Commercial Construction in Omaha, NE – 2021
COVID hit many businesses segments in Omaha hard and fast in 2020, while the commercial construction industry registered a mixed bag of results but is cautiously optimistic about 2021. Like many other businesses, operations of the industry experienced a number of significant changes during the last year, though, with the increase of remote working, social distancing requirements, disruption in supply chains, and associated reallocation of resources. Even with those adjustments, many local construction companies are busier than ever with commercial construction projects in the area, and they have to stay on their toes, because construction trends and technologies are ever-changing.
Research indicates that the most pervasive trends in commercial construction in 2021 include increased use of biological construction materials, safety features, remote technology, modular construction, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, design technology, supply-chain alternatives, and a move away from purchasing new equipment and instead renting or buying previously used implements. As we talked to local companies in the commercial construction business, we found some of the most common trends in the industry now include aerial imaging, attention to safety, quality, technology, and environmental impact, prefabricated construction with precision engineering and consistent quality; repurposing of existing buildings, sustainability, advancement in energy-saving designs, and more.
Improving Your Perspective
Commercial construction has witnessed one of the fastest-growing uses of drones of any industry in the last year. The aerial view of construction provides contractors with invaluable information, including identifying potential safety issues, improving safety on sites, and delivering a whole new dimension to a project overview. That trend is expected to continue on the upswing moving forward because drones allow for a whole new level of remote work and deliver improved safety to construction sites.
Mirage Aerial Imaging (mirageaerial.com) provides baseline and post-damage structural assessments, as well as advertising photography, thermal imaging for commercial low-slope roof inspections, videos for construction progression, insurance claims, and real estate, and more. Their construction imaging can follow the process from a vacant lot to a completed project, including topographical mapping, 3-D imaging, and site surveys. One of Mirage’s recent projects was providing the aerial video of the Ames Construction project at the Mid-American Energy site in Iowa.
“We provide our clients with aerial imaging for construction purposes,” said Owner and Chief Pilot Tom vonAhlefeld. “We also provide pre- and post-construction mapping services. We augment this with aerial videos, either in a raw or edited format, for advertising or other uses. Mirage Aerial also provides virtual tour services for clients to highlight their completed projects. This service enables anyone, anywhere to experience the completed project as a self-guided, selfpaced 360-degree tour, as if they were on the site personally—but without leaving the comfort and safety of their office.”
While on his last tour of duty with the United States Air Force, Tom also worked as a professional photographer with a focus on college sports and professional rodeo in the Pacific Northwest. He transitioned into aerial photography in 2012 and was one of the first to obtain a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 333 Exemption to legally fly remote aircraft for commercial use in Cincinnati. He maintains his certification to fly drones legally for commercial use by maintaining his part 107 certification through the FAA. “Our pilots are all FAA certified and follow all airspace regulations,” Tom said. “We perform an onsite assessment and make a comprehensive plan with each client, ensuring safety and quality results. When it comes to inspecting a roof, we provide thermal imaging and it helps increase safety, because there is no need for an inspector to take hours to walk the entire roof. Drones are incredible tools and can be used in so many ways. We can provide services to any type of construction project, big or small, at reasonable prices.”
The Power of Experience
Having been in business for 97 years, Kingery Construction (kccobuilders.com) has an extensive history of completed projects that demonstrate their expertise and provide customers better insight before they begin construction. They provide every contracting option from design-bid-build to designbuild, construction management, general contracting, and pre-bond/ pre-construction services. Quality customer relations is crucial to Kingery, regardless of the project type or size, and their goal is to give customers a high-quality product and spend their money wisely.
“Our partnership with our owners is much more successful when we understand what the expectations are before we begin,” said Kingery President Rod Berens. “Our relationship with our customers goes beyond just completion of the project. We have many customers that we have done various projects for over several years. It is very rewarding to get a call from one of our previous customers and find out that they want us to do another project with them because of the success of the previous ones.”
As expected, Rod said, retail and restaurant construction has slowed since the onslaught of the pandemic, but they continue to see a lot of project in the public sector with various kinds of structures. Recent projects they are working on include several projects at Northeast Community College (NECC) in Norfolk. They have been at the college for seven years and are currently nearing completion of the expansion and addition of the Student Center. This fall, they will be completing the new Large Animal Farm Operation and the new Vet Tech buildings at NECC, as well.
“We also worked on the Rocket Carwash on O Street, which was a particularly challenging project because the old building needed a lot of work and the tight working conditions and traffic on O Street added to the challenge,” Rod said. “Another important project is a complete renovation of the 135,000-square-foot Air National Guard Hangar; the project is ongoing and, the coordination of daily operations of the military is something that requires special attention every day.”
Cheever Construction (cheeverconstruction.com) is an employee-owned construction firm that delivers on their promises. Employee owners and experienced, key individuals have maintained the consistent management and character of the company, creating a culture of integrity and commitment toward each project’s success. Cheever projects the full spectrum of commercial construction services, including construction management, design-build, and design-bid-build—all toward their vision of building good futures for their clients, employees, and community.
“Cheever is a relationship-based firm,” said President Justin Kurtzer. “We take pride in building trust with our clients and project partners in all that we do. We have built our reputation on our ingenuity, expertise, and exceptional people. We utilize an effective schedule, coupled with the quality and skill from our subcontractors and combined with our field craftsmen. Cheever Construction takes pride in all of the relationships that we have entered. We strive to make each project the precursor to the next project, while building a lasting relationship with everyone involved.”
In the current marketplace, Cheever has witnessed tremendous demand for construction projects at educational facilities, both K-12 and university work, in small and large communities in the area. The pandemic has played a role in that trend, with construction projects being easier to complete when students are doing so much learning from home. Cheever also has seen some manufacturing construction demand, as well as a spike of sorts in requests for specialized construction in scientific labs—both for educational institutions and for science-based companies, including NEOGEN and the University of Nebraska. One interesting project Cheever worked on in 2020 was remodeling of a Lincoln Air Base aircraft hangar at the Lincoln Airport, including mobile offices and a temporary hanger to accommodate a United States Airforce temporary placement from Offutt Airforce base.
While construction of office interiors, entertainment, and retail has slowed due to COVID-19, AOI Corporation (aoicorp.com) has experienced continued strength in a variety of other strong and viable markets, such as the quick-service restaurant and healthcare sectors. Other areas that have shown strong demand include the banking and insurance sector and parts of the agriculture and food-supply sector. Among its recent projects, AOI Construction Group just finished some really nice Class A interior builds for Boston Omaha, QAT, and Q2, as well as a sizable addition and renovation to Plattsmouth Middle School, and several McDonald’s renovations.
“Our role on those projects was as the general contractor,” Vice President of Marketing & Business Development Patrick Jensen said. “Our DIRTT group recently completed projects for Kiewit’s new building, a Methodist Clinic in Elkhorn, and QAT offices at Central Park Plaza. For those projects we provided prefabricated interior construction solutions.”
AOI is unique as a General Contractor in that they are non-prescriptive in their approach and offer a variety of solutions for the built environment, including construction, Prefabricated Modular Construction (DIRTT) solutions, and a full-service Herman Miller furniture dealership.
“As a strategic business partner, we build upon the foundation of our experience, which we customize to your vision and goals,” Patrick said. “It’s all about working together to create efficiencies, drive down costs, and earn our partners the earliest returns on their investments. Our services are available individually or combined as part of a holistic approach developed in close collaboration with our clients and their design teams. Very few contractors in the country can serve as comprehensively on a project team.”
In the current marketplace, speed and cost are always demand drivers in commercial construction, as are safety, quality, technology, and environmental impact. Prefabricated Construction is being leveraged from the new construction of the largest buildings to quickservice kiosk-type restaurants to solve these challenges. ‘Prefabricated’ in construction doesn’t mean what it used to, either. Instead of shoddy, mass-produced items of the post-war era, today it delivers precision engineering and consistent quality while reducing construction timelines, waste and site disruption. In addition to being the most eco-friendly way to build, it offers increased safety and flexibility.
“With regard to interior construction in particular, the pandemic really exposed limitations with the inflexibility of built environment, Patrick said. “Prefabricated modular solutions offer flexible building infrastructures that are resilient to change and can adapt to the lifecycle of the building. What we’ve come to learn, whether it is in business or healthcare environments, is that we cannot predict the future and how a space will need to function and respond to current needs. Baking in adaptability and flexibility from a project’s outset is just smart money.”
Making Buildings Smarter
As the leading control technology contractor in Nebraska and Iowa, Engineered Controls (engineeredcontrols.com) has a goal to provide customers with products and services that created efficient, safe, and comfortable building environments. Established in 1994, Engineered Controls offers a complete turnkey building-control solution, including system design, new construction, and owner-direct retrofit sales, installation, repair service, and preventive maintenance work for small buildings. In their 27 years of operation, they have provided innovative and cost-effective building control solutions to thousands of satisfied customers.
“We live in an era in which buildings of any size and shape can become intelligent buildings,” said Pat Killeen, the president and CEO of Engineered Controls. “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.”
According to Pat, 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: “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.”
Control Depot (controldepotinc.com) works hand-in-hand with Engineered Controls to provide them with the parts and products they need to carry out their work. As a Honeywell-Authorized Systems Distributor, Control Depot offers building control technology to residential and commercial customers. Control Depot’s customers include subcontractors 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,” Jeff said. “We are helping companies become more sustainable and improving their bottom lines.”
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.”
of all wall systems, roofing systems, masonry, glazing, guttering, and door systems. In the current business environment, Stonebrook Exterior (stonebrookexterior.com) has experienced an increase in requests for repurposing existing buildings.
“This might include one or two of our services, such as insulated metal panels and TPO to an overhaul that would include a full envelope or bundled request,” said Stonebrook Business Development Manager TwiLea Fletcher. “Owners and investors are recognizing that giving the building exterior the attention it
needs will lengthen the duration of the structure and bring it up-to-date for a more professional look. Sustainable exterior wall and roofing systems will also lower the cost for strategic ownership.”
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding— and Stonebrook has plenty! Among recent projects, Stonebrook Exterior provided the elements for multi-story office buildings in the Omaha area, including the Baxter Building, Waterford Office, The Breakers, Nove Apartments in Little Italy, The Yard, and Morrison Stadium, plus Plaza on the Green, The Brook, Hudl, and Lionberger Veterinary Clinic in Lincoln. They perform extensive customer-needs analysis for each project with which they are engaged, taking every opportunity and consider all the aspects of what the customer wants, needs, and has budgeted.
“Our reputation has been built from an unyielding commitment to excellence in the areas of safety, productivity, and workmanship,” TwiLea said. “Whether we are adding value by helping a business select the most aesthetically impressive or environmentally friendly exterior applications or implementing long-term strategies that will help minimize your total cost-of-ownership, we are accountable for the success of every project we take on.”
Research indicates that virtually all business owners in this day and age are looking for construction that promotes energy savings and efficiencies. Energy Studio, Inc. (energystudioinc.com) in Omaha has mastered the art. They are an energy modeling and management firm that specializes in helping architects, engineers, developers, and building owners maximize energy efficiency and minimize costs. Founded in 2010, Energy Studio is a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certified women’s business enterprise (WBE), women-owned small business (WOSB), and Omaha Small Emerging Business (SEB) Tier II business. They serve education, office, healthcare, multi-family residential, mixed use, and industrial facility owners across the country.
“Every new building design starts with asking the question, ‘What factors affect energy usage, and how do they impact aesthetic design,” said Owner Amanda Bogner. “Our team of energy analysts helps the design team weigh many factors that impact energy usage, which helps them balance aesthetics and design to maximize building performance. We leverage our extensive experience with energy modeling to facilitate energy efficiency goal setting, and to improve the project’s energy performance using the latest analysis software and procedures. Energy modeling can be implemented at any time during design, construction or operation of a building, but we prefer to get involved early, when modeling is most beneficial. By performing conceptual energy analysis early, we help architects and engineers identify the most efficient solutions that work with the design goals and budget.”
Energy Studio services include evaluating design to optimize utility incentives, providing alternatives that weigh factors that impact energy usage, creating energy models to improve operability and lifecycle costs, providing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification documentation, addressing code compliance, evaluating actual vs. predicted energy performance to keep buildings running efficiently, providing lifecycle cost analysis for long-term building performance, and conducting energy audits. Energy Studio’s efforts continue post-construction, too.
“After construction, effective energy management involves identifying and understanding where and why energy is consumed in a building and using that information to measure, manage, and minimize consumption,” Amanda said. “Energy Studio views energy management as an ongoing process and customizes our services based on client needs because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”
One recent prominent project in which Energy Studio was involved is the Landmark Tower in Omaha. The Landmark Ownership Group purchased the iconic Landmark Tower with designs of converting a portion of the building into a boutique hotel. The project’s primary challenge was to reduce the building’s energy-use intensity and evaluate the opportunity to connect to the downtown central utility plant. Energy Studio developed an energy benchmark, conducted an occupant survey and site investigations, and identified energy conservation measures and capital improvements to achieve improved building performance for Property Accessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing. Mission accomplished.
When it comes to concrete and masonry repair, restoration, and construction, McGill Restoration (mcgillrestoration.com) is on the job. From highway surface treatment and parking-garage repairs to industrial painting to masonry repair, they’re ready to help you with just about any construction need. They follow a proven process for each job to ensure that they deliver consistent, high-quality results to all customers. The process begins with a project estimate and proposal and then works through contract acceptance and pre-construction preparation before on-site work begins. They make daily check-ins and strategy updates, and they deliver weekly performance monitoring through to project completion.
“When it comes to restoration, research is key,” said McGill Estimator and Project Manager Jennifer Loukota. “Researching the building, the materials, and the best techniques is essential to providing a beautifully restored building or 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.”
The influx of younger generations into the metro areas is fueling a steady increase in new construction and restoration projects—with the new construction happening primarily in the suburbs and 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. The onset of COVID in 2020 actually increased demand for restoration projects.
“After COVID struck, many businesses chose to get some restoration and other remodeling projects done during shutdowns forced by the pandemic,” Jennifer said. “The timing of the closures actually helped businesses accomplish some crucial work, at a time when they couldn’t run normal operations. Some of the jobs McGill Restoration took on included work on the Bergan Mercy Hospital parking garage, Eagle Parking garage, Southbridge Condominiums, and Nebraska Medical Center.”
In 2020, McGill Restoration also won the International Parking and Mobility Institute’s annual Award of Excellence for Facility Rehabilitation or Restoration for the restoration at and around the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Parking Lot 1. McGill teamed with Walker Consultants and Kiewit Building Group to restore the lot and the hospital front entrance in 2019. The renovation included a three-level parking structure, a drive-up patient and valet entrance, a helipad, doctor parking at grade level, and a waterproofed plaza system. The scope of the award-winning work included replacement of expansion joints, post-tension cable repairs, masonry repairs, application of traffic coatings, application of penetrating sealer, and painting the interior ceiling surfaces. The project was completed on budget and on time—in less than six months—while never forcing closure of the garage or interrupting valet services at any time.
Behind the Walls
Every part of building construction is crucial to the overall project success and completion, and that includes what’s inside the walls, floors, and ceilings. Langer Electric (facebook.com/LangerElectricCo) is an excellent option for your electrical work. Now in their fifth year of business, the company was named to the Better Business Bureau Honor Roll for Excellence in Customer Service in 2020, so you know they take customer and partner relationships seriously. Owner Chris Langer has many years of experience in the industry, and it’s important to him to help businesses strategize their energy needs and upgrades, with an eye toward increasing efficiency and reducing monthly electric bills for the long term. He keeps up with all codes and employee-safety regulations to ensure that your building’s electrical system is truly safe and sound.
“Commercial construction offers tremendous opportunities for business owners, but it’s important to know all of the rules and opportunities,” Chris said. “As you plan your business space, Langer Electric can provide estimates for everything from fixture installation to panel updates, camera installation, repairs, maintenance, and pretty much anything electrical.”
If the company’s testimonials are any representation, you’re going to be glad you worked with Langer Electric, whether on new construction or existing upgrades. One local business owner writes: “I’ve used Langer electric several times for my business and my home. (Chris) prides himself on customer service, and he doesn’t disappoint. I have several occasions when I’ve had an immediate need and he is on-point. Would not consider using anyone else.” Another reported: “We used Langer Electric to do some work at our office, and not only did he do an excellent job, he did it quickly and did a great job of cleaning up after himself. He’s affordable and reliable, and I would recommend him for any of your business or home electrical needs.” The same sentiments are repeated again and again, and would make anyone comfortable working with Langer Electric!
We think you’ll feel the same way about Big Birge Plumbing (bigbirgeplumbing.com) for your commercial construction needs. Lallenia and Brad Birge started the company in 2012, operating out of their garage with just one plumbing truck. Since then, they’ve grown to having 15 talented team members and a commercial space off 204th Street in Elhorn. Brad has more than 20 years of plumbing experience, having launched his career via an apprenticeship program with a commercial and industry plumbing company, which hooked him on the beauty and art involved in plumbing. Brad eventually earned the level of Journeyman Plumber and was promoted to foreman by his last employer. He now has accomplished getting his Masters License and running his own plumbing company.
“I have had the privilege of learning from some of the best plumbers today,” Brad said. “They taught me plumbing theory, code, and tricks of the trade to make me efficient, professional, and knowledgeable. It is my wish to use the gifts the Lord has blessed me with, as well as my education and experience to bring the best possible plumbing service to the Omaha Metro and surrounding areas.”
Commercial construction involves more players than one generally might think, and each one’s role is crucial to creating Omaha buildings that are safe, stalwart, aesthetically pleasing, and operating with up-to-date Mctechnologies and services.