The commercial flooring contractor participates in a vibrant construction industry full of innovation, amazing contributions to the quality of life in our communities, and individual fulfillment. According to a focused study by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group, the construction industry accounts for more than 6% of the global gross domestic production (GDP) in addition to enabling commerce and productivity in all its forms. The U.S. construction industry has enjoyed a solid 10-year economic expansion. In addition, the industry is benefitting from a healthy segment rotation which allows firms to redeploy resources to serving educational and institutional markets as multi-family and retail segments begin to slow.
According to Dodge Data & Analytics, total construction starts are expected to reach $776 billion in value for 2020. This is a massive amount reflecting the value of the entire industry across all segments. Despite our combined marketing efforts, it is unlikely we will be able to convince society that flooring materials should be widely utilized in parking decks, dams, and water treatment facilities. It is helpful for the flooring industry to focus on the end use segments of commercial and institutional buildings where flooring accounts for a large percentage of the total project value. That value is predicted to be greater than $260 billion in 2020. What a great opportunity!
Despite our amazing contributions, like most industries, we have many areas for improvement. The flooring industry has opportunities to improve processes and operations, innovate with strategic business models, and establish formal organizational cultures. Our general contractor clients have the same opportunities for improvement. Our industry does not have to change overnight. It is estimated by Boston Consulting Group that just a 1% increase in construction industry productivity could return more than $100 billion in value to GDP. Productivity has many elements but, in this article, we can share some areas where the interest of the commercial flooring contractor aligns with the professional general contractor to improve our industry and deliver the value of enhanced productivity to society.
A safe construction industry is a productive industry. Our general contractor partners must provide safe environments for their workers and subcontractors to attract talent and business partners. In addition, their end user clients expect them to deliver a solid safety record as part of the risk mitigation role they play. It is fundamental to their value proposition. In the global competitive environment, safety is not a response to regulatory oversight. Safety is a foundational element in a great workplace culture and achieving the highest levels of productivity possible. In order to work well with a professional general contractor, a Starnet professional flooring contractor must already have an established safety program. Without that workplace culture of safety as a condition of employment, successful project execution becomes nearly impossible. In addition, good safety records are rewarded by access to project opportunities, access to capital, and lower costs. All those elements contribute to industry productivity and the profitability of Starnet member firms.
“New York metro is a highly regulated construction environment and we have to manage the safety of the public in addition to the safety concerns normally associated with a construction site,” said David T. Meberg, president and CEO Consolidated Carpet, a Starnet Member. “Occupied spaces in a densely populated work environment are huge challenges. Consolidated takes pride in our safety record. Our people constantly update their training and certifications in order to deliver the best support for our general contractor partners.”
Project Delivery Methods
In a quest to contribute value and “find a better way” multiple project delivery methods have evolved to best support the end user clients and the goals of their building projects. The most common project delivery method is Design/Bid/Build, but Design Build and other methods are becoming more common. The purpose of this article is not to review project delivery methods in detail, but to point out that new methods are part of the industry push for innovation and value. That innovation effort may be held back by traditional construction contract law, outdated building codes and permitting processes, as well as a reluctance by the trades to adapt processes to enable these delivery methods to reach full potential. We have observed that Starnet member firms are responding to support our general contractor partners.
Design/Bid/Build is commonly used in civil projects. In addition to safety, civil projects require complete and thorough document management processes in order to provide transparency and compliance to specifications. The document management infrastructure, in order to be effective, must be part of the te normal culture at a professional flooring contractor. The level of detail required cannot be assembled for one project, it must be core to the business in order to properly support the sophisticated infrastructure the general contractor deploys to remain in compliance with contract guidelines for these projects.
“In order to secure and execute large complex projects in the Washington D.C. area, we have in place a full document management system,” said Matt Bode, vice president, CB Flooring, LLC, a Starnet Member. “This includes a full-time submittal coordinator, payroll manager, contracts manager, and dedicated project coordinators. Being located in the backyard of the federal government and some of the largest development projects in the country, we believe this is a competitive advantage with our general contractor partners.”
Design Build project delivery offers distinct advantages to the owner. Design and pricing take place at the same time, with the general contractor working collaboratively with the designer. Design Build projects can deliver a building at budget, shorten preconstruction time, and dramatically decrease the time frame. Managing and documenting changes and communicating with the building team in a way that supports low risk decision making is essential in the design-build process. This experience must be delivered by a combination of experienced staff members at the flooring contractor supported by effective technology and visualization tools. The combination of the confidence and experience of a veteran associate and the documentation through technology tools enables the Design Build delivery process. Many professional flooring contractors find these projects to be more personally rewarding in addition to the normal fulfillment of a flooring contract project. Their skills and knowledge as a professional are valued in this delivery process.
Cheryl Acierno, president of Acierno & Company, LLC, a Starnet Member, said: “Communication and teamwork. Flexibility and cooperation with the design team are critical, and the earlier the collaboration starts, the better every building team member meets the client’s needs,” We provide a lot of value to Design Build contractors because of our experienced staff and our software systems. Our team is highly skilled in product knowledge and specifying materials, ensuring that a client selects the appropriate product for a specific space.”
Scheduling and Project Management
Most general contractors plan and schedule their projects in a similar fashion, developing schedules at each level of design and financial impact. A detailed plan is developed for all major activities during the project’s life cycle. Each firm is different, but some are deploying sophisticated and well-staffed scheduling departments. Many staff positions in scheduling at the largest general contractors require professional certification. In addition to working with project schedules, these associates increase accuracy and efficiency by developing collaborative methods that may strengthen processes with capable subcontracting firms like Starnet members.
The level of expertise in the general contractor community is being matched by project management associates at professional flooring contractors across the Starnet membership. The quality of Starnet member project managers, supported by ongoing training and certification, helps ensure the productivity and collaborative communication necessary to deliver value for the end user. They can work more efficiently because they are familiar with many of the concepts and tools used by the general contractor every day. These professionals working together collaboratively using formal scheduling and project management tools deliver enhanced productivity. In addition, formal training can minimize gaps in generational communication style, support flexible decision making, and anticipate project gaps or constriction in order to mitigate schedule drift. Lastly, professional project managers protect the end user from unpublished compromises that impact the long-term performance of a building. Documenting change orders and schedule compromises protects the client if they encounter problems post-occupancy. Project close out documents will help to guide the long-term maintenance and management of the interior space for the end user.
According to Les Lippert, president Lippert Flooring and Tile, a Starnet Member:
“Our project managers focus intently on documenting all of the communication before and during the installation phase. In addition to keeping all parties involved in the project fully informed, this practice enables us to accurately refer back to specific decisions and actions that may need to be revisited during the one-year walk-through, or at any other time post-occupancy. Having a complete record of all communications is both a risk management necessity and a quality of service value add. Project close-out document submittals furnish the client with an authoritative account of the flooring materials used, installation and maintenance specifics, and the details of product and installation warranties. It is the roadmap for facility managers to follow to maximize the return of their investment in flooring over the longest possible timeline.”
Starnet members work collaboratively with general contractor partners to deliver value in the built environment every day. Our partnership continues to be more sophisticated and valuable as society demands more and more from their space over time.