Commercial Remodeling in Omaha, NE – 2019
While new construction offers an opportunity to build a commercial space with the latest, cost efficient technology, remodeling and renovation are an alternative strategies which can lower costs for Omaha businesses in the long run by reducing energy consumption and preventing damage.
As the vice president of business development for McGill Restoration, Darin Cielocha believes it is important to understand the distinction between remodeling and restoration work. “The interesting thing is, we don’t do remodeling. We do restoration,” said Darin. According to Darin, the distinction is the focus of the project, with the majority of remodeling work focusing on a building’s interior, while restoration work focuses on restoring structural integrity to aging materials, such as concrete and stone masonry.
“From a masonry restoration perspective, we’re taking a dated building and trying to give it a facelift…For instance, when we are restoring the concrete for Memorial Stadium, the years of dropping beverages and everything else starts to deteriorate the concrete. We work to retain the structural integrity and to restore concrete and masonry,” Darin explained.
According to Darin, McGill has three unique traits. “One of our unique traits is that we do a lot of internal training. We will spend over 1,600 hours just for internal training of our field workers this year. We are paying our people to learn from our people. We consider our workers to be craftsmen and want to provide the training opportunities to help them to succeed within the trade,” said Darin. “Our second unique trait is our specialty equipment. For example, we own many specialty equipment rigs that have been designed to apply protective coatings to bridges and highways to get the roads back into service as quickly as possible.” Darin continues, “The third unique trait of McGill Restoration is that we perform the majority of our work with our own forces on a tight schedule. When you have your own workforce and you are doing more than 80% of the work internally—without subcontractors—you have to understand your capabilities and manage your capacity well in order to succeed.”
Because restoration work involves working with aged materials, Darin says their workers have to be experienced in traditional craftsmanship. “It is a very labor intense trade. There is a lot of heavy lifting involved and there is no new technology that can replace hard blue-collared work. It is very much a traditional, skilled art. Previously, if you were a stone mason, you were very sought after.”
Darin added that this is why mentorships and training are imperative for their employees and he believes craftsmanship deserves more appreciation because of its importance to restoring historical buildings and preserving history in general.
We also spoke with Travis Rose, project manager for the growing general contracting company, Perry Reid Construction (PRC). As Travis informed us, PRC is working on projects for major clients across Nebraska: “PRC has recently been working on a number of new remodels. We are currently doing an interior office remodel for the UNMC Center for Healthy Living, a fitness studio located at 39th and Jones (in the Student Life Building), offering classes and assessments for a health-oriented approach to physical activity. We’ve moved a few walls to give them ample space for a workroom, in addition to installing all new flooring, paint, and updated cabinetry and countertops. We also have expanded the restroom for ADA compliance.”
In addition to their remodeling work, Rose mentioned some new construction projects that will be coming to Omaha soon. “We’ve got a Smile Station Dentistry that we will start working on in a couple months and we’re about to start working on an apartment complex in Bellevue.”
Travis thinks a popular choice for recent remodeling projects is LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) for both its ease of installation and for its comfort. “LVT is softer than stone or wood, it’s more affordable, durable, and has an overall appealing look. Wallpaper is also making a comeback in apartment remodels,” said Travis.
As Travis explained to us, the remodeling process involves a careful planning stage to prepare a realistic budget for the client. “I like to believe that we exceed our client’s expectations! Some of the tenant finishes we are currently looking at do not have construction plans so we like to take the time and extra steps needed to walk through and thoroughly survey the space. PRC meets with clients to get a better understanding of the ideas of what they picture their space looking like. We then draft their ideas and put together a budget based on what they’re envisioning. We like to work closely with our clients to make their visions a reality within their budget. By doing this, we are in constant contact with clients and regularly update them on the state of the remodel.”
Something that might surprise readers is the degree of flexibility that’s required for remodeling. Travis noted how construction kind of imitates life: “Construction takes time and a great deal of coordination. Sometimes we run into unknown problems or uncover things that cannot be seen by the eye. As much as we would like them to, things don’t always go according to plan. Just like life, you’ll get a curve ball every now and again.”
Because of improvements in heating, cooling, and lighting, energy costs can now be drastically reduced for commercial buildings over the long run. For example, we asked Chris Langer, owner of Langer Electric, how remodeling can help owners reduce their electric bills. Chris says he has seen several interesting trends emerge recently.
“Typically, it’s just upgrading everything to LED,” Chris said. “It seems like they keep coming out with easier products to install. It’s not such a big, bulky product anymore. Also, Wi-Fi switches are improving. It’s getting to the point that people can install and control everything throughout their house. It’s like a one-stop shop. It can be controlled through an app on an iPad or phone, including security cameras. You can have 24/7 surveillance of your property sent right to your phone.”
One potential issue Chris thinks owners need to be aware of is new codes for commercial kitchens, which can affect both restaurants and cafeterias. “What they have to be aware of, especially when it comes to commercial kitchens, is new code that requiring very expensive GSCI breakers,” Chris warned. “Really, it just comes down to more electrical safety precautions, but it’s becoming more and more expensive. There is the benefit of saving money by upgrading to LED lighting. One of the biggest things they can do is switch all their lighting over to LED from the old incandescent. LED use 90% less electricity than the standard incandescent bulb. You’re getting more light for less power.”
Most recently, Chris noted they have done electrical remodeling for a hair salon and a Pilates fitness studio in Omaha. “We do absolutely anything that the customer wants done differently. We always stand by our product. There are so many people who come in and do work and they are just there and gone. There is no continued relationship between them and the customer. Following through with your word and having a reliable product is what we stand for,” promised Chris.
Weather and water can be a destructive force for older buildings. In fact, as Dennis Nun, owner of Heartland International, Inc., informed us, over 80% of Heartland International’s roofing contractors spend all of their time reroofing commercial buildings. “It’s a normal part of building restoration or refurbishing an existing building,” said Dennis. “Our systems are different from many other systems in that we are often able to go over older roofing systems, because our Conklin Commercial Roofing Systems are lightweight and seamless. This fact can often eliminate the need for a complete roof removal. This process means that we avoid opening up the building to potential rain damage and leakage during the new roof installation. What makes these roofing systems unique from others is, that our warranty trained Conklin Roofing Systems Contractors are backed by a national company that has been developing and installing these new and superior systems for over 40 years. So, you have the advantage of working with a local contractor backed by a national company with some of the best warranties in the industry.”
A lot of leakage begins for metal buildings because of the effect of heat on metal, as Dennis explained: “Metal buildings will always leak because of the natural expansion and contraction that occurs over the years. The screws or fasteners are stressed and may snap or get loose. That’s where a lot of leakage begins. An advantage of Conklin Roofing Systems is they allow for the exterior addition of an elastomeric coating and in many cases additional sprayed-in-place urethane insulation, applied over the metal roof deck. If it’s a metal building, like an industrial warehouse, we can go over that existing roof, seal it from leakage and at the same time add some additional exterior insulation. Many systems require insulation to be applied inside the building. We have that option, but most of the time, our insulation is applied to the exterior of the building. This avoids a tear off and opening a building up to potential vulnerability during the roofing process. The second benefit is the additional insulation on the exterior of the building instead of the interior means that we will reduce a lot of expansion and contracting due to weather extremes in the future. When we can put the insulation on the outside of the building, we are able to prolong the life of the building.”
The reroofing process begins by cleaning and preparing the surface. “I think a big part of why our systems work so well is nearly all our systems are bright white and highly reflective,” Dennis noted. “This reduces the energy load on the air conditioning system. Reflectivity can actually pay for the roof over a period of time based on energy systems.”
Recent changes in US tax law have allowed business owners to include up to $1 million per year as roof maintenance expenses on their tax return, Dennis said “This allows the business owner to write off the expense in the same year rather than depreciating it over time.”
“We have some new coatings and systems that have extended warranties,” Dennis reports. “The materials just continue to get better and the warranties continue to get longer.”
Dennis says one of the unique advantages of their roofing system’s is its longevity combined with competitive pricing: “We are very competitive when it comes to the price of re-roofing your building. Our materials themselves are more expensive than older systems like EPDM rubber sheet systems. But our labor is typically much less meaning that all of the expenses related to labor like insurance, workman’s compensation and wages are a less to offset the more expensive roofing materials we use. We can install a system in half the time typically, with a crew half the size of an EPDM crew. I tell people that the majority of what you spend on your roof stays on the roof.”
New laws and regulations can be a headache for unprepared business and property owners. Not only was FireGuard USA founded to assist businesses in efficiently complying with fire safety codes, they also do remodeling work focused on fire safety systems. “The FireGuard installation team has worked on several school remodel projects over the past few years, mostly in the Omaha area, but a few in Iowa. Many schools are choosing to update their life safety systems to meet current code, shifting from horns as the audible notification device to speakers, and employing a variety of different available emergency messages. These messages vary from a standard ‘Fire Alarm’ voice evacuation message, to a ‘Weather Alert’ message, encouraging teachers and students to take appropriate actions in the event of a weather emergency. We also offer a ‘Lock-down,’ or ‘Stay in place’ message, in the unfortunate event of an emergency on campus,” explained FireGuard’s installation manager, Eric Kolcun.
Eric says that a key trait of FireGuard is their professional career development for employees: “FireGuard works diligently to out-perform other contractors by continually looking to grow, not just physically, but professionally. We encourage all of our employees to grow and develop down one of our career path opportunities, including fire alarm installation, fire alarm inspections and service, fire sprinkler service, fire suppression installation, and several more. We strive to be the best and most knowledgeable in the industry.”
This training is critical because safety codes are continually changing, and there are a variety of systems to choose from. “Make sure that you are aware of all of the options that companies can offer,” advised Eric. “Life Safety can be expensive, but it is important to be aware of the value you are getting for the agreed upon amount you are spending.”
While new technologies are always being offered, Eric warns business owners to consider upkeep costs: “Manufacturers are constantly working to provide the most aesthetically pleasing look, while providing the best life safety available in all of their devices. Many manufacturers are offering new wireless options for the consumer, too. While these may be more cost effective on the front end, the service and upkeep may cost more down the line.”
Fire protection isn’t the only building system that requires upkeep. Because buildings include a complex combination of systems, it can be useful to think of a building as more of a living thing than a static object. As Pat Killeen, president and CEO of Engineered Controls, reminds us, errors in these systems can affect the comfort and security of an entire building. “A building’s mechanical systems can be optimized by providing supply air and supply water reset programs where the temperature of the air or water is automatically adjusted depending on space demands and outside air temperatures,” Pat said. “Mechanical optimization programs could also include demand control ventilation programs to provide the right amount of outdoor air required in the building to improve the indoor air quality. Additionally, constant volume air and water systems can be converted to variable air and water flow systems where just the right amount of air and water are delivered based on demand.”
By monitoring a building’s electrical energy usage, Pat says owners can spot when an electrical system is being used wastefully, and explains how automation systems can minimize such waste: “Most buildings’ electricity is billed two ways, electrical energy consumption or kWh, and what was the peak electrical energy usage over a specific period of time or kW demand. A building automation system, or simply referred to as BAS, has time-based scheduling programs that can be used to minimize the electrical consumption of a building. At the same time, a BAS can also be constantly monitoring a buildings kW demand and as it begins to approach a pre-determined peak demand begin shedding or shutting off electrical loads automatically. All of these mechanical and electrical optimization solutions are designed to maintain building comfort and maximize energy savings that result in reduced energy bills.”
Pat says several exciting trends are emerging in building automation. “We live in an era of where today’s buildings of any size and shape can become intelligent buildings. 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,” explained Pat.
Pat explains that although building automation systems have existed since the 1970s, recent systems save time and money on internal comfort conditions, individual room control, improved building reliability and life, and quick and effective responses to HVAC and security problems. “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 explains how this is a must for businesses which 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. 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, metering equipment, to name a few.”
He continued, “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.”
Technology and operation advancements have made the remodeling process go more smoothly for Cheever Construction. As Justin Kurtzer highlighted, Cheever approaches each project with consistent objectives for success. “We utilize an effective schedule coupled with the quality and skill from our subcontractors, combined with our field craftsmen,” Justin said. “Cheever Construction takes pride in all of the relationships that we have entered into. We strive to make each project the precursor to the next project, while building a lasting relationship with everyone involved.”
The efforts of Cheever Construction have no doubt paid off. The company recently earned the Associated Builders and Contractors’ Eagle Award at the 23rd Annual Excellence In Construction awards for their work on the Nebraska Center For Advanced Professional Services. Offering 40,000 square feet of flexible educational environments to support the school’s linked learning curriculum, the building’s design caters to myriad learning styles with two floors of multi-functional labs, small group spaces, break out areas, and collaboration zones. In partnership with BVH Architecture, Cheever Construction recently completed this project and is happy with the final product. The company is excited to continue executing this type of remodeling work throughout Omaha and eastern Nebraska.
As the business ecosystem in Nebraska continues to grow, there will continue to be a demand for commercial remodeling projects to improve and expand on existing office space. It’s good to know who the companies and individuals are who are tackling these projects, taking great precaution to restore the history of the building and enhance Omaha’s cityscape.