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1Call2Build—Our Blog

Here are some thoughts and insight on our business and the construction industry in general. We update our blog regularly to keep you informed and entertained.

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January 14, 2019

2018 Year in Review…and a Look Ahead

John Schneider

John Schneider

Thanks to our customers, subcontractors, and employees, CCC achieved a record year for construction bookings in 2018. We are grateful to all who helped us experience this success, and we are humbled and energized by your support.

Here’s a brief look at some of our most notable accomplishments last year, as well as proactive steps we’ve taken to help ensure our mutual success going forward:

2018 Achievements:

• Honored with two Gold Projects of Distinction Awards from Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Wisconsin for construction excellence for the Park Creek Independent Living facility (Cypress, Texas) and Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. frozen food plant (Joplin, Mo.) projects.
• Completed our largest project to date, the First International Bank & Trust building in Bismarck, N.D., which also houses a brewery, restaurant, parking garage, and rooftop patio and event facility. The grand opening was marked by a live Toby Keith concert on the bank grounds.
• Other notable projects included the dual branded Tru/Hampton Inn by Hilton in Rapid City, S.D.; the CSW and MRS freezer projects in Wisconsin; The Views at Lake Havasu Independent Living Facility in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; and the Tru Hotel by Hilton at Cadillac Jacks Gaming Facility in Deadwood, S.D.
• Recognized as a leader in pre-referendum services and school construction in North Dakota.
• Performed our first projects in Arizona, Georgia, and Washington, bringing to 21 the total number of states in which we are licensed to operate.
• Did more business in our headquarters state of Wisconsin than in any previous year in our history.

Internal Initiatives:

• Added two operational units for Food & Beverage and Senior Living to ensure internal experts are aligned with each of our core vertical markets. They join operational units previously established for Hospitality, Manufacturing, and Education. Each unit consists of a Business Development Market Leader, Project Director, Project Managers, Estimators, and Project Coordinators who are experts in their respective markets, and understand the unique demands of each business category.
• Completed our system conversion to Viewpoint, a cloud-hosted construction management system that connects critical business functions like accounting and project management with field operations, streamlines documentation, and facilitates enhanced communication with developers and owners.
• Added General Superintendents to our Midwest and Western Regions to fortify the project coordination, safety, and quality control efforts of our Site Superintendents.
• Expanded our self-perform workforce (Vincent Interior Systems/finish carpentry, concrete, and steel) to better serve the needs of owners in these critical areas of construction.
• Renovated and expanded our Appleton, Wis. home office to allow for a larger workforce, and enhanced collaboration among our employees.
• Enhanced our Wellness and Safety initiatives, implemented monthly wellness Lunch and Learn opportunities, and installed stand-up desks to facilitate a healthier work environment for our employees.
• Rolled out our Charitable Giving Program, which supports noteworthy causes via cash to charities (with an employee match component), paid time off for volunteering, team and event sponsorships, and in-kind gifts. Our Fixed Area of Focus for 2018–2022 is People in Crisis: those who need food, shelter, or are victims of natural disaster or domestic abuse. Our Annual Areas of Focus for 2019 are Veterans and Active Duty Service Personnel as well as Children and Youth.

Looking forward to 2019, the strong economy has provided many opportunities for growth. At the same time, it has put an unprecedented burden on our industry. Our subcontracting partners are working at 125% of capacity. Skilled tradesmen are retiring at a record pace, and these vacancies are not being filled by the next generation of workers. The result is an industry that, in many cases, is overworked and over-stressed. Despite these challenges, we are optimistic the steps taken by CCC in 2018 to improve our processes, structure, and procedures will help mitigate the effects of these constraints, and we can continue to focus on meeting your needs while creating a better work environment for our employees—for 2019 and beyond.

John Schneider
President
Consolidated Construction Company

January 7, 2019

Hospitality Construction Planning and Trends

By Damian Jarres, Hospitality Strategic Accounts Manager

Ease Your Pain!
Explosive growth in hospitality construction means subcontractors are busier than ever, making it difficult to procure qualified professionals for “fast build, short timeline” projects. However, that shouldn’t discourage you from building your next project, it simply takes the right planning model and construction partner.

Here are three tips to help Ease Your Pain when it comes to your next hospitality construction project:

1. Understand Today’s Construction Environment and Plan Accordingly.
Toto, we’re not in 2009 anymore, which means a feasible concept-to-construction timeline—given all the market forces at work—is currently 12-18 months.
2. Get Consolidated Construction Involved Early.
Our collaborative Hospitality Project Delivery process keeps owners, architects, project managers, crews, and subcontractors on the same page at all times, from concept to construction. All for the benefit of your project, employees, and guests!
3. Subcontractor Success.
Not only can Consolidated assist in all of the efforts mentioned above, we have a network of fully vetted and qualified subcontractors with extensive hospitality construction experience that can handle the scope of your work. The key is planning ahead so we can lock them in to an open window for your project.

Can you build faster than this in today’s environment? Maybe, but you risk compromising the integrity, cost, and control of your project. Consolidated has the expertise and capability to ensure your property is delivered with quality, on time, and within your success budget.

US Hotel Sector Remains in Growth Mode
After contracting from 2007-2009, the US hotel sector is in the midst of an eight-year expansion pattern. According to www.hotelnewsnow.com, lodging demand increased yearly from 2009-2017, enabling U.S. hotels to achieve record occupancy levels each of the past three years. Average Daily Rates are up 28.8% from 2009. Gross Operating Profits have fared even better, up 73.4% from 2009.

Boutique Hotels Edge Further Into the Mainstream
As noted on www.hotelnewsnow.com, panelists at the 6th Annual Independent Lodging Congress said a steady rise in U.S. hotel room demand combined with an appreciation for unique design touches, and improved distribution technology has made it easier for developers to obtain financing to build or redevelop unbranded boutique hotels throughout the country. Many boutique hotels have also been able to boost profitability by charging higher rates than chain hotels with similar amenities.

Damian is the Hospitality Strategic Accounts Manager at Consolidated. He has more than 10 years experience in the hospitality market. Prior to joining CCC, he was the director of development/new construction at Wyndham Hotels and a director of franchise sales at Choice Hotels.

Damian is the Hospitality Strategic Accounts Manager at Consolidated. He has more than 10 years experience in the hospitality market. Prior to joining Consolidated, he was the director of development/new construction at Wyndham Hotels and a director of franchise sales at Choice Hotels.

5 Hotel Trends for 2019
The folks at www.travelmarketreport.com anticipate we’ll see these trends in the hotel industry for the coming year:

1. More enforcement of cancellation fees
2. Lower guest acquisition costs through direct booking: Expect to see more direct marketing, bonuses, and member rates for travelers booking through hotel websites.
3. Longer booking windows: Soaring occupancy rates will make it necessary for hotels to allow guests to book farther in advance.
4. Local food, beverage, and decoration: Celebrity chefs are out as hotels stop competing with fine dining restaurants and turn instead to simple, wholesome, local food service, and locally produced art and decor.
5. Better technology: Poor internet service is such a negative to travelers, hotels will look to add value by enabling guests to connect personal devices to TV screens and hotel services. Hotels are also creating “Instagrammable” scenes on property to encourage photos and high ratings on online review sites for effective (and free) advertising.

December 17, 2018

Avoid Excessive Costs by Planning for “Winter Conditions”

Blog Header - Winter Conditions

 
Snow, blustery conditions, and extreme cold are all harsh realities of living in northern states. When it comes to construction, the term “winter conditions” takes on a whole new meaning.

In construction, “winter conditions” refers to specific budget line items added to accommodate increased fuel, material, and labor expenses related to activities during the coldest months of the year. On average, winter conditions appropriations can add five to seven percent to a project’s bottom line. Costs tend to be inversely proportional to the temperatures: the lower the temperatures, the greater the potential costs.

The most challenging activities to complete when the weather turns nasty involve site excavation and setting foundations. During winter, ready-mix suppliers typically heat their aggregates and water and deliver these materials to the job site using insulated boom pump trucks. They insulate the forms, then wrap them with insulating blankets, using tents and ground heaters after the pour to avoid thermal cracks. Inclement weather can also make conditions hazardous for workers, cause material and equipment transportation delays, or block access to a project site altogether.

While not every consequence of weather can be prevented, Consolidated Construction’s project team will take steps to help avoid costly setbacks, and reduce or even eliminate the budget impact.

Before budgeting or scheduling begins on a project, we take time to assess seasonal weather trends, and adjust your project schedule accordingly. For example, excavating and concrete work is best done in dry, mild weather. Interior work is ideal during the harshest winter months.

Next, we help put a plan in place for your team to respond if an unexpected weather event pops up. Mitigate costs and get back on track by closing up buildings ahead of storms, ensuring adequate water access is set up, and shifting labor schedules.

With advanced planning and good communication, weather delays don’t have to put your project in the deep freeze.

 

November 30, 2018

Four Decades of Dedication: A Salute to Todd Schnetzer on his 40th Year at Consolidated Construction

OK kids, time to jump in the way-back machine!Todd Head Shot

The year is 1978. Those of us lucky enough to be walking Mother Earth at the time were dancing (Grease), laughing (National Lampoon’s Animal House), and having the bejeezus scared out of us by Michael Myers (Halloween) at the movie theaters. The Bee Gees ruled the radio waves, as disco regrettably took temporary control of the music world. If you were rocking corduroy overalls and wedge boots, you were at the height of fashion. The video game craze was just getting off the ground with the launch of Space Invaders. Gas was $.63 cents a gallon and a stamp cost $.13 cents.

On November 30th of that same year, a young man heard through the grapevine that Consolidated Construction was hiring. He applied for a job, landed it, and began what would become an exemplary 40-year career with the company.

That young man was Todd Schnetzer, and he joined the Consolidated team straight out of high school. Rick Novotny assigned him to a steel crew, where Todd spent 14 years plying his trade and accumulating knowledge, while rising to the level of sub-foreman. It was a good job that he enjoyed, but it wasn’t his passion. That’s when opportunity knocked and Schnetzer answered.

“I was always into cars,” Todd noted. “I really enjoyed my tech and mechanics classes in high school. After I got out of school, I started racing limited late model stock cars at tracks in Kaukauna, Shawano, and Luxemburg. Fixing things is what I love to do, so when a position opened up at Consolidated for a fabricator and mechanic, I went for it.”

He went for it indeed, just as he did as a stock car driver. Todd competed in late model Todd 3races for the better part of six years and modestly admitted to winning his share of contests. After hanging up his driving gloves, he worked as a member of pit crews on late model stock cars (the fastest level of stock car racing in the state) for another 25 years. He also satisfied his competitive nature by racing SuperMod snowmobiles for 20 years. Todd finished his racing career with several Eagle River Class Championships and the coveted SnoPro Series Championship. He was honored by having his name engraved on the SnoPro trophy at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, WI.

Todd got that job, and since that fateful day, “The Shop” at Consolidated has been his home away from home. There was, however, a brief moment in time when it almost came to an abrupt end.

“I was offered a warehouse job with another company, so I came in and gave Rick Novotny my two-week notice. He wouldn’t accept it. He told me I’d hate working there, said we’d talk the next day, and to get the heck out of his office,” Schnetzer said with a chuckle. “We never did talk the next day. He saw me a couple days later and said, ‘I guess you’re staying.’ I said I guess I am. And that was the end of that.”

Fast forward to 2018, and Todd celebrated his 40th anniversary with Consolidated Construction on November 30th. In some ways, it’s a very different place than it was in 1978.

T and Betsy Cropped“You have to remember we were mainly building big metal boxes at the time I started, so we did the drywall, masonry, and some other things in house,” he said. “We subcontracted out the electrical and plumbing, but most of the rest we pretty much did ourselves. Today, that’s hard to do. The buildings are so much more complex and specialized labor is hard to come by.”

In 2006, ownership transitioned from the Novotny family to a group of four employee majority shareholders. As he recalls, “The biggest thing that changed was the market. The economy went in the tank shortly after the transition. I give ownership a lot of credit. They did what they had to do to keep us competitive.”

In some of the most important ways, Consolidated is very much the same as it was in 1978.

“One thing that never changed from when the Novotny’s owned the company to when Rick, Pam, Mark, and Jim took over is how friendly everyone is,” said Todd. “I’ve made so many friends at Consolidated over the years…some of my best friends in life.

Schnetzer’s contributions certainly have not gone unnoticed. As Consolidated CEO Rick Bickert observed, “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Todd for 17 years, and during any encounter with him—whether work related or sharing personal stories—I have always had a positive experience. Todd is a role model for all of us. His positive outlook and willingness to help all who cross his path defines CCC’s Commitment statement and is something we all can learn from.”

Schnetzer will soon be cutting back his hours and spending more time pursuing the things TS Bow Buck Croppedhe loves. Quality time with family is high on the priority list. If it can be done outdoors, count Todd in. He loves to hunt waterfowl and deer, and has taken trips to Canada for the past 30 years. He also enjoys walleye fishing on local waters.

“They say everyone is replaceable,” said Bickert. “Well, if that really is true, when the time comes, filling Todd’s shoes is going to be a tough act to follow! His dedication and service to Consolidated is an inspiration to each of us every day.”

 

November 1, 2018

Five Reasons to Choose a Design-Build Contractor

Design-Build construction continues to grow in popularity as Owners turn to this streamlined project delivery system to save time, money, promote teamwork, and create more transparency throughout all stages of the building process.

The emergence of Design-Build comes in large part from the Owners’ growing preference for a single point of contact for their construction projects. In this method, accountability for accelerated completion schedules, price guarantees, and a positive partnering approach to the project lies squarely with the Design-Build contractor. No longer does the Owner have to deal individually with architects, engineers, and the contractor and other vendors.

According to a Construction Industry Institute/Penn State University study, Design-Build can result in up to 33.5% faster delivery and more than 6% lower costs than the traditional “design-bid-build” approach.

Here are five distinct benefits of choosing a Design-Build contractor:

Single Source Responsibility
With Design-Build, Owners benefit by having a single point of responsibility for quality, cost, and scheduling. The Design-Builder is accountable to fulfill Owner objectives regarding feasibility, design, budget, and schedule. This allows the Owner to focus on scope, needs, and timely decision-making. Just as important, it keeps the Owner’s budget and schedule in the forefront while eliminating potential finger pointing between the architect, engineer, and contractor.

Built In Quality
90% of project’s success is determined in the first 10% of the timeline when the Owners’ requirements are detailed. The Design-Builder brings architecture, engineering, cost estimating, scheduling, and construction expertise to the Owner’s team at the earliest stages of a project, charting the course for success. If the Design-Builder’s plans or specifications are deficient, it does not create a change order for the Owner—the Design-Builder maintains full responsibility. That responsibility is powerful motivation to manage the process carefully and deliver accurately against the Owners’ requirements.

Faster Project Completion
With Design-Build, the design and construction processes overlap. As a result, competitive bidding can be phased, redesigns are eliminated, materials with long lead times can be purchased earlier, and work can begin before construction documents are finalized. All without risk to the Owner. Design-Build allows construction time to be optimized and these time savings often translate into lower costs and earlier building availability.

Early Knowledge of Firm Costs
Cost information is developed in parallel with the preliminary design, and once the costs are established, the project team guides the design within the budget constraints. As a result, it does not require a significant up-front investment by the Owner to receive a firm cost structure.

Teamwork
You should expect your new facility to change your business world for the better. Having one firm handle design and construction gives Owners and their team of business leaders, departmental heads, and facility managers the ideal opportunity to collaborate on the construction project. The Design-Build team absorbs and values these perspectives and leverages them to deliver outstanding project results.

DB-vs-DBB-graphic