inspire Cayman training centre on its feet, Graham says the organisation is working to introduce requirements for its contractors to support Inspire Cayman and offer apprenticeship placements to its students.

“Through this partnership, we have the opportunity to prepare young people for promising careers in the construction trades and raise the profile of these well-paying, but often overlooked, jobs and professional paths,” he says.

Dart’s investment in and commitment to Inspire Cayman aligns with its long-time support of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – careers and subjects through its Minds Inspired and Dart Scholar educational programmes.

A focus on process

Over the past three years, Dart’s design and construction teams have been working to develop and improve internal processes which started with the formation of the Building Information Management (BIM) team and most recently through the introduction and adoption of Lean Design & Construction project management principles.

Dart Senior Vice President Design & Construction Gary Gibbs says that, as the complexity of development projects have increased, so have the siloes within the industry.

“BIM is a full lifecycle tool that enables collaborative process in a cloud-based environment not just in the design phase, but through construction, operations, and ending with adaptive reuse or demolition,” he says. “By encouraging early collaboration and centralising information, we can help define the project goals in a coherent, systematic fashion that reduces the risk that changes are going to happen later when it is much more costly and time-intensive to do so.”

To further refine its project management methodologies, Dart began implementing Lean tools into its major construction projects this year and, having seen the benefits firsthand, decided to facilitate a three-day Lean Design & Construction coaching session that included stakeholders from across the business.

“The construction industry faces a number of challenges, including cost, scheduling, safety, quality, waste, collaboration and client/end user satisfaction,” Gibbs says. “The tools and principles of Lean offer a method for tackling those challenges that naturally complements Dart’s Values, Culture and Philosophy by starting from a foundation of respect for people.”

Gibbs says that, by focusing on improving its own processes, Dart can have a positive impact on the broader construction industry locally.

“Others will benefit from the process because they don't have to reinvent the wheel, they can see the tools and methodologies in action and begin to implement them on other projects,” he says.

Indeed, Gibbs points to examples of local contractors building the capacity necessary to deliver on complex development projects that would previously have required overseas consultants and says there are still significant opportunities for subcontractors.

“Taking a project from BIM Level of Development (LOD) 300 to LOD 350 requires overseas consultants right now so there is an opportunity there for local subcontractors,” he says. “Dart has invested significantly in ensuring we have the tools we need to do better ourselves and help our partners do better. We are all in this together.”

Building health for all

In its proposed new 10-storey, for-lease residential building at Camana Bay, Dart is hoping to go beyond environmental sustainability and construct the residential tower to FitWel certification, a green building certification programme launched in 2017 that aims to enhance human health through targeted improvements in the built environment.

Dart’s current development portfolio includes three LEED®-certified buildings with a fourth scheduled to attain LEED certification this year.

Gibbs says that, while FitWel overlaps with LEED in a number of areas, including water, air quality and outdoor spaces, the programme goes beyond environmental sustainability to include a more holistic understanding of how built environments contribute to human health and sustainable communities.

“Facilitating the creation of inclusive, safe and sustainable communities is essential to Dart’s vision of creating places that enrich lives now and for future generations,” Gibbs says.

Developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration, FitWel scoring also has the potential to be applied to existing buildings in a way that might not be possible with other certification programmes.

“The difference with this programme is that it goes beyond design and construction to focus on maximising the health and well-being of the building’s occupants through how they interact with the physical space,” Gibbs says.

Planning applications for Camana Bay’s for-rent residential building and Class A office building were submitted in October.