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Local Companies Give Back In Time of Need

In times like these, we love seeing our community come together to help wherever they can! We wanted to recognize a few of our clients, share some of the good that is happening each and everyday, and let you know how you can help if you are able to.

JR Automation: In just six days, JR Automation (in partnership with General Motors) built an assembly line with customized machinery that can produce 50,000 medical face masks each day! Their first set of much needed masks are expected to be delivered to front line workers on April 8th.

Coppercraft Distillery: Coppercraft committed to producing approximately 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to be distributed to local hospitals and health care providers. With Holland Hospital going through at least four times the normal amount used, we know this will be extremely helpful!

Kids Food Basket: With the children of our community not being able to rely on school meals, Kids Food Basket has done great work to continue to ensure that they are properly nourished. If you are willing and able, they are accepting donations at the link above in order to be able to stay on the front lines in fighting hunger during this time.

Community Action House: Community Action House is also working hard in order to feed the families of our community. With a substantial increase in need, they are challenging everyone to join the fight against hunger and pack a family food box right from home. All you have to do is visit the link above to see the detailed instructions and what to include in the box. PLUS, if you pack a family food box and post about it on social media (tagging Community Action House and using #StayHomeFightHunger), we will be donating $10 for each family that participates. Along with Lakewood Construction – PeopleIT, The Insurance Group, Holland Doctors of Audiology, and Mike Goorhouse and Family are also matching for a total of $45 per family food box!

We know there are so many great individuals, companies, and organizations that are doing their part to help in this time of need, and for that we are grateful. Thank you to those mentioned and every single other person on the front line working to take care of our communities!

Construction Management: It’s A Daily Double!

Nick Nykerk | President

Most people believe that concrete is a pretty solid substance. Right? Would you be surprised to learn that air is a critical component in its basic structure? A typical batch is made up of sand, water, cement, and air. The percentages of each component varies depending on who is making it and what the application will have in its final stages.

While this might be of interest if you’re in the concrete business or a contestant on Jeopardy, why would anyone really need to know this information? You might if you’re growing your business and in need of a new facility and/or are expanding your current operations with an addition. But, if you’re like most business owners, your priority is about running your business, not figuring out the chemical makeup of concrete.

That’s where a Construction Manager (CM) comes in—handling the details of the construction process so you can do what you do best—run your business.

A CM’s job is to oversee the entire building project from start to finish. We manage the team and communicate with everyone on all sides of the project: you, your architect and engineer, city officials, trades, vendors, and everyone in between.

The best CMs are typically experienced general contractors with plenty of field experience in the construction industry. A good CM can hold a complex project together and lead it in the right direction. Our job is to educate and walk you through all the challenges of the design and construction process, so you get the facility you want and need. On schedule and in budget.

We recommend hiring a CM as early on in the project as possible. It will improve budgeting and scheduling—the two areas that will offer the biggest benefit to you in the long-run. We understand scheduling and budgeting in detail. We utilize software and other technology, so we can monitor everything having to do with your project and quickly account for any changes in the process. We can also make instant adjustments to keep everything moving forward.

We are experts in providing the lowest possible project cost based on selecting the lowest bidder from different bid divisions, and we have a network to secure the right contractors for the job. You will have a better advantage in competitive bidding because the markup of the subcontractor’s initial bids and change orders are gone. We can also see when there is the advantage of breaking your project down into individual bid packages to further lower costs.

As your onsite representative, we ensure all contractors and trades follow the project plan and schedule. Our experience provides us with the ability to determine the competency of a contractor’s workers. Quite often, we can provide alternative methods to bring down project costs.

Clear communication on the construction site promotes early and accurate design estimates and the chance to save on materials and supplies. Open and quick communication can lower the potential for problems and disputes between parties and enhance quality control in the building process.

As an objective third party that acts as go-between and can speak the language of each party involved–not only will a CM create cost savings, we also provide the peace of mind knowing that you’re in good hands and your project is going to start off on the right foot— and air in your concrete.

The Dollars and Sense of Contractor Selection Criteria:

Experience, Culture, and Financial Strength Add Value

Todd Miller, CFO

You’re in the process of grow-ing your business. It’s time to hire a construction company to help make your vision a reality. Your architect has made recommendations, you have friends in the construction business. But, have you given any consideration to what’s on your own balance sheet of criteria for hiring this firm once the numbers start hitting your desk? How do you make sense of it all?

From a CFO’s perspective with over 25 years of experience and $1 billion of construction put in place without a failed delivery, there are a couple of other, as equal, if not more important aspects to consider than just a proposed fee or initial cost of what your project will be.

My top three items to consider would be:

  1. Financial Stability
    Choose a contractor with the necessary working capital, bonding capacity, and equity to support not just your project—but, EVERY project they are working on. A handy and free tool for evaluating financial strength is as simple as a letter from their bonding company. If the bonding company is an A-rated carrier, it’s a good indicator of the contractor’s strength. (Poor financial results or high debt often means the contractor has higher premiums from the carrier. Higher premiums may indicate a risk of failure.) Even if you decide the contractor doesn’t need to purchase a bond, the fact that a professional risk credit analyst evaluated and issued a rating can save a tremendous amount of money. If the contractor is unable to obtain a bond from an A-rated carrier, you’ll have to employ other methods for mitigating the risk of failure during the course of construction.
  2. Relationships 
    Find out if the contractor has a good reputation with the trades and suppliers. These relationships might be necessary for favors, if needed, during construction without incurring additional costs to your project. There is tremendous, intangible value from past working relation- ships. Quite often, these teams operate at a higher capacity and demonstrate a greater initiative toward collaboration and coordination—it ensures everyone is well-informed and as efficient and safe as possible throughout the entire project.
  3. Company Culture
    If this is a core element to running your business, take the time to research and evaluate whether your mission and values align with the firm you’re hiring. Social media is another free and transparent tool for ensuring whether there is value align- ment. If their standards step up to your standards, then you have a good match.

Financial experience takes on a unique meaning when taken in the context of more than just a balance sheet. It’s helpful for identifying potential problems and allows time for developing a proactive approach in navigating around any issues. Conversely, lack of experience or failing to act can also have a negative financial impact on your project. A financially strong contractor may be able to employ trade contractors with less than stellar balance sheets, but they have the means for managing that risk and helping those weaker team members get across the finish line successfully on your project.

 

Solid Steps to Buying Property to Grow Your Business

Dave Ash, Director of Business Development

Your business is growing, and you’re not sure where to start. Standing in the middle of a field doing a 360 evaluation and kicking some dirt around, you wonder if it’s the right place to grow? And, how do you really know?

When owners begin searching for a new site to build a new facility, there are a few things to be aware of and consider before any offers to purchase are made.

From an owner’s perspective, the desired location in most cases (and, depending upon the industry you are in) is the driving factor of the geographical area in which your search starts. Did you outgrow your existing location and it isn’t conducive to expand? In many instances, the first inclination is to stay close to your current operations. We can all be creatures of habit and a move that could add 10 to 15 minutes to a commute isn’t always well received.

We always hear about the importance of location, location, location. However, no matter the industry, every business has different site and location factors central to their specific needs and should be factored into strategic site selection–making location paramount!

OTHER KEY CONSIDERATIONS INCLUDE:
The size of your facility—what is the initial required space to build? As your business continues to grow, will there be a need for added space? How large of a building would you potentially need in the future? Once the general location, specific use, and building size has been determined, you can begin your search for that right piece of property.

Most municipalities have similar requirements for building lot coverage, setbacks, and general zoning requirements. Hiring a civil engineer familiar with the requirements in your area to assist in verifying zoning requirements, planning your site with your initial building size, while also considering a master plan showing maximum building size that the property will allow will be money well spent. Other factors to assess with your site as it relates to site planning are parking requirements (short- and long- term). Do you have truck dock requirements?

In most cases, when an offer is made, there is a due diligence period stated in your purchase agreement. This allows you time to further investigate the specifics of the site and a conceptual site layout from a civil engineer should be completed during this time.

If a survey with topographic elevations isn’t provided by the seller, the engineer can help obtain this information. The survey and the topographic ensure lot dimensions and potential easements are discovered before removing this contingency from your offer to purchase. It will also provide critical data in determining any potential for added site work costs. What are the existing soils on the property? How much fill do you need to give you the required building pad elevation?

Not as common, however, a critical element to also investigate during this discovery period, would be potential wetlands and floodplains that may exist on the targeted site.

So you can see, doing your homework up front before committing to your land purchase is a critical first step as you begin the exciting process of building your new facility!

Thinking About Building? Prioritize the Planning

By Chad Nienhuis, Director of Pre-Construction Services

The thought of undertaking a capital improvement project for your business, school, church, or even your home can be intimidating to say the least.

A few things you might be asking yourself:

  • Do I renovate or build new?
  • What about fundraising and financing?
  • Will I need to buy land?
  • How long does it take to build?
  • Where do I find a contractor and/or an architect?
  • What are the permitting, zoning, and inspection requirements?
  • What about furnishings and equipment?
  • How do I coordinate my technology needs?

These are just a few questions, and it can be difficult to know how or even where to start. A construction project is one of the most significant investments of time, money, and energy resources.

SO WHERE DO YOU START AND HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOUR NEEDS ARE MET DURING THE PROCESS?
The best place to start is finding a contractor or design professional who can communicate the design, planning, and construction process in an open and transparent fashion. A thorough planning phase will make a big difference in the overall outcome and success of your endeavor.

STARTING WITH PRE-CONSTRUCTION
The process of project planning, or more technically referred to as the pre-construction phase, generally encompasses the portion of the project that begins from the time a thought or idea is sketched out on a ‘napkin’ to breaking ground on the construction site. The pre-construction time frame can vary depending on the size, scope, and complexity of the project and could range from several months to two to three years.

SO, WHAT DOES THE PRE- CONSTRUCTION PROCESS LOOK LIKE AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
As consumers in the current global marketplace, most of what we purchase is immediately tangible–we can touch it, feel it, drive it, wear it, or at a very minimum, see pictures of it online. We can compare it to similar products in the marketplace and make our decisions based on how the products fit our vision. A skilled pre-construction professional will assist you in doing just that—walking with you and translating drawings and technical specifications to help you visualize how your facility will look, feel, and operate, and to make decisions around schedule, design, and fit-out that best fit your needs and budget. Giving ample time and effort to the pre-construction process will protect you from delays and costly changes later in the process. It’s estimated that projects with a less comprehensive pre-construction phase can increase the overall project cost by up to 20%.

THE DO’S AND DON’TS
A few other things to consider:

  • Don’t feel rushed through the planning
  • Don’t make decisions based upon fee or price. You’ll get the level of service you pay for, and you won’t know what’s missing until it’s too late.
  • Interview construction professionals and have them walk you through their pre- construction process. Make sure their communication style is a best-fit for your company.
  • Ask questions. It’s the contractor’s job to help you understand—and to answer questions with transparency.

Considering these guidelines can make the building process a fun and enjoyable experience— but, most especially when you start off on the right foot!

How Brand + Corporate Culture = The Right Foot

Sue Borgeson

A few years ago, I decided I needed a career refresh—check out a different industry, learn some new skills, meet some new people. It wasn’t long before I had my first interview with a small company in an industry that I knew absolutely nothing about.

I was excited about the prospects; and, for the first time in my career, would experience the shear volume of information available to job seekers—thanks to the exploding age of digital and social media in the corporate world. Oh. My. Gosh. Overwhelmed. Where to start? What to believe? Wow!

So, as with most things, I began with the end in mind and scoured every inch of this company’s website. I micro-studied LinkedIn—who worked there? What made this place tick? What made their team show up every day? Why would their clients continue doing business with them? Facebook wasn’t corporate mainstream, yet. Glassdoor didn’t exist nor did Google Review. Even LinkedIn had yet to reach the momentum it has today. I called people that knew people that knew people.
I was pumped! I couldn’t wait to get to this interview!

The interview didn’t go as swell as I thought it would. I recall watching the building disappear in my rear-view mirror as I drove away. I blew it, and I knew it. I even knew the precise moment in time it all unraveled, and I don’t even wear a watch.

Halfway through the interview, our conversation segued into a discussion about corporate culture. In that moment, the owner began an address on the notion that company culture “really is nothing more than a cover for rehashing the previous night’s episode of American Idol during the morning break with co-workers.” “Clients love all the marketing smoke and mirrors”—but, he would never allow it to cloud the thinking of the people who worked for him. No. Not a chance

I mentally reworked this company’s website all the way home. How could they be okay with displaying the Mission Statement. Core values. Company culture ad nauseum? And, all above the fold before anyone even knew about the fold. I had this stuff memorized. Forward. Backwards. I felt tricked and let down.

I bounced back quickly from the experience but viewed his short-sightedness as a gift. I also made my way to another company. One that understands how corporate culture equates to brand and brand equates to corporate culture. That it’s more than a logo or a mission statement with core values on the front page of a website. That it’s about engaging and connecting an entire organization through a brand that stands for something. A brand where everyone on board knows what it is and why it matters. It’s clear and consistent. It represents hard work. It takes time. And, yes, it can and will try your patience. But, at the end of the day, your brand, your culture is your promise. A promise to your team, to your clients, to your community that they can always count on you to start off on the right foot.

Lakewood Construction is located at 11253 James Street in Holland. Reach them via their website at www. lakewoodinc.com or calling 616-392-6923. Don’t forget to follow them on Facebook; just search for Lakewood Construction the search bar.

The Value of Architecture in Project Outcome

Max Nykerk | Architect

Throughout the course of any commercial construction project, the right team plays a significant role in the outcome of the project. What most people don’t realize, is that each team member can have an impact throughout the entire project, as well as for years to come. One specific team member is your Architect, as they can add value to the project outcome outside of design.

  1. Planning 
    A vital part of any project is the planning; this is where Architects can have a significant impact on the outcome of the project. In this phase they can work with you to understand your operations wants, needs, goals, and future growth. All of these things are important to know and keep top of mind for the following phases. They can also work with the other team members to ensure that all details work together for a successful project.
  2. Design
    This is the phase that everyone is most familiar with. But what additional benefits can they truly bring? The first is making sure that the fit, feel, and function of your new space not only aligns with your needs but most importantly with your budget. Design can make or break the budget and it is important to have an Architect that always keeps this top of mind. The second is that your new space has the flexibility to change with both company growth as well as environmental changes. This means you can be confident knowing you will be able to have space that works for you for many years to come.
  3. Construction
    The construction portion of any project is largely impacted by the work of the Architects. High quality drawings provide a clearly communicated product and process to the field team ensuring that you get exactly what was planned and budgeted. Quality upfront also ensures that you save money in the long run with the least amount of changes necessary as they impact cost and schedule.
  4. Culture
    Employee retention and employee morale are important in any business. Architects have the ability to influence both of these things through creative design solutions. Using things such as natural light and color can change the overall feel of the space in a positive way. Having the right type of space for performance can also enhance employee morale and is done through things like having the right balance of space, light, and materials.

As you can see, an Architect impacts many different parts of a construction project. Hiring the right Architect to work alongside your construction management company can help ensure that you get the best value for your investment.

The Three P’s of Building During a Pandemic

Chad Nienhuis | Director of Pre-Construction

While planning for different scenarios is important in any building project, no one could have planned for the one we are all living in today. With so many unknowns, it is now more important than ever for clients to be able to trust their partners to do their due diligence and plan ahead.
So what are some of the things that they can be doing? Here are our Three P’s of Building During a Pandemic.

Prepare: Prepare for delays, changes, and potentially a longer than normal schedule. No one knows what things will look like in two months, six months, or a year, but regular communication with trade contractors and partners can help the team get a better grasp on where and when they can expect those delays and plan accordingly.

Plan: Plan for high levels of site safety and cleanliness during the construction process. While job sites will look and operate differently for the foreseeable future, there are steps you can take to ensure everyone feels comfortable. Frequent cleaning, having masks available, and hand washing stations (hand sanitizer if washing stations are not available), are all steps in the right direction.

Prevent: Prevent any fear or discomfort of safety practices through regular and transparent communication. Having a COVID-19 Safety and Communication Plan that is accessible and upheld is important. Knowing where everyone stands and allowing openness in conversation will translate into a mutual respect for everyone’s boundaries and a successful project overall.

Preparing, planning, and preventing are just a few of the steps that can be taken in order to provide a great building experience and successful project outcome in the midst of the current climate. Beyond building, the most important thing to remember is that every individual is experiencing this pandemic in a different way. It is essential to extend empathy and understanding to those around us during a time of many unknowns.

The Importance of Making Safety A Priority Every Day

Kyle Engbers, LEED AP BD+C
Vice President | Director of Safety

In today’s construction market, safety is the largest focal point of any competent contractor. A truly successful project has its own triple bottom line–safety, quality, and schedule. Some contractors may rank those metrics in various orders but notice how profitability is not mentioned. The profitability of a project depends on those three metrics.

Over the last century, industries surrounding the globe have embraced technology tenfold. Over the past ten years, many industries have morphed their operations into the world of automation. Historically, construction is the last industry on the technology wave—while we utilize cloud-based software, building information modeling, pre-fabricated materials and portions of building—when it boils down to it, we still swing hammers. Very few industries can still say that and with construction being a labor intense industry, safety is critical.

Most people typically think of safety in terms of personal protective equipment (PPE): hard hats, safety glasses, hearing protection, fall protection, and high-vis colors. These are simply byproducts for ensuring safety. Safety should be about the culture a company creates.

According to OSHA, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.” I prefer the following definition: how someone behaves when no one is watching.

Creating a safety culture shouldn’t be a forceful implementation of requirements. It should be a framework for training, management commitment, participation, measurement, planning, and prevention that creates buy-in from everyone.

Training must be tracked to ensure compliance, utilized to stay ahead of the curve, and implemented consistently. At Lakewood, we use metrics (scorecards, near-misses, and incidents) as well as risk exposure to plan the level of training each person requires. We also provide “Lakewood’s Culture of Safety” toolbox talks on a bi-weekly basis.

A safety culture needs to be owned by the executive team and be valued as a financial investment and commitment. A large portion of my time is spent walking our job sites to observe day-to-day operations and to interact with our team and trades. I note the overall level of safety each worker demonstrates, make any necessary corrections to ensure overall safety on a site, continue reinforcing the safety culture of Lakewood, and most importantly, make sure everyone goes home safely every day.

Participation and empowerment are tied together. All employees in the organization must be empowered to find and fix problems as they see them. One thoughtless action, one careless move, lack of oversight, or lack of planning can lead to catastrophic failure.

What gets measured gets done, so we measure. We perform regular audits on individuals, job sites, and divisions within our company and look for trends, leading indicators, and participation.

Planning activities ahead of time and taking the time to think through the activity step-by-step can uncover risks that need additional attention. Job-Hazard Analysis, Pre-Task Plans, and Pre-Operation Meetings are all structured ways to ensure that planning takes place.

Before you get started on your next construction project, take the time upfront to ask your contractor what about their culture of safety, what metrics and actions they employ, and how will you know that success has been achieved on your project.

“No accident is acceptable. Every accident is preventable.”

 

 

 

The Keys to Success While Building in an Occupied Facility

Adam Seng, Senior Project Manager

While no building project is ever easy, there are certainly circumstances that can make it easier. However, in construction, we can’t focus on the easy. Our job is to determine the sticking points of any given project in order to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. One of those points that needs to be thought through with extreme care is working in an occupied facility. Working around employees and/or guests means increased communication, planning, and collaboration from start to finish.

Communication: Communicating with those that may be using the surrounding space is an important part of ensuring day to day operations are maintained. Communicating early and often helps both parties understand the needs and expectations in order to take the steps to meet them.

Planning: From phasing to logistics, the planning portion is key to making sure that the necessary infrastructure operations are able to continue with little to no interruption. An important step in the planning phase is conducting a risk analysis. This looks over any risk that may be involved in any given project and puts together the necessary steps to mitigate that risk.

Collaboration: Collaboration from the very beginning means keeping all parties involved in the decisions being made throughout. Working close with clients during the planning phase allows us to best understand their operations in order work around their needs. This also allows us to understand the systems that are already in place, which creates a smooth transition if any switchovers need to happen.

No matter the project, working in an occupied space is always something that needs to be carefully thought through. Putting the time and effort in up front and maintaining communication throughout allows for the most seamless construction process for all parties involved. A successful project in an occupied facility not only means a great end result, but it also means a great project experience for everyone from start to finish.