The Wilhelm Blog
In 2015, Citizens Energy Group launched its Partnership for Excellence in Research and Learning (PERL) initiative – an effort to encourage students that graduate from universities in Indiana to stay and grow their career in Indiana.
Sarah Holsapple, Citizens spokesperson, said that PERL is designed to retain talent. “After graduating from college, Citizens wants students to seek jobs in Indiana rather than going out of state or even out of the country,” said Holsapple. “Like many companies, Citizens will likely experience a high number of retirements over the next decade. So, as a crucial part of our future planning, we are continuously looking for talented individuals who could fill positions on our team.”
The PERL initiative was born as a way to introduce students to the type of employment opportunities available to them at Citizens now and when they graduate. To do this, Citizens is partnering with universities and a few of its industry partners, including F.A. Wilhelm Construction, to foster greater student engagement through collaboration on real-world design or construction projects to allow them exposure to project lifecycles.
University partners include schools such as Purdue, Indiana University, Ball State and Trine Universities. Citizens works with “university ambassadors.” Ambassadors are Citizens staff members who work individually with the faculty at a given school – often their alma maters – to identify areas of student focus that might mesh well with a current or planned construction or engineering project.
Once a project is identified, Citizens’ university ambassador will work with the faculty and staff to develop ways to get the students actively engaged, either through projects or through onsite tours.
Holsapple said Wilhelm is one of a few vendors that Citizens has reached out to for help in reaching students and providing them with real-world project experience. “We want to show students that when they graduate, there are a lot of places where they could work, not just Citizens,” she said. Citizens is hoping to build the program into a statewide initiative.
“Wilhelm is happy to assist,” said Wilhelm president Phil Kenney. PERL is a good fit with his company’s own workforce development initiatives. “We need to continually draw young people into the construction industry both on the management side and in the field. PERL engages students in administration and management and helps us to bring people into the industry from that side.”
Chris Stolte, Wilhelm’s Director of Human Resources, agreed, saying that PERL fits well with some of the ongoing outreach efforts the company already has in place with colleges and universities throughout the state. He said several Wilhelm employees serve as active members of advisory boards at universities and that the company’s participation in PERL provides additional opportunities to connect with students.
Stolte said PERL also supports Wilhelm’s recruiting efforts by providing students real-world opportunities that expand on those they receive through participation in the company’s internship program. “At Wilhelm, we give our interns real world experience, placing them in the actual roles they’ll be filling after college,” he said.
Kenney said Wilhelm is exploring the different ways the company might be able to assist Citizens’ PERL initiative in the future including possibly providing tours, teaching classes, and offering mentoring.
The PERL program is still evolving, and is open to different types of opportunities. One example is a recent collaboration between Citizens and Purdue University that benefitted both the students and Citizens. Holsapple said the senior class of engineering students toured the new Citizens Reservoir project at Geist and then researched ways to efficiently pump water from the future reservoir to the Citizens water treatment facilities. “Some of their research will be considered in the design for the facility,” she said, which has not only offered Citizens a fresh perspective on a difficult engineering problem, but also helped students “open their eyes to the opportunities for good work right here in Indiana.”
Holsapple said she hopes that as PERL becomes better known, developing curriculum to include PERL opportunities will become “second nature” to the professors at participating universities.
With opportunities for professional practice like the one that Citizens Reservoir provided for Purdue students, chances are pretty good the program will catch on.
Wilhelm’s mark on Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral Renovation still echoes through 30 years of holiday celebrations
This holiday season, as they have for the past 30, parishioners and visitors to the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis can experience the wonder of the season gazing upon an intricate and magnificent display of an almost life-sized nativity in the sanctuary of the church.
It wasn’t always so easy to see, though. For decades, the crèche was displayed behind a large wooden rail along the altar in the church, obstructing its view. In 1986, that bar was removed as part of a significant renovation designed to bring parishioners closer to the altar, the focal point of their services and religious celebrations.
Pastoral Associate, Deacon Steve Hodges said the renovations were needed to support liturgical changes made by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s to foster greater connection between parishioners and their priests during Mass. He said, “Part of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council was to get the congregation to be more active and engaged in the celebration during the hour-long service. Hodges said the most noticeable change resulting from the renovation was that it brought the people physically closer to the priest during the service. “This makes you feel more connected and in touch with what is going on,” he said.
F.A. Wilhelm Construction managed the renovation, which Hodges described as extensive. The sanctuary, which is the main altar area of the building, was extended outward in the shape of a peninsula to bring it and the congregation closer together. Physical separations including the altar rail were also removed. Hodges said that prior to the renovation, the lighting was marginal and that even with all the lights on, the sanctuary was still fairly dark. He said the new lighting installed during the renovation improved the space dramatically making it more welcoming. The colors were also changed to make the space brighter with many of the religious paintings – canvases with deep, rich color — replaced with white statuary.
Hodges said there is a lot more room in the sanctuary than there used to be, noting that rows upon rows of dark wooden pews were replaced by chairs to offer more flexibility in the arrangement of seating for parishioners. The main cathedral can hold about 1,000 people as a result of the renovation, and the sanctuary can seat about 100 people during major celebrations without taking space away from the congregation. “We do this for ordinations,” he said, adding, “It’s really pretty impressive for the congregation, too, to see all the priests and the bishops up there at one time.” Hodges said in addition to several religious celebrations each year, the space is used for the ordinations of priests and deacons throughout the Diocese. The cathedral is also host to an average of 30 Confirmations each year – welcoming of hundreds of children from suburban parishes into full discipleship with Christ.
The renovation was challenging in a number of ways, especially in terms of the cathedral’s size and age. However, at that time, Wilhelm already had more than a decade of experience with historic renovation projects and cultural and religious facilities. Kenney said. “We understand the complexities of church projects. This is important because they’re all pretty unique. Not only was this building large and intricate in size, it also is the home church of the entire Archdiocese of Indianapolis. It is a sacred place to many, and people were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the renovations.”
Working on such an important building was a natural fit for Wilhelm. Kenney’s grandfather and company founder, F.A. Wilhelm, was a strong supporter of the Catholic Church in Indianapolis through both his financial gifts and the gift of his time. His commitment was also evident in the work of his company, past and present. To date, Wilhelm Construction has worked on more than 375 small and large construction projects at Catholic-related facilities throughout the Midwest since its founding in 1923.
When I drive around town,” Kenney said, “I can see my grandfather’s imprint on the community in so many buildings in a certain kind of stone or a type of feature he was known for. It’s very gratifying to see the impact the company and our family has had on these buildings that are a part of the faith of so many.”The cathedral is an important place for Catholics throughout Indiana and is known for its holy day celebrations and all the special events that take place there. Pastor, Father Pat Beidelman, and his congregation serve the local community through their many ministries.
Hodges said, “One of our major ministries here is that we have a soup kitchen in the building that used to be the grade school.” He said the ministry started in 1928 by handing out peanut butter sandwiches. “We’ve been feeding the needy ever since.”
The church provides 140-150 weekday meals and provides food through its pantry for more than 1,000 families every month. “They come from all over the neighborhood — people are coming from every direction because they depend on us,” said Hodges.
In reflecting on the past 30 years, it’s clear that the 1986 renovation by Wilhelm helped to bring the church’s parishioners closer to its faith while other, external changes continue bringing them closer to the local community.This Christmas season, as it has for so many, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral will be there, continuing its longstanding tradition of nourishing both the body and soul of its parishioners and the surrounding community.
Wilhelm affiliates provide comprehensive services to complete significant upgrades to Citizens Energy’s Belmont Treatment Facility
In the construction industry, working with affiliated companies can offer significant advantages, particularly when it comes to highly complex projects involving several subcontractors. The fluid communication and shared interests between affiliated companies often translate to cost-effectiveness and fewer on-site issues, leading to more successful projects.
Recently the affiliated companies – F.A. Wilhelm, Freitag-Weinhardt, Poynter, and Industrial Electric (IEI) – completed construction on two highly complex projects that illustrate the advantages of working with companies sharing a common bond. Both projects led by General Contractor Freitag-Weinhardt involved improving the operational efficiency at the Belmont Sewage Treatment Plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, owned by Citizen’s Energy Group (CEG).
The first was the Multi-Hearth Incinerator Rehabilitation Project (MHI), which began in May 2014 and wrapped up October 2015. The MIH project involved rehabilitating the plant’s four incinerators and adding new equipment to make the sewage treatment process cleaner and more efficient. As the MHI project finished, the affiliates began work on the second project to upgrade the facility’s solid waste extraction unit.
In order to minimize remaining solid waste being incinerated after treatment, CEG again turned to the Wilhelm affiliated companies to replace the facility’s old belt filter presses with large centrifuges to more effectively separate the liquid from the solids in the treatment process. CEG also needed a new “cake bin” – a large hopper to hold the solid waste for incineration.
Because both projects revolved around the installation of new equipment and process piping, CEG hired Freitag-Weinhardt as general contractor and to manage the mechanical construction and Industrial Electric to manage the $9 million electrical contracts. Mike Perry, project manager for Industrial Electric said the affiliates approached the work as a collaborative effort from day one. “Each company was responsible for its own contract but we worked hand-in-hand to make the project a success,” he said.
In addition to providing design build services, Freitag-Weinhardt installed all the piping needed for both projects, in addition to installing the centrifuges, conveyors, and all equipment and startup assistance. For the MHI project, the company replaced all the gas piping in the building and installed new burners at each level of the incinerator. Poynter installed ductwork needed to connect all the components of the new exhaust system. And, Wilhelm provided all the structural steel necessary to support the new equipment to be installed and constructed new catwalks in the facility. Industrial Electric was responsible for providing the electrical infrastructure to power, automate, control and integrate all of the systems.
For the facility’s solid waste extraction unit upgrades, Wilhelm provided the demolition of the old belt filter press foundations, poured a new base mat for the cake bin, and installed structural steel to support it. Wilhelm crews also installed the support beams and foundation for the new centrifuges. Poynter fabricated and installed the chutes that drop the solid waste into the cake bin as well as the steps and handrails to allow plant operators to move safely around the new equipment.
Industrial Electric was responsible for the power, electrical systems, and the integration of equipment on site. IEI also remodeled the Incineration/Dewatering Building Control Room to allow for new equipment, PLCs and a localized control console for the Operations team.
The electrical prime contract work included installation of a new motor control centers, integration of PLCs and control cabinets, a new CCTV network, and integration of the new equipment onto the new Solids Process Servers. Industrial Electric rehabilitated the existing motor control buckets, variable frequency drives, control stations for the equipment, and added an emergency power panel to handle all critical loads of the process. All of this was made possible by tying in the existing and new process to new network switches connected to the plant fiber optic backbone.
Each of the partners knew the work would be challenging. Not only did the plant have to remain operational throughout construction, but with an aggressive schedule and all the complexities involved in the project, its success depended on expert onsite coordination and good communication between everyone involved. Freitag-Weinhardt Project Manager, Jack McMullen, said working with affiliates made it easier to adopt a team approach. “We met daily as a team to incorporate everyone’s idea and thoughts,” he said, which helped to keep the project on schedule.
Perry said the projects were challenging, because “A lot of drawings were changed to improve the design which impacted each company. We truly adopted the motto – Plan of the Day.” But, he said, working with affiliated companies made it easier to navigate the design changes the project required, “We helped the owner improve the design to get through the hurdles and worked together to change each of our scopes of work where it made more sense.” Perry said affiliate companies can be more adaptable on the fly, which benefits both the client and the companies working on the construction. “IEI knows that what saves the owner money at the end of the day will make for a more successful project” said Perry.
Brian Neal, operations manager for Poynter, noted that working with affiliated companies also helps streamline communication. He said by hiring affiliate companies, the client gets a turn-key project with one point of contact instead of several. For example, “If the client needs to get a price on something that would normally involve several different contractors, one person can work with one contractor instead,” said Neal.
Perry said one of the biggest advantages for the client in using affiliated companies is that they already have a good working relationship. He explained, “When you work with a new subcontractor on a project, there’s often a feeling-out process that goes into figuring out what their motivations are and how it is to work with them. That doesn’t exist when you’re working with affiliates.”
Perry said affiliated companies also enjoy a wealth of expertise close at hand – having so many sister companies with such a wide range of expertise saves time and minimizes conflict when unexpected issues arise on a project. Perry said that when working with non-affiliated companies, “they may not look too kindly on you bringing in someone from a rival company to help solve a problem. With affiliates, you’re freer to reach out and get the help you need.”
Neal said the logistical benefits of working with affiliates can translate into cost savings for the client. He said on a typical project, each company would have its own management and infrastructure on site to support the project. On the Belmont Treatment Plant projects, he said, “You also don’t have to have as much management involved on site,” he said, noting that on the MHI and the Cake Bin projects, Freitag provided the trailers and handled the scheduling and most of the administrative work for all the project partners. “Working with affiliates makes it easier, more efficient and cost effective,” he said.
Clearly, partnering with the Wilhelm affiliated companies worked for CEG, resulting in much-needed improvements to the Belmont Sewage Treatment Plant. Mark Wild, CEG Project Manager, said Freitag-Weingardt and IEI’s affiliate relationships are one of the reasons they were selected for these projects. Wild said, “We chose Freitag-Weinhardt because of their piping expertise and their ability to bring experts in concrete, steel, and plate fabrications, they can pretty much do it all.”
Together, F.A. Wilhelm and its affiliates provide comprehensive expertise in nearly all aspects of the construction industry:
- F.A. Wilhelm, One of the largest employers of construction labor in the Midwest completing projects of all sizes and complexity. The family of companies in Wilhelm Construction Inc. employ experts in every major discipline of construction.
- Poynter , Full-service custom metal and sheet metal crafting providing the deep experience, solid expertise, and dependable performance you rely on for jobs well done.
- Industrial Electric , Full service electrical contractor focusing on industrial, advanced technology and commercial projects.
- Freitag-Weinhardt, Inc. , Mechanical contractors proving job after job quality is integral to performance. From fabrication to HVAC to serving as an industrial piping contractor or plumbing contractor providing the full scope of mechanical services.
- RSQ Fire Protection , Complete automatic sprinkler contractor providing you peace of mind when it comes to fire protection through the best trained mechanics in the industry.
- Midwest Associates , Providing commissioning and qualification answers for our clients’ facilities, systems, and processes. Heavily regulated life sciences industries navigating through complex regulatory environments rely on us for the knowledge and experience to deliver results. Staffed with TABB and NEBB-certified technicians who test and balance the air and water circulation within HVAC systems.
Bloomington’s Showers Building still a vibrant hub of activity 20 years after the “Miracle on Morton Street”
F.A. Wilhelm Construction has come a long way since Francis A. Wilhelm built his first concrete porch for a neighbor in 1923. Then and now, F.A. Wilhelm Construction builds structures – and client relationships – that last.
In this series, we’ll take a retrospective look at some of our favorite projects – projects that illustrate the values of hard work, innovation, and flexibility upon which the company was founded. These projects were built on client relationships that have stood the test of time and which have helped to make Wilhelm Construction the success it is today.
Enjoy this blast from the past with Project Rewind.
Today, Bloomington residents and the thousands of Indiana University students that flood into the city each year enjoy a wealth of options for dining, shopping and entertainment in its vibrant downtown. But ask longtime residents here what Bloomington was like 20 years ago, and they’ll tell you a very different story – one of urban blight that was beginning to infect the downtown area.
One of the most visible signs of the downward spiral was the old Showers Brothers Furniture factory located on Morton St between 7th and 10th street on the near northeast side of the courthouse square. What was once the home of Bloomington’s largest employer and celebrated benefactor of the city’s growth and development throughout the early 20th century had become just another old, abandoned factory when the company shut its doors in 1955. Indiana University purchased the building in 1959, and it sat largely unused for the next 30 years until the city and its business leaders began looking for ways to revitalize the downtown area. Bill Cook, a local developer – was among them.
Bill Cook was one of the founding members of CFC, Inc. – a property management and development company in Bloomington. Jim Murphy, President of CFC, said that Cook had become very interested in historic preservation in the mid-70s. After building a highly successful medical equipment manufacturing company in Bloomington, Cook wanted to use his success to help the community. He saw a lot of potential in the downtown area and believed historic preservation offered a path to a new kind of economic vitality.
Murphy explained that at that time, many of the businesses in downtown Bloomington were moving out to the new shopping mall on the east side of town leaving behind vacant buildings and few reasons for people to visit the area. “There were numerous empty buildings, some of them were historic and some were not, but they were architecturally interesting,” Murphy said.
The Showers Building was both. The factory was constructed with heavy timber beams to support the floors and roof and large, double-leaf doors to accommodate the movement of goods and equipment. One of the most striking features of the building was the sawtooth roofline. The Showers Building was one of the first in the world to incorporate this architectural feature, which combined with large six-over-six pane wood frame windows on all sides of the building, provided an abundance of natural light and ventilation for the factory before electricity was available.
Recognizing the historical significance of the Showers Building and seeing its potential for the revitalization of Bloomington’s downtown area, Steve Ferguson, then-president of CFC and involved in Cook Ventures, began working with the university, the city and Bloomington Advancement Corporation – a nonprofit organization dedicated to economic development – to explore options for its restoration.
Paving the way toward the Showers Building restoration was as complex as the renovation itself. Murphy, who was tasked with handling negotiations, making decisions, and participating in the management of the contracts for the project, said, “It was a very complicated project because you had involvement from four entities.” He said BAC first had to purchase the building from Indiana University and then arrange to lease part of it back to the school for a research park. Another part of the building would be leased to the Indiana University for its new offices. The group came together to get the area designated by the state as an Economic Development Target Area to provide key tax incentives to help the project move forward. “It took several years to pull it all together,” Murphy said.
Once the restoration work began, Murphy said, “The biggest challenge was working with so many partners to get the restoration right.” For example, he explained that it was important to retain as many of the original windows as possible to meet historic preservation requirements. Those they couldn’t restore had to be replaced, and they all had to match the originals. “We ended up paying a premium for the new windows we needed to make sure they looked the same on all four sides of the building.”
BAC hired F.A. Wilhelm Construction to manage the project. Having begun building its own expertise in historic preservation in the early 1970s, Wilhelm, with more than two decades of experience and a wealth of expertise, was well prepared to breathe new life into Bloomington’s oldest remaining industrial building.
The Showers Building renovation was Murphy’s first experience working with Wilhelm. “They had the resources and the necessary knowledge and skill sets to do the job.” Reflecting back on his work with James “Tippy” Wilhelm, son of company founder F.A. Wilhelm, Murphy said the project was probably a “big challenge” for Wilhelm. “They worked not only with private entities, but also government – three owners of one building – to make sure we all received what we each wanted.”
The $28 million Showers Building renovation soon became the centerpiece of Bloomington’s revitalization efforts fostering a new optimism for the city’s future and leading one BAC member to dub the project the “Miracle on Morton Street”. That name has endured along with the spirit of growth and change in Bloomington – the preservation of its past and the building of its future.
Today, the Showers Building is a hub of activity – home to Bloomington’s city-county offices and host to the community’s farmers’ market, which draws more than 8,000 people to the downtown area any given weekend.
Murphy said historical preservation retains the character of a community. “Not that we want to stay frozen in time forever. But there is an importance in maintaining the history and integrity of the community.” He said CFC continues to look for opportunities to restore new buildings. Murphy said his company has also branched out into new construction, noting the construction of the award-winning Kirkwood Apartments that Wilhelm completed for CFC in 2004.
Bloomington continues to grow and change. Murphy said, “Whenever I reflect back at this project working with Wilhelm and working with Tippy, I have the utmost respect for Wilhelm Construction. They are a company of quality with integrity and exceptional workmanship and craftsmanship. It will be interesting to see what the next 20 years in the Showers Building brings.”posted in
There’s no place like home. Fortunately, for students making their home at Wabash College this fall, Martindale Hall offers an all-new concept in student housing – a place that feels like home and at the same time, supports their educational needs with an environment that promotes higher learning, engagement and collaboration with their peers.
Martindale Hall – one of the largest buildings on campus — sits near the center of campus between the campus mall, the Fine Arts Center, which also houses the performance arts, and the stadium. Jay Williams Jr., Wabash College Board member, said the building is situated on the edge of a little valley with four stories visible from the front and five from the back, noting that a building like Martindale Hall couldn’t be built today because of the site restrictions. He said, “It was a perfectly sited building for its time, and we wanted to save it.”
Williams said two of the challenges with this project were HVAC and plumbing. He said while the first two floors had plenty of room for new systems, the upper floors had eight-foot ceilings which didn’t leave much room for the needed mechanical and electrical infrastructure.
Williams said that when the preliminary costs came back much higher than expected, Adriann Rhoades, Wilhelm’s preconstruction manager, brought everyone, including the architects, engineers, College staff, and the key vendors back to the table. He said Rhoades facilitated an all-day discussion in which the group went over every aspect of the building to figure out how to make the project more affordable for Wabash College. “She helped wrestle a lot of the costs out of the project,” Williams said.
F.A. Wilhelm Construction began renovations on the 50-year old building in December 2015 and finished in August, 2016, just in time to welcome new and returning students.
Wilhelm Project Manager Becky Henderson said the project went very well. “Working with the owner and the architect was a really positive experience for everybody,” she said. Williams said he was very impressed with Wilhelm’s work on Martindale Hall and that the project went much smoother than expected in spite of a last minute problem with asbestos abatement. “The difference in attention to detail, speed and focus on this project was dramatic,” he said.
Martindale Hall experienced an incredible transformation from an old, dated building to a new, state-of-the-art residence hall where students study and relax. Henderson is proud of the work and noted “The building has clean lines and is certainly very welcoming”.
To create a more open common area on the first floor, Wilhelm crews removed part of the concrete slab between the first and second floors to create a two-story atrium. The first level now serves as an open living room space with a large, limestone-framed fireplace. Henderson said the façade on the north side of the building opens up to an arboretum where students can “look out onto that space” from several study areas in the building.
Students enjoy a lot of new amenities in their living quarters, too. Instead of the double-rooms typically found in dormitories, many of the 80 students who moved into the all-new Martindale Hall now live in suites that include kitchenettes complete with a sink, refrigerator and microwave.
Wabash College added new student housing last year on the west side of the campus, and the Martindale Hall Revitalization completes the independent housing stock. Williams said until this year, many students were living off campus or in older houses on and off campus. With the new residences, the College is bringing these students closer into campus in first quality housing.
“Martindale Hall now offers students additional options with a building designed for more collaboration and social interaction,” said Henderson. “It’s really changed the student outlook on where they want to live.”
Williams said one of the president’s goals for the Martindale Hall renovation and the construction of the other residences on campus was to bring more students closer to the center of campus. “The energy level of Wabash is dramatically higher, now,” he said. “The kids are more engaged, and they’re enjoying each other.”
“The energy level of Wabash is dramatically higher, now,” he said. “The kids are there, and they’re enjoying each other.”posted in
F.A. Wilhelm Construction is working to bring the opportunities of the construction industry to students in the Indianapolis area. Employees dedicate time and resources to help develop the next generation through efforts with Junior Achievement’s Job Spark, College Mentors for Kids, and Girls Inc.
Building experiences for future talent is a long-standing company tradition. Throughout Wilhelm’s history of commitment to the community, a great emphasis has been placed on providing academic growth opportunities through a variety of organizations. Through their service to these organizations, employees donate time and share their experiences to help mentor and inspire future talent.
Junior Achievement hosts Job Spark, a two day hands-on career expo for 8th graders in Marion County. This event provides students with information about career opportunities and the necessary skills and training to be successful in these fields. Wilhelm, in conjunction with companies from a variety of industries, created a knowledge-sharing station focused on sharing innovation and opportunities in the construction industry.
College Mentors for Kids pairs college students with “high risk” students to help them transition throughout the schooling process. Wilhelm employees conduct a construction unit session which teaches schoolchildren construction skills as they simultaneously participate in a hands-on small building project. This one-on-one mentorship provides an opportunity to “experience” construction and discuss possibilities with actual builders.
Girls Inc., a local non-profit in Indianapolis, helps inspires girls to reach their full potential through mentorship and education. Their mission as outlined in their slogan, “strong, smart, and beautiful” conveys the organizations commitment to helping propel young girls forward in their journey towards a successful career. Wilhelm employees implement multi-week discussion sessions at area schools exploring a variety of topics. The program provides girls the tools they need to achieve their goals and resist peer pressure.
Wilhelm’s involvement with these and other local organizations in the community helps support early learners to have a positive outlook on career opportunities, and in turn, helps foster the growth of the next generation.posted in
Joseph Lansdell, president of Poynter, Greenwood, Ind., was elected by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association’s (SMACNA) Board of Directors to serve as president. His year-long term in office began October 19, 2016 at the close of SMACNA’s 73rd Annual Convention.
“In 2017, SMACNA will revisit its strategic plan,” Lansdell said. “It will take into consideration the needs of owners, their changing priorities, and expectations in designing and constructing flexible facilities that adjust to their future needs.
“With companies required to shift and retool their operations on the fly, constructing a building has now become part of the owner’s strategic plan, not a separate entity as in the past,” he noted. “This change presents opportunities for SMACNA contractors and their skilled workforce.”
Lansdell has been actively involved in the sheet metal industry for two decades and served on SMACNA’s Board of Directors from 2007 to 2011. He currently serves as a SFUA Article X panelist, vice-chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, and on the National Pension Fund. He is also on the Investment Committee.
Lansdell is a graduate of Purdue University at Indianapolis with a degree in mechanical engineering technology and a life-long Indiana resident.
SMACNA, an international trade association representing 3,500 contributing contractor firms, is a leader in promoting quality and excellence in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry. SMACNA has national offices in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C., and on Capitol Hill. Visit www.smacna.org.
Poynter is Indiana’s largest full service sheet metal and custom metal fabricator and installer, serving a wide variety of clients throughout the United States. With expertise in applications for manufacturing, education, life sciences, healthcare, energy, food services, retail development and hospitality industries, Poynter’s comprehensive capabilities are an ideal fit for anything metal. Visit: www.poyntersheetmetal.composted in
Michael Greven, Senior Project Manager for F.A. Wilhelm Construction, is no stranger to the challenges that come with healthcare construction projects – regardless of location. Working on two successful projects in Kenya where construction technology is sometimes 30-40 years behind what is available to U.S. companies today, Greven is highly adept at overcoming obstacles associated with building projects both here and abroad.
Working through AMPATH, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, Greven participated on two major construction projects to bring much needed healthcare services to the people of Kenya. AMPATH is a consortium of U.S. academic health centers led by Indiana University working with Moi University and the government in Kenya to improve the delivery of public healthcare.
Greven’s first construction project – the Riley Mother – Baby Hospital – is a three-story, 75,000-foot modern medical facility and neonatal intensive care unit that opened in 2009 providing care for women and babies throughout western Kenya. In 2012, he returned to spend the next three years helping build a new 110,000 square-foot oncology center in Eldoret, Kenya.
Reflecting on the differences between healthcare construction projects in Kenya and those in the U.S., Greven said that when it comes to basic construction, the techniques employed in Kenya are essentially the same as those used here. “But, the manner in which things are done is different,” he said.
Greven said although Kenya doesn’t have access to the large variety of materials available in this country, they do have the basic materials they need for construction. Most everything is built with concrete. Greven said getting modern equipment can be very difficult and in many cases, they’re working with equipment several decades old, adding that “anything that has to do with medical equipment has to be imported.”
With regard to the software technology used in the industry, Greven said they use many of the same types of programs U.S. companies do. For example, architectural companies there model themselves after the American Institute of Architects (AIA). “So, they use the same types of drawing programs we use here like AutoCAD, etc. They sometimes don’t have the latest versions,” he explained. Greven said they also have access to modeling technology but because the software is older, modeling is accomplished in a more rudimentary way.
According to Greven, there’s no shortage of construction laborers in Kenya. Laborers there earn just $3-5 a day, which is considered a good salary. Someone with skills – a plumber or electrician – can earn $8-10 per day. “But finding skilled labor is more difficult,” Greven said. “The labor pool is there, but the skills are limited. You have to widen your search when it comes to finding professionals with specialized skills.”
The team went to South Africa to find a designer with the skills necessary to design the bunkers for the facility’s radiation services. “When you’re building bunkers to hold linear accelerators for radiation oncology, there’s no margin for error.” Greven said. The purpose of the bunkers was to provide a safe way to deliver radiation therapy to cancer patients. “There’s no lead available to protect the healthcare workers from radiation. So, they built two bunkers with 10-foot thick concrete walls instead.” Greven said one will be used to provide high-dose radiation (HDR) for cervical cancer patients and the other will facilitate radiation treatment for other types of cancers.
One of the biggest challenges in construction is communication. “You have to be able to communicate with large groups of people. You have to make sure everyone is being heard and understood so that everyone gets what they think they’re getting,” Greven said.
Greven said in Kenya, language barriers can be a bigger problem with laborers than they are with those in the skilled areas of construction. Although English is considered the primary language, with 38 different ethnic groups in the country, each with their own language, communication is challenging. Greven’s ability to speak some Swahili helped, but for him, working in Kenya has reinforced the need to focus on communication because there, it is the number one issue on any project.
Modest about his role in helping to deliver quality healthcare to the people of Kenya, Greven is clearly proud of what AMPATH has accomplished there. He said the maternity hospital, now considered one of the finest in western Kenya, delivers about 15,000 babies a year. And, although the cancer care center is waiting on the Kenyan government to provide the radiation equipment it needs, the chronic disease care facility is also complete. The facility now provides chemotherapy services to more than 500 patients a month, and its breast and cervical cancer screening programs serve nearly 5,000 patients a year to promote early detection and treatment.
“I’ve always been interested in healthcare projects,” Greven said, adding that he believes good public health care services should be available everywhere. “The importance of providing good quality healthcare for people of all means is critical.”
Aside from his work at the hospital and construction site, Greven and his family spent a fair amount of time supporting, both physically and financially, two children’s homes near their town of Eldoret. The number of orphans and abandoned children in Kenya is staggering, and there is no shortage of need, so Greven pitched in to help an orphanage in Kitale, home to over 85 children. They journeyed to the facility once a month (a 2-hour drive) and brought much needed staples, helped with the gardens, purchased fruit seeds and trees, and aided in organizational issues, including fundraising. They were also able to retain a grant for a solar water pump project so that the children didn’t have to spend so much time trudging uphill to obtain water for cleaning, bathing, and cooking. The Grevens have a not for profit which continues to support sustainability projects in Kenya, EcoSource Sustainable Initiatives.
Healthcare construction projects are among the most complicated undertakings in the industry, and encompass many highly specialized requirements unique to the health and wellness market segment. Mount Carmel Health System’s new inpatient hospital in Grove City, Ohio, is no exception.
F.A. Wilhelm Construction was hired to perform the concrete work for the 508,000 – square-foot expansion of the current facility, which will add another 210 rooms and a 123,000 – square-foot medical office building. The new facility is scheduled to open in 2018.
Wilhelm’s work is scheduled for completion a year earlier in October 2017, and crews are working with a fast-tracked schedule to help ensure that happens.
Jason Windholtz, Wilhelm’s project manager, said crews are wrapping up the basement now and will soon start on the decks. In total, the project will use 41,300 cubic yards of concrete, including three floors of structural concrete decks and five floors of slabs on metal decks. About 45 percent of the concrete has been poured to date.
It’s not been without its challenges, though. Windholtz said, “Fast-tracking can present a lot of additional considerations with healthcare projects, which tend to be pretty complex anyway.” He said that because this is an accelerated project, construction started while the drawings were still in the design and development stage. “It requires a lot of flexibility,” Windholtz said, noting the high number of change orders, drawings, and requests for information (RFIs) for this project. “You might expect a couple new drawing issuances for a similar project at this point,” he said, “but this one had nine to date, along with more than 200 structural RFIs, and we’re just coming out of the basement.”
Windoltz said his team has taken it all in stride, though. The key, he said, is making sure everything is in the right place at the time. He credits Wilhelm’s project engineer, Gary Keymon and Wilhelm’s two lead project layout engineers, Larry Hunter and Jason Forsythe, with keeping the project team and craft force organized during the continual evolution of the documents and associated shop drawings. “Those guys have been instrumental in keeping us on track,” he said.
Windholtz said he’s confident that with great teamwork, the project will continue to a successful, on-time completion despite any new challenges that might arise.
Preconstruction plays a vital role in the success of any construction project, and construction management companies today have a wide range of software tools that can save their clients time and money.
Andrew Lock, Vice President of Preconstruction Services at F.A. Wilhelm Construction, said Wilhelm uses a variety of project control and building information modeling (BIM) tools and software to provide value-added preconstruction services. Lock said preconstruction involves estimating project costs and budgeting, value engineering to help clients save money, scheduling and sequencing of a project, and evaluating constructability issues. “During preconstruction, we envision all these things together to get the cost, quality, and schedule right to make the client’s project happen.” Lock said Wilhelm’s preconstruction team engages advanced technology to accomplish this.
Thomas Jacoby, Wilhelm’s Virtual Construction Engineer, said the single most useful piece of software he uses in preconstruction is Navisworks. Navisworks allows Wilhelm to integrate all the different building information models (BIM) – mechanical, electrical, HVAC and others – to provide a holistic view of the project. Jacoby said this is particularly helpful with highly complex projects such as healthcare facilities, noting that “the amount of mechanical equipment of various types that go into hospitals gets very complex very quickly.” Jacoby said the three-dimensional viewing capabilities of the software help clients, project teams and others better understand the how project components interact, so that decisions can be made and implemented more quickly. “Navisworks helps us effectively communicate with entire teams to get challenges quickly straightened out and keep owners, designers and subcontractors on the same page.”
Lock said Wilhelm’s use of Assemble takes that one step further, allowing the combined models to be viewed online so that everyone involved from project teams to clients – can readily access key information from anywhere. Lock said Assemble is particularly useful in the development of budgets. “Developing a budget for a project requires a lot of interaction with the owner and design team,” he said, adding that being able to view the project online makes it easier to communicate with the client about different components that can affect project costs.
Assemble is also useful during construction. When operation teams run into issues, preconstruction teams can easily coordinate through the program to quickly identify and discuss optimal solutions, including impacts on overall project costs.
Wilhelm’s use of technology for preconstruction is not limited to office computers and laptops, either. The company uses drones during both preconstruction and construction to inform the project. Lock said Wilhelm now has a fleet of five drones – “our own mini-air force” – to offer high-value preconstruction services. “We’re able to fly over and evaluate sites and existing conditions to get good information used to determine site costs. That sets us up nicely during construction so things go smoother with fewer surprises,” Jacoby said. Adding, “We’ll use drones to get basic imagery and three-dimensional (3D) information for the site, and to inspect buildings and other hard-to-reach considerations.”
Drones are also used during construction to verify progress and processes, and to save time and money. Lock said. “When Wilhelm is working on a mass excavation, for example, and we want to know how much earth we have left to move – we do a drone flyover. The 3D image of the site is then compared to previous images and final grades to understand exactly how much work is required.” Lock said drones work particularly well for large sites. “Using a drone on a 150-acre site,” he said, “can equate to two days of survey data collected in just two hours.”
Another important tool used by Wilhelm’s preconstruction team for estimating and project costing is Viewpoint. This tool allows teams to analyze historical cost information based on individual components and criteria, and build from there. Lock said software tools provide a great starting point, but people expertise is the critical component to develop reliable estimates for clients. “You have to be aware of the ins and outs of each marketplace.”
Once project plans and budgets are developed, teams use bid databases to find the most qualified subcontractors and vendors. He said these databases are particularly useful for projects like healthcare facilities that have unique needs require highly specialized expertise.
Doug Correll, Wilhelm’s Director of Project Controls said that his team implements technologies in their process from the very first contact with the job. The group primarily uses P6 and Sketchup to represent the construction sequences and logistics plans that best fit the project. Often, a highly detailed plan and schedule will be developed as a part of the proposal prior to an award being announced. Once the plans are developed and expressed through sketches and schedules, the project team (along with preconstruction) can have a product to evaluate in an effort to generate the most advantageous execution plan.
In a cautious tone, Doug continued his sentiment regarding technology indicating that “the technology is only as useful as the philosophies, training and business methodologies behind them. Even the best technology only represents what it is told to do. The key is training people on what to look for and to make prudent decisions as projects progress.”
When asked how project controls relate to ensuring the success of the project, Doug replied, “within project controls, there is a fine line between providing good information/input and executing a plan to “ensure” the success of the project. Ultimately, the project manager is responsible for the outcome of the project. The project controls group is tasked with representing the best (unbiased) plan for how to achieve the desired outcome and to alert the team when the plan is getting off track.”
Wilhelm’s operational teams also use software tools to improve onsite project management including Procore, Viewpoint and Latista. Project Manager Jeremy Putnam uses Latista – a quality control and field management application – to keep track of all items needing to be completed on a project. Putnam said he especially appreciates the accountability it provides for a project. “As you walk the job site, you snap a picture and assign the item to the appropriate subcontractor. The subcontractor responsible for the fix receives a daily notification to remedy the item, and when it’s fixed, can mark the item done for verification.”
Perhaps one of the most important advantages that Wilhelm’s use of technology provides is the ability to communicate more effectively with the clients it serves. “It all comes down to communication,” Lock said. He explained that successful projects require being able to communicate in different ways, “There’s no one universal way to show a budget or a schedule that will suit everyone’s needs. The different types of technology we use allow us to communicate more effectively with everyone – including owners, project stakeholders, end users, subcontractors and suppliers. Lock said healthcare projects are a good example. “In healthcare,” he said, “you have a lot of different user groups, and they’re each looking for very specific information. Wilhelm’s technology gives us the ability to focus in on each stakeholder’s individual needs, as well as communicate the entire project scope.”
Whether in the office or on a project site, Wilhelm is harnessing the power of advanced technology to improve the services it provides to clients every step of the way from preconstruction through construction.
Jacoby said Wilhelm stays on the leading edge of preconstruction technology because, while technology requires an investment on Wilhelm’s part, it provides huge dividends for clients.
Clients benefit from technology because it provides transparency, and transparency builds consensus. Technology also provides real-time access to information and visual confirmation of activities and successes. The right project tools applied by the right project team provide a comprehensive project overview giving owners “peace of mind” and confidence in the building process.