On June 2, 2022, the Plantation Key Courthouse celebrated its official grand opening, providing the Florida Keys with a new, state-of-the-art courthouse, government facility, and detention center. This project, which started three years ago, not only survived some of the most significant circumstances the construction industry has ever experienced but was completed before schedule and within budget.
The official groundbreaking event of the Plantation Key Courthouse Project took place on October 18, 2019. Five months later, as the project’s foundations were being laid, Covid-19 was officially declared a global pandemic. Stay at home orders were issued worldwide, and the global commerce market was immediately hit with the most consequential shift in recent years.
At first, the pandemic effects on the economy could have been seen as a net benefit to the project. While Florida did not halt construction projects during the initial stay-at-home orders, many projects temporarily suspended construction or reduced their workforce. This increase in available labor due to other jobs slowing down resulted in the project having an excess of available labor. Another benefit was the fact that deliveries were consistently on schedule or ahead of time due to lack of demand.
New safety precautions and social distancing, while a challenge, were successfully managed. Biltmore Construction even took advantage of the situation, reducing schedule on the project by bringing on additional labor and ordering materials in advance. As a result of Biltmore Construction’s adaptability and external factors, the courthouse project continued with minimal issues. On October 23, 2020, The Plantation Key Courthouse project held its official topping-out ceremony ahead of schedule and continued to exceed expectations.
Throughout the next year, pandemic restrictions began to be relaxed globally, resulting in a surge in demand for both materials and labor. What was initially seen as a sign that things were improving and that conditions will be returning to normal quickly proved to not be the case. Subcontractors reported issues with managing the number of construction jobs that simultaneously resumed work and maintaining their existing workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the nonresidential construction industry has over 273,000 job openings by the end of 2021, a 30% increase from the year prior. This demand for labor has been felt across the economy as private sector wages have risen 6.9% in the last year.
Material prices have also surged while availability plummeted. Materials such as concrete that required minimal lead time suddenly needed significantly more time to reach construction sites. Managing the schedule required working backwards from material availability. The surge in demand and supply chains became increasingly unstable resulting in unprecedented spikes in costs.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, the producer’s price index, which tracks costs of new nonresidential construction, jumped over 24% from 2020 to 2021. Nearly every material cost saw a dramatic escalation in price. Steel mill products, gypsum products, lumber and plywood, and fuel saw double-digit percent increases.
The completed Plantation Key Courthouse Facility has witnessed firsthand the Covid-19 Pandemic and the resulting supply chain struggles and rising inflation. Effective management, proactive scheduling, and timing resulted in a successful project.
The now completed 48,240 square foot Courthouse and county facility will efficiently consolidate multiple judicial services into a single building. The new building houses the 16th Judicial Circuit of Florida, Monroe County Clerk of the Court, State Attorney’s Office, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and Monroe County Public Works. The facility also includes a new 57 bunk county detention center.