It’s no secret that demolition is a big part of the construction process, so we love when the opportunity arises for us to make good use of a property prior to demolition taking place. More often than not, this comes in the form of donating office supplies, such as filing cabinets, that we may find left behind when we get the keys to begin an office fit-out. Most recently, we were able to provide various hands-on training opportunities for Western Berks Fire Department.
This was all possible thanks to the thoughtfulness of our Superintendent, Jason Holmgren, and the Vice President of our client, The Commonwealth Group, Don Robitzer. Jason, who has a relationship with the department’s Fire Commissioner, Jared Renshaw, is leading this project on-site day in and day out. It just so happened that Jared was involved in the planning process with the developer awhile back. Jared and Jason were able to connect at the start of the project and coordinated the opportunity for the department to conduct training at the buildings at the former Village Greens golf course in Sinking Spring.
“I was happy and fortunate to be able to bring my past relationship with Western Berks Regional Fire Department in on a D&B project,” explains our Superintendent, Jason. “The training went great! Commissioner Renshaw and his crew were fantastic! We are very lucky to have such a professional department serving the region.”
Western Berks Fire has answered over 550 calls so far this year, averaging 78 each month and over 1,000 in a year’s time, so this training was invaluable to the department. Both career and volunteer members of the department took advantage of the training opportunity, which took place on multiple occasions over the last few weeks. Those in attendance fine-tuned their skills in the following area: Ground/aerial ladder deployment and placement, deployment and advancement of the 400-foot hose line, cutting garage doors with saws for forcible entry when necessary, and vertical ventilation, which involves using saws to cut through the roof.
“We are always training on these basic, perishable skills, but it’s so much more beneficial to do it at acquired structures, as it makes it more realistic,” explains Commissioner Renshaw. “Hands-on training like this allows us to be able to hone the skills that we will use on fire and other emergency scenes. We emphasize being proficient in the basics, as they are the building blocks to being great firefighters. The multiple trainings had a great turn out, with 24 people there one evening.
Western Berks Fire Department was organized and placed in service in 2009. The department serves and protects over 18,000 residents and hundreds of businesses in over 32 square miles throughout Sinking Spring Borough, Wernersville Borough, South Heidelberg Township, and Lower Heidelberg Township. Learn more about their department here, and learn more about what is being constructed at the former Village Greens golf course here on our website.
D&B Construction’s partnership with Quality Buildings, a commercial framing contractor, began this year through their work on Kennett Pointe, a ground-up mixed-use property currently under construction in Kennett Square, PA.
Elmer Zook, Founder and President of Quality Buildings, has been part of the industry for 18 years now. “We like expanding our client base as well as building new relationships in the construction industry. D&B came on our radar a few years ago as a fast-growing player amongst other GC’s,” he reflects.
The fruition of Quality Buildings’ relationship with D&B began as a culmination of a handful of work connections, including having known our CEO, Dan Gring, through their involvement at Lancaster Berks Next Gen Construction Connect. At Kennett Pointe they supplied a complete furnish and installed a framing package that included manufacturing of pre-fabricating wall panels, floor and roof trusses and installation of the windows and doors.
“Quality Building produces quality work, and they are easy to communicate with. It is always a pleasure working with them, and I would work with them again in a heartbeat,” says John Ruza, Senior Superintendent overseeing the jobsite in Kennett Square.
This turnkey framing contractor was founded in 2008 as a home improvement contractor and Agricultural/Equestrian facilities design and build contractor. They’ve built many custom designed horse barns and riding arenas in NY, NJ, DE, MD, and VA.
Having experience in design and build as a contractor, coupled with a desire to work closer to home versus constant traveling, commercial framing seemed to fit well with their philosophy of working together as a team with other trades to deliver a well-planned project. In 2014, their sole focus became commercial framing for multi-family apartments, senior living and hotels. Completing between 12-15 projects annually, the company has an annual gross revenue of $20,000,000+ in the multi-family, senior living and hospitality sectors. Quality Buildings started pre-fabricating wall panels out of their own facility and continued to expand.
Today, Quality Buildings specializes in offsite pre-fabricated building components, as well as framing components, wall panels, floor trusses, roof trusses and all needed equipment and labor for a complete framing system. Offering VE options and full 3D modeling capabilities for clash detection, as well as BIM modeling with other trades, they are acknowledged as a leading innovator in wood framing. They also offer structural engineering and Mass Timber construction. Their commitment to provide customers with the finest craftmanship continues to be their anchor 14 years later. Quality Buildings has an employee count of 42, consisting of VDC designers, project managers, pre-fabricated wall panel manufacturing and field carpenters. They also have a steady base of subcontractors they know they can turn to for their larger projects.
“We pride ourselves for having more attention to detail and a higher level of service than our competition,” explains Elmer. “We are the experts in wood framing and strive to present ourselves as such. Every department within Quality Buildings has an in-depth knowledge of wood framing. Our designers are the linchpin of our projects being successful and have an extensive hands-on experience with building these projects in the field.”
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to others looking to get into the industry?
A: “Learn as much as you can about the trade you are a part of and about the trades around you that need your collaboration to do a good job and offer a stellar service. Care about your craft and treat people with respect.”
Q: What do you love most about working in the industry and why?
A: “I love working in the industry and providing a service that goes above and beyond just showing up and swinging a hammer. I love that our team is intentional about getting into the nuts and bolts of a project and finding new and better ways to get the job done.”
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: “We appreciate D&B entrusting QB with being your Framing partner on this project and look forward to many more in the future.”
“Tenant fit out” is a common phrase you will hear used throughout the industry. It refers to the process of making an interior space ready for occupation. Usually, it is common practice in commercial construction to keep the interior space empty so occupants can create the look and feel of their business while determining the level of refurbishment they need. While an office renovation refers to the work needing done to improve an interior design (think aesthetic revamps such as purchasing new furniture or fresh paint), a fit out involves creating a usable area within an empty space.
A Category A fit out is the standard for what you will find in commercial space ready for renting, with utilities such as plumbing fixtures and electrical wiring already in place. Typically, features like electrical outlets, HVAC systems, fire protection systems, raised access floors and toilets would need to be installed yet.
On the other hand, a Category B fit out requires installing features that are lacking in a Category A. In sum, this fit out focuses on making the aesthetic design specific to the business. It typically involves installing lighting, flooring, painting, partitioning, window treatments, furniture, and branding to make the office yours.
A core and shell fit out refers to a space that already has the framework of the building in place and is ready to be custom fit to its specifications. These fit outs typically include the following tasks:
-Power and Lighting
-Furnishings and fixtures (such as casework and millwork)
-Changes or updates that may be needed for structural elements of the space, such as the placement of windows and doors
-Updates that may be needed to HVAC (such as extending into other spaces with ductwork and controls), Electric, Sprinkler systems, etc.
-Cabling and wiring for internet connectivity and communication arrangements (fire alarms and other protection systems)
Fitting out an office space for your organization is a big undertaking that – when done correctly – can have a lasting impact for many years to come. It all starts in the pre-construction phase, where the proper planning and design of your space will ensure a smooth project throughout the duration of construction. Here are a few things to consider:
-An office fit out is an organization’s opportunity to take a blank canvas and make it their own. Consider how you can organize your space to increase workflow and enhance your staff’s performance. Do this by evaluating how the workspace will be used and all that needs to be in it for your team to efficiently complete their jobs.
-Plan for the future. If you ask yourself questions like “How will my business / industry grow and change over the next few years?” and “Will the proposed space be able to accommodate expansion in the future?” you can avoid needing to make renovations sooner than you’d like. As a result, your organization will save money by avoiding having to interrupt business to make changes to your office space.
-Make flexibility top of mind. Consider how technology advances and new trends may impact your office’s workflow. Does your space have the flexibility to adapt to such rapid change?
Most importantly, make sure the people you surround yourself with during this process are reliable, organized, and great communicators. A good General Contractor will help you navigate all of the points listed above.
D&B Construction Superintendent, Joseph, is no stranger to Tenant Improvements, regularly completing fit-outs for our clients like Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia. He shares some tips on what to look for in the right GC for the job:
-Your GC should provide a dedicated project team to oversee your fit out. In order to make sure the job runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible, your GC should lead the project team in meticulously going over your project’s logistics and specifications in pre-construction. This may include working with your property management team, building architects and engineers, and other tenants in your building.
-Look for a conscientious GC who is actively working out and updating schedule details to limit any type of disruption or inconvenience to your current operations. A constant open line of communication and attention to detail ensures your project is completed on time.
-Weekly client meetings organized by the contractor of your fit out are a good way to ensure you are always fully aware of your project’s progress. Regular touch bases also enable the team to target any changes that you may want to make during the course of construction.
-A good GC will have a well-established relationship and open line of communication with their subcontractors. At D&B, our team works hand in hand with our trade partners to achieve perfection on your project. Our high standard of cleanliness, safety, and quality of work shows through the duration of the project.
“The bottom line comes down to this,” explains Joe: “When the project is completed the client should feel like we exceeded their expectations of the finished product. Starting with the pre-construction team and ending with the final cleaning of the project, we take extreme pride in the work we deliver, as well as the relationships formed with our clients. This makes all the difference.”
A transitional photo showing the before and after shots throughout one of our many medical office fit outs
for our client, Bucks County Orthopedic Specialists.
Join us in wishing Luca continued success as he pursues his degree in Civil Engineering at Drexel University! We know he will accomplish great things.
How his days at D&B were spent:
“The majority of my days were spent on jobsites shadowing site superintendents. My responsibilities included communicating with my intern supervisor, site supervisors, signing in on jobs, wearing appropriate safety equipment on site, and completing weekly site inspections when needed.”
What he learned:
“A lot of valuable skills and information on how a construction management business runs both in the office and on the site. Some of the skills I learned was the importance of communication on the jobsite and in the office. I was able to sit in on meetings in the office and also saw communication take place on the job site through formal meetings, RFIs, and informal communication when the job superintendent talks with subcontractors onsite.”
Some of his favorite memories:
“Some of my favorite memories are coming back to my internship after Winter or Spring break. My supervisors were very excited to see me since they hadn’t seen me in over a week, and it was the best feeling. Another favorite thing to do is to look back at the old photos on Procore and see the progress that has been made on the sites I have been attending the company. I have seen rubble turn into an 8,000 SF home.”
What he is most proud of:
“Everything that I was able to accomplish from this internship within the past year. Looking back and seeing everything I have done and learned from this amazing experience has been great.”
How this internship impacted him:
“This internship has helped me influence my plans for the future. Before this internship, my plan was to attend college to study civil engineering, and although that plan hasn’t changed I owe the confidence I now have for this major to this internship with D&B. Being at a company almost every day now for the past year has helped me truly understand my passion. This provides comfort to me because I can finally say with confidence that I know what I am doing in my future. I am very thankful for both this internship program and D&B for providing me with this comfort.”
D&B Construction’s partnership with Earth Engineering Incorporated dates back eight years to 2014. They have completed over 12 projects with D&B Construction since becoming our Trade Partner. These projects range from large multi-family projects on 50 acres of land to large healthcare projects for clients like Tower Health and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
EEI performed numerous services on these projects including compaction testing, concrete testing, geotechnical consulting, sinkhole remediation, structural steel inspection, geotechnical investigations, clean fill assessment, and design services. Paul J. Creneti, P.G., Director of the Lehigh Valley division of Earth Engineering Incorporated, has been part of the industry for 26 years now. “Working on these projects with D&B Construction was fulfilling, as they were a collaborative effort with the construction and design team,” he reflects.
Paul has worked with many members of Team D&B over the years, including our Chief Operating Officer Brennan Reichenbach, Vice President of Pre-Construction Mark Keever, Project Manager Scott Weaver, and Vice President of Construction for Reading and Central PA, Tom Rinaldo. His favorite part of working on a D&B project? “Being part of a project team that has trust with all parties involved.” Paul can count on the fact that “quality would never be an issue” whenever he works with Team D&B. “If problems arose during development, the team handled these problems quickly and most appropriately to ensure that sites were being developed properly.”
According to our VP of Construction Tom Rinaldo, who has worked with Paul and EEI for the last 15 years on various projects, “they bring undeniable value and knowledge to D&B projects as a valued Trade Partner.” Tom most enjoys how knowledgeable their geologists are. “We utilize them to do proctors for us. They help out in a variety of ways, from testing and analysis of soil on job sites to concrete testing. When we completed work for 999 Berkshire Blvd. we had to excavate and remove 10,000 SF of soil and excavated around the entire exterior of the building to remediate soils. Their team’s analysis of the unsuitable soil and assistance in finding suitable soil was imperative to the success of this project.”
This full service geotechnical / environmental engineering consulting firm was founded in 1990 in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. By 2003, EEI outgrew this facility and established their Corporate Headquarters in East Norriton, Pennsylvania. Today they have approximately 125 employees and other regional offices in West Berlin, New Jersey, the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania that allow them to service projects from New York to Maryland.
EEI provides their clients with geotechnical engineering and environmental consulting services. Such services allow them to contribute to the successful development of a wide variety of projects for their clients, as issues such as cost-effectiveness and site development issues are evaluated by their team. This analysis allows EEI to provide clients with the best recommendations on how to proceed with their project.
The predominance of their geotechnical and environmental work is in the private commercial and residential sectors, with a portion of their geo-structural design work in the public sector. EEI takes on approximately 1,200 new projects within a year.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to others looking to get into the industry?
A: “Listen to your client’s needs while at the same time keeping the project within or below budget. You can accomplish this through quality engineering and quick decisions.”
Q: What makes a good leader?
A: “Being true to your corporate values and goals and holding a high standard for others to follow.”
Q: What do you love most about your job and why?
A: “Being part of a project team that leads to the successful completion of projects despite countless variables along the way. It’s rewarding.”
Q: What about a D&B project stands out in comparison to other General Contractors you work with on other job sites?
A: “Quality with a strong focus on the client’s needs.”
EEI’s Geotechnical Engineer, Dan, was just on site last week to check the compaction rating of the soil on this jobsite. View some recent drone footage here.
Q: What do most of your days look like on the job-site?
A: “I spend most of my days shadowing and working closely with the commercial Site Superintendent, Barry, at Stratix’s job site, as well as shadowing John, the residential Superintendent.”
Q: Tell us about a day / task that you enjoyed most at your internship so far and why?
A: “I enjoy looking over project submittals the most because I get to see how different applications on the job were approved.”
Q: What are some things you’ve learned throughout your internship so far?
A: “I learned the importance of safety on a job-site is by far the most important aspect. OSHA safety requirements are the guidelines for construction job-sites. I’ve also learned that everything must get approved before even starting and this can hold projects up for months. I’m learning about what is on the drawings and how to interpret what is on them. I also have been sitting in meetings and participating in weekly site inspections to really get a grasp of things.”
Q: What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself so far through your internship experience?
A: “That I know more about the construction industry than I thought I did.”
Q: What would you say is the most important skill you developed / strengthened at your internship so far?
A: “I learned the importance of listening.”
Q: What are your internship goals for the rest of your time with D&B?
A: “To continue to be able to complete individual tasks and be trusted at completing these tasks.”
Q: What were your responsibilities throughout this internship?
A: “My responsibilities included researching, writing, and editing articles for blog posts and newsletters. I learned about graphic design and how to create things in design programs like Canva and Adobe. I also learned how to navigate WordPress and the back end of a website, as well as MailChimp. I completed Benchmarking analysis and learned the differences between preparing copy for social media and blogs/newsletters.”
Q: Of all your responsibilities, which did you enjoy most and why?
A: “I enjoyed creating things for D&B on Canva. It gave me a chance to be creative and really understand branding. Besides that I also really liked coming up with research for articles and gathering information in general. I liked interviewing people and getting quotes and information. Interviewing people was a great way for me to learn more about some of the staff here at D&B.”
Q: How was your overall experience interning with D&B Construction?
A: “I was lucky to come into a business that was not only friendly and accepting, but that also had knowledgeable people who I could learn a great deal from, especially since this was my first internship experience. I rate my experience 10 out of 10 because coming into this, I had no idea what my internship was going to be like, but being here for a semester allowed me to learn more than I ever expected to about what goes on in a business. I also strongly believe that I gained a lot of hands on experience, from having my own computer and my own documents to work on in the office, to being able to go out to the job sites and take photos.”
Q: Do you feel this internship enabled you to apply knowledge and skills to prepare for college?
A: “Yes! Since I am in high school, I don’t have a focused major just yet, but my internship coordinator, Angela, went through a list of different tasks at the start of my internship. I was able to voice my opinion on what I thought I would be good at, what interested me, and what I wanted to learn more about. This allowed me to use my skills to the best of my ability throughout the internship. For example, I took Honors English all four years of high school, so I was able to write a lot of blogs and articles during this internship. I was given support and encouragement throughout training during my internship. If I didn’t know something, that was alright because then I was taught it, and that allowed me to learn new things and gain new skills. I really feel that this internship confirmed that I am on the right path. Through this internship experience I even realized that I would like to do some sort of marketing in my future career.”
Q: Do you feel this internship helped prepare you for your future career?
A: “Going into my internship I knew I wanted a business career, but I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do in the business world. This internship helped me gain knowledge about the business world and what really goes into marketing. It not only gave me an idea of what I want to go for in college, but I also gained experience and have a leg up compared to to my peers since I have an internship on my resume already. Not a lot of high school kids get this experience. This experience is valuable because it not only looks great for future jobs but will help me with getting into college.”
Q: What did you learn throughout your internship that you did not expect would be so important?
A: “I learned many things at my internship, but one thing that I didn’t think would be that important is branding and how we have the same colors and logos for everything. Another important thing I learned is the importance of having your business being a thought leader in the industry, not just as a company that does construction. I learned so many workforce skills that a classroom can’t teach me.”
Q: What are you most proud of from the work you produced throughout your internship and why?
A: “I am most proud of the blogs I wrote and posted with the help of my internship coordinator. It is something that I can say I worked on from start to finish and can add to my portfolio.”
Q: How would you describe D&B Construction’s company culture in three words?
A: “Innovative, thought-leaders, and welcoming.”
Paramount Contracting, Inc., a commercial wall and ceiling contractor, is based out of Lancaster, PA and serves the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland areas. The company was established as a premier wall and ceiling contracting company by Jeff Mylin in 2005. “The emphasis was always on customer service and building a great team,” says a reflective Mylin 16 years later. “We focused on the needs of the customer and providing an end product that our team would be proud of.” As a result of this, Paramount has “experienced organic growth as opportunities presented themselves over the years.” Today, the company has nearly 100 employees, completes in excess of 300 jobs per year, and specializes in Metal Studs, Drywall, Insulation, EIFS and Acoustical Ceilings, as well as select Carpentry and Specialty items.
D&B is proud to have been partnering with a company that reciprocates our core values of being a company that cares about everything from the customer to the finished product. Since Paramount became a Trade Partner of D&B Construction’s nearly five years ago in 2017 they have worked on more than 10 projects with us, completing everything from insulation, drywall, and exterior sheathings to rough blocking, acoustical ceilings and clouds, and FRP.
Some of the current active projects Paramount is working on with D&B include this mixed-use design-build project in Kennett Square, PA, D&B’s new corporate headquarters, and Kreitz Gallen-Schutt Attorney’s office fit out, which is just starting up. Other projects worth highlighting from this year include Tower Health’s newest satellite office in Womelsdorf and Grove Dental Pediatrics.
Perhaps the most impressive job that Paramount is working on D&B with is the 80,000 SF adaptive reuse building currently being renovated in the heart of Wyomissing. This five-story building will be the future home of Stratix Systems’ headquarters.
Our Project Manager, Andrew, plays an active role in the daily management of what is occurring at the jobsite. This is what he had to say about his experience working with their team on this job: “Paramount has been an integral Trade Partner on our project at 200 N. Park Road in Wyomissing. Their Project Managers and Site Foreman have brought knowledge from previous projects on nearby, similar style buildings that have aided our project in design, constructability and schedule. Their crews have been more than accommodating with a stubborn building that has required much coordination and numerous details from the Architect.”
Andrew also had the pleasure of working with Paramount on three other projects, including his first job with D&B nearly one year ago, Kingsview Partners. He looks forward to “continuing our strong relationship with such a great Trade Partner” as we head into completing more jobs with them in the New Year.
Oh, and did we mention the Paramount team has some pretty great cooks, too?! This past October, Paramount was kind enough to host a home-cooked BBQ luncheon at Stratix Systems’ future new headquarters for all D&B employees, ownership, the project architect, RHJ Associates, and even invited us to invite other Trade Partners on the job. It was a great day of camaraderie onsite as we all learned about the intricate details of this detailed project. “Their BBQ was the launching point for one of our company’s on-site safety training sessions, and attendance was most definitely enhanced as a result of the promise of good food. We were and still are grateful for their efforts,” reflect Andrew.
Q: Paramount Contracting has completed 4,100 jobs since its inception. What project are you most proud of to date and why?
A: “It is hard to choose just one, but the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute in Lancaster, PA would be near the top. It is a respected facility in our home town and architecturally impressive building.”
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to others looking to get into the industry?
A: “You have to have a love for the industry. Construction is a tough business with demanding schedules, tight budgets and currently material and labor shortages. Yes, there are many challenges but it also can be very rewarding when seeing the job come to completion. Those of us in this line of work understand how it feels to drive by a finished project and feel a sense of pride that ‘we helped build that.’”
Q: You are completing a number of projects with D&B right now. What has your experience been like working with our team?
A: “D&B projects are clean, organized, and safe projects to work on. They communicate clearly with all of the trade teams, which leads to successful projects. We have made a significant investment into bidding to D&B and we feel that has not gone unnoticed. Subcontractor loyalty is obvious, which increases effective teambuilding.”
Q: What do you enjoy most about working on a D&B project and why?
A: D&B Superintendents, Project Managers, Engineers, and support/admin staff are always accessible and willing to help. Coordination and scheduling are always well thought out and communicated from planning to completion. The jobs are often local, and our employees enjoy investing in the buildings in their community.”
At D&B Construction we like to think of our trade partners as an extension of our team. We are proud to call Paramount Contracting an extension of the D&B family. Every project we have collaborated with them on results in a final product that both teams can be proud of and that our customers can look forward to.
Technology is ever-evolving, and part of this evolution includes the construction industry. In response to COVID-19 and technological advancements, the construction industry has begun to innovate more than ever before. One of the most fascinating practices that is growing in popularity is modular or off-site construction.
Modular or offsite construction is the process in which a building is constructed off-site under controlled conditions using the same materials and built to the same standards as conventionally built facilities. The only difference? It can be built in nearly half the time. Buildings are constructed in modules that can be put together to form the original design, all while still resembling the work of the most sophisticated site-built facility. Why do companies use modular construction? The answer is simple. Modular construction is greener, faster, and safer.
Since modular construction is a factory-controlled process it generates less waste and creates a site that is less likely to evoke disturbances. A modular construction site also promotes more flexibility and re-use. Modular projects can be disassembled and relocated or refurbished for new use. This reduces the demand for materials and limits the amount of energy used to create a building that meets the new needs. Additionally, a modular site produces less material waste since the building is constructed in a factory and waste is eliminated by recycling material, controlling inventory, and protecting building materials.
Modular construction is also faster than traditional building methods. Construction of modular buildings occur while site and foundation work are both being done. The Modular Building Institute reports that this can reduce construction times by 30%-50%. This can also be credited to the elimination of weather delays. Sixty to ninety percent of construction is completed inside of a factory, leaving no need to worry about inclement weather delaying a project.
One of the most important benefits of modular construction is safety. As we know, safety is always a priority in construction, and modular building makes it easier than ever to be safe. A report by McGraw-Hill Construction found that over 1/3 of their respondents (34%) who are currently using modular construction have seen site safety improve. This may be credited to the fact that it is free from weather elements like rain or snow that can cause slips and falls. It also reduces the risk of a worker falling from great heights, which OSHA reports as the cause of 33.5% of construction worker fatalities. Learn more about OSHA and their dedication to safety by reading this article on D&B Construction’s blog.
Modular building is done mostly on the ground level, but if working from height is required permanent scaffolding is used. This permanent scaffolding is different (and safer) from the scaffolding normally used on a traditional job site. Because it is not constantly being moved and reassembled, there is less likelihood for error and accidents.
Modular construction is growing in popularity. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global modular construction market is going to be valued at $114.78 billion USD by 2028. The market was valued at $72.11 Billion USD in 2020. Here are some examples of just how much you can do with modular construction:
The Star Apartments in Los Angeles were built in 2014 on top of a previously existing single-story commercial building. A concrete superstructure was poured over the existing structure. Next, five stories of modules that were built off-site were added on top of the single-story commercial building. The modules were stucco-finished on site. These modules provide 102 apartments and have pre-installed bathrooms, appliances, cabinets, and surface finishes.
An iconic example of modular construction is Habitat 67. Built in 1967, architect Moshe Sadfie’s unique cuboid block of 158 apartments caught the eyes of many. The way Sadfie designed Habitat 67 allowed for 15 different kinds of housing, gardens and terraces to fill the voids in between. The complex stack of concrete houses was connected by high-tension rods, steel cables, and welding. Even though it was built in 1967, Habitat 67 shows the true possibilities of modular construction.
This 14-story tower was the world’s first example of permanent modular construction. The building has 140 self-contained, prefabricated concrete capsules that each measure 2.3m x 3.8m x 2.1 m. The capsules were each connected to the shaft of the building with just four high-tension bolts, allowing each unit to be replaceable if needed. These capsules were delivered to the site already fitted out with a small bathroom. Owners used the capsules as small living or office spaces, and the interior space of each module can even be extended by connecting to other capsules.
These are three unique examples of modular construction because of their structure. While these extravagant and unique designs are made easier with modular construction, you can also make very basic structures that look identical to buildings that are constructed on-site. The possibilities with modular construction are seemingly endless thanks to its ability to make construction greener, faster, and safer. We look forward to seeing just how far modular construction will go.
Cold weather is upon us as we gear up for another Winter season. It is crucial that all workers in the industry are prepared to work in these cold weather conditions. We prepared Team D&B for the cold months ahead at the start of December during our monthly Safety Meeting. Our Superintendent, Jason, presented a Tool Box Talk on Cold Weather Considerations. Since safety is our standard we wanted to share some of the pointers our team discussed during our latest Safety Meeting:
-Wearing several layers of clothing is always more beneficial than wearing one thick layer when working in cold weather.
-Did you know that forty percent of a person’s body heat can be lost from an uncovered head?! Because of this, wearing a warm wool hat or a helmet liner under your hard hat is always a good idea. Be sure to cover your ears and remember to wear gloves, too!
-When it comes to footwear, wear one or two pairs of warm socks. Your footwear should not fit too tightly or it will restrict blood flow and ultimately cause more harm than good.
-In cold, windy weather it is a good idea to wear a face mask or scarf.
-You need energy to keep your muscles warm, making it important to avoid exhaustion and fatigue. Take frequent short breaks in a warm shelter so your body has time to warm up and relax.
-Drink warm, sweet beverages and avoid drinks with caffeine. Eat warm, high calorie food such as pasta dishes for lunch.
Q: What are some ways you keep warm when working outside in the cold?
A: “Proper attire during the cold weather months is a definite must. You definitely want to have proper socks and footwear. Keeping perspiration away from the skin is a big one. You want socks that wick sweat and perspiration. Wearing synthetic or cotton clothing next to your skin is the best way to wick away any sweat. If you keep that sweat away from your body, you won’t get as cold. The reason people’s feet get cold is from sweating, which happens even in the winter – especially when working on a construction site. The body can lose up to 85% of its heat through sweating during exercise. I recommend purchasing socks that wick the sweat away from your feet to help you stay a lot warmer. There are several different brands available. I believe Under Armour makes them, and Wick Dry CoolMax by Fox River is another go to brand.”
Q: What different kinds of foods do you eat/drink in the winter to keep you warmer?
A: “You always need to stay hydrated. People don’t realize this, but even though it is Winter you still need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You will see me with a thermos of hot soup for lunch instead of a cold sandwich in the winter time.”
Q: Do you make sure you go somewhere warm for breaks in the colder weather? If so, where do you suggest?
A: “We usually tell the guys to go into their vehicles if they are out on an open construction site. If they are on an interior construction site there is usually heat on. At our job sites, we also have temporary heaters on. These are not only to keep the worker’s warm, but also for the product we are putting in. Once you get to drywall you have to condition the space.”
Q: What are some clothing layering methods you use?
A: “A very important factor is keeping the wind off you. When you layer your clothing your cutting the wind out from getting to your body. Having the proper gear, such as boots, gloves, and a hat are very important. Last month we got a new order of hats so our Team has them to put under their hard hat when on the job site.”
Tom usually wears three layers under his winter coat: A t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a hoodie. He also wears long underwear, wicking Under Armour shirt, and Under Armour bottoms.
Q: What are some ways that a Site Superintendent can help the men and women on their job sites stay warm?
A: “Making sure they have the proper attire and making sure they are taking the proper number of breaks, especially when the temperatures get below 20 degrees. We typically have two 15-minute breaks throughout the day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, in addition to a lunch break. At D&B, we always educate our team on hypothermia at safety meetings and in our safety training. We know that one of the main injuries, according to OSHA, would be slips and falls. This, along with hypothermia, frostbite, ice, cold stress, and winter colds and flus are common winter hazards that we educate the team on.”
Q: What do you recommend someone new to working in the cold weather prepares for?
A: “It is important that they make sure they have the right clothes. They may not be used to spending eight hours out on a construction site, so it is important that they have the proper gear for the elements.
Q: Are there any common misconceptions that people think are helpful in the cold, but are harmful?
A: “Coffee might warm you up for a few seconds, but since it contains caffeine it can increase your urination frequency and ultimately dehydrate you. Make sure you drink it in moderation to avoid this.”
Q: Anything else you want to add?
A: “You have to know when your body is telling you to get away from the cold environment. Realizing the signs of cold stress, hypothermia, frostbite, etc. are important. Listen to your body. It will tell you when to stop doing what you’re doing.”
Frostbite is an injury to the skin and underlying tissue. Most often it is found on a person’s nose, ears, fingers, or toes. One of the first symptoms are a “pins and needles” sensation followed by numbness or pain in the affected extremities. Hard, pale, and cold skin is a way of distinguishing frostbite. Once the area thaws, the flesh becomes red and very painful.
Below is an infographic illustrating signs of frostbite and some pointers on what you should and shouldn’t do if you or someone on your job site is affected:
Hypothermia is a medical condition in which the person’s core body temperature drops significantly below normal and normal metabolism begins to be impaired. This occurs when the core temperature drops below 95 °F (35 °C). If body temperature falls below 90 °F (32 °C) the condition can become critical and eventually fatal. It is important to note that Hypothermia can still occur at temperatures well above freezing when a victim is submerged in cold water.
Below is an infographic illustrating signs of hypothermia and some pointers on what you should and shouldn’t do if you or someone on your job site is affected:
Consider printing out OSHA’s Cold Stress Card in both English and Spanish to have on the jobsite for all workers safety. These cards include information on common types of cold stress, such as hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot (also known as Immersion Foot), as well as ways to prevent it and treat it.
We hope you find this article helpful as you and your team brave the cold winter months! If you have any additional tips, we’d love for you to share in the comments below.
For this quarter’s trade partner spotlight, we are taking a visit to Fleetwood, PA, where AP Merkel Inc. has resided since the 1890’s. AP Merkel is a four-generation company that offers plumbing, heating, and cooling services. They have come a long way since Augustus P. Merkel first founded the company over 100 years ago. AP Merkel first started out as a company that built farm implements, such as machines that would harvest crops. They are well known for manufacturing grain separators known as threshing machines.
Their transition into the HVAC world all comes down to a smart, strategic business move. “Eventually, all of these farms that AP Merkel was working with needed heat,” explains Nate Lobb, an Estimator who has been with the company for 10 years. One thing led to another, and eventually the company added plumbing into their wheelhouse. Approximately 30 employees later, “the rest is history,” sums up Nate.
Today the company is run by Pete Merkel, standing President, and busy with approximately 50 commercial jobs a year. Nate is usually efficiently juggling 20 or so jobs at a time, which he enjoys. “I like the diversity of projects we work on. We do everything from senior living, to coffee shops, to dentist offices,” he explains. Nate also enjoys working through and overcoming the challenges that come with starting every new project. “Being involved in a job from when it is just a concept in budgeting to when it is complete is something I always enjoy,” he says.
Nate, who received his plumbing license about five years ago, grew up in a construction environment. “My dad was always in construction. I had an interest more in the mechanical / HVAC and plumbing side of things,” he explains. Nate earned his Environmental Studies degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. While in college, he interned for a company in Philly doing HVAC work and ended up coming back to the Fleetwood area and continuing his career at AP Merkel.
Nate stresses the fact that now is a great time to get involved in the industry. “There is a HUGE need for young, licensed tradespeople. There are few young people getting into this field right now. Get your license when you can, take it seriously, communicate, and you can have a great career,” he urges.
One young individual who has impressed Nate is D&B’s Superintendent, Ryan Hummel, who he has worked with since D&B Construction and AP Merkel established a relationship within the past year. “He has been really helpful and knows the industry, especially for being a younger guy. Ryan is really on top of it and not afraid to pick up the phone and check on something with us. We can talk through things and work it out. It is clear he takes his job serious,” explains Nate.
This feeling of open lines of excellent communication is just as strong a value for AP Merkel as it is for Team D&B. When we asked Ryan what he likes about working with AP Merkel, he summed it up simply in one word: “Everything.” However, what stands out most to Ryan is “their level of communication and coordination from their office staff to the field staff.” His experience working with AP Merkel over the last year has shown him that “they run a tight ship.”
An example of this can be found at one of our healthcare projects currently in active construction, Grove Dental Pediatrics. Ryan has worked with Nate and Tom, AP Merkel’s Superintendent who has been with the company for around 25 years. “I bid the Grove job, completed estimating, submittals, and the purchasing of equipment and piping, and Tom took it from there and is currently managing the actual job,” explains Nate.
One highlight of this 3,700 SF medical office space? “This project has medical gas piping, which is something we don’t deal with that often. This type of piping has to be put in very clean. It has a special fitting with a braised fitting joint. The key is to keep it clean, so when we start to install it we have to flush it with nitrogen gas,” explains Nate.
We recently visited this healthcare project in Wyomissing, PA. Here’s some photos of AP Merkel team members, Andy, Zach, and Scott, their lead plumber, working to keep the job running smoothly and safely with Team D&B:
Safe + Sound is a year-round campaign to encourage every workplace to have a safety and health program. It was launched by OSHA in an effort to gain safety awareness. Every year in August, OSHA has a Safe + Sound week, with this year’s taking place from Monday, August 9th to Sunday, August 15th.
This nationwide event recognizes the success of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. Seven businesses make up the list of organizers who participate in planning calls, working collaboratively with each other to develop and review Safe + Sound materials and communications, and leverage their own resources to support these efforts. In addition to OSHA, these businesses include large organizations, such as the National Safety Council and . The program also has 225 partners who are membership organizations that are responsible for communication and outreach throughout the year to promote Safe + Sound to their stakeholders.
D&B Construction is one of 68 companies throughout PA (and over 1,600 across the nation) who have signed up to participate in Safe + Sound Week 2021. We are excited to show our support and commitment to continue building safer jobsites. People come first at D&B. The safety of our employees, trade partners, and clients is always paramount in every project’s preparation and execution. In order to make this happen, safety and health are at the core of everything we do. Learn how here.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, was created in 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions by setting and enforcing safety standards in addition to providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. You may have heard OSHA refer to the “Fatal Four” when describing the four most common causes of worker deaths on construction sites throughout the United States.
The four most common causes of worker deaths in this industry come from Falls,) which account for 33.5% of construction worker deaths), being struck by an object (11.1%), electrocutions (8.5%) and being caught in / between something accounted for 5.5% of construction worker deaths. According to OSHA, as of 2020 “one in five worker deaths in 2019 were in construction.” The “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (58.6%) of construction worker deaths. According to OSHA, if these “Fatal Four” causes could be eliminated, they would save 591 workers’ lives in America each year.
In 2020, OSHA gathered data on the top 10 instances of safety code violations. Learn what they are below, and hear from our Director of Construction and Safety Director, Tom, on how such issues can be avoided and prevented:
What This Means: OSHA states that a violation could include not providing working conditions that are free of known dangers, failure to keep floors in work areas in a clean and dry state, as well as not providing required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
Tips on How to Prevent This: Our Safety Director, Tom, encourages the use of safety rails and body harnesses on every job site. “At D&B we provide these on every job site to give our workers the safest environmental possible.”
What This Means: Simply put, this refers to the failure to inform all people on the job site of potential risks and hazards.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “At D&B we fill out a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) on all job sites,” explains Tom. “This helps us to ensure that we are communicating this vital information with all of our employees and trade partners. Communication is huge in enhancing safety.”
What This Means: Failure to abide to OSHA standards would include improper fall protection / fall arrest systems, unsuitable guardrail height, inadequate footing support, failure to complete inspections, etc.
Tips on How to Prevent This: Work with reputable scaffolding companies that you trust. “At D&B we complete daily and weekly inspections on the scaffolding on our site to ensure we are practicing proper scaffolding safety protocols,” says Tom.
What This Means: Failure to address the practices and procedures needed to disable machinery or equipment that may expose workers to hazardous energy.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “There is no better way to ensure this mishap is avoided then by requiring all electricians on your job site to use lockout and tagout procedures on all powered equipment and panel boxes,” says Tom.
At D&B, we include the following lockout safety poster on our Safety Board at all jobsites:
What This Means: A violation would include not providing the proper respiratory protection.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “In addition to providing dust masks to all employees, it is important to utilize clean air machines and air scrubbers such as HEPA filters on your job sites,” says Tom. “In any situation where there are environmental hazards present, we as a company will hire a reputable remediation company to ensure the safety and health of all people on the job site. I highly recommend doing this when the elements require it.”
What This Means: This could include placing a ladder on a box or barrel, using ladders where there is unstable footing or soft ground, exceeding a ladder’s maximum load rating, ignoring nearby overhead power lines, moving or shifting the ladder while a person or equipment is on it, using an extension ladder horizontally as a platform, etc.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “Have your Site Superintendents check ladders on a daily and weekly basis. If any ladders are deemed unsafe or defective, they should be removed immediately,” says Tom. Unlike hard hats, for example, there is no specific expiration date for ladders. Following proper storage techniques and treating ladders with care can help in making them last longer.
What This Means: This refers to improper vehicle use, lack of training, and a failure to re-certify operators every three years as required.
Tips on How to Prevent This: ” At D&B, we make sure all of our Pettibone and Lift operators are certified, and we require lift plans for any kind of crane lifts. This is something I recommend everyone get in the habit of making a standard practice.”
What This Means: Failure to provide proper fall prevention training is something that can easily be avoided if proper training and communication on fall prevention is completed on all job sites.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “All D&B Construction field personnel are OSHA certified, and we also hold training sessions throughout the course of the year,” explains Tom.
At D&B, we include the following fall protection poster on our Safety Board at all jobsites. This is an easy way to remind everyone on the job site of how to best prevent falls.
What This Means: Failure to provide one or more methods of machine guarding to ensure the safety of the operator and others in the nearby area can result in an unsafe job site.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “All powered tools are inspected for proper and adequate guarding by a D&B employee, such as the Site Superintendent, before use,” says Tom.
What This Means: Failure to make the appropriate personal protective equipment available to all employees at no cost is something that should not occur anywhere.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “Keep inventory of safety equipment, such as safety glasses and hi-visibility vests, for all of your employees. At D&B, we keep a document that is updated every time a new hire starts so we know the date in which they received all of their issued PPE. This makes it easy for us to keep taps on when hard hats will expire and new ones will need to be re-issued. We also provide respiratory and hearing protection on every job site.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry had 195,600 workplace injuries and 3,600 workplace illnesses in 2019. More specifically, Pennsylvania’s non-fatal workplace injury and illness rates were above the national average. The Center for Construction Research and Training’s Fatality Map Dashboard also shows that since data started being collected in 2011, Delaware has had 17 fatal injuries in construction, New Jersey has had 145, and Pennsylvania has had 213 fatal injuries. With these statistics in mind the importance of practicing safety is pretty clear.
“Safety Weeks such as this one exist so we can create awareness and reduce the number of fatalities our industry sees,” concludes Tom. “Chances are that some of the fatalities seen could have been prevented if better communication and more training took place. That’s why our team at D&B is focused on achieving safety every day through daily safety checks on site.”
Let us know how you work to prevent incidents on the job site in the comments below, and consider joining D&B and thousands of other companies in taking the pledge to be Safe + Sound – both throughout this week and every day.
White-sand beaches, warm weather, great food, and high-end luxuries are everything that Miami is known for. The small town of Surfside is no exception with its reputation of being pleasant, quiet, safe, and affordable. As you likely may have heard, Surfside recently become the center of attention for many people after tragedy struck the small town in June.
On June 24th Surfside’s 12-story beachfront condo, Champlain Towers South, partially collapsed at about 1:25 AM with its residents inside. As of Monday, July 26th, the last victim’s remains were identified. This brought the final death toll to 98 people after tedious efforts were made to account for every resident, and officials have now confirmed that remains for each person considered missing after the collapse have been recovered. The efforts made were the largest emergency unrelated to hurricanes ever conducted in the state, with search and rescue teams from throughout Florida, many other states, and even Israel and Mexico coming together to bring closure to families.
According to the New York Times, this disaster is one of the deadliest structural building failures in American History. Many residents are still in shock. Community Members Peggy Streter and her husband own The Carrot Café located in downtown Surfside. The two have claimed to know about 50 people who lived in the condo. The Streters are not the exception. Miami’s building chief, Charles Danger said, “Everybody in Miami knows somebody from that building or knows somebody who knows somebody.”
The rest of the building was demolished on Sunday, July 4th in efforts to continue the search. Once all remains were identified of those missing, officials began steering their focus to determining what could have caused the collapse. Since then the building has continued to be in the limelight, as many of the building’s records that would help investigators learn why the building fell could not be found, and the not-so-easy conversation over the fate of the site has started to take place. Here’s a quick summary of what is known:
People living in Surfside Condos, which were completed in 1981, had previously voiced their concerns about the structure of the building they called home, so the collapse does not come as a surprise for some. After a DEA building collapsed in Miami almost half a century ago, taking the lives of seven employees and injuring 16 others, two Miami counties instilled new regulations requiring buildings that have stood for 40 years to be investigated for any problems. Since Champlain Towers South was in one of these counties, their mandatory 40-year inspection took place in 2018.
When the condo was inspected by engineer Frank Morabito in 2018, he identified that there was a flaw in the original construction of the building that was causing structural damage. Morabito mentioned the main issue was that the pool deck and outdoor planters had been “laid on a flat structure.” Since there was no slope where the pool stood, standing water was not able to drain off the pool deck. Instead, the water would sit on the waterproofed concrete until it evaporated. At the time of inspection, the water-proofing concrete had failed, causing the water to seep through resulting in “major structural damage to the concrete slab below these areas.” The report also pointed out distress and fatigue in the concrete, columns, beams, and walls of the parking garage below the pool area.
Morabito’s report said that “failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” He could not predict that this may lead to the collapse of the building, however he said that repairs to the concrete were needed for “maintaining the structural integrity” of the building. The waterproofing and structural issues of the condo were never addressed by the owner’s association.
Fast forward to 2019 when a neighboring luxury tower was being built. Residents of the Champlain Towers South condominium complained that construction would often cause their building to shake. This led to a resident and board member of the condo association, Mara Chouela, voicing her opinion that workers were “digging too close” to the property. She said they “have concerns regarding the structure of our building.” Just 28 minutes later, official Rosendo Prieto responded to Chouela stating that “there is nothing for me to check.”
There is no concrete evidence that construction of the condo’s neighbor contributed to the collapse of the building, and it is still unclear if the lack of action from the owner’s association was a major factor in the building’s collapse. Cassie Stratton, a resident who was inside the building during the collapse, reportedly told her husband on the phone that she saw the pool cave in first, backing up Morabito’s claim that the waterproofing of the pool was necessary to maintain the structure of the building.
The fact remains that residents were concerned for the structure of the condo, and they felt as if no one took the necessary action to redeem the structural integrity of the building.
The city of Surfside hired a structural engineer, Allyn Kilsheimer, to inspect the site and determine the cause for the buildings collapse. Kilsheimer says it is “maybe not an individual cause, but two or three things that contributed and/or caused this failure.” While the pool could have been a major issue to the structural problems, it is still unclear and there are many theories that will be examined.
In addition to hiring Kilsheimer, another group was hired to lead the charge to uncover what caused the collapse since this was such a big case. The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) will be working constantly to investigate the situation. They say that “a fact-finding investigation of the building performance and emergency response and evacuation procedures will likely result in significant and new knowledge or building code revision recommendations needed to reduce or mitigate public risk and economic losses from future building failures.”
Like many others, we have been wondering what caused this to happen. Matt Knight, Senior Estimator at D&B Construction, has been working in the industry for over 20 years. He has been involved with the construction of many large, well-known buildings, including the 9/11 Memorial.
Matt did not do any research, but from what he saw “the building collapsed from the bottom up,” which makes him think “there would be structural cracks in the floor, columns, beams, etc.” As we know now, these structural cracks were found by engineers and deemed to be a major structural concern prior to the collapse of the building. Much like Allyn Kilsheimer, Matt believes that it is likely there are multiple causes for the failure of Champlain Towers South.
One of the theories that Matt believes had a big role in the building’s collapse was the fact that the condo had been sinking at a rate of two millimeters per year from 1993 to 1999. Scientists also discovered evidence of other areas nearby sinking as well. Matt says that one of the most important things when constructing large buildings is to make sure you are building on good soil. Since the condo was slowly sinking, Matt believes they likely “built on unsuitable soils and never got the compaction they needed.” He notes that if soil is not properly compacted so that it is suitable for the building, everything else will eventually fail. “If you are building from the ground up your soil underneath is, of course, most important,” he concludes. For now, Matt is waiting to learn more about what caused the failure once the investigations are conclusive.
At the end of the day, the collapse of Champlain Towers South was a tragedy, however Matt tries to look at how the industry as a whole can learn from what happened. “Usually a lot of good things will come out of a catastrophic failure. For example, we learned a lot from 9/11, and today those World Trade Center Towers are not being built the same way,” he says. Matt believes the industry will learn valuable lessons from this, and it will improve how we are constructing buildings overall. He would not be surprised if there will be changes for older building’s codes, especially around that area. Matt also proposes the idea of a new law emerging from this that would make building owners, when aware of structural damages, either make the repairs or move everyone out until they do.
While we wait to learn more, one question many still have is whether or not limitations on technology when the condo was built play a factor in the failure of Champlain Towers South? When the condo building was constructed in 1981 many of the rules and regulations that we have today were not in place. Miami was also known for “slipshod construction,” and in some cases they were known to take the look-the-other-way approach when enforcing building codes and regulations. While their construction practices were not nearly as good then as they are now, they also did not have access to the technology we have now.
Specifically, VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) are tools that Matt says, “could have helped if they had it during original construction”. BIM is a tool for 3D modeling and data input of physical objects, while VDC uses BIM models to plan the construction process from beginning to end. Watch a video to learn more about VDC and BIM here. Using technology like BIM and VDC essentially allows you to build the entire project virtually before building it in the real world, which can decrease cost and time put into a project while also increasing safety. We may often take technology like this for granted, but it is interesting to think about what the world of construction would have looked like in the 80’s if society had access to these technologies that we can now use every day.
D&B is interested to hear your thoughts. Do you think new technologies will help to prevent disasters like the one in Surfside? What policies and procedures do you think should be put into place to help increase safety and avoid disasters such as this from happening in the future? Let us know in the comments below!
Open floor plans in office spaces first made an appearance in the 1940s and later evolved in the 1960’s where they were used as a means of symbolically showing the company’s culture. Offices with open floor plans continued to be prevalent during the tech boom of the 1990’s, and in 2005 they became a real inspiration for innovation.
In 2005, Google completely renovated their headquarters signaling the “dawn of a new professional era.” The project architect, Clive Wilkinson, explained that they got rid of the cubicle because of Google’s “We’re inventing a new world, why do we need the old world?” attitude. Many companies followed suit in later years, asking to be “Google-fied.” Just 10 years after Google’s office transformation, Facebook would follow suit, creating an office space that held 2,800 employees across 10 acres. The headquarters would claim to be the largest open floor plan office in the world.
Offices with open floor plans have become a major trend in recent years. Although they all don’t span across 10 acres like Google’s may, they still pose a timely question as people return to the workplace: Will this office layout and design work in a post COVID-19 world?
As the world rethinks how we work, it will be interesting to see how office layouts as we know them will transform in the upcoming years. Companies currently looking to re-imagine or add onto their office space may currently be weighing the pros and cons that an open floor plan offers. Let’s take a look at some of them:
One of the biggest arguments supporting the open floor office design is that it provides the employee with a unique social aspect that other office designs do not offer. The social interactions in an office can provide a large system of support to your employee, helping with the individual’s motivation and overall productivity.
Depending on its design, an office can provide a balanced social and cognitive environment for their employees. When optimized, an open floor office design will have a good mix of spaces that are intended for different uses and easily adaptable to fit the employees’ specific needs.
One way that our team at D&B likes to incorporate an open floor plan into a re-imagined commercial office space is through installing aesthetically pleasing glass doors throughout. This trend gives companies a modern, sleek and updated look. An example of this look from one of our past clients can be found in Power Kunkle’s large conference room.
Although many would argue that open floor plans are here to stay, some would dispute that noise, a lack of privacy, and opportunity for distraction may cause an increase in errors, lack of production, and sometimes stress with this layout design. In 2018, the Harvard Business Report found that “open offices reduce face-to-face interactions by about 70% and increase email and messaging by roughly 50%.”
This quick look at the pros and cons of an open floor plan illustrates that this design is not a one size fits all solution. Members of Team D&B believe that transformative office spaces will increase in demand, and it looks like the latest research agrees.
As businesses leaders look to redesign their office space in the near future, they will need to think of how they can cater to different employees and their varying workflows. Some may thrive on collaboration and interaction, an essential component to build company culture, foster relationships, and create a team-oriented atmosphere. On the other hand, there will be times when some employees may be more productive in a quiet environment where they can focus. The solution to these varying needs? A transformative office space.
D&B Construction’s Pre-Construction Manager, Bob Martzall, has noticed that “some businesses have been expressing their desire to have flexibility” as they work with D&B as their general contractor. One way they are achieving this goal is through modular walls. Bob explains how “modular walls can provide an office with a great amount of flexibility and safety, as these are walls that you can take down, move, or shift.”
On a larger scale, one company that has taken flexibility to a whole new level is Salesforce. In February of this year they announced that employees would “have the option to work remotely full time, even when it’s safe to return to the office.” Their new guidelines offer employees the option of working full remote, flex time in the office, or completely office-based. Employees who choose to work the “flex” option will have the flexibility of coming into the office between one and three days per week when they need to perform tasks that may prove challenging over a video conference call, such as working on collaborative projects or meetings with clients. So how will this extensive change affect the company’s 19 physical offices in North America alone… specifically the recently completed 1,070-foot-high Salesforce Tower in San Francisco? The company has announced that they will be redesigning offices as “community hubs” that will replace rows of desks with multiple collaboration and breakout spaces.
D&B Construction’s Philadelphia office recently completed a 10,246 SF commercial office design-build project for Berger Rental Communities at their new West Valley Business Center location in Wayne, PA. Their new collaborative room is one of their employees’ favorite spaces. Lesley Yocum, a Project Manager out of D&B Construction’s Philadelphia office who also played a major role in designing the client’s space, said that they knew they wanted this space throughout the entire design process.
Research looking at today’s high-functioning workplaces show that employees are spending much more time on collaborative activities. Lesley agrees – especially right now. “People are returning to a ‘new’ office layout with more space between their co-workers. Because of this, collab rooms will be utilized as both old fashioned conference rooms and a place where you can go to get ‘comfy’ and discuss since that’s what many people are accustomed to now after working from home for so long.”
Unique spaces in open floor offices can include coffee bars, lounge areas, and other spaces designed to make everyone feel welcome, while still encouraging open communication and collaboration. This welcoming environment can be found at D&B Construction’s most recently completed project for Riverfront Federal Credit Union, who just held their ribbon cutting ceremony on June 16. The credit union’s newest branch and Operations Center features cutting edge technology with a drive thru consisting of three Interactive teller Machines (ITMs) and self-service kiosks offering Video Integrated Realtime Assistance (VIRA). Inside their new 34,000 SF office space, you will find that Riverfront’s strong belief in the value of face-to-face banking has not been lost. The interior is set up in a manner that’s more interactive than a traditional bank, and members are welcome to relax in a comfortable seating area while they complete financial transactions. A café will soon be open to the public as well, further promoting a sense of community. Learn more about this project and how it has created a grand customer experience through both technology and in person banking options here.
As D&B’s recent project with Riverfront Federal Credit Union depicted, and to no one’s surprise, an even stronger emphasis will be placed on technology as the future of work evolves. One way we are already seeing this? Our clients want their conference rooms to be decked out with cutting-edge technology that will allow them to host video conference calls in their meeting spaces. Our Pre-Construction Manager, Bob, has already seen rooms with cameras and microphones that are set up to instantly switch over to the person talking and simultaneously broadcast them to the Zoom meeting. A room like this is something businesses may want to seriously consider if they are designing an open-floor plan, especially if they predict to be in a hybrid working environment.
Bob predicts we will see “more hands-free devices and more technology-oriented safety” in the near future. This can include investing in Bluetooth technology throughout conference rooms so employees don’t have to touch a speaker or shared phone. Doors can also be fully controlled by an app on your phone or simply don’t need to require handles and can instead swing open both ways by pushing them with your shoulder or foot. Hands-free water dispensing systems are another trend that Bob has noticed. Want to be health conscious while also looking out for the environment? Try installing motion lights throughout the office, from conference rooms to bathrooms.
Limiting high touch point areas such as door handles strongly reduces the spread of germs, and for this reason, Bob imagines these current trends are here to stay for a long time. Case and point: The upscale conference room D&B completed for Berger Rental Communities’ new headquarters at the end of April included a specific wall mounted camera with multiple speakers in the ceiling, motion lights with sensors throughout all offices, and dimming lights throughout all other areas. View more photos and learn more about this project here.
A study by USA Today shows that 35% of Americans prefer a home-office hybrid working situation, and 25% of Americans want to go back to the office full time. With over half of the population hoping to return to the office in some capacity, the question of how employers will accommodate for safety concerns and the “new normal” of flex time still looms over many individual’s heads.
Bob believes safety will determine many office designs post COVID-19. He thinks that one of the most important things to include in your post COVID-19 office is environmental air filtration systems. This refers to how the air circulates through the office so that it is environmentally friendly, limiting the spread of germs and being sustainable. Bob has seen clients wanting to have this included in their project design.
Having more collaborative rooms may result in a more open floor plan being replaced with more individual office spaces (which may help some individuals feel more at ease with returning to the office). With 36 years of experience in the industry, Bob has noticed that “many offices are shifting away from a cubicle environment and instead building more individual office spaces.” He believes that building more office spaces can make it much easier for an employer to provide safe precautions for their employees when necessary, thus explaining this recent trend. These adaptations can make a work environment flexible and safe for everyone involved.
As many companies continue the transition of shifting back into the office, Bob has noticed that companies across all sectors have been trying to get their projects fulfilled by construction companies. He says that this is because “the cost of borrowing is so cheap right now, so the cost of doing business is more economical. The question is, do you need the space?”
The companies who answer yes to this question (and companies such as Salesforce who need to re-imagine their spaces) will be left to map out how their office space should look in a post COVID-19 world. In some way, shape, or form, many businesses will have to change their office footprint in the upcoming years, whether through down-sizing, expanding or renovating their current space to fit future needs. This is something that is weighing heavily on the minds of many employers. Although daunting at first thought, this is an opportunity to create a new blueprint that sets the stage for office spaces for years to come.
After considering the thoughts of our industry experts, years of research, and the current state of the world, how would you design your office’s blank slate to best meet the needs of your team?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
With the prospects of a slightly warmer than average summer looming, it is important that those within the industry, and anyone working long hours outside, brush up on their knowledge of high heat safety. At D&B, safety is our standard. Our Safety Committee meets monthly (and will actually be discussing this relevant topic at our upcoming meeting) to help ensure that all members of our team and trade partners are safe. In the name of safety and looking out for our brothers and sisters in the industry, we wanted to share these helpful tips from D&B’s Safety Director and Construction Manager, Tom Rinaldo:
Tom suggests that all D&B employees and trade partners stay well hydrated during the summer by drinking one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. On every D&B jobsite, we provide ample amounts of water for our employees and trade partners. It is important to hydrate the night before and after you work on a jobsite. Doing so puts less strain on the body to replace the fluids you have lost while sweating.
If water is not easily accessible or you are looking for an alternative, Tom recommends trying drinks that have electrolytes, like Gatorade. Gatorade contains valuable electrolytes that can help maintain the ionic balance in your body. Gatorade and similar drinks are also able to replace electrolytes that you may have lost while sweating, and having enough electrolytes is vital to keep your body functioning properly while on the jobsite.
Tom urges team members to avoid eating salty foods. Why? They dehydrate you. Foods such as pretzels, potato chips, and popcorn can be a great snack, but in the summer months you may want to trade them in for your favorite fruits and veggies.
It can be hard to avoid eating salty foods on the jobsite, especially since the convenience of fast food restaurants can be tempting when you’re on the go. Fast foods like McDonald’s can be unhealthy – and even unsafe during the summer months – for more reasons than just its high sodium content.
Let’s say you’re on your way to the jobsite and decide to stop at McDonalds to get a classic Big Mac Meal with fries and a soda. This meal is 1,320 calories; 51 grams of this is fat, 192 grams is carbs, and 1,425 mg is sodium.
Construction workers can burn up to 300 calories per hour while on the job. This is three times as many calories as the average office worker who only burns around 102 calories per hour. Because of this, it is recommended that individuals completing manual labor on the jobsite consume at least 2,500 calories a day. After eating your Big Mac Meal, you have already consumed 79% of your daily fat, 64% of your daily carbs, and 60% of your daily sodium, and you still need to consume 1,180 more calories to obtain the recommended 2,500 calories.
Not only are you consuming too much sodium, but regular consumption of fast food meals such as this can be unhealthy to you and may even influence other workers to follow suit. To stay healthy on the jobsite, we recommend packing protein and complex carbohydrates low on salt, with some healthy snacks (see the next tip for more info on this).
Start your day off right with this easy to make breakfast burrito. For lunch, try saying adios to the usual cold cuts and deli meats high in sodium and nitrates by trading them in for the ultimate trifecta: something delicious, healthy, and safe for your body in the heat. We think this Protein Packed Pasta Salad looks delicious! While you are feeling inspired, check out these 15 tasty and uncomplicated lunches that are packed with protein.
Watermelons, strawberries, oranges, peaches, cucumbers and other fruit are great snacks, especially in the summer while on the jobsite. In addition to drinking water, eating water-filled fruits and other snacks is a great (and healthy) way to stay hydrated.
One great lunch option is a cucumber-watermelon salad with avocado and bell pepper. Aside from being tasty, it is simple, too! All you need to do is cube these foods and add the dressing of your choice.
Let us know which recipes you’d like to try and what your go-to healthy lunch is on the jobsite in the comments below!
Darker clothes attract more sunlight. Naturally, this rule applies on the jobsite in the summer. Our Safety Director, Tom, suggests this simple tip that can make quite the difference: wearing loose, light-colored clothes.
Potentially the most important tip out of the five, make sure to get some shade. Naturally, jobsites can get extremely hot in the summer months. Our Safety Director encourages all workers to take breaks in the shade to cool down and to be vigilant for signs of exhaustion, both for themselves and their co-workers on the jobsite. Having a buddy system may work well here. It is important to watch for the following signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke for everyone on the job:
Implementing an acclimatization plan is one way to prevent heat exhaustion. Simply put, this allows workers to get used to the high-heat conditions of the summer. This should take place over a one to two-week period. For new workers, the schedule should accommodate for no more than 20% exposure to heat on day one, with an increase of no more than 20% each day. If the worker has had experience on the job, you should do the same sort of process over a four-day period. Start day one at 50%, move to 60% on your second day, and 80% on your third day. By the fourth day you will be at 100% exposure. Tom supports this kind of plan if he feels the situation is right for it, although the tri-state area that D&B covers usually doesn’t require this since the seasons are well-balanced.