Great Wolf Lodge
In October 2007, Dave Mauney, Regional VP of Pyramid Masonry in Charlotte, NC, and Brooke Steele, his Sr. Construction Manager at the time, contacted Johnson Concrete to see if it were possible to produce an 8x8x24 cored concrete masonry unit (CMU) for a project they were getting ready to bid, The Great Wolf Lodge & Water Park in Concord. Pyramid utilizes this hollow-core load bearing masonry product regularly on similar hotel and condo projects in its Florida market, typically saving labor costs, and thought it would be worth a shot in this market in an attempt to achieve the same.
Billy Meade, Lexington site manager who came to Johnson through the acquisition of Solite’s Lexington plant in 2004, remembered Solite having had the mold boxes at one time. “We made the 8x8x24’s about twenty or twenty-five years ago, thinking that the masons would pick up on them as a way to save on labor costs.” At that time, those blocks were given the name “labor savers.” But, they never quite caught on since they were larger and therefore heavier.
Meade, not one to throw away valuable mold pieces - a new mold box can cost up to $17,000 - was able to find the parts in storage and recreate the original mold. Once Pyramid knew the unit was available, they approached Kraemer Bros., the General Contractor for the project based in Plain, Wisconsin (Kraemer has built several Great Wolf Resort hotels and parks around the country), and secured permission to bid the 24” unit as an alternate. Pyramid secured the contract and subsequently ordered 87,350 of the 8x8x24’s, along with 64,223 of the more oft used 8x8x16’s. All in all, the project would consist of almost 200,000 8” equivalent units.
Both Mauney and Steele agreed that the project went well, and would consider using the unit again. They did not, however, on this particular project, realize as much of a cost savings as it typically seen by their office in Florida, due mainly to the fact that the architect had not designed the buildings for block work, but rather for the inside sheetrock dimensions. Thus, more cutting was required than normal in order to create the length of walls needed to satisfy the sheetrock, which slowed down production. “If the architect had designed the building for block work, and specifically for the size of these units, it would have helped our production” said Steele. The core pattern also gets interrupted with the necessary cuts required on this particular project due to the design.
Steele continued by mentioning, that had the design been different, he felt they would have seen a labor savings. “You do get 50% more square footage for every block laid” said Steele, so even though they’re a bit slower to lay, you’re covering more ground quicker, “and that should gain you a little bit. The guys in the field did not have any trouble laying them as there’s not much difference between them and what they’re more use to.” Further, he said that bidding the project with the 8x8x24 pricing points did help them secure the job upfront, and that they would “consider using it again on a similar type of project,” which could secure the same result.
Mauney echoed many of Steele’s sentiments, and went on to say that “we were very grateful and appreciative for Johnson’s willingness to tackle something different which gave us the opportunity to pursue something new as sometimes you don’t know how it will work out until you try.”
In addition to producing the 8x8x24 “labor saver” block, Johnson Concrete produces an 8x12x16 “Prodigy” block that also covers 50% more square feet than a standard block, thus reducing labor costs, mortar costs, and opportunities for water infiltration through mortar joints.