Case Study: Columbia University Aquatic Center

Challenge: Extremely tight completion schedule

The Columbia University Aquatic Center had suffered a malfunction in their pool filtration system, flooding the area and causing the pool’s concrete basin to lift up off its structural base. When the water subsided, the concrete basin resettled, but severe cracks had formed in the base slab. In addition, after filling the pool, the university realized that the shift in the tile base could potentially cause harm to pool occupants.

Scope of repair work

  • Demolish the current pool basin.
  • Install a new subsurface drainage system.
  • Pour a new structural slab.
  • Replace the structural deck.
  • Install a new waterproofing system.

  • Re-tile the entire pool and the perimeter drainage system.
  • Coordinate and secure materials, including a customized Columbia University Lion logo.
  • Install, test, and fill the pool..

The challenge was to complete the project in just 12 weeks as work could not begin until the last day of classes in May and the pool had to be open in time for swim season in early August.

Several large general contractor and construction management firms said it was impossible to complete the project in such a short timeframe. But Lou Serrante, at the time a partner and chief technical officer in another construction company, knew that it could be done—and that he could do it.

Solution: Multiple work shifts & inventive scaffolding

CLS believes that the construction process requires relatively simple mathematical logic, and that with the right amount of time and manpower, and an economical construction plan, any project can be achieved.

Lou convinced the university’s decision-makers that he could meet the tight 12-week turnaround, using simple stick figure drawings to explain his pool reconstruction action plan, which included:

  • Conduct multiple shifts (with the university’s approval for overtime work).
  • Design a scaffolding system that allowed work to be done above and below the pool surface simultaneously.
  • Keep all parties apprised of the overall construction plan, progress, and tasks requiring completion, using project management scheduling software and diagrammatic plans.

As with most construction projects, there were unforeseen conditions—specifically, our team did not originally plan to replace the structural deck in the original 12-week timeframe. However, as the need became clear, a plan was clearly defined and communicated, the additional work was performed with minimal impact.

Result: The pool opens on time

Lou’s years of experience and can-do training allowed him and his team to calmly and methodically manage the project to completion within the 12-week deadline. He jokes that he fulfilled his commitment to fill the pool on schedule, “even though the water was green and needed to be treated.”

Columbia University was impressed by Lou’s ability to overcome obstacles and finish the project on-time.

Little did he realize at the time that this project would define Lou as one of the premier pool contractors in the NYC area. He was subsequently hired for several pool restoration projects including the YMCA of Prospect Park and the YMCA of Jamaica (North Brooklyn).