Furniture and Architectural Wall Installations for Blue Cross Blue Shield

The move from its former Fenway Park neighborhood to become the anchor tenant at 101 Huntington Avenue in Boston afforded Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) both a strategic reduction in real estate costs and a critical update of the work environment.

For Colonial Systems, it was a prized opportunity to demonstrate what we mean by Redefining Possible: It’s the idea that greater Boston does indeed have an interior specialties contractor with the project management expertise, skilled manpower, and logistical capabilities required to perform large-scale office furniture and architectural wall installations on time and within budget.

Larry Healey, Director of Real Estate and Planning, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts:

“As is with most projects today, our move-in time frame was tight. Colonial was able to work in a complex installation, meet our expectations and ensure a successful project and relocation for nearly 1,000 associates. They were a true partner.”

Workspace and Product Overview

BCBSMA’s relocation to 101 Huntington was a strategic move with many advantages. The company negotiated a new lease, took up residence in a high-profile neighborhood, and reduced its real estate footprint by 60,000 square feet, saving $2 million annually, according to a report in the Boston Business Journal. New furniture standards were established to help create the streamlined, contemporary look and feel for the corporate headquarters that is expected to enhance BCBSMA’s attractiveness in the labor market. Employees and visitors alike enjoy access to convenient public transportation. (101 Huntington is practically atop the Prudential stop on the Green Line of the MBTA subway system.)

The new headquarters furnishing plan is extensive and varied:

  • The 900 workstations in the open-plan areas feature panels, adjustable-height desks, credenzas and matching peds and wardrobes from Herman Miller, and chairs and monitor arms from Humanscale. Each credenza is topped with a custom cushion covered in a fabric from Herman Miller that perfectly matches the blue in the BCBSMA logo. Approximately 2,000 Humanscale task chairs were also involved in the project.
  • Contemporary movable wall systems can be seen on all 14 floors of the new headquarters: a total of 12,249 linear feet of DIRTT unitized walls (combination of solid walls and glass walls) and doors.
  • DIRTT millwork was used in the construction of six hydration stations that were integral to the employee break and refreshment centers.
  • The ancillary furnishings for all 14 floors include conference and training room furniture, café tables and chairs, collaboration centers, treadmill workstations, file banks, sofas, armchairs, occasional tables, wall clocks, mail sorters and more. The wide assortment of brands used in the project included Andreu World America, B&B Italia, Bernhardt, Cherner, Datesweiser, David Edward, Davis, Fritz Hansen, Halcon, HBF, High Tower Access, Humanscale, Knoll Studio, Martin Brattrud, Stylex, Tuohy and Wall Goldfinger.

Key Project Organizations

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA), the end-user organization, is a not-for-profit health plan with 3,600 employees. BCBSMA, the state’s largest health insurer, serves 2.8 million customers including more than 29,400 businesses and 75% of the cities and towns in Massachusetts, according to a corporate fact sheet. The company was founded on Milk Street in Boston in 1937.

The Boston firm Elkus Manfredi Architects provided the architecture and design services.

The general contractor for the project was Structure Tone, a full-service construction services provider operating in the US and abroad.

Creative Office Pavilion (COP) and W.B. Mason were our client dealers for the BCBSMA project. Colonial performed receiving, delivery and installation under two contracts with COP and one contract with W.B. Mason.

  • Working with COP’s Furniture Division, Colonial installed workstations, accessories and other workspace furniture on 13 of the facility’s 14 floors. Under a separate contract with COP’s Architectural Wall Division, we installed DIRTT demountable wall systems across 14 floors and the millwork used to create six hydration stations that were features of the refreshment centers strategically spotted throughout the new headquarters.
  • Our work for W.B. Mason consisted of the installation of Halcon case goods, custom height-adjustable table desks and other freestanding furniture specified for the 20th floor executive spaces and a wide variety of seating (including 2,000 Humanscale task chairs) and ancillary furnishings throughout the facility.

Project Phases

The tempo of Colonial’s work for BCBSMA was basically dictated by four aggressively tight schedules, each one reflecting a combination of location and product types. The pace for the 14-floor project was very fast.

The project phasing was geared to a division of the building by floors as defined by the building management. The build-out and outfitting of Premise A, the lower 8 floors consisting of floors 6 through 13, constituted the first phase of the project. Premise B, the upper 6 floors consisting of floors 15 through 20, constituted the second phase.

Our objective in support of the phasing was to accomplish the following:

Premise A:
Wall installation, August–September 2014
Furniture installation, September 2014

Premise B:
Wall installation, December 2014–March 2015
Furniture installation, January–February 2015

We completed all four parts on schedule as a result of detailed work breakdowns and manpower planning, rigorous project management, and individual and team commitment to our client dealers and BCBSMA.

Site Conditions

Project management fundamentals—anticipation, coordination, schedule control and constant communication—were key to Colonial’s ability to keep the phases moving along on schedule. They were especially critical during periods when wall and furniture installations were being done concurrently.

Working in “the beehive.” With build-out construction occurring on all 14 floors of the BCBSMA workplace, it was a given that Colonial’s project manager and installation foremen would have to constantly communicate and coordinate with the GC’s superintendent, the building management and the other trades on matters of scheduling dock and elevator time and sharing the working spaces. Colonial installers found themselves working around other trades more often than not.

Small Dock Area, Tight Access. 101 Huntington shares an underground parking garage with 111 Huntington. The garage entrance/exit ramp is the only means to and from the freight dock for each building, with the docks situated on opposite sides of the same garage level. Trucks delivering to either building are in near-constant competition for maneuvering room with other trucks as well as the vehicles of building occupants and visitors. It’s typical to have to stop and wait while other vehicles maneuver, and wait times can be long.

Having finally arrived at the 101 Huntington dock, Colonial’s truck would back into whichever one of three small bays might be available. Maneuvering room on the dock itself is extremely limited and there are no holding areas. To limit the impact of these conditions on our timing and productivity, Colonial assigned night crews to handle the deliveries and unloads. All deliveries, regardless of the time of day, had to be carefully coordinated with the building management.

Limited vertical push. Colonial was limited to using one of the building’s two small (4’ x 6’) freight elevators. The small elevator size made it impossible to float the movable wall and millwork products on carts and dollies for transport between the dock and the building’s upper floors. All DIRTT product had to be manually loaded into the elevator and manually unloaded from the elevator at the destination floor. Colonial’s workaround for these unavoidable slowdowns was to assign a separate night crew to perform delivery, unload and staging.


Products came in from many different places and all of it was received at the Colonial project warehouse. Our receiving team and project manager had to be exceptionally disciplined and detail-oriented in order to ensure the accuracy of receiving documentation and effective pre-delivery staging. Some shipments, especially ones from foreign origins, were exceedingly difficult to manage due to packing lists that were either sketchy or simply not provided as part of the shipments.

The benefits of maintaining a separate warehouse to handle receiving and short-term storage for large projects were once again demonstrated in the BCBSMA project. It would have been difficult indeed to manage the nearly constant movement of products into and out of holding patterns without this dedicated facility.

Colonial Systems Project Team

Ray Theberge, vice president of Colonial Systems, served as the account manager and senior project manager. Travis Cormier assisted with various aspects of project management. Our foreman for DIRTT products (millwork and movable walls) was Patrick CurranJeff Ferstler was our foreman for furniture installations during the first phase of the job (Premise A). Jason Theroux took over as the furniture foreman for the second phase (Premise B).