From outfitting a century-old medical research building with modern systems to restoring the grandeur of severely deteriorated historic structures, winners of the 2023 BC&E Craftsmanship Awards channeled their expertise, creativity and dedication to produce outstanding results.
As the teams from Windsor Electric Company and Southern Mechanical Inc. began preparing to execute a three-year, MEP upgrade at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, craftsmen knew the project would include extraordinary challenges. Built in 1923, expanded 11 times and renovated repeatedly, the medical research facility wasn’t designed to readily accommodate a complete, modern array of MEP equipment.
“It was a very difficult building to work in,” said Louis Westermeyer, Vice President of Windsor Electric. “Logistically, trying to get equipment in, trying to run feeders from the basement to the penthouse was complex and time consuming.”
Windsor Electric’s superintendent did a masterful job of plotting the installation of 2.5 miles of new conduit throughout the building, Westermeyer said.
“You would try to plan out feeder routing from A to B but get halfway there and realize there’s a wall that wasn’t on the drawings or a massive amount of old equipment that was never demo-ed out and you would have to find an alternate route,” he said. “For our crew, there was a lot of working through little shafts and coming up in closets. There were a lot of junction points and pull points to get conduit from one spot to another because there was not a clear-shot route anywhere in that building.”
The installation of two new substations in the basement produced another major challenge. The building’s freight elevator couldn’t handle the new transformers and switchgear, so the project team investigated the possibility of bringing the equipment in through an exterior areaway, which was about 10 feet below grade.
Collaboration with the equipment manufacturer and rigging subcontractor concluded that it was a feasible access point. However, team members had to selectively disassemble the transformers and demolish walls and ceilings along the basement corridor. The crane operator would also have to lower the equipment into the areaway with just 1.25 inches of clearance.
Meanwhile, the Southern Mechanical team was navigating its own logistical challenges within the building as it installed seven custom air handling units, four return air handlers, 20-plus exhaust fans, two natural gas generators, new building controls, and a complex array of mechanical and plumbing systems. The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company involved Southern Mechanical in the design phase of the project to address design concerns, feasibility questions and project scheduling.
“There was a lot of jockeying around spaces to be able to fit new equipment in,” said Graham Erbe, Project Manager/Estimator at Southern Mechanical. “The coordination of pipe work in the penthouses was really technical. If you were to walk into that space and look up, it would take you a week to figure out what everything is doing.”
In its Craftsmanship Award nomination, Whiting-Turner called Southern Mechanical “an artist of their trade in installing piping among the existing cobweb of piping and equipment.”
The project team’s biggest accomplishment, however, “was keeping the occupants of the building unaware of our massive undertaking,” Erbe said. “It was an intense, highly invasive project and they were not inconvenienced in the slightest.”
Gatherings of 15 to 20 planners from different contractors and building occupants happened multiple times a week to meticulously plan outages months in advance. That effort to safeguard the work of medical research laboratories would have been needed at any time but was especially critical on this project. As crews advanced the MEP project during the height of the pandemic, scientists in the building researched the Covid-19 virus and possible vaccines.
Other Craftsmanship Award winners applied their expertise and ingenuity to restoring damaged historical structures.
Working up to 145 feet above the ground, the team from Worcester Eisenbrandt, Inc. completed a stunning restoration of the Maryland State House dome. The structure’s windows, louvers and balustrade had experienced serious deterioration due to age and a failed, recent paint job that allowed water to seep into the wooden pieces. Inferior wood used on a previous restoration had also caused some balusters to deteriorate more rapidly.
“The things in the worst shape were the large, oval windows on the second level of the dome,” said Peter Gambardella, a Project Manager with Worcester Eisenbrandt. “They were in such rough shape that when we removed all the paint and the glass, the frames fell apart into a bunch of little pieces. Some were as small as one inch.”
To complete the renovation, Worcester Eisenbrandt craftsmen had to completely dismantle the balustrade and all of the dome’s windows, including eight-foot-wide ovals and 12-foot-tall, double-hung archtops. In the woodshop, craftsmen reglued loose joinery, made dutchman repairs and replicated select pieces from reclaimed, old growth pine.
The repairs, however, were further complicated by a decision to use an uncommon, Swedish, linseed paint system on the project. The paint was designed to last 50 years, but the manufacturer had limited data on the paint’s compatibility with common repair materials, such as epoxy.
“Tests we did found the linseed oil didn’t adhere to epoxy as well as we hoped,” Gambardella said.
Consequently, craftsmen had to not only avoid any use of epoxy on the project but also remove all previous epoxy repairs and replace them with wood.
At the M&T Bank Pavilion in Baltimore, Worchester Eisenbrandt craftsmen reversed 150 years of decay through 4,000 hours of expert restoration.
The building’s main architectural features had experienced extensive plaster decay. Some elements had completely disintegrated while others had become so unsightly that they had been hidden behind false walls. And one area needing the most repair was a barrel ceiling 60 feet above the floor. Ultimately, the team was left with very little “workable canvas” from which to recreate the opulent space.
Worcester Eisenbrandt erected a dance floor encompassing almost the entire building, installed new substrate to support historic plaster and recreated the missing design elements.
“We had to fabricate casts and running molds, especially for the wainscot beneath the window,” said Raymundo “Sonny” Lechoco, Project Manager. “There were probably 50 feet of wainscot plaster that were thoroughly rotted away and had to be 100 percent demolished. It was also the most ornate thing in the room. We made five or six types of running molds and six or seven silicone casting molds to replicate it.”
At the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., Worcester Eisenbrandt restored more than 250 historic, stain-grade mahogany doors and door frames. Although the restored doors would have to accommodate modern (as well as historic) hardware, the team took great care to match historic details, profiles and finishes, and perfectly restore historic casings, trims, large panel surrounds and transom windows.
At St. John’s College, craftsmen working on the Whiting-Turner project team delivered “a modern, yet faithful reimagining of the timeless millwork” that lined the lobby and Conversation Room and defined the college’s historic character.
Meanwhile, other award-winning craftsmen created modern spaces for their clients.
At 100 Light Street, craftsmen working on the Plano-Coudon Construction project team created a landscape around the high rise building that was both aesthetically pleasing and highly functional. Craftsmen created a floating slab in the plaza and installed wave benches that backed onto raised planters. The arrangement both gave office workers an outdoor retreat and corrected a stormwater management problem onsite.
At the Oregon Grille, craftsmen working on the Harvey Construction team created a modern, luxurious dining experience inside a century-old building. Lighting specialists completed custom installations to create the right ambiance while protecting a historic, wooden slat ceiling. Woodworkers created a custom bar front, shelving, cabinetry, seating and molding, and exactly matched the edges of the wood pieces to the irregular stone surfaces of the walls.
At Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, craftsmen on a Whiting-Turner project team completed a daunting mechanical upgrade. To replace the existing glycol ice water system with a conventional chilled water system, workers had to remove two centrifugal chillers, ice bays, pumps and 310 linear feet of mechanical piping then install replacement piping, pumps and two 350-ton chillers. Careful planning and prefabrication enabled the team to complete the renovation of an advanced scientific campus without ever triggering an unplanned outage.
In the end, it was a “big, tough, hairy project” that was executed brilliantly.
The CFG Bank Arena project team was tasked with completing a gut renovation in just 11.5 months and with zero flexibility on the completion date.
“People had their doubts about the schedule, but we made it clear from day one that this project was going to finish on time,” said Justin Maher, Construction Executive with Clark Construction. “We always stayed positive. Don’t ever get down on a job because it spreads like a virus.”
Project leaders conducted extensive and ongoing communications with everyone from company executives to foremen and craftspeople to ensure everyone remained committed to the schedule and stayed on top of an exhaustive list of micro goals.
The team also put contracts, purchases and work in motion far earlier than usual.
“When we started the job, we had about 60 percent design documents which made it very challenging for our team and our trade partners to get coordination going and get all the materials released,” Maher said. “We did early procurement GMP [guaranteed maximum price] for the mechanical and electrical equipment. That was done almost in conjunction with the notice to proceed and before boots were on the ground.”
The accelerated schedule meant that Clark Construction had to successfully procure subcontracting services when some documents were just 30 percent complete and continue onboarding new subcontractors well into the project, said Theo Tan, Project Executive at Clark. “We didn’t get fully done with the process until maybe two-thirds of the way through our contract schedule.”
But the subcontractors and craftspeople brought onto the CFG Bank Arena project worked wonders. In total, they earned four, individual Craftsmanship Awards.
Craftsmen from JCM Associates, Inc. executed a massive upgrade of the arena’s mechanical systems. That included installing custom, modular and roof-mounted air handling units, and upgrading the heating and chilled water plant with new supply pumps, expansion tanks, air separators, steam stations, and piping. As part of the sweeping renovation of plumbing systems for the arena’s restrooms, kitchens, bars and concessions, they added a three-pump booster package to ensure the plumbing could withstand a maximum capacity event and verified that capability through a “super flush procedure.”
The most challenging aspect of the mechanical package was the installation of two modular, double-stacked, 23-foot-high, air handling units inside arena. Using a crane that was set inside the arena bowl, the crew sequentially lifted hundreds of pieces and several tons of hardware up to the fifth floor and assembled the massive system.
Craftspeople from Freestate Electric Baltimore overhauled the building’s power generation, distribution and switch gear, as well as its fire safety systems and installed a massive array of specialty lighting fixtures and controls. To complete the work on schedule, Freestate had as many as 235 people working onsite daily, spread across all floors and electrical closets.
While completing the framing, drywall and acoustic panels package, the Commercial Interiors crew delivered an extraordinarily complex and prominent drywall feature in the arena. The project design called for a Tectum-lined partition – roughly 86 feet long and 100 feet tall – that would flank the sides of the stage and cover those 23-foot high, air handling units. Working off boom lifts and scaffolding, the crew erected the partition up to the roof then made meticulous cuts to create a tight seal around complex, geometric shapes.
The need for dramatic structural improvements required Berlin Steel’s craftspeople to complete slab infills, a terrace extension, stadia openings and the installation of a new platform-end truss system.
“Essentially what they did was stick build a new truss up in the ceiling joist system which was a phenomenal task,” Maher said. “They hoisted up one piece of truss at a time and these were ginormous truss sections. They rigged every piece of steel member up there, piece by piece, bolt by bolt, and fabricated it in place. Then they had to do a load transfer from an old ceiling truss to the new one. It was done brilliantly.”
In addition to the known challenges of the arena project, team members had to rapidly adapt too and correct a string of unhappy surprises. While working on the 90-foot-high ceiling above the arena bowl, crews discovered asbestos in the old acoustical cloud system. The project team erected a 40,000-square-foot dance floor to complete the remediation and kept the project on schedule.
Towards the end of the project, elevators, which workers had relied on to move material, broke down “so we lost our means of vertical transportation during a hectic portion of the fitout,” Maher said. “We were maxing out at almost $1 million of work per day in that space which meant moving a lot of equipment and hauling a lot of trash. We had to pivot pretty quickly to keep progress high in the building.”
The team rapidly found a very large forklift, a MagniLift, that they could place in the arena bowl and reach floors two to five.
“That lift was a microcosm of the job,” Tan said. “We had surprise after surprise in a very short period and the ability to think on your feet and be flexible was needed every moment of that project.”
The team’s approach to the arena project, however, fostered an extraordinary level of commitment among team members.
“We had a lot of young team members who had reasons to not want to stick it out all the way to the end on a big, tough, hairy project like this,” Tan said. “But they did. Every single team member stuck it out all the way to the end, filled with belief the entire way and just gutted it out. There is not a single person who was on that project who didn’t come out on the other end a better leader, a better builder, a better engineer.”
With project specifications that included 522 tons of structural steel, $5 million of prefabricated equipment, installation of a 30-ton overhead crane and a construction site surrounded by active rail on three sides, the Riverside Heavy Maintenance Building project left no room for error.
Safe operations on such a demanding industrial project hinged on several things, including close coordination with CSX and MARC. In conjunction with the two rail companies, Clark Construction developed a logistics plan to completely separate construction operations from rail operations onsite, said Chuck Martin, Project Executive at Clark Construction. The team created barriers, gates and access points, educated all subcontractors on the site’s restrictions and required all workers who would conduct any work outside the project compound, to complete training and earn their CSX Right of Way Training Badge.
To ensure that all crane picks were completed safely, “we installed swing limit flags and barriers so that crane operators knew they couldn’t swing past certain areas so if there was any type of crane failure, the boom wouldn’t land on active tracks,” Martin said.
The team also had to compensate for a unique site problem.
“A lot of that site was built on top of brick and rubble from the Great Fire of Baltimore so we had a lot of undocumented fill,” Martin said. “There was no guarantee that 10 feet down, there wasn’t a big void where they backfilled with other material. That could create a catastrophe. If you have a crane doing a heavy pick, you want to understand the pressure points and the bearing capacity. So, we lowered the ground-bearing pressure to less than 2,000 pounds per square foot, a low value, to increase our margin of safety. We went over normal requirements by running crawler cranes on top of the existing asphalt, with12-inch crane mats everywhere the crane traveled and made heavy picks of structural steel.”
The project, which also won three individual Craftsmanship Awards, required craftsmen to handle heavy industrial requirements and machinery with precision.
The Kinsley Steel team spent 10,000 hours prefabricating materials and another 7,000 hours erecting the steel, 36 precast concrete wall panels and 14 double-pitched trusses in order to meet the design’s extremely tight tolerances.
Clark Concrete and Sissco Material Handling conducted extraordinary and highly technical collaboration to ensure the concrete work would perfectly support the installation of several massive pieces of prefabricated equipment. Sissco oversaw the acquisition and installation of equipment including the 30-ton/10-ton double gantry overhead crane, a 10-ton overhead crane, a 100-ton capacity drop table and a 44,000-pound wheel truing machine.
Members of the Clark team visited the manufacturers’ sites to learn more about the equipment, check measurements firsthand and witness the manufacturer acceptance testing of the completed pieces.
To accommodate that equipment and the rail cars coming into the facility, Riverside’s shop floor had to be constructed precisely. The floor would include an embedded rail line for MARC trains,recesses of nearly 2,000 linear feet in the 24-inch structural slab, and 1,500 cast-in-place anchor bolts. Accuracy of rail pockets and anchor bolts was critical for fit and alignment with the pit equipment, including the drop table and wheel truing machine. To ensure highly accurate concrete dimensions and to suggest changes to improve constructability, Clark personnel made a 3D model of the concrete design.
“We completed the concrete early and our inhouse tech team did a point cloud scan of the structure to create a model of the actual concrete with dimensions,” Martin said. “We provided that construction model to the manufacturers so they could do clash detection by comparing it with the 3D model of their equipment… Luckily, the concrete work was so good that there were very few areas that were even close to being an issue.”
The process identified a single problem – an area of concrete that was 3/8 of an inch beyond tolerance. Clark Concrete did a saw cut to fix the issue, well ahead of the equipment’s arrival. Since equipment installation had to happen late in the project after the building was weather-tight and fully powered, that proactive fix averted what would have been a two- to three-week delay at a critical point in a tight schedule.
From experts in high, irregular glazing projects to riggers typically assigned to large entertainment venues, the National Aquarium Upland Tropical Rain Forest Exhibit project required uncommon breeds of craftsmen.
The project team from Plano-Coudon Construction had been tasked with replacing all the windows in the aquarium’s glass pyramid as well as the bird wire mesh inside the pyramid, which kept birds and animals inside the exhibit.
“There are not many subcontractors in the country qualified to do this kind of work,” said Cliff Milstead, Vice President at Plano-Coudon.
However, Plano-Coudon contracted Super Sky Products Enterprises for the glass replacement and The Crew Works for the bird wire replacement “and they did a really great job figuring out some challenging logistics,” Milstead said.
Craftspeople from both companies won individual Craftsmanship Awards for their work on the aquarium.
To replace the pyramid’s glazing — as well as its flashings, pressure plates, covers, operable windows, tie-off assemblies, screens and ice guards — the team would have to position a crane at the end of the aquarium pier.
“A big challenge was confirming that the size of the crane we needed would fit there and that we would have enough area for setup, deliveries and still be able to reach all three sides of the pyramid,” Milstead said. “We also had to make sure we weren’t overloading the pier so we brought in a structural engineer to review the loading.”
The team decided to use a 400-ton crane, a 75-ton crane and two 185-foot boom lifts for the glazing work. Glaziers, who were comfortable working at high elevations, were selected for the project and faced difficult working conditions, including the physical strain of working on a 45-degree sloped surface, the need to suspend operations in even minor winds, and the intense heat (often over 100 degrees) and glaring sunlight reflected off the glass structure.
Crew members were concerned that the old panes could separate as they were removed and expose both rooftop workers and rainforest animals to broken glass. So, they carefully clamped each piece together before lifting it out of its frame.
When workers discovered the old framing was not sufficiently straight, they also developed a method to modify existing clips to hold the new rail system for the replacement glass. Then to ensure that each window would fit before hoisting it up the pyramid, craftspeople field measured each of the 684 pieces of replacement glass.
Despite all those challenges, the glazing work progressed smoothly. Only a single pane of glass was broken in the process.
Inside the pyramid, the project faced a different challenge. Craftspeople had to remove the old bird wire system and install all new bird wire, replace the misting system, and install new lighting. The need to preserve existing rain forest plantings, however, would prevent the workers from using scaffolding or swing stages.
Expert riggers and certified climbers from The Crew Works, which specializes in theatre and concert productions, devised a plan for climbers to use an ingenious pulley system to remove and install equipment. They meticulously sequenced each operation and even crafted a scale model of the pyramid and the rigging system from LEGO and K’NEX pieces in order to demonstrate, test and revise the operation.
The plan enabled craftspeople to successfully install more than 15,000 square feet of wire mesh while suspended over 70 feet in the air. They used 70,000 hog rings to connect the rolls of bird wire and secured the wire to the existing structure using 4,000 stainless steel straps.
The plan also enabled the team to meet project requirements that no gap in the mesh exceed one inch and that it prove strong enough to withstand encounters with animals, such as several large sloths that eagerly climbed up onto the mesh as soon as they were placed back in the rain forest exhibit.
“This was a project with some unusual challenges but we like challenging projects,” Milstead said. “Sometimes, they keep us up at night but it’s really interesting to figure out the solutions.”
For days after the Craftsmanship Awards, Gunnar Grimm kept talking about the winning projects. An HVAC student at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center (CCCTC) and a 2023 Future Craftsman & Design Award winner, Grimm was impressed by the scope, complexity and variety of the projects, and he kept telling his classmates about them.
“Seeing those multi-million-dollar projects, the kinds of things that craftsmen were involved in and the huge air handlers for commercial projects, that’s what impressed him the most,” said Kent Shamer, HVAC Instructor at CCCTC.
Those real world displays of work done by HVAC technicians, electricians, masons, carpenters and other trades people can have profound impact on tech school students, Shamer said. High school schedules don’t often leave much time to show students how the things they are learning in class and the workshop relate to big, impressive construction projects. Consequently, students don’t always realize that their classwork could lead to exciting career options.
Events, such as the Craftsmanship Awards or field trips to construction companies or project sites, can reveal those opportunities and inspire students to seriously pursue a construction career, Shamer said.
“Kids don’t realize what they are training for until they see it,” he said. “Once they start to see how the things they’re learning in class are being used in the outside world, they start to connect the dots better. When that happens, I notice more of them paying a lot more attention to the coursework and their skills increase exponentially because they see the potential for careers they are interested in. They start to believe they can do those things.”
Consequently, Shamer and others were delighted to see students from CCCTC sweep the Future Craftsman & Design Awards this year.
Grimm, an A student in the CCCTC HVAC program, works part time at a landscaping company, is a SkillsUSA team member, volunteers as a camp counsellor and competes in varsity lacrosse and wrestling. He plans to get a job or internship in HVAC after graduation and eventually open his own company.
In a letter of recommendation for the Future Craftsmen Award, Shamer said Grimm “has a great work ethic…and has also demonstrated to be an outstanding leader in his abilities and accomplishments.”
Ethan Ebberts, a student in CCCTC’s electrical construction program, is also a SkillsUSA team member, a volunteer camp counselor and an active Boy Scout. Eager to pursue a career in electrical construction, Ebberts has arranged a summer job in the field. He plans to attend trade school to advance his skills and go to college to earn an Associate’s degree.
Carroll Warner, Electrical Construction Instructor at CCCTC, described Ebberts as intelligent and responsible in a letter of recommendation. “When presented with expanded challenges [in class], Ethan takes it upon himself to accept the challenge and researches all material to maximize all his possibilities for the task… He is capable of handling any situation with thoughtfulness and maturity.”
Grant Jarboe, a student in CCCTC’s Masonry program, is a volunteer with vacation bible school and has participated in multiple environmental projects, including stream cleanup, watershed improvements and water quality testing. Jarboe – who has built walls, corners and piers, and completed both stone and block work – is pursuing a summer internship in masonry and a job in the field after graduation.
“The Masonry program that Grant is taking is a comprehensive course that addresses many of the construction trades, including basic jobsite safety, hand and power tool usage, construction math, employability skills, and communication skills,” wrote Michael Campanile, CCCTC Masonry Instructor. “His shop projects are done on time and he has pride in what he does. He is a hard worker in the shop and has improved on each of his projects.”
John Lawrence, a Project Manager with The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and a longtime BC&E Foundation volunteer on the Future Craftsman program, said the award always attracts numerous, impressive applicants.
“The thing that stands out most is how energetic and passionate the kids are about what they are doing,” Lawrence said. “They already love it and some of them have already done amazing projects on their own whether it is making things to sell or volunteer construction projects. Years ago, I was blown away by these things. Now, I have come to expect that some applicants are already doing really cool stuff.”
The program, he said, does more than provide funds to the winners to further their education. The process of presenting their credentials and participating in an interview with construction industry professionals helps prepare students for the work world. It also helps some students enter that world. BC&E members often connect promising students (whether they win the award or not) with member companies that might be able to provide them with internships or coop work arrangements.
“The program is a really good exercise and good exposure for the students,” Lawrence said. “It also highlights to the BC&E membership that there are a lot of really bright young people out there who are getting ready to jump into the workforce. It’s beneficial for everyone.”
Week aims to support diverse, inclusive construction industry
After years of pondering, SteelFab, Inc. finally launched a formal diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program last year.
Led by a team of recruiters, the “Building Together” program expanded outreach by SteelFab, the parent company of Baltimore Fabrication, to Title 1 high schools, schools with trades programs, technical colleges and historically black colleges. Baltimore Fabrication is involved with Project Jumpstart and conducts an apprenticeship program with Hereford Technical High School.
Building Together fundamentally expanded SteelFab’s support of and involvement with nonprofits in the communities where the company operates. In addition to sponsoring kids’ sports teams, community picnics, educational programs and more, SteelFab also made it known that it had jobs and training to offer to interested individuals.
“We don’t want to be just a company that operates in a community, we want to be engaged with the community,” said Christopher Gregory, Executive Vice President. “We operate in diverse communities … SteelFab is putting more energy, time and focus into our own DEI program and that’s why we decided to support Construction Inclusion Week.”
SteelFab along with six other BC&E member companies are official organizers, ambassadors or supporters of Construction Inclusion Week (CIW) 2023, which is scheduled for October 16-20. Those companies are: Clark Construction, Gilbane Building Company, DPR Construction, Johnson Controls, Rosendin Electric and United Rentals.
Each year, CIW encourages construction companies to spend a part of their week – whether through toolbox talks, a free breakfast, company luncheon or other gatherings – to talk about issues around diversity and inclusion in the industry. CIW offers curriculum and talking points for gatherings, proposed exercises and activities, and lists of media resources that construction workers might find interesting, including movies, television shows, podcasts, talks, webinars and articles. The week focuses on five topics: commitment and accountability, belonging, supplier diversity, workplace culture, and community engagement.
Community engagement has been core to SteelFab’s DEI efforts.
At a recent board of directors meeting, one director “made the comment that it is important that we add to the community woodpile,” Gregory said. “I had never heard that saying before. But it is our responsibility as a company and a part of the community to add to the woodpile and to try to help those around us… One way we can do that is to give some folks opportunities in our industry. We need to make ourselves available to have those conversations.”
Gregory concedes that “we may have been a little late to the [DEI] game compared to some general contractors. But on the trade contractor side of things, we are really trying to step it up.”
BC&E welcomes new member
EMS Technologies, dba Albireo Energy, offers a full suite of services to provide clients with maximum control of their buildings. EMS solutions minimize downtime, maximize performance and productivity, and help clients achieve business, decarbonization and sustainability goals.
Scope of work:
Removal, replacement of terra cotta cornice and other masonry repairs
BC&E Member companies involved:
Structural Preservation Systems
By the time Structural Preservation Systems was called in to assess a project at 7 East Redwood Street, the building’s condition was already creating a life safety hazard. The historic, terra cotta cornice on the 19th story had decayed to the point that pieces had fallen to the sidewalk below and the owner had erected overhead protection to safeguard pedestrians.
Structural’s assessment confirmed that the 100-year-old terra cotta along the Redwood and Light Street sides of the building was “in extremely bad condition,” said Vincent Armeni, Senior Superintendent. “When terra cotta isn’t maintained, you get water infiltration that reaches the supporting steel. Corrosion and expansion of the steel starts and that’s what blows the stone apart.”
Structural erected netting around the cornice and removed all of the stone which ranged from 50 to 300 pounds apiece, and all of the steel after concluding that both were too damaged to repair.
Rather than install new terra cotta on the top of the building, Structural replicated the intricate cornice in CastCotta, a cementitious product. To accurately recreate the dental elements, floral details and cornice capstone, craftsmen from CastCotta completed a long process of measuring the building, verifying dimensions of the cornice and drawing each stone independently, Armeni said.
Working on mast climbers outfitted with lifting tables, the Structural crew then began installing more than 430 pieces that would comprise the new cornice.
“We learned a lot of lessons as we worked on the Redwood Street side of the building,” said John Lunn, Construction Manager.
Crew members honed processes to efficiently and expertly complete installations. By the time they started work on the Light Street cornice, the crew was ready to embrace a new, more complex but faster work sequence. They would complete all work in one zone of the building before moving on rather than completing one task across the entire façade before starting the next task. The result, Lunn said, was the crew finished the Light Street work 30 percent faster.
In addition to the creation of a beautiful cornice, “I’m really pleased with the training aspect of this project,” Armeni said. The project’s superintendent significantly increased his stonework skills and has since been assigned to other, demanding jobs. Other Structural team members learned how to fabricate cementitious pieces to replace damaged window heads on the Mercer Ally side of the building.
Those skills will likely be needed on future jobs, Armeni said. “There are a lot of buildings in Baltimore City that were built around the same time and they are experiencing the same level of deterioration,” he said.
When they started work at the Cloverland Farms site in Baltimore City, the Wagman Construction team knew they were digging into a daunting, multi-faceted renovation. Installing next-generation, robotized manufacturing systems in a 1960s dairy plant would involve building a new processing room for equipment that could produce Extended Shelf Life (ESL) products, retrofitting a penthouse, adding three new boilers, fully renovating a laboratory for testing and quality assurance operations, and erecting an exterior steel canopy platform to house a cooling tower, ammonia tower and refrigeration system. And those were just the topline items.
To complicate things further, “there were absolutely no drawings, no as-builts” for the 60-year-old building, said Cory Mummert, Senior Project Manager at Wagman.
Despite the team’s effort to create as-builts, most new phases of the renovation generated surprises. When workers began demolishing the lab, they discovered asbestos fireproofing on the beams, triggering a month-long delay for remediation.
Initial work in the processing room uncovered an unusually thick slab – a six-inch slab above a diamond plate above another eight-inch slab – which added three weeks to the demolition schedule. The room’s ceiling consisted of “hollow-core, precast planks. We had to do a lot of investigative work to establish a safe way to demo these 1,000-pound slabs and get them out of an operating building through eight-foot corridors,” Mummert said.
The team had to coordinate with outside suppliers of specialized equipment, including robotic packaging technologies from Italy, a pneumatic system to deliver milk samples from arriving trucks to the lab, and an infusion skid that connected a steam line and a glycol system to the production area.
The carefully phased, 13-month renovation also had to support ongoing operations and maintain conditions required by the Food and Drug Administration, “but I loved this project because it kept us on our toes,” Mummert said.
Maryland may not be a hub of massive factories. But the state is home to over 4,000 manufacturers, producing everything from spice mixes, power tools and athletic gear to vaccines, medical devices, military equipment and the batteries used in most satellites.
Heightened interest in reshoring manufacturing and heightened investment through the federal infrastructure package and other funds are prompting many manufacturers to expand and upgrade their operations. For the construction industry, that means more clients are looking to create high-performance, high-tech facilities, often in existing spaces.
From the outside, the Essilor of America plant looks like any other mid-rise, business park building. But inside, Essilor’s Chesapeake Optical Coating Lab is a 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, prescription glasses’ lens manufacturer and one of very few ISO 9001-certified optical labs in the United States.
When Essilor needed to expand its manufacturing capacity, Wohlsen Construction renovated 7,000 square feet of production space and a 1,700-square-foot shed. Working around Essilor’s continuous, three-shift operations, crews demolished existing cafeteria space, built out space to house five new coating machines plus chemical-preparation equipment and installed new process chillers, water and air systems, and rooftop units.
The size of new equipment and the constraints of existing space meant that crews had to conduct inventive demolition and construction, such as temporarily disassembling entire sliding door systems or filling a needed opening in a block wall with an airtight, plexiglass partition, said David Zikorus, Senior Project Manager at Wohlsen.
Crews had to meticulously protect ongoing clean room operations and create additional clean room space with electrostatic flooring, ceiling tiles and other specialty products. They also had to coordinate work with the client’s outside equipment supplier.
“They were bringing in European equipment and we had to connect it to American equipment in the building,” Zikorus said. “The differences between European and American design meant their widgets didn’t always fit into our widgets. Our field guys had to create adapters to make everything work.”
The project team also coordinated closely with factory workers not only to support ongoing operations but to optimize the renovation’s design, he said.
Many manufacturers who periodically renovate existing space (rather than experiencing a costly disruption by moving to new space), can end up with inefficiencies in their factory design.
The Essilor renovation enabled the company and local staff to improve both the efficiency and comfort of their workspace, Zikorus said.
Despite the preference by many manufacturers to renovate rather than build new space, some Maryland companies are creating manufacturing space from the ground up. In Germantown, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company is currently building a 140,000-square-foot, tilt-up concrete building for a satellite/communications company.
Most new manufacturing buildings have elevated demands, including heavier, reinforced slabs and expanded power and water supplies. The satellite/communications manufacturer project includes specialized HVAC, temperature controls, humidity controls, power distribution, a clean room environment and access to the roof where the company will install satellite dishes to test their products, said Bill Gnagey, Senior Associate and Director of Business Development at Arium AE, the architecture and engineering firm on the project.
Located on a college campus, the Class A+ manufacturing facility must also serve a second purpose, namely as instructional space and a site for student internships. To ensure the building both serves that purpose and blends into the college campus, “we were given a lot of creative leeway with the design aesthetic,” Gnagey said. “Aesthetically, this building will go above and beyond the look of a normal industrial warehouse.”
Successfully blending manufacturing with an entirely different function inside a single building is a common requirement and challenge within Maryland’s craft beer industry.
Earlier this year, Partner Contracting completed a renovation at Heavy Seas Brewery. As Maryland’s oldest and one of its largest craft breweries, Heavy Seas wanted to alter its Halethorpe building to create a refreshing new space for the public that would “showcase the level and quality of manufacturing that is happening in Maryland,” said David Jaques, President.
Achieving that goal would require more than new floors, walls, bar, accessories and other finishes in the taproom and games/party rooms. The project which was also designed by Arium AE, would have to make the manufacturing operations more accessible. Crews removed part of the CMU wall dividing the taproom from the brewing area and installed a six-by-six-foot window. They also reconfigured the taproom to open it onto the bottling area, then installed a 4.5-foot-high knee wall to create a drink ledge that would also block access into the bottling area.
“Our main goal was to make sure everyone was kept separate and safe but could see some of the manufacturing operations,” said Tripp Waltemeyer, Project Manager at Partner Contracting. “The knee wall safely opened up a view of the bottling area where there is all that clinking of bottles and cans. You have water dripping down on them and colorful stickers are being applied. It’s exciting to see.”
Meanwhile, the installation of an oversized fan and other ventilation protected visitors from brewery smells.
“We are super proud of the Heavy Seas project,” Jaques said. “It exemplifies the ability of a small business, a small manufacturer in Maryland to thrive and produce great products, and it gives the public an opportunity to see that.”
On the Bowie State campus, crews are currently constructing a massive new signature building. Plans for the 184,000-square-foot Martin Luther King Jr. Communication Arts and Humanities Building emphasized both “remembrance through design” and “the road to the future.”
Consequently, the final design included extraordinary features such as a façade that arranges exterior materials in a pattern to show the soundwaves of Dr. King’s voice as he delivered his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and called for “courage to face the uncertainties of the future.”
For members of the project team, led by The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, that inspired design presents construction challenges.
“A lot of brainwork and preparation had to be done upfront,” said Charles Ulrich, Vice President of Leonard A. Kraus Co.
The company, which is nearly halfway through the installation of roughly 60,000 square feet of terra cotta cladding, started working with Avenere Cladding (a subsidiary of Swirnow Building Systems) on the project more than six months in advance in order to perfect shop drawings and leave ample time to acquire the terra cotta product from Germany.
Leonard A. Kraus workers carefully sort through and selectively package terra cotta pieces at their facility to send to the site “because there are so many different pieces and different patterns and details in the design,” Ulrich said. “We send out what is needed per elevation and we complete one elevation at a time.”
The proliferation of exterior cladding options, the desire to create stand-out designs and the need to improve the performance of exterior materials on existing buildings are shaping the nature and priorities of current construction projects.
At Towson University, new cladding has provided both striking new visuals and essential building performance improvements. Built in 1983, the four towers in TU’s Glen Dormitory Complex had suffered water infiltration issues and could not meet current energy efficiency standards.
Swirnow Building Systems and Avenere Cladding used NeaCera® terra cotta panels to reclad all four high-rises.
“NeaCera panels solved their maintenance and energy challenges while being visually elegant,“ said John Stahl, Vice President-Sales at Avenere Cladding. The panels’ lighter weight allowed the product to tie directly into the existing concrete panels and made the product a cost-effective solution.
Built in 1924, Colgate Elementary School also used NeaCera to not only improve the performance of an aging building but achieve LEED Silver certification.
Furthermore, “the school utilized three different colored NeaCera panels in Rustic Canyon, Burnt Sienna and Brick Red to create a visually unique façade that stands in a class of its own,” Stahl said.
Heightened use of terra cotta, composite and hardy plank materials – along with rain screens and improved weather barriers – have expanded owners’ opportunities to create both interesting aesthetics and more resilient buildings, Ulrich said.
“There is a variety of new, thin, stone and brick material which is used more because it is very attractive and it can save 40 percent on cost, compared to some other materials,” said Taylor Classen, COO and Partner at Delbert Adams Construction Group (DACG).
At the Gibson Island Club, the availability of interesting cladding materials combined with an inspired design helped turn “a dilapidated, old, block building into an architectural gem,” Classen said.
A rectangular, concrete-block building, the club’s small hotel seemed out of place, especially following the construction of a beautiful new clubhouse onsite. Architects developed plans to renovate the building, replace the flat roof with a pitched and hipped roof, and completely reskin the building in Hardie panel “with lot of nice Azek and Boral trim features,” Classen said. “It had an unbelievably beautiful impact on the look of the building.”
And the interest in creating striking exteriors stretches well beyond institutions of higher education and social clubs.
In Jacksonville, Fla., Petrie Construction created an exceptional exterior for a liquor store. Although the building was a typical concrete-block box store, the owner of Shores Liquor wanted to create “a really nice-looking exterior that you would more expect in a higher-end residential setting,” said Eric Petrie, Project Manager.
The project team clad the building with a large amount of exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) to create the look of stucco and added a “wainscoting” of stone “that created a nice band around the base of the building,” Petrie said “The project also included sculpted trim work that resembled crown molding.”
Those design choices, Petrie said, made the store “look more expensive” and satisfied a “new norm that retailers want shoppers to feel more comfortable in their stores.”
At a time when the construction industry is facing both robust workloads and significant challenges, strong and diverse leadership is helping the Building Congress & Exchange deliver valuable benefits to members.
That’s a key reason why incoming President Ted Bowes is excited about the slate of candidates for the 2024 Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
“You definitely have a group of people who have proven themselves in the construction industry in whatever capacity they serve,” said Bowes, President of Excell Concrete Construction.
Furthermore, candidates’ professional positions run the gamut from some of the largest general contractors in the region to successful architecture, engineering, law, insurance, subcontractor and construction supply companies.
“It’s a fantastic assembly of representatives of the industry,” Bowes added. “We have people from all these different aspects of construction who want to be part of BC&E and contribute to the betterment of the construction community.”
An organization that brings together that range of industry professionals is valuable even in good economies, he said. Opportunities to meet and learn from potential project partners can raise a company’s profile and expand its book of business.
In difficult economies, BC&E and the network it supports are “of the utmost importance,” Bowes said. “If they know your face when you walk into the room, it’s a different relationship… When the market gets difficult, there are general contractors that have an interest in looking out for me and trying to see that I get work. The relationships you have created in the industry mean that you can reach out to people to get work or a loan or a better insurance rate.”
Bowes is concerned that high interest rates could create more challenging market conditions in the next year or two.
“Interest rates are going up, lending is tightening and that has the potential to have a very serious impact on the construction community,” he said. “But I think as an organization we are in an excellent position to support our members and I couldn’t be more excited about the Board slate that will lead the BC&E next year.”
The proposed Executive Committee for 2024 consists of: Ted Bowes, Excell Concrete Construction – President; Jeff Hossfeld, The Whiting Turner Contracting Company – Vice President; Thomas Koch, Plano-Coudon Construction – Treasurer; Marianne Crampton, MK Consulting Engineers – Secretary; John Gregg, GWWO Inc. Architects – Member At Large; and Michael Martin, Live Green Landscape Associates – Immediate Past President.
The new slate of candidates for the Board includes Mark Rich, Baltimore Fabrication and R. Nelson Oster, HMS Insurance Associates both returning for another three-year term.
The board slate also consists of three new people: Timothy Campbell, Clark Construction Group; Chris Eisenhart, Gray & Son; and Rick Kottke, Harkins Builders. We asked them to share a little about their work and their lives.
While I was studying structural engineering at Cornell, one of my professors recommended I intern with a construction company, rather than a design firm. He said I would be a better designer if I saw how the hard work, problem solving skills, and overall resourcefulness of the craftworkers made those designs become reality. While I followed through and finished my degree in engineering, I decided that working as a contractor was where I wanted to go with my career.
I have been at Clark since my first internship and have had the opportunity to work on a myriad of different project types across the region, including mass transit, hospitality, civic, laboratory, government, commercial office, entertainment, and mixed use.
What is your favorite tool of your trade?
I would be lying if I didn’t say it was Excel. As an intern, my first project manager helped me realize that it wasn’t just for running calculations, but that it was a tool for organizing and analyzing the vast amount of information we deal with on a daily basis in our industry.
What is the most unusual thing you have ever had to do for a construction project?
Clean up the mess left by a failed sewage ejector system whose piping (that ran through our jobsite office) decided it no longer wanted to work…on a Saturday afternoon…when I was the last one at the jobsite.
What movie or television character do you currently love the most and why?
Carmy Berzatto from “The Bear.” I finally watched it this summer after my wife chastised me for missing an excellent show, and I absolutely agree with her. He’s definitely a flawed character, but he is hyper focused on doing things right and elevating those around him. That mindset can cut both ways, and it makes him very relatable to me.
I started in the construction industry after graduating from Towson University in 1992. I began in estimating for a commercial roofing contractor which also had a sales component. I enjoyed being part of the early preconstruction process and working with clients to not only win work for the company but to also help the client achieve their goals on project delivery. It became apparent to me that a “win win” approach was a key to long term success in the industry.
I later moved into estimating positions with a Baltimore-based asphalt paving contractor and then with Lafarge-NA. In 1999, I joined Gray and Son as an estimator, working on asphalt paving and sitework projects which included earthwork, utilities, asphalt paving, SWM and other related civil items. Estimators at Gray and Son also acted as project managers which allowed me to develop my skill set further. I was promoted to VP of Project Management where I was tasked with helping to develop and staff a separate PM department working with estimating and operations to drive project performance. I am currently VP of Estimating and Project Management, managing 30 employees.
What is the toughest lesson you have learned?
Always confront a tough issue or what is perceived to be a problem as soon as you become aware and do not hesitate to bring in assistance from those that have expertise in the matter. Problems usually don’t fade away in construction and usually tend to protract out to be even bigger if neglected. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to discuss the problem early. Solutions may be available early that are not options later.
What movie or television character do you currently love the most and why?
We are making our way through “Better Call Saul” on Netflix and Saul Goodman is a favorite character at the moment. He has such a conflicted personality and I find it interesting how his personality intertwines with the people and circumstances in his life.
What’s your super power?
Listening skills. I believe I’m best at understanding people’s perspectives and able to understand what they need and how we can deliver on that. With listening and understanding, I believe we can make a more solid connection which can help establish strong relationships in business and life.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Structural Design and Construction Engineering Technology, I joined the Harkins team in 2003 as a project engineer. Over the next few years, I held multiple positions, including site manager and project manager. But since 2008, I have focused on renovation and addition projects with particular experience and interest in occupied renovations. These have included projects at Perry Point Veterans Village, Edgewood Commons 1, Paca House, Monument East and Charlestown Retirement Community.
In 2021, I completed an M.P.S. in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Leadership from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. My education and construction experience enabled me to introduce Lean Construction to Harkins, help cultivate the careers of other Harkins employees and gain experience with LIHTC funding sources and HUD financing.
What is the toughest lesson you have learned?
The power of perceptions. Early in my career, coming from an engineering background, reality as I saw it was very certain. I didn’t appreciate that those around me may not see things exactly as I did. It was quite a learning experience for me to recognize that different people have different lenses.
I adopted a practice of sitting back and listening more than talking and purposefully trying to put myself in the position of others so I could understand how they might see things differently.
What is the most unusual thing you have ever had to do for a construction project?
We celebrated a baby shower on site for one of our superintendents. He and his wife had worked for several years with a fertility specialist trying to start a family and it was quite a process for them. When she got pregnant, our team decided to throw a baby shower on our jobsite which was a seniors’ facility with a nice dining area. It was very memorable and meaningful for our team member and his spouse. Given how rough construction is, it was nice that there was a soft side that we all enjoyed.
What movie or television character do you currently love the most and why?
Willy Wonka. Imagination, creativity and making the impossible possible is an important mindset to hold onto and embrace.