Location: Waikoloa, HI
Third Phase Begins: 2014
Owner: Hilton Grand Vacations
Project Manager: Rider Levett Bucknall
Sometimes paradise comes naturally, and sometimes it has to be carved out of the environment—even a seemingly hellish one. The latter has been the case on the Big Island of Hawaii, where Hilton Grand Vacations is developing the new phases of its Kings’ Land Grand Vacations Club on raw lava beds near Waikoloa Beach.
When completed, the resort will feature 802 timeshare units along with all the amenities and luxuries one would expect of an island paradise. And, making sure the project comes together as planned—over the lava’s cracks and crevices—is Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), a global construction-cost and project-management firm.
“Working on lava is basically like working on the surface of the moon.” RLB associate principal Brian Lowder says. “The upper layers of a’a lava are anything but stable. Some of it is very porous, and some is jagged and you can hardly walk on it.”
Building on top of the a’a lava requires a process called “probe and grout,” in which holes are drilled to identify voids that are then filled with concrete. Beneath the a’a is basalt lava, which is extremely hard and brings its own special complications. “We’ve had to embed all the foundations into the basalt, and we had to use rock hammers to make trenches for the utility lines,” Lowder says. “It was like chipping at concrete.”
Going into the project, RLB already had a strong relationship with Hilton Grand Vacations, one it had been developing since 2003. “Based on the success of our earlier projects for Hilton Grand Vacations, we were hired for the Kings’ Land project,” RLB senior vice president Kevin Mitchell says. “We began planning with them in 2005, and physical work began in 2006.”
A major part of the physical work was preparing the site. “The resort is being built on six parcels of land, and all of the parcels are raw lava fields,” Lowder says. “We had to determine how much raw lava would have to be knocked down and processed.”
PHASE 1, completed in June 2010, features 10 three-story buildings with a total of 198 one-, two-, and three-bedroom timeshare units. Each unit has all the conveniences of home, with separate living and dining areas, fully equipped kitchens, washers and dryers, flat-screen HDTVs, enhanced entertainment sound systems, and high-speed wireless Internet. Suites are elegantly decorated with king-size beds or double beds and sofa sleepers, and master bedrooms have private lanais.
The Village Center, also part of Phase 1, has an open-air check-in and gathering area, a fitness center, a children’s activity center, an open-air Kings’ Bistro serving locally inspired cuisine, a deli café, and a convenience store. The pool and recreation area is set among lava rocks and picturesque waterfalls and features plunge pools, whirlpool spas, waterslides, interactive water attractions, and a sports pool with volleyball and basketball equipment.
In preparation for future development, Phase 1 construction encompassed infrastructure work for the entire development, including 2.5 miles of water lines, two miles of sewer lines, 38 miles of conduit piping, and 800 miles of electrical lines.
PHASE 2 was recently completed and added 97 one- and two-bedroom units in two additional three-story buildings. Noise between guest rooms has been mitigated thanks to specially engineered interior drywall ceiling panels that workers hung from vibration isolation springs. “The system stops the floor-to-ceiling noise that can be transferred from room to room, [which] is one of the biggest complaints that people have about hotels,” Lowder says.
“The master plan calls for six phases, with each phase developed one at a time,” Mitchell says. “We are currently in the feasibility stage for the third phase. We are looking at options for the location and scope of the phase. The challenges on the third phase will be similar to the first two, including bringing utilities into the site.” A major concern for the Kings’ Land project, much like other construction projects in Hawaii, is access to materials and labor, so precise scheduling is a top priority. “Everything is manufactured off the island, and absolutely everything needs to be brought in,” Mitchell says. “We have to make sure materials are procured on time so that they arrive on time for installation.”
For example, the timeshare units’ impact-resistant lanai doors were made on the US East Coast, and manufacturing plus shipping resulted in a 30-week timeline. “That’s why it’s so important to do a lot of preplanning,” Lowder says. Additionally, many items are shipped to Oahu and then must be loaded onto barges for transport to specific piers. “That adds to the schedule,” Lowder says, “and it also creates additional opportunities for damage due to more handling.”
Future construction will adhere to the same stringent worksite guidelines that were in place for Phase 1 and especially Phase 2, when workers were building adjacent to the operating resort. The guidelines include dust and silt fences that must be at least eight feet high, watering down of the site several times a day to reduce airborne dust, traffic control, and noise reduction—all of it meant to minimize disruption of the guest experience.
“We couldn’t do anything involving heavy noise before 9 a.m., and that’s three hours after most of these guys like to get started,” Lowder says, adding that this was especially critical during site preparation, when heavy equipment was needed to break up the lava surface and subsurface for foundations and utilities. “After that, [it] had very minimal impact on the rest of the operations.”
PHASE 3 construction is expected to begin sometime in 2014, Mitchell says, adding that Hilton Grand Vacations is still finalizing its site options. The worksite and resort are accessed from the same roadway, so work crews will likely continue to gather each workday at an off-site office location before they’re shuttled to the job. And, any dirt tracked onto the roadway will still be cleaned up every day—a final measure of discretion to protect current guests’ sense of Kings’ Land as an untouched Eden.