FCU’s Business is Booming
Miami Keeps Risin’ or FCU’s Business is Booming
Concrete contractor makes successful 700-foot vertical push with truck pump on prestigious Armani-appointed condo structure.
If you’re an avid golfer, the place to be is Augusta, Ga., or Pebble Beach, Calif. If you’re a surfer, The Pipeline in Oahu is your dream destination. If you pump high-rise structures for a living — and do it better than most — you definitely want to be in Miami where a couple dozen tower cranes are a common site and the skyline is the second fastest growing in the U.S., surpassed only by New York City. Not surprisingly, seasoned concrete contractor Florida Concrete Unlimited (FCU) is in the right place at the right time and is capitalizing on both its good location and its expertise. Currently wrapping up pumping for a 56-story ultra-luxury condo building, the Miami-based company recently showed why they’re the go-to source for this type of work, starting out with an impressive 14,000 yd. mat pour and bettering that by using truck pumps with detached booms to achieve vertical lifts of 700 feet. Who would expect anything less in the “Magic City?”
Starts at the Bottom
The real name for FCU’s project on Miami’s Sunny Isles Beach is The Residences by Armani/Casa, and that Armani name should serve notice that this is not just another in a seemingly unending series of impressive high rise construction projects. Need proof? Whoever purchases the 6,000 square foot, $15 million penthouse is rewarded with, among other perks, a trip to Italy to meet the building’s namesake, Giorgio Armani, himself. None of that, however, concerns Jason Goff, FCU’s president, who has had plenty on his plate since starting construction on this iconic structure.
“Our portion of the project started in back in January of 2017 with a massive foundation pour,” said Goff. “The mat was 14’ thick and heavily laden with some 2,000 tons of rebar. Utilizing three Schwing S61 SX truck-mounted concrete pumps and a pair of S46 SX models, we were able to put down better than 14,000 cubic yards of standard 8,000 p.s.i. concrete with an 8-inch slump in about 20 hours.”
Obviously, the logistics to make that feat happen were challenging. FCU’s concrete supplier, Supermix, had a fleet of about 100 trucks working two shifts feeding the pumps continuously until the pour wrapped up — some 20 hours after its start. The mat pour was scheduled on a weekend day to best deal with both Miami traffic and the availability of ready-mix trucks and personnel. However, the batch plant’s north Miami location— relatively close to the beaches — meant traffic still remained an issue at times. All told, some 1,500 truckloads of concrete were delivered. As impressive as that part of the project was, it only set the stage for what was to come.
Business Picks Up
Obviously, Goff and FCU are no strangers to this type of work, nor to concrete work in general. Started more than 44 years ago by Jim Goff, Jason’s father, the company’s growth steady through the mid ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s and, when the younger Goff joined the business, grew and has grown at a much faster pace.
“Today, we have about 300 employees, we operate out of two south Florida locations — Miami and Ft. Myers — and we own 45 concrete pumps ranging in size from 28m to 65m, all but three of which are Schwing pumps, in addition to Schwing SPB24, SPB27, SPB28, SPB35 and SPB37 placing booms,” he said. “Annually, we perform about $25 million in pumping and finishing contracts of all sizes. However, over the years, through a reputation for providing quality high-rise work with some of the biggest developers in the area, that part of the business has really taken off and comprises the majority of our work today.“
He added that, although his father technically retired several years ago, he still manages to stay involved with the business he created. “Dad and I talk almost every day and sit down monthly to look at the financials,” said the younger Goff. “I worked hard to earn his trust and am grateful that I have it.”
With the Armani/Casa foundation slab poured, the FCU team set their sights skyward. To best accommodate the structure’s roughly 25,000 sq. ft. surface area, Goff, after consulting with general contractor Coastal Construction, decided that a pair of custom-built Schwing S 41 SX truck-mounted concrete pumps — each powered by a 425hp 2020H-6 pump kit and featuring a detachable boom option — was the answer. Based on both the structure’s design and personal preference, Goff also chose Schwing’s self-climbing octagonal mast to support the boom, which, when mounted and fully extended, offers 37m of placing reach. Goff said that flying the Generation 2 placing booms up for mounting was also fast and easy — a by-product of its newly-reduced weight of less than 13,000 lbs.
“Because we do so much high-rise work, we felt that going with the detachable boom’s made the most sense,” he said. “Right now, even though we have probably 20 placing booms at work throughout south Florida, we also do a good deal of more traditional pumping work such as house pads, larger industrial slabs, and so on. The detach allows us to service both types of projects.”
It’s worth noting that on all of FCU’s high-rise projects, the company utilizes three placing boom managers and one operations manager to oversee them. Two of the three placing boom managers drive Schwing SPTO 4000 pump trucks outfitted with hose and fitting kits, tools, welders, fuel etc., as their company vehicle.
“If you are regularly pumping high and hard on multiple jobs as we are, you will likely encounter some pump-related issue,” said Goff. “With our approach, if the placing boom manager can’t solve the problem, he has an immediate answer: the backup pump that he is driving. He can simply switch the diversion valve over and plug in. It’s an effective solution — in the past, we’ve had a pump fail and the contractor literally didn’t even know it. That redundancy not only keeps production up it also enhances our reputation for dependability.”
When Good Gets Better
When considering the detach boom, Goff said their only real concern was whether or not the truck mounted 39m detachable boom pump could make that huge 700’ vertical push. They consulted with Schwing’s engineers who made some key modifications to the 2020H-6 pump kit including bringing the standard 9-inch cylinders down to 8-inches to increase the overall concrete pressure. The modifications were effective: FCU’s custom built pump kits plumbed on piston side can produce 1,827psi piston face pressure, and have a maximum output of 138 cu. yd./hr. at 28 strokes/minute. At the Armani/Casa project they were getting system pressures of 250 bar at 700 feet.
“That tells me we could have pumped even higher if it were needed — we were very impressed,” said Goff. “Each floor consisted of two core walls, four elevator shafts and a pair of stairwells. In addition, we also pumped columns measuring 2’x 5’ and 4’ 5” x 3’ as well as 2’ tall shear walls with thicknesses up to 3’ 6”. That represented about 550 yards of concrete for the vertical work and 750 yards in the flatwork. The booms were ideal for accessing every area of the job and it showed in production: we were getting rates of around 65 yards/hour on the upper floors and 80 yd./hr. on the lower floors. Even at the upper levels we were regularly completing a floor per week.”
At the highest elevations, the mix design on the Armani/Casa project was a 7500 psi mid-range mix, with an average 6-inch slump. To deal with Miami’s heat, and an economic environment in which ice is cost-prohibitive, Supermix used an ADVA 120 high-range water reducer. “We went all the way to the top without losing a single section of the 5” diameter pipe — we’re happy with that.”
Life at the Top
Even though The Residences by Armani/Casa will not be ready for occupancy for some time yet, FCU’s work on the project recently came to a completion with a topping off ceremony, hosted by the developers, a joint venture between Miami-based Dezer Development and The Related Group. According to Goff, from a personal perspective, this project was something of a test to see what could be done with a truck-mounted pump, and it passed the test with flying colors.
“There doesn’t seem to be any indication that a slowdown in high-rise development in this area will be happening anytime soon,” he said. “We are fortunate that we are the concrete contractor of choice for so many of the big names in development, but that puts even more pressure on us to continue to perform and meet their expectations. Having successfully completed a 700 ft. vertical push using truck pumps, we now have yet another option available to help us do that.”
Owners: Dezer Development and The Related Group, Miami, Fla.
General Contractor: Coastal Construction, Miami, Fla.
Pumping Contractor: Florida Concrete Unlimited, Miami, Fla.
Architect: Cesar Pelli
Equipment: Schwing S 46 SX and S 61 SX truck-mounted concrete pumps with placing booms; Schwing S 41 SX concrete pump with detachable boom.