With population in Omaha and surrounding areas continuing to grow at an increasing rate, the commercial landscape of Omaha is steadily changing and expanding as well. Omaha consistently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Because of this, new professionals are easily attracted to the area. All this means good things for the construction industry, including a wealth of opportunities for exciting new projects and development.
For businesses that are opening new locations or remodeling old ones, certain concerns or questions may arise in the search for contractors. Common concerns for these businesses include how long the planning and building process will take, how much it will cost, and how to ensure the final product will be of good, lasting quality. There also may be questions about which contractors are easiest to work and communicate with throughout the process. Investors may also have questions about the various new products, services, and innovations available that can really enhance their final product. We spoke with local experts in different aspects of construction who are committed to delivering the best possible services and quality results. They gave us their input on the topic and on some of the exciting projects they’ve been working on in recent months.
The Design Process
The design process is an important initial phase that sets the stage for all coming construction work. Business owners looking to construct a new building may be overwhelmed by the many players who could take part in the process. Thankfully, Morton Buildings has developed a solution to make the process as smooth as possible. They offer design services and also work with architects and commercial building owners for post-frame construction services through the completion process. Matt Milby, designBUILD project development manager for Morton Buildings, told us about a great service they offer to save their clients time and money in the design-build process for many commercial applications:
“We are proud to offer a construction-led, design-build process through Morton designBUILD,” he shared. “This allows business owners to retain all rights to all information (plans, designs, specs, etc.) and only commit to each phase, one at a time. It helps eliminate risk and stress levels normally associated with new commercial construction.”
“Supported by the full resources of industry-leading Morton Buildings, Morton designBUILD is a dedicated team that works with you and your local Morton sales consultant from the beginning to end of your construction project,” Matt continued. “We developed the designBUILD process with our customer in mind, as it enables us to deliver projects that meet your scope, schedule, and budget. This alleviates stress, eliminates time loss, and ultimately reduces the overall project cost, as our design fees are nominal and included as part of the construction package.”
Morton Buildings believes in giving the very best to their clients in product and service. Some of Morton’s recent projects include:
- Sandhills Heating and Air in Omaha, a 2,100-square-foot office building
- Numark Golf Course in Lincoln, a 2,592-square-foot pro shop
- National Concrete Cutting in Council Bluffs, a 39,000-square-foot office and shop
- Valas Pumpkin Patch in Omaha, a 6,000-square-foot shop.
“Whether you want to start up a new company or expand an existing one, one thing is certain—a Morton building will help your business succeed,” Matt said. “What differentiates us from other construction companies is the quality, the craftsmanship, and the efficiency of our buildings. Plus, our warranty is the best in the business. Our local construction center, located at 12055 Hwy 6 in Waverly, is proud to deliver equestrian, agricultural, commercial, designBUILD, and hobby buildings in the communities surrounding Lincoln and Omaha.”
For business owners who are unsure of the delivery method for construction that will best suit their needs and situation, it’s helpful to understand the options in design and construction and who the players are. Justin Kurtzer, president of Cheever Construction, explained more about the design process and what these options are.
“There are three traditional delivery methods that business owners can choose from when contracting a construction firm,” he said. “These include:
- Construction Management (CM) – Owner hires architect/engineer responsible for design and a contractor responsible for establishing a program and schedule, organizing sub-contractors, and preparing a benchmark budget. An advantage of this method is the scope of the project can be clearly laid during the design process.
- Design Build – Owner hires a single contractor, responsible for both the design and construction aspects. An advantage of this method is a single firm is responsible for completion of the project.
- Design Bid Build – Unlike Design Build, owner hires an architect to design the project in its entirety. Competitors then bid for the contract to complete the building. An advantage of this method is the bidding process establishes the project cost.”
Cheever Construction is an employee-owned construction firm that takes pride in their tight-knit employee-owner model.
“Because employees own 100% of the company, all of us have a stake in the outcome professionally, as well as financially,” Justin shared.
Notable contributions have been made to the development of Omaha and surrounding areas by Cheever Construction, including:
- Construction of Exchange Bank in Omaha
- Renovation of the Edith Abbott Memorial Library in Grand Island
- Construction of Resort Lifestyle Communities in Lincoln
- Renovation of Southeast Community College – Culinary Arts in Lincoln
- Historic renovation and construction of the Saline County Courthouse addition in Wilber
- Construction of Dairy Queen Grill & Chill in Lincoln
Finding the Perfect Location
One aspect of construction that goes hand-in-hand with design is finding the right location for your construction project. Selecting the best location is extremely important in commercial projects. You want to know that your business will be able to thrive in the area you’ve chosen.
Midwest Retail Properties, a national Walmart Shadow Center landlord, takes pride in working alongside tenants to find the right location, help them design their space, and construct a floor plan to their liking. Partnering with Midwest Retail Properties is ideal for someone who wants a level of control and decision-making power in the design process with the option of not having to stress over the entire planning and initial construction phase from the ground up. MRP has available spaces that have the bones in place but are still customizable, like a blank canvas. These spaces can be designed and completed to fit the needs of any business. Of course, if someone wants to handle design and construction of their space on their own, MRP is supportive of that as well. We spoke to Construction Project Manager Tom Heintz to learn more.
“At Midwest Retail Properties, we view our relationships with our tenants as partnerships,” Tom said. “We collaborate with tenants and contractors to help design, construct, and deliver a space that fits their needs and their budget. It’s typical in our industry to hand off a space to a tenant once the lease is signed, but because of our in-house construction and property management teams, we’re able to guide our tenants through their buildout process, or in some cases, handle it for them.”
Tom focuses on all aspects of Midwest Retail Properties construction needs, including inspections, tenant buildout, and property improvements. He personally has over 25 years in the construction industry ranging from building a family’s first home to managing multi-million dollar private, state, and federal projects. Whether through working with Tom or anyone else on the MRP team, business owners and investors are sure to benefit from the excellent level of service Midwest Retail Properties provides.
Utilizing the Latest in Construction Innovation
Recent advancements in industrial technologies have brought about exciting new products, methods, and services that have revolutionized the way construction projects are now carried out. One versatile new technology that improves the construction process in a host of ways is 3D Reality Capture. We spoke to Brad Lauritsen, associate principal at KPE Architecture – Engineering – Forensics, to learn more.
“KPE employs Reality Capture technology with the BLK360 3D Laser Scanner. This tool allows precise documentation of existing conditions which can be imported into BIM to create a complete building model,” Brad said. “This scanning tool saves several man-hours of time during pre-construction field work versus the traditional methods of several architects and engineers each taking photos and measurements of the same room but only the portions relevant to their own work. Now one person can operate the scanner which takes 360 degree photos and captures a digital 3D point cloud from which everyone can take exact measurements and review existing conditions. Reality Capture is empowering architects, engineers, and construction teams with the ability to incorporate as-built 3D models into their planning and diagnosis of ongoing operations.”
Reality Capture removes guesswork from the planning process for construction projects. There is no need to depend on time-consuming and manual measurements or outdated drawings. The technology captures existing conditions with precise accuracy, allowing more effective planning of installation procedures and coordination between different groups working on various aspects of a building project.
“Reality Capture technology encourages better collaboration on the construction site and results in increased productivity, less rework, and reduced RFIs,” Brad said. “It works very well, especially for safety, planning, coordination, documentation, inspection, production, stockpile volumes, 3D modeling, and QA/QC.”
KPE works to stay up-to-date with the most recent construction technologies, ensuring their staff is educated on the most current information in the field. What makes them truly unique is their involvement in forensic engineering. Forensics is simply investigating what went wrong and why things fail. Each year, KPE is hired to investigate hundreds of property loss claims involving structural deficiencies, water or air infiltration (building envelope), indoor air quality, construction defects, and more. These investigations serve as a continuous stream of knowledge and lessons learned. The added knowledge base from these investigations gives KPE a distinct advantage during design and construction management. The benefits are primarily cost avoidance, few schedule impacts, fewer change orders, and overall fewer hassles during the construction process.
Brad believes now is a good time for investors and business owners to invest in new building projects.
“Right now there are an abundance of architects, engineers, design professionals, and construction labor in the Omaha Metro area,” he said. “Anyone who has need for a new building or renovation has the benefit of several options and a good economy.”
Among their many projects, KPE recently completed a project involving an addition and renovations to Burke High School in Omaha. Their updates brought a fresh, quality look and function to the building with a new multi-purpose addition including an activities center and new band and vocal music suites. Their skilled services also brought important safety and efficiency updates such as modernized fire, life safety, and security systems to correct previous deficiencies and improved restrooms and facilities, among other things. KPE’s use of the latest products in the construction industry have done a lot to enhance the building for students and staff alike.
For contractors working on large building projects, many choose to outsource individual aspects of construction to subcontractors who have a specific area of expertise and an understanding of the latest innovations and products in their specific area of focus. Electric work, plumbing, heating, and cabinetry are a few examples that may be outsourced to subcontractors. We looked to experts in these areas for more information on how they use the latest products and approaches in their work.
In the opinion of Chris Langer, owner of Langer Electric, one of the best new technologies to save money on energy costs is in lighting.
“LED technology has come a long way these last couple years,” he said. “When I walk through a project nowadays and see the old incandescent bulbs it just makes me shake my head. You literally can take your energy consumption down by 80–90% with LED technology. Why waste the energy and money paying for old lights? What remains the same and what is changing as far as commercial construction goes? Customers are starting to realize when it comes to projects the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best. Quality comes with a price sometimes.”
Langer Electric has provided repair, maintenance, and installation services to commercial and residential clients, receiving an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Chris says he strives to bring “a level of comfort that feels as though you’re pretty much working with family…I really want to bring a different level of customer satisfaction to the trade which is hard to find nowadays.” He says that while working on electric work for a commercial construction project, preparation and communication are key.
“I make sure everything on my end is lined up with materials, labor, and communication between trades. We don’t EVER want to be the ones holding up a project,” he explained. This includes establishing a relationship with inspectors for construction projects. “My main concern with any project is making sure everything is completely in line with what the inspector wants. It doesn’t help anyone to butt heads with the one who ultimately calls the shots in the end. You have to be mindful of what exactly the inspector expects because each individual is different.”
In addition to offering stellar customer service, Getzschman Heating uses the most current diagnostic technology to help eliminate waste and save their customers money. Gunnar Guenette told us more.
“We train our technicians to measure the performance of HVAC systems to diagnose improvements,” he said. “We call it ‘G-Verify.’ Pretty much, you are testing the combustion efficiency and the air the system is using and comparing it to manufacturer specifications. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new system. You can waste almost half your energy if you are not testing the actual performance of the HVAC.”
Getzschman Heating works in sheet metal fabrication and the installation of heating systems, heat pumps, and air conditioners. When conducting a replacement or installation of a furnace or air conditioner system, they recommend starting with a cost estimate, which they offer for free, and obtaining a written guarantee of performance for all equipment.
“We offer a firm bid on the electric work using our licensed electrical contractor,” explained Gunnar. “We also test during installation. For replacements, we dispose of the junk remaining from the previous system. Respecting our customers’ property is something that we take pride in, whether it’s how our employees wear shoe coverings, or how we use tarps and floor savers to protect your floors while we work. We want our customers to be happy seeing their property left just as clean as we found it when we arrived.”
In the plumbing industry, as in all areas of construction, code requirements are constantly being updated. Working with plumbers who are serious about staying up-to-date with the most current information and methods is important for business owners who want a properly-functioning plumbing system in their building. Scott Dai, commercial estimator and project manager for Big Birge Plumbing, shared with us about the ways that he works to keep current with the latest information in the plumbing industry.
“There are several different plumbing codes in the surrounding metropolitan area,” he said. “As a certified plumbing instructor in Nebraska and Iowa, I am always reviewing the applicable codes including the OPC (Omaha Plumbing Code), the IPC (International Plumbing Code), and UPC (Universal Plumbing Code), not to mention the different amendments that might be involved with the different areas. The Plumbing code can impact which type of materials to use, fixture requirements, etc. which can have an important effect on the bottom line.”
Scott uses his knowledge base to help with the overall cohesion of construction projects as well as the completion of specific plumbing aspects.
“My involvement early in the construction process is to review plans and specifications and bring together all the data we need to put together the best plan, and complete the project in a timely and efficient manner,” he said. “It is important to work closely with the foreman and journeyman ensuring they are familiar with all aspects of the material take off.”
Cabinetry and Storage
Locally owned and managed, Closet & Storage Concepts of Omaha is the premier provider for custom commercial office storage solutions, offering the latest and greatest in finishes, hardware, and stylistically functional cabinet and storage options. Commercial storage solutions are limitless but can include areas such as: copy rooms, break rooms, kitchens, conference rooms, office furniture, entertainment areas, reception desks, and filing cabinets. Closet & Storage Concepts carries a wide variety of 3/4” furniture grade melamine, laminate, and wood finishes to choose from. Owners Ken and Cindi Incontro want their customers to be thrilled with their office environment. All office products are custom designed by one of their designers and manufactured on site in their own factory. Their designers will visit your office to better understand your needs and provide a 3D CAD drawing to perfectly suit your space. Everything they create is installed by their own CSC expert installers.
“We do a lot of commercial businesses–breakrooms, copy rooms, etc.,” Owner Ken Incontro explained. “We build beautiful front-area reception desks or office desks. It is always exciting and satisfying to see a finished office space after we’ve completed the installation of cabinets, desks, etc. We do quality work!”
For those who want a hands-on experience in the design and selection process, Closet & Storage Concepts has a beautiful design center that offers an impressive view of possibilities and options.
“Customers love our design center,” Ken said. “We have beautiful displays featuring a wide selection of products and setups. Customers can pick from a variety of colors, features, hardware, and door samples. It’s great.”
Closet & Storage Concepts offers free estimates for anyone looking to enhance their space. Their team of experts will assess the space and then offer options and suggestions for space optimization. For contractors working with Closet & Storage Concepts, they can rest assured that the storage aspect of their construction project is in good hands.
One aspect of construction that really focuses on reviving and revitalizing buildings to extend their life and help them last for years to come is restoration. McGill Restoration takes their work seriously, and requires their crew to stay up-to-date with training and all the latest restoration technology. As a project manager and estimator for McGill Restoration, Jennifer Baldwin has performed extensive research on restoration for older buildings.
“When it comes to construction, generally when new construction is up, restoration or investment in aging infrastructure is down,” she shared. “However, with the influx of younger generations into the metro areas, we are seeing a steady increase in both new construction and restoration projects. The new construction is happening in the suburbs while the restoration is happening in the city centers. The trend of restoring older buildings or converting older spaces into modern designs is contributing to this trend. An excellent example of this is the Blackstone Hotel in midtown Omaha. This turn of the century building has been restored to its former glory,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer explained that restoration requires an in-depth understanding of a building’s history and details.
“When it comes to restoration, research is key. Researching the building, the materials, and the best techniques is essential to providing a beautifully restored building/project. When it comes to the planning and execution of a project, we want to offer our expertise. Most companies know the finer points of new construction, but McGill understands the intricacies of restoration,” Jennifer said.
Because restoration involves different requirements than new construction, asking questions about the building is vital.
“I would say the best advice I have received is ‘ask a lot of questions and never make assumptions,’” she shared. “In restoration, you can never ask enough questions. The more questions you ask the more you learn the history of a structure, be it a parking garage, a Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge, or a building on the national historic registry. Every structure has a history and that history is important to its restoration. When was it built? What is it going to be used for in the future? These questions will provide a lot of answers to the type of material that must be used in its restoration,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer explained that McGill Restoration specializes in these four market segments:
- Department of Transportation
- Parking garages and stadiums
- Masonry restoration
“Each of these areas are important to the aging infrastructure of our communities and nation. These are always our main focus of work and will continue to be long into the future,” Jennifer emphasized.
Her most important advice for any construction project to be a success is to build a competent team.
“Construction is a team sport. Everyone from the architect and design team, all the way down to the project manager and craftsmen are vital to the success of a project,” she said.
Building automation can truly transform the quality and efficiency of a construction project. Pat Killeen, the president and CEO of Engineered Controls, told us about exciting updates emerging in building automation technology.
“We live in an era in which buildings of any size and shape can become intelligent buildings,” Pat said. “With open protocol technology, they can connect multiple subsystems together, on one network, rather than operating them all independently—maximizing energy efficiency, lowering maintenance costs, and providing centralized building control. The systems also provide information on problems in the building, allow for computerized maintenance scheduling, are easy and effective for employees to use, and easily detect problems,” Pat pointed out.
One central location can now control all lighting, heating, cooling, and security functions, including outdoor controls and elevator controls. Pat talked how this is a must for businesses that wish to go green: “There is now a great demand for energy efficient buildings, high-tech devices and enhanced security systems that are now a central component of the building automation system,” Pat said. “Wireless technology will continue to revolutionize the building automation system market. For example, lighting control systems with dimming and light harvesting capabilities are generating an especially high demand for these kinds of products. It is expected that the Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be instrumental in the integration of heating and cooling systems, hot and chilled water systems, card access systems, video management systems, lighting systems, power generators, pumps, and metering equipment…to name a few.”
“Long range analysis shows that there are a number of business sectors that are currently, and will continue to, drive the building automation sector of the building technology industry in the future,” Pat continued. “These include the demand for ‘green building technology,’ electrical energy management systems, LED lighting and lighting controls, security and access systems, asset management, smart buildings, and the technology convergence into one, holistic Building Automation and Control System. In addition, the demand for home automation products will increase the demand for more commercial automation products.”
One company that works hand-in-hand with Engineered Controls to provide them with the parts and products they need to carry out their work is Control Depot. As a Honeywell-Authorized Systems Distributor, Control Depot offers building control technology to residential and commercial customers. Control Depot’s customers include sub-contractors specializing in building controls and electrical and mechanical specialists. Because of this, vice president Jeff Killeen says Control Depot has to offer a wide-range of up-to-date products and replacement parts to professional contractors.
“Control Depot’s primary goal is to offer the necessary systems and replacement parts that will provide a safe, comfortable working environment, as well as cut wasteful energy costs. We are helping companies become more sustainable and improving their bottom line,” Jeff said.
In addition to offering the necessary products, Jeff says it is important for their staff to be knowledgeable of these technologies to best serve their clients.
“We have assembled a team of knowledgeable, qualified individuals whose goal is to assist each customer with personal service rooted in their experience. Because our inventory rivals any of the largest retailers, we can offer comprehensive solutions for building controls,” Jeff added. “Thanks to our partnership with Contemporary Controls, Control Depot offers additional technological solutions, which focus on providing reliable networking and communication for control systems.”
Businesses aren’t only considering indoor optimization to improve efficiency and comfort, many are also looking to their outdoor space for remodeling projects. Corporations such as Google and Microsoft have elected for outdoor spaces that allow their employees to work outside of the office or enjoy a leisurely view. From Facebook in the Silicon Valley to Shutterstock in New York City, spacious rooftop work spaces have become a popular choice even when outdoor space isn’t readily available. Businesses incorporating a pleasing outdoor space into their plans can create a welcoming environment for customers and attract young professionals to see them as a desirable employer.
Whether you are looking into a new construction project, a remodeling project, a restoration project, or any other kind of construction project, there are many qualified construction experts in the area who have access to the latest technologies and products to help you achieve high-quality results! Look to them to help you construct the perfect building for your business.