Wolgast Blog

How Self-Performed Trades Keep Construction Schedules on Track

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 @ 09:59 AM

cement-pour.jpgIn order to maintain a stellar reputation as a professional contractor, speed, quick problem solving and meeting deadlines are critical.  The biggest complaint and almost a disappointing anticipation in our industry is that a job will take longer than estimated.  We strive to disprove that assumption on each and every project.  Here’s one way that we do that.

After 65+ years in the business, we understand that our projects run smoother and more efficiently when we rely on setting the schedules and completing the work ourselves for three specific trades.  Having our own work crews to self-perform site work, concrete and carpentry is the best way to keep projects on track and with the quality that meets the standard of excellence we uphold.  Some general contractors don’t have their own self-performed trades and they’re reliant on outsourced contractors’ availability to provide all services.  In the summer and fall, when contractors’ schedules are typically full, subcontractors can be too busy to start site work, so the general contractor is dependent upon when the crew is available and the priority of their workload, which is also true for concrete and carpentry.  With these trades in-house, we know our schedule and what we have in our pipeline, which allows us to manage workloads and progress better for our customers.  Additionally, all our crews are trained “the Wolgast Way” and consistently perform to our standards in a timely manner, saving time and producing a quality product. 

When using Design/Build construction, site work can start before plans are even complete.  Having a site crew on staff helps us control the start of the project and gives us an advantage (sometimes by several months) over general contractors who have to be queued into a subcontractor’s lineup (out of their control).  A concrete crew is also critical to keeping a job moving.  Pouring slabs as soon as the site work is complete and having our crews scheduled in advance keeps us moving without costly stoppage.  Similarly, we self-perform carpentry (rough, finish and millwork).  Getting the framing erected on schedule and providing a reliable schedule for outsourced electricians, plumbers, HVAC, drywallers, then painters and flooring installers, etc. to get in and do their jobs when anticipated supports the rest of the trades to follow.  These are the essential trades to keeping a job on track and the reason why we shoulder the expense of having them on our team.  It’s more responsibility and risk to employ additional staff members when we could outsource the work, but the benefit of satisfied clients and expected outcomes outweighs costly delays and missed deadlines.

Currently, we’re expanding our carpentry team through our Carpenter Apprenticeship Program.  It’s a four year program with a curriculum developed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).  Through this program, we’re building a robust team of carpenters for the long-haul, which we expect to support us right through the current labor shortage.  Accordingly, we have our clients’ interest and needs first and we’re persistently planning on how to best accommodate their scheduling, quality, and economic needs when it comes to building their commercial or industrial building.

Tags: Scheduling, Design/Build, Professional General Contractor

Construction Broker Service Comes up Short in Professional Construction Services

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

worker-figuring-edt.jpgAs construction broker companies continue to pop up, they’re coming up short compared to a Design/ Build – General Construction (DB-GC) Firm in many important areas for project success.  DB-GCs provide much more control over the schedule and the budget on your project versus a construction services broker.

A DB-GC will typically have their own self-performed trades working on the project site.  Additionally, for us, a full-time, skilled, project supervisor will be onsite 100% of the time for the duration of a project.  Having these company representatives onsite helps set the pace of the work, keeps the jobsite and scheduling organized and as a result incites progress on the project which in turn controls the budget.  With a DB-GC, you’ll also be supported by administrative staff dedicated to keeping record of insurance, invoices, sworn statements, waivers, etc. which are easily tangled if not managed properly and in real time, causing issues with financing and liability.

Additionally, a brokerage company doesn’t have “skin in the game”.  They have very little committed, i.e. no office, no staff, no equipment, and typically no ties to the community.  It’s very easy for them to walk away if things don’t go well.  Some building owners may think that should result in lower fees because the broker doesn’t have the overhead, but they also don’t have much incentive to stick through complications or hold subs accountable to their contracts and warranty work if there’s an issue after the project is done.    

Across the industry, we’re facing a labor shortage.  A broker has to rely on finding an outside contractor for every single trade because they don’t self-perform any work nor have the staff to do so.  Going forward, this shortage could result in additional time to the schedule throughout the industry; however a DB-GC is able to self-perform several trades, so this will more likely help minimize the gaps the shortage could cause with the schedule.  For instance, a DB/GC can begin site work while the other skilled trades are scheduled in the meantime.  Additionally, as the project progresses, the DB-GC can start rough carpentry if other remaining subs are needed to be scheduled.  Again, this will result in better control over the budget and schedule. 

Finally, lower price is the possible competitive benefit a broker can offer, which can make them attractive in the beginning.  In other words, a broker needs to shop around to get the lowest priced services to be competitive in the market.  Therefore, to get to that price point, they may have to select lesser quality subcontractors, which means that the quality of the work may be poorer, the schedule delayed, and warranties difficult to honor within a timely manner.  Often times, brokers are not local to the area and are blindly seeking their outside contractors in a market about which they know very little.  They don’t have relationships or the knowledge of subcontractor work history, which is a risk a building owner faces for the future of their building quality and warranties.

The leverage that a broker has over a full team of outside contractors pales in comparison to a professional DB-GC to maintain quality, protect the building owner, and deliver a project on schedule.  Our industry is going to be facing difficult times until we’re able to beef up the training programs for skilled labor, but by having our own team of craftsmen and subcontractor relationships throughout Michigan and reaching further into the Great Lakes Region, we’re able to deliver the quality and reliable construction services for which we’ve come to be known.

Inquire Here

Tags: Design/Build, Good for Business, Professional General Contractor, Scheduling, the Wolgast Way

Why Winter Is the Best Time to Plan Your Construction Project

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 @ 02:20 PM

BidOther than taking time to prepare a plan when the weather is poor for construction (so you can be ready when the weather is conducive for construction) there are additional benefits to contact your design/builder or general contractor in the winter.  Let me clarify that the following explanation works best when applied in Michigan and other cold winter states.  

Better Bids

It’s now January and we have at least 3 – 4 months before the weather is ideal for new construction.  So, suffice it to say, there’s typically less construction happening in the winter resulting in more supply and less demand.  Therefore, if you can get your design completed and solicit sub-contractor bids at this time, there will likely be more flexibility to get a competitive price from a larger selection of sub-contracting companies.  Right now, the pool of sub-contractors is larger because they’re only starting to fill their schedules for spring and summer.  More bidders means more competition and competitive pricing.  As we get closer to spring, schedules fill up and the result is either fewer bidders or bidders who aren’t as motivated because they already have a decent work load or they are busy and don’t have time to offer their best price.  The same holds true, typically, with materials and suppliers.

As we discussed in our blog “Ample Time Gets Better Bids”, when a sub-contractor has sufficient time to run their numbers, they provide an accurate and uninflated budget.  Otherwise, if they don’t have adequate time, then they’re more likely to round up, or inflate their price.  This isn’t to penalize the customer, but to make sure that they cover their costs to perform the service, and with inadequate time it sometimes is an educated guess. Therefore, allowing more time will likely result in a more accurate price that will affect your bottom line.

We would advise that getting bids when the pool is large will result in getting the best value for your budget because the cream of the crop will fill their schedules quickly and may not be available or motivated to bid competitively during the heat of construction season.

Design Time

Depending on the size of your building, design can take four months or more to be finalized.  The complexity or jurisdiction that it’s in can make it longer to get through approvals, not to mention if there are revisions made to the plans.  We know it’s daunting to sign off on something that a business owner has to live with for the next 25 to 50 years.  Owners should keep the design duration in mind while also allowing for sufficient time for bidding as we mentioned above.

If you must start your planning in the spring or summer, we will still seek out the best value, just as we do in the winter.  However, we have now shared with you that your budget will likely be lower if you do your planning in the winter when the pool is bigger and there is more time for estimating.  Now is the time to take advantage of cost saving measures and we will have you ready to break ground when the weather turns.

Inquire Here

Tags: Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Financing Construction, Design, Good for Business

How to Complete Construction Months Faster

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 @ 02:11 PM

By Cory Sursely

Months Header

As I go through the benefits of Design/Build in a campaign to inform more business owners about their options, it’s important to discuss the time savings that result from this process.  We stress the importance of time because we know that the faster construction is completed, the faster you can start generating income in your new space.  And Wolgast is your biggest advocate when it comes to speed.

However, let me note that for retail and restaurant chain owners that have simple layouts and a construction staff to repeatedly manage their work, General Construction is likely almost as fast for their projects because there is reliable historical pricing data, design is usually simple, and their internal construction managers know what to expect on each project.  Therefore, the bidding and selection process is much shorter in duration.

For those of you who are building for the first time (or the first time in a while) and don’t have a construction team on your staff, you’d benefit most from Design/Build with its time savings and all-inclusive nature.  With Design/Build, busy doctors or business owners can remain focused on their business while the Design/Builder handles their whole project from design through construction.  If you qualify as a busy business owner, you’d likely benefit from a Design/Builder finding the subcontractors, managing the construction schedule and your budget, and starting construction quicker.

The Design/Build method of construction results in a finished building faster because with the architect and contractor on the same team estimating can start, permits and materials can be ordered, equipment can mobilize and sometimes even site work can begin before the architect has the plans finalized.  Alternatively, General Construction requires time for bidding after the design is complete, so none of the above activities can start until the bids are in and a contractor is selected--these activies can take a month or more to complete.  With Design/Build, we will be ready to break ground once you sign-off on the design, which can save you months of construction time and get you working in your new space quicker.

What could you do with a couple months head start? 

Interested in learning more?  Contact Michael Shepard at 800-WOLGAST (965-4278).

 

Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should

Tags: Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling

The Benefit of Design/Build Phase I Drawings

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Oct 06, 2014 @ 09:29 AM

plans and rolled plansPreliminary plans, such as those provided in a Phase I of the Design/Build process, are the most efficient and economical means to determine the budget for your construction project.

While there has been a shift in the numbers1, there are still many business owners out there who are skeptical of the Design/Build method of construction.  They are more familiar with the traditional Design/Bid/Build method where they hire an architect, then have general contractors competitively bid the project, and the contractor with the best price/value builds the project. 

Early on, when we’re discussing the benefits of Design/Build with those who are skeptical, they have a difficult time accepting that they need to pay the nominal fee for the preliminary drawings (Phase I Design) so we can estimate the construction budget.  Those who are accepting of it realize that they would be paying that and more at an independent architecture firm. 

In the Design/Build process, the Phase I fee is nominal to cover the team’s time to complete a needs analysis, make necessary regulatory investigations, create a preliminary design and seek bidding resources for a preliminary budget.  Having a pretty accurate, yet ball park, estimate early in the process helps an owner obtain funding earlier.  The information gained during the Phase I is accurate and sufficient to take to a bank to secure financing.  Clients never get a separate bill for the Phase I cost unless the project doesn’t come to fruition, then the fees are billed to cover the team’s time at a fraction of the cost of a full set of plans.  Furthermore, if obstacles arise while a customer is planning to build a building that cause them to change their mind, it’s less risky to commit to a portion of the cost of the design while working through the initial process.

Additionally, having the flexibility to “tweak” the preliminary design so it fits within your budget is much more economical because you don’t have the engineering elements involved, yet.  Those get explicitly defined in the Phase II drawings.

When you add a Design/Builder to your team before you purchase property, they can assess the property and available utilities to provide the best use of space.  Also, prior to purchase, a Design/Build team can help coach an owner on contingencies in the purchase agreement as a buffer or a “get out of jail free card” if there are undesirable obstacles to using the property the way intended.

Those are the main benefits to committing to Phase I Drawings, but the Design/Build process has other benefits like completing construction faster, fewer change orders, open communication, and one entity having all the low bids.  Read more about the benefits of this method at in our White Paper, "Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should".

 

Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should

 

1 According to “Design-Build Project Delivery Market Share and Market Size Report” by Reed Construction Data and RS Means Intelligence, Design/Build construction delivery method has taken an additional 9% of the construction market since 2005 and General Construction has lost 10% of the market share in that same time.

Tags: Medical Office Construction, Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Financing Construction, Design, Dental Office Construction, Good for Business

All-Inclusive Vacation in Construction Land

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 @ 08:00 AM
All InclusiveERecently, while I was on my first all-inclusive vacation in the Caribbean, I realized how much more relaxing and enjoyable it was to know up front what the costs would be and all the activities that were available as part of the resort’s package.  I didn’t have to spend my time making separate plans for a hotel, meals, transportation, or entertainment because the package covered it all.  With all that was included, I had more than enough options to create an affordable and enjoyable vacation without the hassle of budgeting for my next meal or entertainment and I felt that I was getting way more for my travel budget.

That’s when I noticed the similarities of all-inclusive vacations to our design/build method of construction.  This method includes both the architect and construction of an owner’s building in one package.  While change orders from client requests/changes or unforeseen regulatory issues do happen, a design/builder is more likely to flush out all the typical change order obstacles before they start construction.  They can do this because the design department continually collaborates with the construction department (which is convenient since they are on the same team) to provide value engineering and constructability reviews during design and pre-construction phases. 

Another perk for owners is the single-source of responsibility that the design/builder assumes.  For example, if there’s ever a discrepancy or challenges when translating the design to construction activity, the design/builder is the only responsible party and they are contracted to fix it as part of their all-inclusive package.  There are no delays while investigating whether it was an architect issue or a contractor issue and who is responsible for it, as happens more often in a design/bid/build scenario.  While we are systemized to not have these issues, the customer is protected should anything out of the ordinary happen.  Much like the excellent customer service I got at the all-inclusive resort.

As a building owner, you may wonder what’s included in a phased design/build approach to construction.  Here’s what is included in our service: preliminary drawings and conceptual cost range to take to your lender, building code/zoning review, site engineering, final construction plans including M/E/P, permits, bidding, scheduling, material ordering, construction services, schedule and budget reviews, progress meetings, clean-up, project close-out, Certificate of Occupancy and one-year warranty.

As a design/builder, we aim to make all your building needs a success by providing the extra planning up front, so that we don’t go beyond your established budget or schedule.  For more information on the benefits and how the all-inclusive elements of Design/Build make life easier for busy business owners, download our white paper “Why Some Business Owners Don’t Do Design/Build, but Should”.

 

Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should

Tags: Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Good for Business

What is the Design/Build Method of Construction?

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 @ 11:17 AM

Design/BuildWe've been providing Design/Build services for almost 40 years and we're curious if it's a well known term among those who haven’t previously been involved with the construction of a commercial building.  Have you heard the term before?  In a nutshell, it’s a method of construction delivery in which the building owner executes a single contract with one entity to provide architectural/engineering and construction services.

In other words, a building owner hires one company to interpret and define the project scope, provide architectural design, bid the project, obtain permits, and then construct it.  The Design/Builder handles the entire project on the owner’s behalf per open communication and agreed upon contractual parameters.

This method uses the same qualified and licensed architects that a building owner would use in other construction delivery methods and provides the same caliber of design.  However, with the architect and contractor as one entity, there is frequent collaboration on the constructability and the budget during the design phase, which helps the project run smoothly or with very few surprises during the construction phase.  Fewer surprises equals a budget and schedule that you can rely on throughout the project.

This team collaboration during design allows for permitting, material ordering, and when needed demolition or site work to start earlier than with the traditional General Construction method (a.k.a. Design-Bid-Build).  That’s why it’s considered the fast track to construction, which means the project can be completed, months faster than with General Construction.

Design/Build is best suited for busy business owners including doctors, dentists, manufacturing, banks, and other businesses who don’t have their own construction department on staff, or who may not be familiar with commercial construction.  The Design/Builder becomes the construction department for these busy firms and the advocate for all things construction.

Hopefully this blog has clarified how the Design/Build method can help business owners efficiently build or renovate their office or plant, if not, here is the perfect opportunity to ask your questions.  Or for more information on the benefits and how Design/Build saves time and money, download our white paper “Why Some Business Owners Don’t Do Design/Build, but Should”.

 

Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should

Tags: Medical Office Construction, Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Dental Office Construction, Good for Business, Risk Management, Manufacturing Construction

Three Common Misconceptions about Design/Build Construction

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, May 07, 2014 @ 10:37 AM

Design BuildCompanies that regularly open new locations probably have a lot of experience with construction.  They benefit from having established drawings to help design the next store and a familiarity with contractors, and, therefore, are a good fit for General Construction services to complete their buildings.  On the other hand, business owners who are unfamiliar with construction and don’t have relationships with professional contractors would benefit more from having a Design/Builder on their team.  This is because Design/Build perks include faster completion, a single-source to contact for all project needs, and the ability to judge which subcontractors offer the best value for their project.

Even though we can recognize that the Design/Build method would match the needs of some clients better than General Construction, there’s sometimes resistance due to the following misconceptions:

1)       Less competition will drive the price up – since there is only one entity controlling the project, there will be less competition.  We could argue that Design/Build is the ultimate method to get the best/lowest price for construction services because the Design/Builder seeks more bids and gets better bid coverage from a larger field of subcontractors than a General Contractor would.  This is partially due to the time available from a Design/Build stand point versus General Construction.  Plans and portions of plans are shared earlier in a Design/Build scenario, so there’s more time to get better bid coverage and, therefore, the Design/Builder will have all of the prices, including a culmination of the lowest ones.  Bidding on a General Construction project typically narrows the bid time and, so the GC only gets bids from a select few subcontractors and it’s unlikely one GC will have gotten all the lowest numbers. 

 

2)      The cost for Phase I Design is an extra expense that I don’t have to pay in General Construction – this isn’t entirely true.  When a business owner hires an architect, they pay for the plans to be created in entirety, so the General Contractor can then take them to bid and determine the price to build.  Phase I of the Design/Build method establishes preliminary drawings for a nominal fee with enough information to get a preliminary budget, so a business owner can take the information to the bank for financing.  While the budget is not exact, it’s in the ballpark.  The Phase I price is only included as a line item at the end of the project, it isn’t something that an owner will have to pay upfront—unless they don’t go through with the project.  Should that happen, then the owner is invoiced for the nominal fee to cover the expense of the architectural services and bidding operational expenses.  Typically, a Design/Builder’s architectural fees are less than an outside Architect because it’s a part of the service and not a profit center in and of itself.

 

3)      It’s risky to put all of your eggs in one basket – checks and balances are always good to have, especially when making a large investment such as a commercial or manufacturing building.  Design/Builders have the same checks and balances internally, plus open communication to identify challenges earlier, and a contract to deliver the building to the owner the way that they expect, in the time expected, and for the price expected.  Having a reputable, single-source provider for both design and construction saves the business owner the hassle of coordinating construction activities or getting questions answered quickly as the Design/Builder becomes the advocate for the business owner to oversee the proper construction of their building (the way it was contracted to be). 

 

As you can see, Design/Build has many benefits to offer busy business owners or those who are inexperienced in construction.  Wolgast’s Design/Build team, including staff Architect-Rick Keith, has professionally managed projects for business owners throughout the state of Michigan.  In these projects, we’ve designed beautiful buildings, accurately provided a budgetary number, created the documentation to take to the bank, gotten comprehensive bid coverage from qualified subcontractors, constructed the building, completed the punch list, concluded project close outs, maintained a one-year warranty and checked in at the 1st birthday of the building for many of the happiest clients you could imagine.  After all, it’s our reputation that’s at stake and we don’t ever take that lightly.

 

Find out more about the advantages of Design/Build over Design/Bid/Build in our White Paper: Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should.  Click on the image below to download.

 Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should

Tags: Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Design, Good for Business

Construction Tips for Auto Dealerships

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 @ 04:04 PM

Auto Service CenterCurrently, many Michigan auto dealers are feeling varying degrees of pressure from auto manufacturers to modernize their stores, some of which have never been renovated since they were originally built 50 years ago.  While remodeling can be an expensive investment in your business, there are several benefits that go along with the improvements.

We want to share with dealers what they can expect and tips about their reimage:

  1. You can stay open during most or all of construction activity.  We understand that service is the key to your success whether that is your sales team meeting with customers or your service team working on cars.  Through phases of construction and flexibility, you’ll be able to maintain business (almost) as usual.  We discuss this further in our blog, ”Staying Open During Construction”. 
  2. You’ll have to work closely with corporate and their architect to create a design that matches their requirements.  Our architect, Rick Keith, is highly experienced in deciphering the brand requirements and creating a design to keep costs low for the owner.
  3. You can look forward to your service area being spruced up with nicer service drive lanes and service write up areas in a separate, quieter environment.  This change will provide a more relaxed atmosphere for customers.
  4. Many reimage programs can be costly, but the good news is that the construction costs can be depreciated for federal income tax purposes.  You may want to consult with your tax advisor on ways to maximize the depreciation including a cost segregation study.
  5. Being under construction draws attention to your business and you’ll likely attract customers into your dealership just to see the changes once construction is complete

As more information becomes available about manufacturer’s programs, Wolgast will be right there with you (as we have done for all our automotive dealer clients) to determine what's needed to get the job done right, economically and swiftly.  Please call us if you have questions or when you’re ready to start your reimage, 800-965-4278 (800-WOLGAST).

Tags: Design/Build, Scheduling, Auto Dealers

Ample Estimating Time Can Lower Price of Construction

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 @ 10:41 AM

Another Money Saving Tip for Construction Clients

TimeObviously, planning a construction project doesn’t happen overnight.  In most cases, the client has a set occupancy date when construction has to be completed either to satisfy a contract they have acquired or to meet their seasonal market (to name two).  During that construction project time frame, planning through completed project, there are five main activities that need to take place, which include design, cost estimating, obtaining regulatory approval, acquiring materials and construction. 

Because design is so important to get right before a shovel ever touches the dirt, it can sometimes take a little longer than expected with multiple revisions for some clients.  On the other end construction has to start by a certain date, so field operations will push to have materials ordered and permits in hand quickly, otherwise the building won’t be ready for that set occupancy date.  So what gets “crunched” in the middle?  The cost estimating, or in other words, the part that affects your pocketbook the most.

In any given industry, all business men or women are looking to cover their costs and make a certain profit.  Similarly, contractors in the construction industry are certainly trying to cover their costs and have high hopes that they may make a profit on any given project, therefore, when they aren’t given enough time to estimate the cost of materials and labor, they tend to round up to make sure that they at least cover their costs involved.  The guesswork created by this time crunch can make the price of the project inflated.  Alternatively, when subcontractors have enough time to determine the exact cost of materials needed and plan for the manpower it will take to cover the work, they’re able to feel more comfortable estimating exactly what their cost and profit will be and are then able to provide a more accurate, un-inflated price.  All subcontractors prefer to bid when there is adequate time to provide a safer, more satisfactory and competitive bid for all parties involved.

Estimating is a process with many steps.  Once the design is established (or in the case of Design/Build-- mostly established), the general contractor issues the plans to three or more subcontractors to request their bids on each trade.  The trades then in turn estimate the amount of material needed and make contact with their vendors and suppliers for the current cost of materials. Then the vendors need time to estimate their costs and provide a hard number to their subcontractor.  The subcontractor also looks at the plans to estimate the staff and hours needed to do their portion of the work.  Simultaneously, the subcontractor is most likely pricing several jobs at one time while trying to manage their work load.

Therefore, factoring in all the different trades involved in any given building project, allowing more time for bidding/estimating process to secure those hard, accurate numbers, a building owner can possibly save themselves tens-of-thousands of dollars.  So, it’s in every potential or current building owner’s best interest to start planning their construction projects early and prevent the time crunch during estimating.

Tags: Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Good for Business, Risk Management