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.
As the world seeks ways to be more environmentally friendly, many big industries have made changes to be sustainable. Construction has joined in on these efforts, paving the way for a more sustainable future.
Our industry has the unique opportunity to significantly impact climate change for the better since a large amount of energy and material is used in the construction process. The goal for construction is to become sustainable by reducing its impact on the environment through the construction of green buildings, utilizing sustainable materials, and employing energy efficiency. How are companies in the industry achieving these goals? Let’s take a look:
Green buildings are buildings that have been constructed with respect to environmental sustainability. They first came about in the 1970’s, eventually gaining more popularity in the 90’s when the first Green Building Council was formed.
The generally accepted definition for a green building is “the planning, design, construction, and operations of a building with several crucial considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environment quality, material selection, and finally how the building affects its site.” One of the most direct ways that construction is sustainable is through LEED, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. The effectiveness of a green building is coded by the LEED Green Building Rating System.
Before LEED was established in the mid to late 90’s, there were green building projects, however there was no way to know if they were being implemented effectively. Nowadays, LEED will give out plaques to buildings which have been constructed to be sustainable. There are more than 60,000 buildings that participate in LEED today, occupying up to 1.7 million square feet.
Individuals throughout the industry can also earn a certification from LEED, which is exactly what one of our team members has done. D&B Construction’s Operations Manager, Jessica Nelis, obtained her LEED AP, ID+C (focused on interior design and construction) certification around 2010. Jess says, “I became a LEED accredited professional because I knew it would be important and relevant moving forward.” Jess provides a unique perspective on environmental consciousness that we take seriously here at D&B Construction.
Not only are green buildings environmentally friendly, it has been discovered that green buildings promote healthier living. Research shows that people who live or work in a green building experience proven psychological benefits. For example, in a green office building cognitive function scores rose by 61 percent. It is also reported that employees were 44 percent better at making decisions towards achieving workplace goals. In addition, at the Akron Children’s Hospital, 56 percent of people were satisfied with the cheerfulness of the hospital after its own green building renovations. There were also decreased reports of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
According to a report conducted by Grand View Research, the green building materials market has been a vital part of the construction industry’s green footprint, like Jess thought, and is expected to be worth $364.6 billion by 2022 (compared to an estimated $238 billion in 2020).
It’s clear to see why demand for the use of green materials has been a recent trend in the construction industry. Because of this demand, innovative green materials have become very popular.
Sustainable construction is achieved through using sustainable materials such as bamboo, eco-friendly insulation, and even smart glass windows.
If you want to be more sustainable, you could consider bamboo flooring for your project. Bamboo is a great alternative because it looks like wood but has a harvesting cycle of only three years, 22 years shorter than that of a tree. If you choose to use bamboo, you are helping to slow the rate of deforestation by allowing time for trees to grow back.
If insulation adequately cuts down on the energy used for heating and cooling, it could be sustainable. However, this can be counteracted if batts, fillers, and sprays that are not sustainable are used on the insulation. What is the eco-friendly option gaining popularity lately? Hemp insulation. It has all the same properties of normal insulation, but it is a sustainable option. Because it can be compressed, hemp can even provide more superior insulation than your typical insulation.
Another recent movement in sustainable construction is the use of smart glass windows. They were invented in the early 2000’s but have only recently become a building trend. Smart glass changes its heating properties based on the temperature outside, affecting how the heat and air conditioning is run through the building. During the hot summer months, a smart glass window will become translucent to block heating wavelengths that would allow you to run the air conditioning less and vice versa.
There are several options available if you wish to replace your windows with smart glass windows. These options vary in pricing and components of their smart glass technology. First, there are dynamic smart windows, produced by View Smart Windows. This is the “luxury” option, costing $50 to $100 per square foot, in comparison to a normal window which costs $10 to $15 per square foot. This high-end option replaces your normal windows and is even equipped with Wi-Fi control through their downloadable app.
A more cost-effective option is Invisishade’s self-adhesive and smart glass windows. Invisishade offers a “plug-and-play” adhesive film kit which transforms your normal window into smart glass. A sample of their self-adhesive film kit would cost $99, or $249 for a pack of three. The final price of their product varies on size and scope of the project, however Invisishade would offer a discount on bulk .
Smart Glass Windows may seem as if they are an expensive solution for sustainability due to its pricing when compared to normal glass windows. However, manufacturers claim that you can save up to 20% on your monthly energy costs because of their tinting properties. Smart glass allows you to save money on your monthly bills while also making the property look more aesthetically pleasing by eliminating the need for blinds.
Be on the lookout for an emergence of living materials being used to complete green building projects in 2022. Living materials are biological compounds that grow and are ready to produce full-scale production. An example of a promising living material we have not seen much of yet is self-mending concrete. This concrete is full of bacteria that bind the materials around them into a new material form. This material can grow itself into the pores of concrete, essentially being able to rebuild the concrete on its own. The bacteria inside of this concrete can live for up to 200 years. Scientists say that in theory the bacteria would then be able to extend the concrete’s life for that long as well. Seeing as normal concrete lives for 50 to 70 years, this self-sustaining concrete would be much more useful in the long run. We have only begun to scrape the surface of possibilities for this self-mending concrete, but as we learn more it may prove to be a revolutionary material in construction.
New forms of concrete are a key component to sustainability since it is the second most used material on Earth, with only water exceeding it. One of the trends that will become increasingly popular is 3D printing with concrete. This year a 3D printed home community was constructed in Austin, Texas by ICON. It consisted of four homes, all listed on the market for $450,000. The company that built the houses used 3D printing technology to create the first floor of all four homes while the rest of the homes were built conventionally. Houses of this size can be constructed in just five to seven days. The homes were built using cement-based material LavaCrete, a material designed to cope with extreme weather. LavaCrete lived up to its claim when the houses withstood a 7.4 magnitude earthquake with no damages.
The Austin homes are not a unique case. There is also a 3D printed home community being built in Coachella, California. By 2022, this community is going to have 15 houses, each of which will be 1,450 square feet and feature three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a terrace, and a swimming pool. Sustainable real estate development group Palari and construction technology company Mighty Buildings will work together to complete the project.
The potential this unique industry has does not stop at high-end homes… nor does it stop on this planet. ICON, the same company that built the Austin, Texas community of 3D printed homes, is currently working in the research and development phase with NASA to create a space-based construction system. Their goal is to construct 3D printed buildings on the Moon and Mars.
The industry has already evolved as people are beginning to purchase and live in 3D printed homes. Meet a previously homeless Texas man who became one of America’s first inhabitants of a 3D printed home. The best thing about 3D printed concrete for homes is that it is environmentally friendly. This form of building uses the exact amount of material needed to complete the project, allowing for less materials like concrete to be used to construct the building, therefore benefitting the environment.
The potential that 3D printing concrete has is immense and is something worth following as they make progress over the next few years. Stay up to date with 3D printing news here.
Concrete is the second most used material on Earth, trailing only water. Because of this and our commitment to safety, we find it important to highlight concrete safety tips. Here are some vital practices that every company should follow to stay safe when working with concrete:
PPE is one of the most important elements of safety on any jobsite, but it is especially important when you are working with concrete. Make sure to protect your skin at all times by wearing gloves. Water-proof and alkali-resistant gloves are recommended. A long-sleeved shirt, full-length pants, and shatterproof eye protection are also important when working with wet concrete. If you are standing in the wet concrete, wear water-proof boots that are up high enough on your ankle so that the concrete cannot flow into your shoes. You will also want to always wear a hard hat, especially when pouring concrete in an interior area where the ceiling is not yet complete. Proper ear protection, proper footwear, and face masks or ventilators are also important PPE.
Be careful when removing concrete PPE, as wet cement could get on your skin. Did you know that wet cement is the #1 cause of occupational skin disease in the United States? To learn more, watch this video, which includes additional concrete safety tips. Concrete burns are a serious and common injury when working with concrete. It is important to always be aware that concrete can find its way into your personal equipment such as gloves, boots and sleeves. To avoid getting burned, remove any clothing splattered in concrete and wash the affected area immediately, not in the next hour. You will then want to keep an eye on your skin to see if a burn is developing. Be careful when you are removing your protective clothing and wash your hands before and after. You should also store your concrete-soiled clothes separately from other clothes and tools. If possible, shower before leaving the jobsite so you can change into new clothes. This will decrease your exposure to crystalline silica, which we discuss more in depth below:
Crystalline silica are very small particles, nearly 100 times smaller than the sand we find on beaches. These particles are present in concrete and other building materials. Even with proper safety precautions, workers who are exposed to crystalline silica may still inhale the dangerous particles.
To be safe, warn workers and mark boundaries of work areas with crystalline silica. It is a best practice to do this because when large amounts of crystalline silica are inhaled, workers are at risk of developing a long-term lung disease known as silicosis. Silicosis can be fatal. The CDC reports that 1,167 people died from silicosis from 2005-2014. Make sure to educate your workers about the risks and harm of crystalline silica by providing proper training that includes information about health effects, work practices, and protective equipment for respirable crystalline silica. You can also learn more about the standards OSHA requires here.
In addition to educating and training your workers about crystalline silica, you should also provide those exposed to crystalline silica with periodic medical examination. One of the best ways to prevent the inhalation of crystalline silica is to keep dust out of the air. When you are purchasing equipment look to see if there is a dust control, make sure to always maintain and use the dust control system, and if the dust control system is not working do not use the equipment. Using the nearby exhaust ventilation system can help to keep dust from being released into the air. When you are sawing concrete, you can use a saw that provides water to the blade, as this will make the dust particles wet and prevent it from being released into the air.
To learn more about preventing the inhalation of crystalline silica watch this video.
When working with concrete, steer clear of using tobacco products in dusty areas. BioMed Central did a report in 2018 that found silica-exposed smokers had elevated mortality from non-malignant respiratory disease and lung cancers in comparison to non-smokers. The use of tobacco in dusty areas may leave you more likely to inhale crystalline silica. To proactively prevent the inhalation of crystalline silica you should do air monitoring to measure worker’s exposure to crystalline silica, as well as to select appropriate engineering controls and respiratory protection. You should perform air monitoring to measure the effectiveness of controls, collecting and analyzing air samples according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Method Nos. 7500 and 7602.
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:
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!
The Reserve at Rivers Edge will include 260 luxury apartment homes being built in Summerdale, PA. Located on the property of this new development is the Enola Miller House, a historic home beloved by the community. Before starting construction of this future multi-family apartment complex, efforts were made to preserve this important historical building.
Our VP of Business Development, Drew Bell, says “It’s not always about tearing down and building new in construction. There’s special occasions when preservation is worth the stress, fatigue and cost. We take pride in being good stewards in the communities we work. The Enola Miller house is a source of history and pride in Enola, Pa. D&B is proud to be part of the team preserving this iconic house for future generations to come.”
Planning, preparation, and a whole lot of heart from people across many organizations went into the move of the historic Enola Miller House in Summerdale, Pennsylvania, especially from the Historical Society of East Pennsboro, who has advocated for the preservation of the home for many years. As the oldest standing home in East Pennsboro Township, it was added to the Cumberland County register of historic places in 2018. The home was the birthplace of Enola Miller, which the town of Enola and the Enola Rail Yard were named after. Moving a historic home built in 1841 and weighing over 400 tons is about as daunting as it sounds. Here’s a look at how D&B Construction (the general contractor), Metropolitan Companies (the developer who bought the land in December 2020) and Wolfe House & Building Movers got the job done:
According to Barbara Gertzen, member of the Historical Society of East Pennsboro, “the struggle to develop the Summerdale property has been going on for over a decade.” There have been multiple plans in the works since 2009 from developers that would build on the land where the Enola Miller Home is. Instead of relocating the house, they planned to destroy it.
However, members of the community and the Historical Society of East Pennsboro had other plans for the fate of the Enola Miller House and thankfully the current team developing the property listened.
Once the preservation of the Enola Miller House was for certain, countless hours of preparation took place from many individuals. A completely man-made gravel path roughly half a mile long was constructed by Schlouch Incorporated. Building this temporary path that the house would travel took roughly three days to complete.
Additions that were added to the 180-year-old home also had to be removed from the original stone house so crews could disconnect the building from its utilities and reinforce the windows and doors to prepare the home for its 1,300-foot uphill journey. The old foundation needed to be excavated and removed so it could be replaced with oak timbers known as cribbing, which provides support to a steel grid structure that helped protect the home throughout the move. Hydraulic jacks were then placed under the cribbing to lift the building onto huge dollies.
The move was so tedious that it even had to take place over the course of more than one day. On April 5th, the electric company, PPL, removed overhead high-voltage lines that crossed over the route. The home also needed to travel over a ditch in order to reach its new foundation.
Wolfe House & Building Movers did the heavy lifting – quite literally – for this historic home. The most difficult part of the move was something beyond anyone’s control: A substantial amount of rain resulted in steel plates needing to be placed along the route in order to safely move the house. Because of this, it took about four hours to move the first 100 yards on the first day of the move. The moving crew started around 8 AM on Tuesday, March 30th and finished around 5:30 PM.
Robert Sauder of Wolfe House & Building Movers, shares a bit that goes on beyond the scenes leading up to the actual moving day: “There is a lot of planning with the steel work and some of the details of the move and understanding the structure. We don’t have an exact amount on the total number of hours that were spent on the project. A dozen guys have worked several weeks, whether doing the work or preparing.”
Thanks to a press conference that took place due to efforts of the Historical Society of East Pennsboro, over a hundred people came to watch the move take place, including news crews, neighbors across the street curious as to what was going on, and members of the community who cared about the beloved Enola Miller Home.
No pressure for the moving crew, right?! When asked if they ever get nervous before performing such a move, Robert said: It’s all about having a good plan and having people with experience. That’s what we have here. Guys that have done this all of their life. They are multi-generational people doing this, so they’ve grown up with it. Understanding the concepts take a lot of the fear of things going wrong out of it.”
Robert said the size of the crowd usually depends on the type of building being moved, as well as the publicity that the building and move receives. “We have some where there is no one and other’s where there are full on barbecues with family and friends watching,” he says with a laugh. “The Enola Miller House did have a lot of community involvement in trying to preserve a piece of the community, so it created a fair amount of interest. Historic projects generally have more interest in it to make the preservation happen. That in turn created a lot of people wanting to see it actually happen. It’s a nice community and working with D&B Construction and the others have been really good,” Robert said, as he reflects on this particular project. He also enjoyed the opportunity to work closer to home, as Wolfe House & Building Movers has completed moves throughout the country and even internationally.
Once the Enola Miller House reached its new foundation, there was still several weeks of work left to complete. Randy, D&B Construction’s Superintendent in charge of this jobsite, said that the basement was just recently poured. Exterior site work on the Enola Miller House is starting soon now that the three phases of the foundation work is complete. Member of the Historical Society of East Pennsboro, Barb Gertzen, says “The HSEP extends our thanks to D&B Construction for their great work constructing the new foundation for the EMH in its new location so that it will stand securely for at least another 200 years!”
Randy is in charge of overseeing the construction of The Reserve at Rivers Edge, a luxury apartment multi-family complex being constructed on this 50-acre lot. Site work for this started shortly after the move of the Enola Miller House was complete. The first of 13 buildings began about four weeks after the sitework.
The preservation of the Enola Miller House was the third building and second historical structure that Randy was involved with moving. Reflecting on the last few months of work at the Summerdale Property, Randy says: “The local community was very concerned about the future of the house. There was a sigh of relief from the majority of them when they heard we were moving it and not tearing it down. We heard from quite a few of the local residents over the past few months. Everyone had their favorite stories to share.”
One such resident was Sheryl, who has lived in Enola since age 10, even living on the same street that the Enola Miller House just moved to. Both she and her husband, Jack, graduated from East Pennsboro High School and came to watch both days of the move for seven hours each day. They even brought their cute dog, Ginger, along. Sheryl and Jack have close ties to the house, reflecting on the time that the house was up for auction and they even considered purchasing it.
She and her husband were there when the Enola Miller Home reached her new foundation, cheering with the rest of the crowd. “I was glad they were moving it. I was a little upset it had to be done, but through watching the move and everything… I just think she’s an old lady that’s found a new home, and she’s going to be very happy. I like her new spot.”
The Historical Society of East Pennsboro (HSEP) was founded in 1999. The following members of the Historical Society of East Pennsboro (HSEP) took the time to provide their insights on the history and significance of the Enola Miller House: Jim Leonard (Executive Director of the HSEP for 14 years), Jim Hertzler (Vice President of HSEP), Ron Blauch, and Barb Gertzen. These individuals and one other board member of the HSEP, George DeMartyn, make up the “Save the Enola Miller House” Subcommittee, which was founded in 2017. Each Subcommittee member has longstanding ties or developed deep connections to the Enola Miller House (EMH) through their affinity for historic preservation projects or extensive public service to the residents of East Pennsboro Township and Cumberland County.
Q: What was the Subcommittee’s involvement with the Enola Miller House move?
A: Ms. Gertzen wrote numerous “Letters to the Editors” of both Harrisburg’s Penn Live.com and The Carlisle Sentinel in the years leading up to the relocation of the EMH. She renewed her efforts in the months prior to the March 30,, 2021 move of the house.
Recognizing that media coverage of the EMH’s relocation was crucial to jump-start a fundraising campaign to restore the EMH (a major component of the Subcommittee’s work) led Subcommittee members to organize and highly publicize a press conference held on Friday, March 19, 2021. Messrs. DeMartyn, Hertzler, and Leonard were joined by a Wolfe Brothers representative at the press conference, which was held across the street from the EMH.
These articles greatly increased public awareness of the move so that well over 100 bystanders and Township representatives were on-site on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, the day of the move. As dawn broke over the EMH at its original site for the final time, personnel from Wolfe Brothers and D&B Construction began last-minute preparations for the relocation operation. Mr. Hertzler’s outreach to numerous public officials and members of the media ensured that all local print and video news outlets were on-site for the move.
Q: What was it like to watch the move of the Enola Miller House happen? Is this the first time you ever saw a house being moved like this? Was it what you expected?
A: All Subcommittee members were on-site the day of the move and remained through most of the move. It was exciting to watch – although certainly bittersweet for us – considering the exhaustive effort Subcommittee members made trying to keep the EMH on its original site. Despite losing that battle, we felt we won the war since the house was being relocated – rather than demolished – which is an outcome that tragically has occurred with other area historic landmarks.
To the best of our knowledge, none of the Subcommittee members witnessed a move like this before. The actual relocation occurred at a slower pace than most of us anticipated, and a slight delay when the EMH became stuck in soggy ground and lost a few tires made for some breathless moments, but we were impressed with the competence and professionalism of Wolfe Brothers House & Building Movers (Subcommittee members agreed that we are fortunate that Wolfe Brothers was contracted for the move since most of us were confident in their ability to move the EMH safely).
We were particularly grateful that D&B Construction had their drone aloft to record the move. Aerial footage of the relocation will be an invaluable part of the Society’s historical records of their new headquarters.
Q: Why is it important to preserve houses such as the Enola Miller House?
A: The Enola Miller House stood as silent witness to these and many more pivotal historic events that altered the area and impacted the lives of numerous generations of residents of Enola, East Pennsboro Township, and Cumberland County. The EMH represents a dwindling number of structures that can trace their history through the earliest years of a community’s development and through dramatic transformations in the area’s economy and its residents’ lifestyles.
Was saving and working to restore and preserve the Enola Miller House worth the effort? It is if we care about the generations that follow charting their path forward with an appreciation of the past. The mission of the Historical Society of East Pennsboro lies in preserving artifacts, documents, genealogical records, and mementos of residents of the three villages of East Pennsboro Township: Enola, West Fairview, and Summerdale, and the many other community neighborhoods, businesses, and office areas that now make up a bustling and diversified 21st century community. The House is a meaningful symbol of the area’s history connecting current Township residents to individuals who preceded us, while offering lessons and reminders of who we are to those who will follow us. The Enola Miller House not only serves as a tangible reminder of our collective history; it also provides a crucial “sense of self” for the community, which is certainly worth celebrating and preserving.
Q: What’s in store for the future of the Enola Miller House?
A: The Society is raising funds and developing plans to restore the EMH as a museum to display memorabilia related to the memory Enola Miller and her family, as well as relics related to the heritage of the three villages comprising East Pennsboro Township – especially the area’s historic connection to the growth of the world-renown Enola Rail Yards.
Perhaps more importantly, the Society plans to restore aspects of the House that convey a sense of what life in the 17th century was like. The original portion of the House on the first floor was a common room with a walk-in fireplace that occupies virtually the entire northern wall of the main room (one of the Society’s first orders of business is to uncover and restore this impressive walk-in fireplace). This fireplace – located in a central room of the homestead – not only provided heat for the family but was also a gathering place where the family cooked and ate their meals. Unlike today, separate dining and living spaces were unheard of.
Our first Trade Partner Spotlight features Gillespie Electric, Inc. Located in East Greenville, PA this full-service electrical contracting company has been a recognized industry leader known for its reliability for over 40 years.
We recently drove out to Souderton, PA to check out the new 12,500 SF community health center quickly taking shape for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Every time we visit we are greeted by the smile of D&B’s Superintendent on the jobsite, John. He always has a positive energy about him, but when we visited on June 23rd he was literally excited to show us the work that Gillespie Electric, Inc. just completed. We’ll show you as well so you can see what John was talking about:
Although new to Team D&B, John has been in the industry working on a variety of large construction projects over the last 34 years (including the delicious Steak 48 on Broad Street in Philadelphia). John described the work the Gillespie team completed as a “quality standardized performance” and claimed he has never seen such well-executed work from electricians. “This demonstrates the quality and care that these guys have to make this job beautiful,” says John with a smile as he admires their work once more.
According to Gillespie Electric’s Project Manager, Keith Lewis, who has worked on this healthcare project with D&B Construction since it began, they “have been on and off site since this project first broke ground last year and will be on site until the job is complete in a few months.” Over 350 receptacles and 15,000 linear feet of HFC Hospital grade MC are being installed on this project. “All of the lights are LED and we are installing a back-up generator for all of the vaccine refrigerators,” explains Keith.
The company’s Foreman, Mike, as well as Nick (who John admiringly refers to as “another badass” on the Gillespie team) just recently finished tying everything into the panels, a job that took about a week to complete. “Mike and Nick both completed two different rooms. A lot of times when you have two electricians on the same job you can notice slight differences, but their work looked identical. I couldn’t even tell who did which room since their work was so precise,” says John.
The Foreman, Mike, has been with Gillespie for 10 years since 2011 and received his Electrical Apprenticeship from Bucks County Tech in 2012. Keith, who sings high praises of his co-worker, says that Mike was a journeyman for nine years and became a Foreman at the company last year. “Interestingly enough, this job is Mike’s first job that he is completing from start to finish as a Foreman. It’s not every day you win both the core and shell and fit-out phases and are able to be involved in the entire project.”
Although Gillespie has completed a number of jobs for CHOP over the years, this is the first job they are completing for D&B. “There are always some challenges when working with a new general contractor,” says Keith. “It’s like when you first start a new job. You have to feel out your new boss, and they are doing the same with you. But we have had very minimal challenges working with D&B. Communication has been easy, and working with Jim (D&B Project Manager on the job) has been easy, too. It honestly feels like we have been working with them for much longer than we have.”
Keith had similar remarks to say about our Superintendent on the job. “John is on top of things. He gets questions answered efficiently and makes good, on-his-feet decisions. If I ask John a question, I know I will have the answer within a day or two. That’s unusual. Construction should be fluid, and he makes it that way,” says Keith.
At D&B, we view our trade partners as an extension of our team. That’s why we work with trusted trade partners like Gillespie Electric who bring the same level of care that we do to the jobsite.
If you are even remotely connected to the construction world, talking to you Mr. and Mrs. weekend DIY’er, you have heard about the current state of construction material costs. Last week lumber hit a new all time high of $1,188 per thousand board feet, nearly a 250% increase from the same time last year. The worst part? Prices are expected to climb further through the remainder of the building season. Steel products, if you can find them, have also doubled in pricing over the last six months. This perfect storm of sky-rocketing costs has forced contractors, developers, business and home owners, suppliers and everyone else in the supply chain to adjust. Some are hoarding materials while others just hit the pause button. Ground-up construction for the remainder of 2021 looks to be a big question mark for everyone. However, one sector is proceeding full steam ahead; adaptive reuse.
Adaptive reuse, historically, has been seen as an eco-friendly construction practice that “recycles” existing structures through a conversion of it’s intended use into something new. In Baltimore, the old Pratt Street Power Plant was converted into retail and restaurants. In Philadelphia the Independence Press Building, a paper box production facility, is now a 92-unit apartment building. You can find incredible examples throughout the world of converted buildings getting new life through reincarnation. Given the current construction climate due to soaring costs, the green tint of adaptive reuse isn’t coming from the ingrained environmental benefits. It’s coming from money.
Developers who have long valued the environmental impact of reusing or repurposing a building are finding new returns on their investments. The financial benefits speak for themselves. Cost savings are everywhere in adaptive reuse. Obviously, it takes a lot less material reusing an existing structure than building a new one out of the ground. Beyond that, savings are coming in the way of demolition costs, design and approvals, and time, which is commonly overlooked. Other non-monetary benefits include preserving a community identity, enhancing local accommodations and offerings, economic and environmental sustainability, among others. It is no surprise why adaptive reuse is getting so much attention.
Fortunately for D&B Construction Group, there are a few of these projects in pre-construction and under construction currently. The Metropolitan Edison Building, once the tallest building in Reading, Pennsylvania, is a prime example of adaptive reuse. This 14-story brick building is being converted into market rate apartments to answer growing demand for modern urban multi-family living. A stone’s throw up Washington street is another adaptive reuse project that will start this summer. The Berkshire Building, originally a hotel then converted into office space, prepares for new life as student housing supporting Alvernia University’s new Collegetowne campus. The projects have been a boon for D&B. Dan Gring, D&B Construction Group CEO, recently reflected on the downtown Reading, PA projects:
“To have these large projects that are filling a need in the community, creating a good business venture for our clients, and providing the company with steady and reliable work is invaluable. There’s a lot of speculation and analysis between us, our clients, vendors, and so on with new construction projects that has many people in our industry worried. Luckily for us, we’ve built a wide range of clients who trust us with their projects, and we’re fortunate that several of them focus on adaptive reuse projects. We know with relative certainty that material costs are not jeopardizing those jobs.”
Environmentally sustainable, financially conscious, and preserving communities. It’s a winning solution all the way around in the current construction market. Whether or not adaptive reuse projects see a spike as a result of the pandemic fallout or not remains to be seen. In the short-term companies like D&B and our clients will continue to reap the benefits of this construction approach.
— Drew Bell, VP of Business Development
Drew Bell, of Wyomissing, brings over 10 years of marketing and business development experience to D&B Construction Group. Prior to joining the team in March of 2020, Drew served as the Business Development Officer at Tompkins VIST Bank. He was also the President of the Reading Royals professional hockey team for three years. Drew is a strong believer that “genuine opportunities come from trust based on knowledge and sincerity.” His dedication to creating and strengthening mutually beneficial partnerships to make collective solutions and his contagious, positive attitude make him not only a huge asset to our team, but a well-respected individual throughout the communities we serve.
Drew graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s Degree and received his J.D. from Widener Law School. Active in the community, he is a member of the Berks and Pennsylvania Bar Associations and a committee member for Berks Catholic High School. He previously held board positions with the Greater Reading Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as the Gilmore Henne Community Fund, Boy Scouts of America Hawk Mountain Council, and Salvation Army of Reading.
Born and raised in Wayne, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, Drew relocated to Reading in 2010 with his wife, Maryanne Post, after the two graduated Law School. Drew and Maryanne live in Wyomissing with their three kids Charlotte, Amelia and Scotty. In his free time Drew loves to golf and be outdoors.
“A ‘Green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life” (WGBC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Green or LEED construction is changing. The U.S. Green Building Council, creators of the LEED certification, plans to promote healthier and safer air quality indoors with adjusted certification criteria incentivizing the creation cleaner air systems. In 2021, there will be more building materials and components that help get LEED certification. One interesting and somewhat new development is a form of self-healing bio-concrete. This is a compound of concrete and bacteria that produces limestone when exposed to air and water, which helps with the impermeability of the surface. It costs around $240 per cubic meter. For reference, normal concrete usually costs between $200-$300, making it still cost efficient. Green building will continue to grow throughout the next decades and new technology and policy will come out to reinforce it as time goes by.
The construction industry is rapidly moving towards modular materials because of its cost and time efficiency. Modular building is anywhere from 20% – 50% faster than traditional construction. It is also around 20% more cost efficient to build modular instead of traditional because of the reduced labor and time costs. Modular building also cuts the waste output almost in half due to optimal fabrication and pre-planned units. Everything is built off the construction site, which reduces the challenges of regular construction such as weather, limited working hours, and space. Overall, modular building is great for symmetrical and repeating buildings where sections can be made and stacked or attached to each other easily like in apartment or office buildings.
As it should be, safety is a huge trend in 2021. The old workplace safety system focused on recognizing problems and fixing them after someone gets hurt or a problem occurs. The new system getting pushed in the industry is based on prevention through education and training and recognizing issues before anyone gets hurt. This is why we have our Safety Committee meet monthly to discuss different topics of safety. Another large change in the safety category is better technology with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). With more women entering the field, there is an increased awareness of the need for PPE to properly fit all employees to ensure safety. In addition, because of the COVID-19 pandemic there are policies across most companies including D&B that promote safe environments using masks, social distancing, and sanitization. When the pandemic hit, our team implemented a sign in and sign out sheet at every job site, making it easy for us to accurately perform contact tracing in the event that someone developed COVID-19 symptoms. D&B will continue to enforce this rule across all job sites moving forward. Learn more about our safety standards here.
Multi-family construction is one of the fastest growing sectors of the commercial construction industry. Because of the lack of inventory in the housing market and changing demographics, multi-family construction is in high demand and will continue to grow in the following years. More people are looking for smaller, more affordable homes and condominiums with less maintenance than a normal single-family house. Research shows that 33% of people who are reaching age 55 are on their own. This is much different than what was the case 20 years ago. Currently D&B has multiple multi-family jobs under active construction and in the pre-construction phases. Throughout my internship, I shadowed the construction of The Reserve at Gring’s Mill, which you can view here.
Written by: D&B Intern, Alex Wolf
Alex culminated this list based on what he learned during his time at D&B. He is a Senior at Wilson High School who began shadowing various D&B employees in September of 2020. Alex will be attending Virginia Tech for Architecture in the Fall. “My internship experience at D&B made me realize that I want to pursue a career in residential remodeling and construction,” he explains. “I gained a lot of knowledge about the construction process and enjoyed being able to see entire construction projects from start to finish.”