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.
Could the construction industry’s iconic yellow hardhat become a thing of the past?
Many large general contractors and a smattering of smaller companies are mandating their employees switch from traditional Type 1 hardhats to new, helmet-style, Type 2 hats.
“Old-style hardhats were designed for top impact. They protected the worker from an object falling on the top of their head,” said Chris Littler, a safety leader with DPR Construction. “The new hardhats are more like football or bike helmets. They provide protection against top, side and rear impacts. Also, many include a chin strap.
Typically, if a worker falls, one of the first things that happens is their hardhat falls off. The new helmets don’t.”
DPR – which self-performs drywall, concrete, waterproofing and other work – mandated the switch to helmet-style hard hats nearly two years ago. The response from workers was mixed.
“Most of our folks who are consistently at heights — on ladders, scissor lifts or boom lifts and are using fall protection — jumped on board fairly quickly because they know the hazards associated with a fall and their hardhat falling off,” Littler said.
Other employees felt the full, foam cap inside the new hats was too warm and less comfortable than the traditional, suspension-style hat.
Jason Sears of Diversified Safety Services has seen some clients’ employees raise similar objections to the feel and look of the new hats.
“They think they look like safety nerds,” Sears said. “Some hats have fancy, flip-down visors and it’s not the blue-collar, construction worker image they want to portray. But this is not a fashion show. It’s a construction job.”
It’s a change that all construction workers may have to make, however. OSHA is currently researching the helmet-style hardhats and considering making them a PPE requirement.
Cost is also a consideration. While traditional hardhats can be acquired for $25, the new, helmet-style hats cost from $60 to $150 each.
And that’s not the only change that could occur in PPE regulations. OSHA is also assessing a proposed regulation that would require proper fitting PPE for construction workers. It could apply to hats, vests, glasses, gloves, work boots, respirators and fall-protection gear, and go into effect within five years.
Earlier this year, DPR took efforts to ensure it could source properly fitting PPE for women and pregnant women, Littler said. Manufacturers are coming up with greater options for fire retardant gear for women and hardhats that accommodate ponytails.
Meanwhile, product developments and industry trends are causing other changes in PPE used on construction sites.
“We really try to push glove use for pretty much all activities because our hands are the tool we always use and our hands always have some level of exposure,” Littler said. That effort is being aided by the fact that “glove manufacturers have really upgraded their products. Some of the cut-level gloves, even as high as level four, are very nice and thin and nimble now. With some of them, you hardly even feel that they are on your hands.”
“There is some new self-rescue fall protection gear on the market now that is cool,” Sears said. “If you fall off a leading edge in the harness, there is a mechanism that will allow you to carefully lower yourself to the next level and prevent any kind of harness trauma. If you hang in a harness for more than 15 minutes, you can suffer constricting of the main arteries in the legs.”
Poor air quality days this summer, caused by the Canadian wildfires, prompted some contractors to expand air quality monitoring on job sites and require greater use of respirators. Debates about when safety glasses are or aren’t required have convinced some safety consultants and contractors to recommend glasses use at all times on job sites. And climate change is prompting manufacturers to come out with more products designed to help workers withstand extreme temperatures.
For the image-conscious construction worker, there are also safety products to meet their aesthetics.
“A lot of companies are coming out with products that are geared to the next generation,” Sears said. “They provide the same level of protection but they look cool. For example, standard safety glasses may have a cool color, print or design, and guys are buying them up.”
Scope of work:
New, $129 million, 289,000-square-foot high school
BC&E Member companies involved:
James Posey Associates
Oak Contracting, LLC
Sody Concrete Construction
Just because the project is construction of a prototype high school doesn’t make it a routine job.
Building the newly opened Guilford Park High School in Jessup required the project team to complete expansive site work, install uncommon systems and craft some exquisite architectural details.
Even though a sitework contractor had already moved 800,000 cubic yards of dirt before Oak Contracting started work on site in 2019, “we still had to spend six months doing nothing but moving dirt,” said Wayne Temple, Superintendent. Changes in stormwater management requirements meant that three existing ponds had to be enlarged. Further grading and compacting were needed, including undercuts and the addition of sub-base fill in several locations.
“The site is 75 acres and required installation of over two miles of chain link fence,” Temple said. “It is also the first school I ever built where I had to put in roughly a mile of county road.”
Developing that county road meant collaborating with BGE to upgrade natural gas piping along Route 1 to support a four-inch line to the school and installing backup electrical lines along the new road, which could compensate for any outages along Route 1.
Once vertical construction began, the team made swift progress.
“The building is pretty much all block. The only place that has drywall is the front office and the student council area,” Temple said. “The mason just kept moving forward as we got slabs ready so once we put the roof on, the rooms were all made. You didn’t have to come back and do metal studs, framing and drywall.”
Although Guilford Park was the fourth iteration of a Howard County Public Schools prototype, it was the largest version of the design and included some different features.
“The building has a CO2 air acuity system so if you have gym and go to a classroom for the following period and there is too much CO2, the system detects that and dumps more fresh air into that classroom,” he said.
In addition to a full-size gym, auxiliary gym, wrestling room, high-tech weight room, full auditorium, dance studio, drama room, chorus room, band room and ensemble rooms, the school includes some unique amenities and architectural features. The third floor includes a mini auditorium with a high ceiling and large windows.
“The common area is an open stairway from the first floor to the third that creates a clear, three-story atrium with a sunken classroom in a corner of that space,” he said.
That common area and the media center include huge, 35-foot by 16-foot skylights. And the hallway floors throughout the school are covered with 62,500 square feet of terrazzo, arranged in a four-color pattern. The intricate installation required the flooring contractor to closely coordinate schedules with other trades and took almost a year to complete.
Focusing on women in the industry
Building Congress & Exchange is officially kicking off its newest initiative — Women Building Baltimore —in late September.
Marianne Crampton, a BC&E Board member and Owner/Principal of MK Consulting Engineers (which has been recognized for six years as a top 50 women-owned business by the Baltimore Business Journal), had long sought to attract more female construction professionals to BC&E networking events. A noticeably high turnout of women at the BC&E holiday party last December convinced Crampton and BC&E President Michael Martin that it was time to launch a focused initiative.
Following two focus group sessions with female employees of BC&E member companies, Crampton and other volunteers created Women Building Baltimore. The fledgling group hasn’t specifically defined its mission yet, but Crampton sees opportunities for WBB to provide unique benefits to women in the industry. She hopes the September 28th event and future interactions will help Women Building Baltimore envision and begin to realize its potential.
“A lot of existing women’s groups in the construction industry focus heavily on the contractor side, so women who are in accounting, finance, business development or marketing, may not feel like that is a group for them,” Crampton said. “But those women play important roles in getting construction, design and engineering done in Baltimore. We need female insurance professionals and lawyers, accountants, business development people and marketing people to build Baltimore.”
One aim of Women Building Baltimore is to not compete with other women’s groups in the construction industry.
“We want to find our own niche and be a home to women from all facets of the industry and find a way to complement the other women’s groups,” Crampton said.
During focus group sessions, women voiced ideas for using WBB to provide networking opportunities, mentorships, educational opportunities, heightened awareness of women in the industry, a platform to show young women attractive career options in construction, a safe space to discuss challenges that women face in the industry and a “supportive community that lets women know you’re not alone,” Crampton said.
“BC&E has such a wonderful, diverse group of members that represent the entire built environment. That’s unique,” she added. “We think we can use that diversity to create a unique benefit for women in BC&E.”
Lewis Contractors’ Meet the Builder day spurs unconventional career thoughts
An uncommon career day is shifting the thinking of students, educators and construction industry professionals about career options and sources of talent.
Just before school let out for summer, Lewis Contractors held what has become an annual “Meet the Builders Day” at the Maryland School for the Blind.
“We arrange an on-campus field trip for the kids and do it in conjunction with whatever construction we are doing onsite,” said Tyler Tate, President of Lewis. “This year, we had a 3D printing company prepare a small model of the building we are currently working on. We placed the model on a site plan that we covered in various materials with different textures, like felt and different grits of sandpaper, so the kids could interpret what the plans were without having to see them perfectly. They could get a sense of space and dimensions of the building and determine where there would be grass or sidewalks or patios. This really resonated with the kids.”
In addition, Lewis created hands-on displays of construction materials and a multi-station, static equipment display that enabled students to explore construction machinery.
“You get the same kind of response to a static equipment display as you get at an airshow. It doesn’t matter if it is construction equipment or airplanes, being able to get up there and touch the equipment is exciting for the kids,” Tate said.
Lewis employees and retirees, who regularly volunteer to help with the event, were peppered with questions and multiple students showed strong interest in possible careers in construction.
“The Maryland School for the Blind has this mission of breaking down barriers and preparing kids for the real world that awaits them after graduation. That includes serious conversations about career opportunities, breaking down stereotypes and considering the range of opportunities that could put these kids on a productive and fulfilling career path,” Tate said.
“Not everyone in construction is swinging a hammer or hoisting ductwork or erecting steel. There are many business functions, design functions, technology operations where those students could make meaningful contributions,” he said. “I credit the staff of the Maryland School for the Blind for having those thoughtful conversations.
They are alerting kids to career possibilities and opening the eyes of some employers.”
BC&E welcomes two new members
Hobbs & Associates provides heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) products and engineering services to commercial and industrial building contractors, architect-design firms and business owners. Hobbs helps create enduring community infrastructure such as schools and colleges, hospitals, military and municipal structures, entertainment venues, hotels and multi-family housing. https://hobbsassociates.com/
Well Built Construction Consulting provides strategic consulting to owners, developers, contractors, architects and engineers. The firm’s mission is to help to build better construction companies and better project teams by delivering strategic consulting, facilitation services and peer roundtable environments for construction executives. https://www.wellbuiltconsulting.com/
Just outside the airport fence line, construction has begun on the new, $135 million Southwest Airlines Tech Ops Hangar. The first facility of its kind at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, the LEED-certified, 129,000-square-foot building is designed to hold three Boeing 737 aircraft and provide Southwest personnel with maintenance shops, parts storage and administrative space.
Once construction wraps up in 2025, the 27-acre site will also have a fire/pumphouse building with a 300,000-gallon water storage tank and a 300,000-square-foot apron to support eight additional 737s.
“There are a lot of unique features to this project,” said Steve O’Donnell, Vice President of Clark Civil, which is construction manager for the $93 million hangar and apron portion of the project. “The structure itself is unique. It will have a 280-foot box truss to support the roof and the opening for the hangar door system which allows two airplanes to get into the hangar side-by-side. That’s a large span and heavy members. It will require a lot of coordination and a very large pick.”
That hangar door will be 276 feet wide and 60 feet tall. Unlike standard sliding hangar doors, it will be a hoist-up door made from industrial fabric panels. In addition to providing electrical, mechanical, teledata and security services, the building’s systems will also include a custom network of underground pits to deliver 400-hertz power and pre-conditioned air to the 737s parked inside.
“There is also a very elaborate fire alarm system in this building,” said Robert Henninger, Project Manager at Hatzel & Buehler. “It has a fiber optic detection system and a high-expansion foam system which, in the event of a fire, will fill the hangar with foam. The test of that system is going to be interesting to witness.”
Construction projects at BWI are both seemingly endless and endlessly challenging. In addition to the Southwest hangar project, the airport is currently undergoing a $332.5 million renovation of Concourses A and B, extensive taxiway improvements, central plant modernization, extensive bathroom renovations and other projects.
In addition to meeting the requirements of the airport, airlines and the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA), the project teams must deal with strict security procedures, busy airport operations, complex project phasing, and uncommon contract requirements. The challenges of the aviation construction niche, however, have proven so enticing to some construction professionals that they have worked at BWI for decades.
Henninger spent 20 years upgrading lighting along runways and taxiways at BWI before beginning work on the Southwest hangar project.
“I like that airport projects are different, niche work and always very challenging,” Henninger said.
Airfield work must be completed during the airport’s quietest hours in the middle of the night and must be phased and completed in a manner to support normal flight operations.
“The biggest challenge is having backup equipment,” he said. “If you are utilizing a piece of equipment that you absolutely need and that equipment fails, you better have a backup to finish your work that night. Most contracts are written with a $2,500 liquidated damage fine for every 15 minutes that you don’t reopen the runway or taxiway. So if you put a hole in a runway, you better have a plan and a backup plan to fill it before the planes need to take off at 6 am.”
Airfield work also has to constantly comply with MAA regulations. A long-standing consultant at BWI, Froehling & Robertson is currently providing materials testing services on upgrades to multiple taxiways.
“The airfield requires quite a bit of testing,” said Hasan Aboumatar, Branch Manager. “For example, we have to do gradation analysis on the aggregate material used in runways and taxiways and that analysis has to be done almost daily per MAA specifications as aggregate materials can change from day to day.”
And those airfield requirements apply to much more than runway and taxiway projects. When BWI embarked on its now renowned restroom renovation project, Froehling & Robertson was again contracted to provide materials testing.
Any bathroom renovation in part of the airport that extends out over the airfield “has to comply with the requirements for taxiways,” Aboumatar said. “Most of the foundation [of those parts of the airport] is on caissons, so any concrete pads or paving underneath would have to meet airfield specifications.”
In the face of major project requirements and challenges, experience and attention to detail are key in excelling in airport construction.
“Some of my guys have been working out at BWI for as long as 25 years. They know the airport better than anyone and they know the secrets to getting things done as efficiently as possible,” said Matthew Beck, Project Manager with Hatzel & Buehler.
Beck has run projects at BWI for the past 10 years and learned the nuances of airport construction from his father who worked at BWI for 25 years. Beck’s team is currently completing a $2 million lighting upgrade on the lower/arrivals area of the Terminal Loop and preparing to start a two-year project to expand and modernize Southwest Airlines’ bag belt system in Concourses A and B.
“I have witnessed quite a few contractors go out of business at BWI. Some of the larger contractors can absorb a bad bid, but the smaller guys never end up recovering,” Beck said.
Daily requirements that workers and all material deliveries pass security screenings can increase the work hours on a project at least 20 percent higher than a project on a non-secure site.
“Sometimes people ignore the specs and don’t realize how important they are on a BWI job,” he said. Consequently, less experienced contractors may make simple, cost-saving changes, such as using a different type of cable, only to be told that the specified cable was an MAA requirement so the installation must be reworked.
Most BWI projects also follow federal Buy America requirements which can increase the price of key components.
Extensive communication and coordination with stakeholders can dramatically improve performance on a project.
“The Clark team proactively engages with MAA’s engineering and inspection teams to provide a transparent construction process,” O’Donnell said. For the hangar project, “we have also worked closely with Southwest stakeholders, conducted lessons learned meetings about Southwest’s similar hangar projects and gone on site visits to similar hangars.”
That process provided insights about several aspects of the project, including fireproofing the building and transitioning the concrete from the hangar to the apron.
In some cases, that expertise at airport construction can deliver striking results. While working on upgrades of 30-year-old mechanical systems in Concourse D, Johnson Controls found itself running both ahead of schedule and under budget.
“We were able to replace the controls on six additional rooftop units that were not originally part of the project. We revitalized that equipment and still stayed within the project schedule,” said Eric Badders, Senior Account Executive.
Johnson Controls, which is currently working on upgrades to BWI’s central utility plant, conducts all the building automation work at the airport and serves on BWI’s facilities team, operating those controls. Assigning dedicated teams to both the operations and construction activities at BWI provides expert service as well as valuable insights on future projects, said John Prusak, General Manager of Johnson Controls’ Maryland and Delaware division.
“The value we bring to a designer or architect is we can help them select equipment, talk about how the airport operates and show how changes will impact operations,” Prusak said. “We can also identify areas where we are using a lot of energy and propose ways to improve facility operations.”
Aviation industry experts predict the current glut of airport projects isn’t likely to ease anytime soon. The combination of airport projects delayed by the pandemic, the dramatic rise in leisure travel, new funding from the federal infrastructure package and growing deployments of new technologies in airports is driving large and ongoing demand for construction work, said Jeff Stiles, Executive Vice President of Transystems, an architecture and engineering firm specializing in transportation infrastructure. Transystems recently acquired WBCM.
Airports and airlines are investing in automated check-in systems, biometric screening and other technologies to help passengers move through airports more efficiently, Stiles said. Meanwhile, airlines are embarking on master plans to modify their gates and holding rooms to improve the efficiency of their operations, provide added comfort to passengers and support recent conveniences, such as food services that deliver meals to passengers as they wait to board.
In addition, the rise of electric vehicles is spurring renovations of airport car rental facilities.
“Many rental car companies have indicated they wish to have 80 percent EVs in the five years,” Stiles said. “That creates infrastructure challenges. You have to get enough electric service to a parking structure to support EV chargers and, in some cases, you are talking about thousands of vehicles. In some locations, the electric requirements for the rental car facility will be higher than the entire airport’s demand for electricity because these Stage 3 chargers are very power demanding.”
Wagman named outstanding Navy Reserve employer
Wagman Heavy Civil, Inc. was recognized as one of America’s outstanding Navy Reserve employers at the annual Navy Employer Recognition Event in June.
“Wagman fully supports my military career,” said Jerry Whitlock, Design-Build Manager with Wagman Heavy Civil and a Commander in the Reserve Navy Civil Engineer Corp. “Most importantly, in my eight years with the company, never once has anyone at Wagman – supervisor, peer or subordinate – ever complained or questioned when I had to leave for military duty, no matter the hardship it put the company in or how much, if any, notice I was able to provide.”
Wagman has embraced policies designed to attract, retain and support veterans and reservists in its workforce, said Lisa Wagman Glezer, President of Wagman, Inc. The company actively recruits individuals transitioning out of military service and works with military liaisons to identify the best jobs for individual veterans. The company supports and plans around reservists’ regular duties and deployments, and celebrates safe return of employees from a deployment. Reservists and veterans are also acknowledged during internal company communications and podcasts.
Wagman regularly honors military members, veterans and reservists on social media and conducts an annual care package initiative in partnership with For the Love of a Veteran.
“For at least 10 years, we have been sending supplies to the troops during holidays,” Wagman Glezer said. “Employees have the option to supply the name of a friend or family member if they want to direct a care package to someone. Years ago, an employee asked to direct a care package to his brother who was serving overseas, which we did. Several years later, the brother retired from the military and, after taking some time off, came to work for us alongside his brother.”
Scope of work:
70,000-square-foot hospital renovation and addition
BC&E Member companies involved:
Gilbane Building Company
Emjay Engineering & Construction Co.
The scope of work for the Frederick Health project was already daunting enough. It would require Gilbane Building Company and its project partners to complete a gut renovation of 31,000 square feet of the existing Emergency Department (ED) space and deliver a 39,548-square-foot addition, including 13,263 square feet built overtop of active hospital space. The team would have to build a new Pediatric Emergency Department (including eight treatment rooms, one trauma room and five inpatient rooms), nine new ED behavioral health treatment rooms, a new 20-bed Intensive Care Unit and a three-lab cardiac catheterization suite.
Then weather and Covid-19 made work even more complicated.
As Tropical Storm Ida neared Maryland in August 2021, the team implimented storm mitigation strategies to protect the addition which had structure, but no façade. Personnel from Gilbane, a trade contractor and the hospital, from facilities staff to the vice president of support services, “all manned the fort to make sure we kept the rain out of the building,” said Ryan Becker, Gilbane Project Manager. “This one event showed the level of teamwork and commitment it has taken from everyone involved to successfully complete this project.”
As Ida dropped eight inches of rain on the region in two hours, “there was water cascading across the slab. But we had people manning a squeegee line and others managing sump pumps. We had hospital administration offering to run shop vacs to contain the water,” Becker said.
That kind of teamwork enabled the project to overcome other major hurdles. Pandemic-induced supply chain delays meant the team had to wait 14 months to obtain the roofing system for the second-story addition.
Gilbane and subcontractors devised “a very innovative plan to temporarily waterproof the concrete roof structure and parapet so construction could progress,” he said. “We framed walls for the new ICU, started all MEP rough-in and eventually got confident enough in this temporary solution to start hanging drywall and putting finishes in place to deliver this space on schedule.”
To safeguard ongoing hospital operations and enable Frederick Health to maintain treatment capacity, the team was involved early in the design process and conducted thorough phasing discussions focused on maintaining hospital bed counts, MEP installations, and other constructability items. This planning led the team to divide the project into four phases.
To ensure that construction, including installation of complex MEP systems and medical equipment, proceeded efficiently and with minimal errors, the team conducted extensive BIM coordination and employed other construction technology.
“Before any slabs were poured, we put all of our anchors on the formwork and we didn’t use the old, manual way to drill and set anchors after the concrete was poured,” Becker said. The process which proved both highly efficient and accurate, “was all coordinated with GPS. Nobody was pulling tape measures.”
The construction team also coordinated extensively with medical equipment suppliers to ensure that installations went smoothly in especially complex parts of the hospital, such as the new cardiac cath labs.
The result of those efforts is the project — which is nearing the end of phase four — is expected to wrap up 15 days early this winter.
Think of it as the dog days of construction.
Pet care has long been a substantial industry in the United States. But then the pandemic hit and Americans added an estimated 5 million additional pets to our collective households. That population spike fueled increased spending on pet food, veterinary care and a raft of other supplies and services.
A Morgan Stanley analysis released in late 2022 estimated that the pet care industry in the U.S., which totaled $118 billion in 2019, will reach $277 billion by 2030. With an average and sustained compound annual growth rate of 8 percent, pet care now ranks as one of the strongest segments of the retail market.
The emergence of that furry, feathery growth sector is creating new opportunities in construction.
In the past two years, MacKenzie Contracting Company’s book of business has included multiple doggie daycare/boarding/training facilities and multiple veterinary practices, including specialized facilities for pet dentistry, orthopedic surgery and physical rehabilitation.
The construction of pet facilities, which are often located in retail strips or industrial/flex buildings, don’t necessarily entail extraordinary challenges. But it does help to have certain specialized construction expertise to thrive in this niche.
“We do a tremendous amount of healthcare construction and there is quite a parallel between the work we do in hospitals and some of these pet facilities,” said Marty Copsey, President, COO and Principal of MacKenzie. “The veterinary orthopedic surgery centers have the same things that you see in a surgery center for humans — exam rooms, operating rooms, recovery rooms, medical gas lines, emergency backup power and specialized air handling equipment.”
Rehab facilities can include many of the same elements found in a physical therapy practice — exercise space, treatment areas and a pool. Such projects can also require teams to become familiar with some specialized veterinary equipment.
“If your dog has orthopedic surgery on its elbow, knee or shoulder, they will rehab the dog in water, much like humans rehab from orthopedic surgery in pools,” Copsey said. “I have lived with dogs for 40 years so I have personally experienced the treadmills that are waterfilled. They have four glass sides. They put the dog in and fill it with water. The treadmill starts and the dog is able to exercise their muscles in a weightless environment and not put weight on the joints that just had surgery.”
Dog daycare, boarding and training facilities involve simpler construction, but close attention to cleaning and waterproofing needs. Kennel areas typically have troughs and drains running beneath them and are clad in waterproof materials that can withstand being hosed down frequently. However, designs and product selections even for simple facilities are evolving.
“Years ago, you would have built these facilities with cinder block walls, painted the walls and that would be that,” Copsey said. “Now, they are covered with materials you would find in commercial kitchens. It is a very sanitary approach to animal care.”
America’s expanded dog population has also fostered construction of a new breed of social facility – the dog-centered drinking establishment. In late 2021, BC&E Members SEH Excavating and Floors Etc. helped build Bark Social Canton — a 15,000-square-foot beer garden, coffee house and off-leash dog park.
Bark Social’s principals, who had previously opened a facility in Bethesda, have announced plans to create another social club in downtown Columbia. An affiliate of Bark Social also recently raised $4.53 million to expand the concept further.
Nearly 1,200 perennials, 1,000 bulbs, expanses of grass, large evergreens and about 500 shrubs, including a wealth of roses, fill the space with color year-round. Visitors to the English-style courtyard can stroll the stone pathway around the 20,000-square-foot property, play chess on an oversized board or enjoy an al fresco supper, served by the adjacent restaurant. It’s not an environment you expect to experience on a rooftop in the heart of Baltimore.
The garden sits atop the parking garage of a residential building in Keswick. Originally planted in the 1950s, “it is probably one of the oldest green roofs in Baltimore. It was created before the term ‘green roof’ was coined,” said Brandon Proescher, Vice President of Live Green Landscape Associates.
The concrete parking garage structure, however, began to fail and the entire garden had to be removed for repairs to proceed. Bucking current trends for green roofs, the owner opted not to install sedum trays, potted grasses and other commonly used materials. Instead, the owner worked with Live Green for a year to refine the plant palette and finalize the design which includes a three-foot-high berm and a lush perimeter of trees and shrubs.
“The thickness and depth of the plant material blocks the sound of traffic on the street that is only 20 feet away,” Proescher said. “Although you are smack in the middle of Baltimore, when you are out on that roof, you feel like you are in an intimate space set apart from the city.”
Spaces that celebrate and improve access to the great outdoors became more important during the pandemic. From outdoor learning spaces at K-12 schools to nature centers, city ball parks, office park courtyards and rooftop reprieves, projects have challenged teams to create unique spaces that fit into and elevate local environments.
Nature center projects involve “unique environments, unique climates, unique stories and missions. None of them are the same. You have to dive in and really understand the story of that place so that you can use architecture in a humble way to support the client’s mission,” said Kate Scurlock, Senior Associate at GWWO Architects.
For example, designing the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center in Colorado required the project team to engage in “careful listening to extract the essence of the place – the genius loci. Then the architecture became a backdrop for the visitor experience,” said Al Ip, Project Manager at GWWO.
The minimalist building uses massive curtain walls, sheltered outdoor spaces and strategically positioned viewing areas to provide visitors with expansive visuals of the Colorado mountains.
Creating that structure at 14,100 feet, however, was anything but simple. The building would be set near the summit, a high-altitude desert where temperatures drop to 30 degrees or lower each night and high winds regularly whip up sand and scour exterior surfaces.
Ip and the project team steadily searched for design options that could knock down the velocity of the wind that would hit the building and for materials that could withstand the harsh conditions. Specialized glazing had to be two- to three-panels thick. Typically, robust cladding options, such as galvanized steel and painted metal, couldn’t be included in the design.
“After testing numerous materials on the mountaintop, we realized that these surfaces just wouldn’t last,” Ip said. Instead, “we went with a naturally weathering steel that, if it gets scoured by sand, it will oxidize a new rust surface to protect itself so nobody has to maintain it.”
Other sites provide their own unique conditions, missions, challenges and opportunities.
On part of the land formerly occupied by the Bethlehem steel plant, a project team is currently developing the Sparrows Point Recreation Center. The brownfield site had to be remediated and capped – i.e. completely covered with two feet of clean fill or six inches of impervious surface.
For Kristen Gedeon, Senior Landscape Architect at MK Consulting Engineers, that expanse of clean fill presented a big opportunity to create extensive green space, primarily filled with low-maintenance, native plants.
“One of the biggest things was trying to reestablish the forest edge that had been destroyed by industrial activity,” Gedeon said.
A landscape of native plants, grass and meadow will accomplish that quickly, she said. “Five to 10 years from now, nobody will know what was on that site previously. The change happens really fast.”
The site’s topography and proximity to the river also enabled the design team to include a significant amount of outdoor universal design, including an ADA-compliant kayak launch that will enable individuals in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues to go paddling.
Long-established nature facilities present a different challenge to project teams. Renovations and additions to existing structures — such as the recent expansion completed by Lewis Contractors, of the carriage house at Cylburn Arboretum – require architects to develop designs that artfully blend historic and modern styles, said Tyler Tate, President of Lewis. Project teams must also help clients clear other hurdles.
“The funding stack is very complicated on these projects and can include city funding, state funding, federal grants, money from private individuals and private institutions,” Tate said.
Consequently, project teams need to both work within tight budgets and sometimes present financial information in multiple forms to meet the reporting requirements of various funding sources.
“Oftentimes, these projects are doing something that authorities in the jurisdiction don’t see every day. It can be creative aspects to the design or new materials and methods used,” so contractors may need to help clients with the permitting process, Tate said.
Finally, such projects often require a heightened level of historic craftsmanship skills, “everything from knowledge of traditional carpentry, masonry, preservation skills, joinery of wood trusses and ability to deal with mass timber framing, big beams and glulam. So, finding the right construction partners is key,” Tate said.
The impact of successful outdoor-focused projects, however, can be amazing.
As part of a longstanding partnership, Lewis Contractors has built 12 baseball and multipurpose fields for the Cal Ripkin, Sr. Foundation in Maryland, including Latrobe Park, Brooks Robinson Field and other inner city facilities.
“We have been able to see firsthand how those projects can change communities,” Tate said. “The fields and related programs transform many children’s lives by supplying spaces where kids and adults can get outside and be active while learning essential life skills. The Foundation has partnerships with local police organizations which bring police and kids together in a welcoming, sports environment. It builds bridges.”
In Berks County, PA, GWWO saw how one “small, rectangular, very humble building” could bolster the mission and activities of the local nature conservancy. When Berks Nature looked to move out of its offices in downtown Reading, GWWO developed a plan to create The Nature Place – a combined headquarters and education center within Angelica Park, a property that Berks Nature managed.
The center was built next to an existing utilitarian boathouse to minimize development in the park. Combined with the transformation of the boathouse into a nature preschool, the new building energized the park and Berks Nature, Scurlock said.
“Having a presence in that park, where people would go to walk their dogs or play frisbee, activated the space and brought visibility to Berks Nature,” she said. “Every time they opened up a new education program, it was fully registered quickly.”
Heightened public interest in the nature programs and the conservancy’s desire to avoid cancelling sessions due to inclement weather prompted Berks Nature to go back to GWWO and request that they design an addition to the building, a combination of indoor and covered outdoor space capable of holding 300 people, which opened last year.
Construction companies will face a new realm of legal and managerial uncertainty when recreational marijuana becomes legal in Maryland on July 1.
The state’s newest constitutional amendment will challenge employers to find ways to balance adults’ legal right to use cannabis against employers’ needs to maintain safe workplaces and comply with differing cannabis laws in other jurisdictions. Vague and even contradictory Maryland laws provide limited guidance on how to achieve that balance. Meanwhile, a tight labor market has left many employers concerned that company drug policies could drive workers away.
“The biggest challenge facing construction companies is that there really is no legal precedent in Maryland to follow and there has been very little clarity from lawmakers in Maryland in terms of what types of policies employers should implement” in response to legalization, said Emily Brennan, Assistant Vice President, HMS Insurance Associates.
“It is important to consider what this new law does and does not do,” said Nicole Windsor, an employment law and corporate attorney at Bowie & Jensen LLC. “The legislation does not address cannabis use or impairment in the workplace, and the legislation does not provide any statutory protections for employees from adverse employment actions based on legal, off-duty conduct. In fact, Maryland law does not prevent any employer from testing for use of cannabis or taking action against an employee who tests positive for cannabis use.”
Consequently, employment lawyers and construction professionals are encouraging contractors to review and refine their drug use policies.
“We recommend all employers adopt a substance abuse prevention program that includes: a written policy contained within your employee handbook, supervisor training, employment education and consistently administering drug testing when appropriate, such as in response to an on-site accident,” Windsor said.
Developing thorough and effective substance abuse policies, however, involves answering some critical, difficult questions.
How often do you conduct drug tests, under what circumstances and what are the ramifications of a positive test result?
“Unfortunately, determining impairment with marijuana is next to impossible,” Brennan said. Indicators of cannabis use remain detectable in the body for long periods and “current tests on the market can’t determine if someone used cannabis this morning and therefore is under the influence versus if they used cannabis a week, two weeks or three weeks ago.”
“If you have an employee who tests positive, then how do you respond?” said Richard Shaw, Senior Client Executive at RCM&D. “If you can’t determine how much impairment the employee is experiencing, I think the response to a positive test could be an HR nightmare.”
Brennan proposes just one of numerous difficult situations that company officials could face.
“Consider for example, the situation where a laborer notifies his or her employer that they have cancer,” she said. “Sometime later through random drug testing, that employee tests positive for marijuana use and advises the company that he or she has been prescribed marijuana as part of treatment. You know that they have a disability, cancer, which is protected. Can you fire that employee for marijuana use at that point? Probably, but that doesn’t mean the employee won’t file a claim or a suit, so it is not an easy answer.”
In addition to laying out testing policies and establishing how employers will respond to positive tests, new company drug policies will also have to provide managers with guidance on what actions they must take and what documentation they must complete in order to defend the company from potential lawsuits or complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
On an everyday basis, company foremen, superintendents, project managers and others will have to contend with an expanded challenge of ensuring no worker on a construction site is impaired. Since tests can’t demonstrate cannabis impairment, workplace experts are urging contractors to provide employees with training on how to identify and address any form of impairment.
“You don’t have to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol to be impaired,” Shaw said. “A person could be dealing with physical or mental issues. They could be running a high fever or suffering effects from diabetes. They could be distracted by financial issues or family problems. They could have a newborn baby and didn’t get any sleep the night before.”
In addition to observing workers, some companies have also started administering impairment tests to employees as part of their check-in process on a worksite. Presented through a mobile app, the programs ask individuals to solve a series of tests and puzzles. The app compares their performance to a previous baseline to assess possible impairment.
Finally, employers will also have to continue to track the evolution of marijuana law in Maryland and other relevant jurisdictions, and be prepared to adjust their company policies accordingly.
“Right now, the [Maryland] law is silent regarding the implications of legalization for employers,” Windsor said. “So one of the biggest challenges for employers remains keeping up with the evolving guidance. The amendment established a Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council, which was charged with studying and making recommendations regarding cannabis use to the General Assembly. We anticipate this is an area that will continue to evolve in Maryland.”