Gateway at Millbrae Station: Project Profile

What are the vital statistics of the project? (Project type, size, location, stage of design or construction, project team, etc.)

Gateway at Millbrae Station is a transportation-oriented, mixed-use development spanning almost nine acres in Millbrae, California. Adjacent to Millbrae’s popular, heavily trafficked public transportation hub, the project opened in April 2023. It includes approximately 950,000 sq.ft. of retail, restaurant and office space, a Residence Inn® by Marriott, both affordable and market rate apartment housing, outdoor plazas, paseos, dog parks, and parking.

Offering access to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), CalTrain, SamTrans and other public transit offerings, Gateway at Millbrae Station was built as a joint venture between Blach Construction/Cahill Contractors. Key partners include Republic Urban Properties (developer), the CORE Companies (developer), Bay Area Rapid Transit (landowner), the City of Millbrae (stakeholder), Studio T Square, Form4 Architecture, LPMD Architecture, HMH Engineers (civil), and several others.

What were the main software applications used for this project, and how were they used?

Building Information Modeling

Building Information Modeling (BIM) played a crucial role in the design and construction phases of the project. It enabled the project team to create and manage digital representations of the building, facilitating communication and collaboration between stakeholders. Several critical applications were used to create 3D models of the structure and MEP systems, ensuring efficient coordination and accurate field quality.

During the construction process, Revit enabled the team to verify design intent, identify and resolve hundreds of skin façade conflicts and coordinate MEP systems for the office building. It allowed for the creation of detailed 3D models, facilitated real-time collaboration and communication with the building's design team and overall, ensured that the building was constructed according to the design specifications.

Additionally, Navisworks and Tekla were instrumental in creating 3D models of all structural and MEP systems, respectively. The resulting models allowed project teams, structural and MEP trade partners to simulate construction and proactively address any issues before the actual building phase. By ensuring proper system fit and accurate coordination, these programs contributed to efficient construction and field quality. Notably, the structural models created in Navisworks facilitated prefabrication of components and minimized rework in the field. Ultimately, the use of these tools resulted in efficient project completion according to design specifications.

Laser Scanning Software

Laser scanning software, including FARO Scene, ReCap, RealWorks and AutoCAD, was utilized to provide accurate as-built documentation of building elements, particularly the podium concrete slabs. Pre-pour data was collected for rebar/post-tensioned cable layout verification, MEP penetration coordination, structural embed layout, and post-pour analysis for floor flatness. As several buildings of the Gateway at Millbrae Station project employed prefabricated structural systems with tight tolerances, it was imperative that laser scanning was used for ongoing QA/QC and to analyze the plumbness of the prefabricated structural wall panel system.

Project Documentation

Project documentation software allowed for real-time communication and enhanced collaboration between project teams. Each platform provided a centralized place for documentation and accurate reporting, promoting transparency and efficiency amidst Gateway at Millbrae Station’s complexity.

Considering the magnitude of the project, spanning a nine-acre lot with five structures simultaneously under construction, it became imperative for all stakeholders to access the most up-to-date construction documents. PlanGrid and Bluebeam were essential for managing the many project documents and drawings, consolidating them in a single, centralized, cloud-based platform. Used to track progress, manage changes, and improve communication among all project stakeholders, these tools allowed for real-time collaboration, facilitating efficient decision-making and reducing the risk of errors or outdated information. As a result, the entire team stayed organized and on track.

Extracker was used to effectively manage change orders and other construction-related documentation. This robust tool enabled the team to track and handle change orders in real-time, ensuring thorough documentation and streamlined approval processes. As a centralized platform for all change orders, Extracker eliminated the reliance on individual team member’s inboxes, mitigating the potential risk of lost or overlooked change orders. The program enhanced communication between all trade partners by offering a transparent space for up-to-date cost-related items.

CMiC was used for project accounting, allowing the joint venture team to collaborate as well as analyze project data and reporting. By using this application, in conjunction with Extracker, the team was able to streamline workflow and ensure broad access to the same cost information needed to maintain project budgets, spending and commitments.

Project Management

Given the complexity and the level of sophistication required of the Gateway at Millbrae Station, Primavera 6 (P6) was employed as the project management scheduling tool. P6 allowed for concurrent project scheduling and resource management. It enabled the project team to effectively manage intricate complexities, identify issues and risks early, while providing them access to detailed schedule analytics and reporting. Additionally, P6 served as a central platform for tracking budget and safety goals, ensuring project milestones were met with precision and efficiency.

Even with a sophisticated scheduling software system, it was also beneficial to use a more basic yet effective approach to scheduling: pull planning. It was important to get scheduling feedback from many of the trade partners to be utilized as valuable data in the P6 schedule.

File Storage and Sharing

The Blach Construction/Cahill Contractors joint venture required a shared file storage system that could seamlessly integrate with the different workflows and internal systems of both companies. Microsoft SharePoint was selected as the ideal platform for this purpose. Offering a secure, centralized location for all project-related documents, drawings, and files SharePoint enabled the team to successfully streamline workflows, minimize errors and duplication in efforts, increase communication and provide stakeholders with access to up-to-date project information. SharePoint’s seamless cloud collaboration and enhanced project documentation, file storage and organization efficiencies not only met the project’s requirements, it resulted in cost savings with zero compromise to functionality and security. SharePoint proved to be a critical component in the overall success of the Gateway at Millbrae Station project.

Multivista was used for capturing, managing, and sharing visual documentation of the construction process at the Gateway at Millbrae Station. Using drones to create 3D walkthroughs, progress photos and videos and aerial footage, Multivista provided visual representations of the project that helped the team track progress, identify potential issues, and showcase the project to potential tenants. This was particularly important for construction on the skin systems where multiple stakeholders wanted to review and provide feedback on the design and construction progress.

Finally, as much of the construction persisted despite the pandemic, the team used QR codes for daily digital sign-in and personnel management. This ensured that workers were checked-in, accounted for and healthy. This subsequently enabled the team to quickly identify and handle potential exposures in accordance with COVID-related health and safety protocol.

Overall, the use of these software applications allowed the project team to work more efficiently, collaborate more productively and manage the project more successfully. The Gateway at Millbrae Station project is a great example of how technology can effectively improve construction processes and outcomes.

Did the project have a specific approach or methodology for the application of AEC technology?

Yes, a comprehensive approach was used for the application of AEC technology throughout the design and construction of Gateway at Millbrae Station. The project team recognized the importance of technology in achieving project success and implemented a range of software applications to streamline communication, collaboration, and quality control, ultimately helping to manage the project's complexity and sophistication. Overall, this approach was critical to achieving project success and ensuring that all stakeholders had access to the most up-to-date project information.

Would you consider this project to be an example of the cutting-edge use of technology? If so, how and why?

Certainly! The Gateway at Millbrae Station project showcased a complementary mix of cutting-edge technology and techniques to maximize quality, accuracy, and efficiency throughout the construction process.

  • Laser scanning enabled precise 3D models, ensuring accurate construction and reducing the possibility for errors.
  • Total station survey allowed the project team to capture accurate measurements and data on the site, which was crucial for the installation of the unitized glazing system. In doing so, the project team was able to ensure the precise placement of the unitized panels, improving quality and reducing installation time.
  • A highly efficient, unitized glazing system was quicker to install than traditional methods, offering construction schedule and cost savings and high levels of energy efficiency, while still achieving the desired design intent.
  • An automated parking system was employed in the parking structure of the residential / retail building. This enabled the team to maximize real estate for usable building space and increased the amount of parking available to building occupants and visitors.
  • Notable use of construction innovation came in the form of a non-combustible, pre-engineered light-gauge metal frame system used on the hotel and housing structures. This digital design-build technology facilitated design, engineering, manufacturing and installation, resulting in significant schedule, safety, and overall construction efficiency gains.

Overall, the implementation of advanced technology and innovative techniques on Gateway at Millbrae Station clearly demonstrate Blach’s forward-thinking approach to construction and how such new methods can be leveraged to deliver quality construction projects seamlessly and successfully.

What are some of the main challenges you faced in your implementation of AEC technology on this project?

One of the main challenges encountered during the implementation of AEC technology on the Gateway at Millbrae Station project was the coordination of different software systems used by stakeholders involved in the joint venture between Blach Construction and Cahill Contractors.  With each company having its own operational workflows and internal systems, ensuring seamless integration was a priority. To address this challenge, a dedicated file storage system specific to the project was implemented, requiring training and a learning curve for successful adoption. Despite these initial obstacles, the team's investment in the new system proved invaluable, saving significant time throughout the project's life cycle.

Additionally, laser scanning was strategically scheduled in the evening after the crews had left the site. This approach aimed to minimize disruptions to their workday and prevent any potential delays in activities and the overall schedule. By carefully planning the laser scanning sessions, the project team effectively balanced the need for accurate data capture with the efficient progress of construction activities.

Were there any requirements on this project that were not addressed by currently available technologies?

Gateway at Millbrae Station had a unique set of requirements that posed a challenge for AEC technology implementation. One of the primary obstacles was the need for an all-encompassing software package that could seamlessly handle design, construction, and other project aspects. Although some solutions are attempting to fulfill this need, none of the existing options fully met our requirements. As a result, the team used a combination of various software packages to overcome this limitation. While this fragmented approach did present some compatibility issues, the teams was able to successfully streamline workflows, increase efficiency and improve project outcomes.

As technology continues to advance, we anticipate the emergence of more comprehensive solutions that can address various gaps presented in project requirements. Particularly with respect to the inspection process, there is significant opportunity to simplify and standardize current procedures. With the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the construction space, we envision a future where AI-powered systems can play a pivotal role in addressing gaps created by current and future solutions. Advanced AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and provide real-time insights, which could very well revolutionize the construction space. By leveraging technological advancements, we hope to see enhanced simplicity, transparency, and navigability in the inspection process, ultimately contributing to improved project efficiency and outcomes.

Any additional information/observations/insights on the use of AEC technology for this project that you would like to share?

One notable observation regarding the use of AEC technology for the Gateway at Millbrae Station project is the significant impact it had on the construction schedule. By leveraging advanced tools such as laser scanning, total station survey, and BIM software, the project team was able to identify and resolve design and construction conflicts at earlier stages. This early detection led to a substantial reduction in rework and change orders, resulting in a highly efficient and streamlined construction process. Moreover, the integration of technology fostered improved communication and collaboration among team members, enhancing their ability to work cohesively towards project goals. Our successful implementation of AEC technology underscores its pivotal role in driving Gateway at Millbrae project success and highlights the importance of embracing construction technology adoption for continued advancement.

Furthermore, as we continue to embrace AEC technology, we recognize the potential for automation to revolutionize our processes, liberating our valuable time to focus on what we excel at: building structures and solving complex challenges. All told, technology is empowering. It enables efficiencies that can potentially result in expedited project delivery, as well as cost and schedule savings. As technology evolves, we expect to see even more advancements that will empower us to optimize our workflows, conquer increasingly intricate challenges, and deliver greater value to our clients.


Many thanks to Rebecca Ellecamp of Studio PR for facilitating this profile.

About the Authors

James Woodbury is Vice President at Blach Construction. With more than 20 years in the construction industry, James has developed a solid reputation for sourcing and implementing leading-edge construction techniques and solutions that deliver increased value to his projects and clients. He joined Blach in 2012 and leads the firm’s mixed-use and workplace project portfolio. Prior to joining Blach, James worked at Devcon Construction, where he played an instrumental role in several complex projects. He holds a B.S. in architectural engineering and a minor in construction management from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Pablo Azcona, E.I.T, is Senior Project Engineer, Blach Construction. Pablo joined Blach in 2019 and was quickly promoted into his current role. Specializing in large-scale projects, most recently the Gateway at Millbrae Station, he is highly proficient in multiple BIM programs and is adept at leveraging technological solutions that facilitate the construction process. Pablo holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Trent Zane is Virtual Design & Construction Manager, Blach Construction. Trent oversees firmwide Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) efforts in an effort to support constructability, coordination, sequencing, prefabrication and sustainability. With fluency in all leading modelling and laser scanning tools such as Revit, AutoCAD and FARO Scene, he is an invaluable resource dedicated to ensuring the quality construction for which Blach is known. Trent holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Santa Clara University.


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