Mills Group Uses Cloud Collaboration to Reimagine Wheeling, WV


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Image courtesy of Mills Group

Cloud collaboration keeps massive sports complex project on time in West Virginia

West Virginia-based design firm, Mills Group, knew the 180,000 square foot sports complex will be an innovative undertaking. The massive complex required a diverse team of expert consultants, making the need for efficient collaboration and communication more critical than ever. Mills Group turned to BIM 360 Design for cloud collaboration to help meet project deadlines, and ultimately, expand the boutique firm's portfolio and service offerings.

An ambitious addition to Wheeling, WV

The Ohio County Development Authority (OCDA) Sports Complex, located within “The Highlands,” is an ambitious project to the Wheeling, WV, and surrounding tristate region, one that will require an equally ambitious plan to implement. The 180,000 sq. ft multiuse complex would house volleyball and basketball courts, soccer and football fields, climbing walls, an adventure course, an arcade, a fitness training area, and food service.

Image courtesy of Mills Group

It’s a big project — one set to bring more business and foot traffic to The Highlands and Wheeling region. Mills Group, with offices in Morgantown and Wheeling, WV and performing work throughout the state , partnered with Moody Nolan of Columbus, Ohio, to meet the challenge.

Led by Mills Group principal architect Victor Greco, the complexity and scale of the project will require the coordination of a diverse group of consultants—particularly ones with expertise in recreational sports complex projects. And since The Highlands is primarily a tax increment financed project, Mills Group needed to remain on budget and within deadlines to ensure all stakeholders were satisfied.

This is where cloud-based BIM 360 Design helped streamline communication and collaboration between distinct teams and enabled Mills Group to deliver a successful project.

Serving the local community — and the developer

As a tax incremental financing (TIF) project, the sports complex will be an integral addition to the OCDA and Wheeling community. It was therefore critical Mills Group and team maintained local buy-in throughout the design and construction phases. To keep stakeholders and the community engaged, Mills Group hosted a series of public presentations throughout the sports complex planning—providing transparency on progress.

Image courtesy of Mills Group

The massive complex and 15-acre site sits adjacent to the Mill Group master planned Highlands Town Center. This provided the architectural design context.

"We had to make sure the building had a presence so it could be seen," says Ryan Hess, principal at Mills Group. "It needed to be both visible and visitable, as the goal of this development was to bring hundreds of people to participate in tournaments — and then, of course, stay at the hotels, eat at the restaurants, and so on."

Improving communication through collaboration

The size of the sports complex project required Mills Group to assemble a strategic team of partners from different states, including Columbus, Ohio based Moody Nolan, and other expert consultants from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, covering energy and sustainability, sports complex buildings, plumbing, electrical, and engineering.

Using BIM 360 Design, a cloud collaboration platform that facilitates project workflows and filesharing, helped the firms securely streamline communication and collaboration around a single model. This approach kept the sports complex project moving forward, helping overcome any location-based challenges as Mills Group, Moody Nolan, and partners are in different states.

"We were constantly sharing models back and forth, relinquishing assets, and collaborating on the same project," Hess says. "The project went beyond simply fitting the building onsite and packaging it, as we had additional consultants on the team, so we needed to articulate a lot of technical information across different disciplines."

Facilitating a culture shift

The close collaboration between Mills Group and Moody Nolan had an unexpected result: a blending of cultures. This collaboration helped the firms assimilate to one another. "We were able to see Moody Nolan's best practices from its Columbus office, and they were able to see ours," Hess says. "This put us culturally on the same team."

Image courtesy of Mills Group

Breaking down silos led to greater transparency and knowledge-sharing, resulting in more efficient collaboration while using BIM 360 Design. Teams were able to understand one another's processes and preferred ways of working, ultimately maximizing the partnership.

"The way we collaborate means we can work from anywhere. It doesn't really matter where we are located doing our work; the ability to collaborate allows us to group more architects around the same table."

Empowering a boutique firm to do anything

The Mills Group's success with the sports complex and surrounding Highlands development underscores their ability to tackle a project of any size and scope with the right partners, tools, and strategy.

"This project helped us really appreciate and understand special consultants and firms that only do, for example, energy, sports and rec, or business planning," Hess says. "Our role as the architect goes beyond pulling together floor plans, elevations, and design details. It's about leading a team and being the face of it to the client and the public."

Mills Group, and principal architect, Victor Greco, took on a true leadership role for this project. From managing a group of external teams to liaising with the Wheeling community, The Highlands is a testament to the firm's dedication to mission-driven design projects. So much so, in fact, this work won Mills Group another large-scale community redevelopment project in nearby Morgantown, WV.

"We won a commission for an ice arena here in Morgantown," Hess says. "It renovates the existing building and expands another sheet of ice with public components. As part of this project, we'll work with a business plan consultant that specializes in ice arenas."

Looking to the future

The Highlands project is running on schedule — something Mills Group attributes, in part, to cloud-based collaboration.

BIM 360 Design helped Mills Group overcome location challenges, securely share models, increase productivity, and build stronger relationships with partner firms.

What's more, The Highlands has opened new doors for the West Virginia firm by expanding their portfolio and service offerings.

Image courtesy of Mills Group