Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence: Honda Manufacturing Plant A2

November 1, 2004
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Giffels Associates of Toronto in joint venture with BE&K Engineering Company of Birmingham, Alabama designed the "A2 Project" for Honda Manufacturing. The joint venture had also recently designed Honda's first plant in Alabama, adjacent to "A2" on...

Giffels Associates of Toronto in joint venture with BE&K Engineering Company of Birmingham, Alabama designed the “A2 Project” for Honda Manufacturing. The joint venture had also recently designed Honda’s first plant in Alabama, adjacent to “A2” on a 1,350-acre site in Lincoln, Alabama.

Traditionally, automotive plant projects have taken 24 to 36 months from the start of design to production of the first vehicle. The engineering and construction teams on the Honda A2 project had to reduce the delivery time for this plant. Design on the 1.2-million s.f. facility started in July 2002 and was substantially completed in 14 months, making an industry record.

Besides the designers, the project team included the Facilities and Process groups of Honda, and the construction manager.

To meet the aggressive schedule, the first plant constructed on the site was used as a model for the building, building systems and production processes. But while the overall design was modeled on Plant 1, each area of the plant was addressed individually to meet revised criteria and to incorporate lessons learned from the previous project. The team was to follow the Honda philosophy of “Reflection, Lessons Learned and Counter Measures.”

The project was a full plant design requiring all major disciplines: civil, structural, mechanical, electrical engineering, plus architecture. A key issue for Honda was that the project should meet the budget cost and schedule.

The design team, which peaked at over 80 people, in two offices 1,500 kilometres apart, was divided into two major groups: plant design and site services design. Giffels sent nine engineers to Alabama for six months, and together with BE&K, established a project office less than an hour’s drive from the plant site. Regular design meetings with Honda at the project office sped up the design process by eliminating lengthy review periods at key milestones. The average turnaround time for review issues was less than two days, compared to over five days on the previous project. In addition, drawings were posted on a project web site to eliminate the distribution of hard copies to different locations.

Design activities were carried out according to the Giffels Quality System, which was developed as part of Giffels’ registration for the ISO 9001-2000 quality standard.

The final design cost was 98.7% of the original budget, for the same scope of work. Schedule milestones were established and met, allowing the construction manager to assemble and issue tender packages in time to meet the overall schedule.


Honda decided that the entire assembly plant would be air-conditioned because of the high temperature and humidity experienced in Alabama during much of the year.

The plant’s HVAC design for mid-season humidity control is an example of innovation in the design. The normal practice of having each rooftop air handling unit provide a portion of the make-up air would, during spring and fall in particular, result in humid air being drawn into the building at night. On the following morning, there would be condensation in many areas causing uncomfortable and potentially unsafe conditions.

The innovation to avoid the problem was to use only five of the 20 air-handling units in strategic locations to provide all the make-up air, while the balance of the units run on 100% recirculation.

Exhaust fans near the ends of the building create a flow path that distributes the make-up air evenly and provides humidity control.

Another innnovation was to design a utility monitor above the plant to house some utility equipment and all the large-bore (>6″ diameter) piping. The strategy allowed for the major piping systems to be installed without interfering with the installation of equipment, conveyors, lights, etc. on the production floor below.

Community benefits

Honda’s philosophy in locating and constructing plants is to build a facility of minimum size that can accomplish the production objectives but have least possible impact on the community and neighbouring properties. The landscape design therefore included berms and natural forested areas so that only a small portion of the plant is visible from nearby.

The company located the plant in an economically underdeveloped area, east of Birmingham in the town of Lincoln. By the time the A2 plant reaches full production late in 2004, Honda will employ 4,300 associates at the Alabama site, all representing new jobs created since 1999. Spin-off businesses in auto parts have created additional work, and new small enterprises such as hotels and restaurants have been established. The State of Alabama has also improved road and highway infrastructure to service the new plants.


Project name: Honda Manufacturing of Alabama – A2 Project

Award-winning firm: Giffels Associates Limited, Toronto (Donald Ferguson, P.Eng., Daniel Crosthwaite, P.Eng., John DiGiuseppe, P.Eng., Lawrence Au, P.Eng., Mark Nosella, P.Eng., Raymond Krawchuk, Paul Williams, P.Eng.,Cilo Boglevsky, P.Eng., Gheorghe Vernescu, P.Eng., Michael Keast)

Owner: Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC

Other key players: BE&K Engineering Company (local joint venture design)

Suppliers: Haakon Industries (air-handling); Gorman-Rupp (pumps)


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