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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June 26, 2020

Why should I start planning my Spring 2021 building project now, and what goes into creating an initial cost estimate?

Jim Olson, AIA, NCARB
Director of Business Development-Southern Wisconsin

Spring and summer are peak seasons in the construction industry for good reason: The weather is generally nice, so you don’t have to worry about construction delays or added costs due to winter conditions. The same can’t be said for winter projects, especially in the Midwest, where weather can negatively impact construction progress.

There are many i’s to dot and t’s to cross before a commercial construction project can get off the ground. Generally speaking, it can take 3-6 months (or more) until your project is shovel ready. There are the obvious decisions to make: building function, size, design, location. Then there are factors to consider, like zoning approvals, permits, financing, and other items from outside agencies.

If you are considering constructing a new facility, adding to an existing building, or renovating an existing space next spring to take advantage of prime building conditions, now is a great time to get the ball rolling on those plans.

Pre-Construction Planning is Key
The pre-construction phase is perhaps the most important stage in any building process. That’s because 90% of a project’s success is determined in the first 10% of its timeline.

The key elements to the pre-construction phase include:
• Defining the objectives of the project
• Detailing the scope of the project (describing the work to be done)
• Setting the budget to allow for cost estimating and value optimization
• Setting the schedule
• Initial schematic design
• Construction site analysis
• Materials procurement management
• Acquiring proper approvals (zoning, building permits, etc.)

Clear and collaborative communications is essential during this phase. Setting clear expectations through schedules, responsibility matrices, and cost control measures provide you with the cost, time, and quality information needed to make the best decisions for your project.

Elements of an Initial Cost Estimate
It’s important to understand that an early-stage cost estimate differs from a final construction budget. An early-stage estimate relies on the contractor’s past experience, and involves a combination of art and science. This estimate allows the Owner an opportunity to organize funding sources and plan actual expenditures in advance.

For the initial cost estimate, the estimator relies on information and plans that are termed conceptually complete, but not to the level of actual construction documentation. They must blend known data (such as a building’s size and scope) with other details based on unit costs, assumptions, historical data, and best judgment based on experience and existing market conditions. Often, they will consult with our listing of trusted subcontractors to get a snapshot of current pricing. As the design is refined, the final budget is based on more solid information.

When creating a preliminary estimate, the estimator first assesses the level of detail in the plans. He’ll then consider the site and existing conditions, allowing for variables like overhead power lines, presence of hazardous materials, site grades, etc. that will require additional scope and labor.

At that point, accurate quantity take-offs can be prepared based on the plans, determining the materials needed, and factoring seasonal effects and price trends. The estimator will then extrapolate the associated labor needs, wage rates, and equipment needs to install. Finally, general project requirements such as permitting, insurance and design fees are also incorporated into the initial estimate.

Plan Now, Reap the Rewards!
As project Owner, you can take steps now to set yourself—and your building contractor partner—up for success on your next construction project. It’s important that Owners and contractors view each other as partners in this process. Neither can be successful without the other.

Plan now for Spring 2021, and you’ll be rewarded with a smooth-running, low-stress, cost-effective, and safe construction project.

April 28, 2020

Why Should Contractor Safety be Important to a Project Owner?

Jim Olson, AIA, NCARB
Director of Business Development-Southern Wisconsin

Starting a new construction project is an exciting time! Whether you are launching a new venture, adding on to a site because your company is growing, or renovating an existing structure to better serve your needs, a solid safety plan needs to be an integral part of your efforts.

Job site safety is paramount to ensuring every individual in and around the project returns home safely to his or her family each night. Contractors and project owners who insist on a comprehensive safety program see safety not only as a way to provide a safe work environment, but also as a cost control tool, and a critical element for budget success.

How Owners Can Work with a Contractor to Help Ensure Safety on Their Job Site
Owners sometimes feel they are interfering with the contractor’s way of doing business if they express concerns over safety at a jobsite.

As an owner, you have the right to have a quality safety program be an important part of the selected contractor’s approach to your project. You also need to think beyond the job site and consider safety measures adjacent to the site as part of the planning.

In addition, if you have any safety requirements for your own employees, your selected contractor should take those requirements into consideration when putting together the site-specific safety plan for your project.

Owners should provide the direction and information necessary for a contractor to produce and enforce an effective safety plan that meets your needs as well as the needs of the contractor, subcontractors, and visitors.

How to Assess a Contractor’s Commitment to Safety?
Contractors with excellent workers compensation safety records are more efficient at reducing risks, driving project profitability, and completing jobs on time.

Your contractor pre-qualification process should include an assessment of their workers’ compensation history, and three years of historical safety data. The contractor should provide you with their Experience Modification Rate (EMR) going back at least three years. EMR is a calculation used by insurance companies to gauge both past cost of injuries, and future chances of risk. An EMR of 1.0 or less is considered exemplary.

It’s also a good idea to obtain references from past clients and subcontractors, and gauge their assessment of the contractor’s safety program. A quick look at the contractor’s organizational chart will demonstrate if the leadership structure is in place to support a proactive safety culture.

Check to see if they have a dedicated Safety Manager on staff. These trained professionals monitor construction sites, enforce compliance with government regulations and standards, and provide training opportunities for staff. They also help identify safety-related issues on project sites, and work with project leadership to design solutions to mitigate exposure to those risks.

We’re All In This Together!
As project owner, you should be able to count on a properly licensed and insured contractor to shoulder the bulk of responsibility for construction jobsite safety. However, you must collaboratively plan for project safety by providing the contractor with the information necessary to set up a safe worksite. You should also feel comfortable performing inspections to ensure safe practices are being followed.

It’s important that Owners and contractors view each other as partners in this process. Neither can be successful without the other. Ensuring safety for everyone in and around your job site is a shared responsibility.

Your involvement will be rewarded with a smooth-running, low-stress, cost-effective, and SAFE project.

November 14, 2019

11/19: 10 Things We Learned from the Hospitality Industry that apply to Senior Living Facilities

Tim Rinn Director of Business Development, Senior Living and Multifamily

Tim Rinn
Director of Business Development, Senior Living and Multifamily

Hotel experts know how to attract guests, engage the senses, and deliver great guest experiences. It’s no accident that senior and assisted living providers who offer excellent care in an environment that’s inspiring and cost-effective, tend to outperform other communities.

Here are 10 lessons we learned from the Hospitality industry that can help you out-market the competition and improve the likelihood of success for your next Senior or Assisted Living project:

  1. Locate in an Active Area. Seniors aren’t looking to move into an assistance facility and then drop out of life. Quite the opposite—they want to stay physically and mentally active and vibrant for as long as possible. Instead of locating your facility in a residential neighborhood or on a quiet street, consider locating near downtown, a college campus, YMCA, or popular coffee house. This allows residents to feel like they are still part of their community, and not on the inside looking out at life passing them by. Some of the busiest hotels in the world are surrounded by restaurants, art centers, and athletic facilities.
  2. Deliver Privacy and Dignity. Living quarters should include private bathrooms, accessible showers, sound-dampening doors, and quality finishes and fixtures. These are the basics to help give your residents a safe, secure, dignified daily experience. Ever see an upscale hotel with community bathrooms? Us either.
  3. Make it Homey. Instead of using soulless commercial products, use those commonly used in hotels and upscale homes. For example, consider luxury vinyl, plank, or slate flooring instead of dated vinyl composite tile. Choose residential-style furniture with arms to assist with lifting, and removable cushions for easy cleaning. Provide counter seating in lieu of community tables to add to the feeling of home. Boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfast destinations have used this tactic to great advantage.
  4. Incorporate Wellness Elements On and Off Campus. Having exercise and dietary programs on site is a given, however, there may be limits to what you can offer due to space and staffing limitations. To augment your wellness programs, create strategic partnerships with local fitness, yoga, spa, nutrition, and healthy living providers so your residents have access to these services, even if you don’t offer them on campus. Active travelers seek out hotels with workout amenities, and active seniors will do the same when they consider assisted living facilities.
  5. Anticipate the Demands of Tomorrow’s Customer. Keep up on the trends important to your senior and assisted living customers of tomorrow. For example, many older Americans are selling their homes and moving into studio apartments. Hit those hot buttons on your campus with clean, modern designs, and an array of small luxuries, particularly those that enhance a sense of community among your residents. There’s a reason there are so many hotel brands—each strives to carve out its own niche and appeal to the ever-evolving demands of travelers.
  6. Take Advantage of Technology. Emerging technology can help seniors who are less mobile and stable retain independence. Voice technology, for example, can allow your residents to open blinds, turn on televisions and lights, or access information. Wireless pendants activate phones in case of falls. Health monitoring and medication management devices make it possible for people to live longer and less restrictively. Many of these technologies are now on their second and third generations, and have become very cost effective to incorporate in your campus designs. Hotels are a veritable “science lab” for technology—take advantage of their research and findings to improve your facility design.
  7. Think ‘Resident-Centered’ Designs. There was a time when senior and assisted living facilities were designed more like hospitals than residences. That doesn’t fly with today’s discerning clients. Today, successful operators focus on providing a functional, resident-centered experience that encourage community, active lifestyles, and personal growth through neighborhood-like settings. Hotels incorporate coffee shops, restaurants, and stores into their very essence—either inside the facility or in the surrounding neighborhood. It’s just like individuals do when they select a place to live. Your senior facility can benefit from this strategy as well.
  8. Go Green. Sustainable design concepts used in hotels and other commercial buildings work well in senior and assisted living communities. Daylighting, improved air quality, energy and water conservation, gardens, and water features enhance the daily experiences of your clients while also being earth-friendly. Consider a “green where it makes sense,” approach, and target a 3-5 year energy payback timeframe.
  9. Flexible Dining Hits the Spot. Create a variety of dining spaces, like today’s restaurants. Counter seating, group seating, private dining rooms for when families visit, smaller tables…you get the idea! Hotels offer a variety of soft and hard seating, low, comfy chairs, along with higher, bistro-type seating to appeal to a broad spectrum of travelers, some of whom may be tired and looking to relax, while others are full of energy and looking to socialize.
  10. Welcome to the Neighborhoods. Instead of designing senior living communities with long, dark hallways or maximizing units in double-loaded corridors, create defined neighborhoods within the building. For most people, this is a much more comfortable, family-oriented way of living. Neighborhoods can be defined by colors, theming, artwork, common interests, etc. Public spaces in hotels have undergone a great transformation in recent years. Instead of low ceilings and cramped surroundings, design has taken ceilings up, spaces out, and afforded plenty of open, friendly spaces for commiserating.

Consolidated Construction infuses these lessons learned into every assisted living community we build to help you out-market the competition, operate more efficiently, fill census, and deliver outstanding care to your residents.

October 15, 2019

Working with Communities to Identify Needs and Build Cost-Effective Educational Solutions

United Public School District serves the towns Des Lacs and Burlington, which have seen steady growth as desirable living areas for many working in and around Minot, the Minot Air Force Base and the Bakken Region oil fields. As a result, student census numbers climbed 18% from 2008 to 2017, a trend the District deemed likely to continue.

This rise in student population pushed school facilities beyond their limits, and brought to light deficiencies at both campuses. A Capital Maintenance Plan done by Consolidated helped determine which buildings and systems were worth renovating and those needing replacement. We also conducted community listening sessions to better understand the community’s vision for their schools.

The District ultimately decided to relocate the 7th and 8th grades from Burlington to Des Lacs, creating a “school within a school” to junior high students transition more effectively to high school, and give them access to Art, Vocational-Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS), Foreign Language, and Business classes. At Des Lacs, a new gym, secure entry, kitchen/commons, and administrative office spaces were also required. The Burlington facility would be renovated to accommodate PreK and Kindergarten rooms, restrooms, and a secure entrance.

Des Lacs Burington_Web-16       Des Lacs Burington_Web-31

The initial referendum, which called for $15.4 million in investments, fell just 4% short of passage. Consolidated and the Architect used value engineering to craft a new plan that met the District’s needs without eliminating any classrooms or educational facilities. This ultimately reduced project costs 23%, and the new $11.9 million referendum passed easily.

Since voters ultimately approved much less funding than the District originally wanted, this served as a real call to action for the Consolidated team, and led us to scrutinize every aspect of the project in order to get the District the absolute most for their money. During the pre-construction phase, Consolidated presented the Owner with 109 more value engineering ideas, and the Owner accepted options totaling more than $1.26 million in savings—without sacrificing any classroom space or square footage.

This project spanned complicated demolition, re-purposing of existing facilities, additions, and new construction, much more than could be done in the traditional summer construction season preferred by schools. Much of the site work, demolition, renovations, and new construction was to be done while the school was occupied. As a result, Consolidated crafted a meticulous 4-Phase approach to the project, allowing much of the work to be done while school was in session, while putting paramount importance on the safety of students, staff, and visitors:

  • Phase 1: New construction of kitchen/commons, office spaces, entry way, and fire protection system: to be complete by Christmas, 2018. Relocating the kitchen/commons enable Phase 3 renovations to be completed with the junior high classroom addition was completing.
  • Phase 2: New construction of gymnasium and junior high classroom addition: to be complete by Easter, 2019.
  • Phase 3: Remodeling of old kitchen/commons area to accommodate a portion of the new junior high school: to be complete by Easter, 2019. Completion of Phases 1, 2, and 3 enabled the junior high students to move from Burlington to Des Lacs in April 2019, allowing the extensive renovations at Burlington Elementary School to begin.
  • Phase 4: Remodeling of existing science classrooms: to begin at the end of 2018 school year and complete by the start of 2019 school year. Repurposing and conversion of the former junior high wing at Burlington to accommodate pre-school and Kindergarten spaces (including building bathrooms and sinks with water fountains, as required by current code) and administrative offices: to be complete by the start of the 2019 school year.

Exceptional measures were taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved with this project, resulting in zero recordable worker accidents or injuries, and no OSHA violations.

In the last five years, Consolidated Construction has New North Dakota Map with Schoolsbeen contracted with 30 different North Dakota Public School Districts in various stages of planning, design, and construction. The United School District project is another example of how we are committed to working with these communities to identify needs and build cost-effective educational solutions that bring modern amenities and 21st Century learning to rural schools.

September 19, 2019

How Interior Branding Can Benefit Your Business

Brian Vincent LG




Your building represents a powerful tool to express your company’s identity and values to customers, visitors, and employees. It’s important to use this prime real estate to communicate your company’s brand promise.

Strive to incorporate your company’s identity throughout all aspects of interior design and architecture, including color, lighting, art, and floor plans. If you have a reception area, does it convey the personality of your company in a welcoming, professional manner? What kind of vibe does your lobby exude? What about the quality of materials in these public areas? Does your break room make employees feel valued in order to build loyalty and camaraderie?

Creating a branded workspace doesn’t need to break the bank, but it does require attention to detail. Start by determining what qualities are essential to your company’s story, and identify the most important attributes of your brand. Then, consult an architect or interior designer who can help identify ways to incorporate these attributes into your physical space. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Think of interior branding as the first step in delivering the ultimate “user experience” to customers and employees alike.

Brian Vincent is the founder and former president of Vincent Wood Works, Inc. He became a voting shareholder and was appointed to Consolidated Construction’s board of directors in 2017.