Nov/Dec 2011

Power, prowess, passion, and payoff. Successful construction organizations are driven in part by these four underlying objectives: The power to make the right decision; the prowess to properly execute; the passion to rise above business challenges; and ultimately the payoff.

While every builder, contractor, and owner organization seeks to accomplish all four objectives, only the select few make it work. Those that typify all four objectives find themselves in prime position to not only survive a challenging construction market, but ultimately thrive in it.

Those that call themselves a winner of a Constructech Vision Award—the most coveted technology award in the construction industry, 12 years running—exemplify the power, passion, prowess, and payoff that come with solving a critical business challenge through the use of leading-edge technology.

Overall, success is directly associated with the payoff. This is what sets apart an innovative construction company from one considered to be truly visionary. In order to achieve such payoff, construction companies need to partner with the very best when it comes to information technology and automation. Some choose to use a blend of third-party providers, while others like Clark Builders Group (which took home its 11th Vision Award this year) choose to go it alone, building award-winning solutions in-house.

Those vying for the coveted trophy are evaluated by some of the top educators, consultants, and visionaries in construction. This year’s panel was comprised of Mark Federle of Marquette University; Bob Stewart of Construction Change Partners; Bill White with IUPUI (Purdue University); Jeff Ton of Goodwill Industries; Ed Anderson of Anderson Technical Services; Carol Hagen with Hagen Business Systems; retired industry veteran Jim Kissane; and Julian Kang with Texas A&M University.

In the end, it’s the way in which a construction company takes a visionary approach to choosing cutting-edge construction technology, aligning it with business strategies, and reinforcing its objective to the people using the technology on a daily basis.

In a construction market that has proven to be one where only the strong survive, it is the construction companies that exhibit the power, passion, prowess, and payoff on a regular basis that can truly be called Visionaries.

To learn about more of the Constructech Vision Awards success stories, look to the subsequent pages where some of the winners are highlighted. Also, an index provides a listing of all the Vision Awards winners and enablers.


Gold: Hill Intl.
Marlton, N.J.

History Meets the Future
New York City’s landmark City Hall is one of the nation’s oldest continuously used city halls. The white Renaissance Revival-style building had its last major update in the 1950s. Budgeted at more than $100 million in rehabilitation work that will be broken into several phases, major construction is expected to be completed in late 2012.

Hill Intl., holds the prime contract, along with all the subcontracts and associated risk for three prime contractors—Plaza Construction, Rockmore Contracting, and Kario Construction—along with dozens of subcontractors. Since the project is a landmark in the middle of a public park atop four subway lines, Hill must also manage inter-agency coordination with the New York City Parks Dept., NYC Transit Authority, and others.

Like all government infrastructure projects, documentation of costs, schedule, design, and construction must be handled with the highest level of security to ensure the safety of its tenants—in this case the New York City Mayor’s Office and City Council. Hill chose an online collaboration platform from Aconex,, San Bruno, Calif., as the document-management system.

The project team now manages information and processes using the Aconex solution to guarantee tight security over project information and ensure all transmitted emails and documents are selectively communicated outside each organization’s firewall, giving the flexibility to continue using its internal project-management systems and processes inside the firewall, while collaborating on this neutral platform.

The project-management system used by Hill manages project information across its projects and the Aconex system helps run all correspondence and documentation with the project team for the projects. The document-management system provides unlimited storage space with no file size limitations, making it easy to transmit an unlimited number of large files almost instantly.

Quantifiable benefits include 66% less time spent searching for project documents; 80% fewer administration hours spent collecting, copying, and transmitting project records; and 40% faster RFI (request for information) response times.

Gold: Oakwood Homes
Denver, Colo.

Virtual Home Sales
It’s been a down economy for several years, but that doesn’t mean every builder is hurting. Oakwood Homes closed 365 “production-custom” homes in 2010, even as other builders slowed down. The company closed its 10,000th home in August 2011 and plans to start 480-500 others this year.

Oakwood now sells homes from 3D virtual models, without building a model. In one virtual-sale test at Belle Creek, Oakwood sold all six available projects in one weekend. By integrating CAD (computer-aided design) and home-plan workflow technology—Blackpoint from Simpad,, Woburn, Mass.—structural engineering and integrated component manufacturing with MiTek’s Sapphire Structure,, Bradford, Ont., and KOVA workflow management,, Woburn, Mass., Oakwood was able to sell 100 additional homes this year because they could accommodate structural options its competitors were unable to perform. The integration of these systems, and what it enabled the sales force to deliver, boosted Oakwood’s gross annual sales by more than $21 million.

In practical terms, custom changes made to base plans during the sales and options-selection processes flowed between Oakwood’s sales/design software and its in-house component manufacturing plant (roof and floor trusses and panelized wall systems), allowing mass customization. This integration eliminated variance purchase orders (saving $1,200/start and $438,000/year).

“With the downturn in the economy, the Denver and Colorado Springs markets were flooded with homebuilding capability, especially over the last two years,” admits Don Carpenter, an architect with Oakwood Homes. “We surveyed the competitive landscape and realized that we could clearly differentiate in a crowded market by offering a level of customization that our competitors couldn’t match. It was a contrarian view, because our competition was making homes simpler and cheaper by restricting options.”

He says, “We saw an opportunity to move to a greater value home by offering what our competitors had discontinued: customizability. I’m not just talking about adding a few more tile colors and carpets. I’m talking about structure options changes such as the ability to easily change roof lines, roof configurations, windows and openings, and move walls.”

The technology Oakwood has implemented has a few unifying themes. The workflow is automated and activities are organized around a critical path that is managed by exception; file version control is a foundation of all collaboration; and data re-entry is avoided. This approach to running operations drives down errors, as indicated by the elimination of variance purchase orders, and allows the builder to set and protect its margins.

Gold: Kaiser Permanente
Oakland, Calif.

Mitigating Risk
In 2006, during schematic design, the Kaiser Permanente Board of Directors approved the budget for construction of the new 380,000-sq.ft. Ontario Medical Center, the 150,000-sq.ft. Hospital Support Building, and an expansion of the existing Central Utility Plant. This project was awarded to a general contractor in early 2007 that had experience working with California’s OSHPD (Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development), using the standard Kaiser Permanente GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) contract.

However, this created a bit of a challenge. Using this contract model to establish the projects final GMP resulted in the GMP being approximately $35 million above the board’s approved budget.

In response, a Kaiser executive proposed a “Cost Reimbursable Fixed Fee” (CRFF) contract model. This approach moved the construction risk away from the contractor and prime subcontractors and toward the owner. Kaiser believed that if it minimized subcontractor’s risk, the subs would reduce their contingencies and fees.

This new strategy put the project theoretically on budget; however, they now owned—and needed to effectively manage—new risks associated with the contract. This meant using construction management tools and technologies.

Kaiser turned to collaborative, Web-based, construction quality-control software FreightTrain from HTS (Healthcare Technical Services),, Los Angeles, Calif.—a product it has been using since 2005. A full suite of modules was installed at the beginning of construction to establish a means to closely monitor the prime CRFF subcontractors’ inspection success rate.

It also implemented a software tool that tracks each subcontractor’s schedule of values using the most current CSI Master Format. This includes product details while also tracking invoiced costs and installed quantities for each CSI.

An overall project inspection success rate of 90% was accomplished and it was able to mitigate the additional risks assumed by going to the CRFF contract model. Not only has this helped Kaiser maintain the original $34 million in savings it estimated, but it now also expects to save an additional $10 million.

Silver: Mercy Medical Center
Merced, Calif.

A Better Transition
Serving the greater Merced community in the heart of California’s Central Valley, Mercy Medical Center is a general acute care hospital owned and operated by Catholic Healthcare West. Two existing campuses are consolidated into one facility under the Mercy Medical Center. This includes an eight-level, 186-bed, 266,000-sq.ft. general acute tower, as well as a 19,000-sq.ft. central plant.

The issue in question for Mercy was transition planning as it relates to a replacement hospital being constructed. Typically, a replacement hospital is located on or near the same campus as the existing hospital. This makes it so staff, physicians, and systems do not have to travel far to witness the progress of construction and familiarity is established and engagement of personnel involved in its construction is also present.

However, this was not the case at Mercy Medical, where the replacement hospital was located three miles away at a new greenfield campus. Nevertheless, the involvement of personnel and systems was critical to ensure they were prepared for day one operations at the new facility. It is essential that staff know how the new facility and equipment works, develop new procedures from workflow teams, and generally become comfortable in their new surroundings.

Technology had to be a major component in the transition to the new facility. To help with the transition, construction management software FreightTrain from HTS (Healthcare Technical Services),, Los Angeles, Calif., provided the requisite oversight and ensured critical tasks came to completion, minimizing any potential move-in delays.

A room completion database and occupancy planning modules were instrumental in managing the data and providing timely and accurate reports. This allowed the team to review, monitor, and manage room status during the fit up and logistics period.

Staff could request reports that would assist them in quickly orienting their resources to their new space. Reports included equipment for code blue responses such as crash carts and emergency code button locations.

The result was that labor costs were minimized as staff did not need to spend time to physically be at the new facility miles away. Despite the three miles separating the two campuses, Mercy Medical Center was able to open as scheduled, completing critical tasks on time and avoiding costly move-in delays. One particular ROI achieved: 125 patients were moved in less than five hours on move day.

Silver: Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego
San Diego, Calif.

Big and Green
Rady Children’s Hospital is the largest children’s hospital in California, a 442-bed pediatric-care facility, and has the first LEED-certified acute care hospital in California.

Of those 442 beds, 154 became available in October 2010 with the opening of the $260 million Acute Care Pavilion. With construction crews on one end of the project’s timeline and medical professionals on the other end, common ground needed to be found—a way to appreciate each other’s needs so they could work together to complete the pavilion in both form and function. Instead of choosing a third-party construction management or project management firm, Rady Children’s management hand picked an internal team to manage the project and implemented a project-management solution called FreightTrain,, Los Angeles, Calif. During construction, the Inspection Request Module provided the means of tracking the progress and resolution of work performed by subcontractors on the project. Visual Fragnets (visual status representations) and construction progress reports provided the owner, general contractor, and healthcare personnel with colorized floor plans identifying existing issues and deficiencies.

Visual Fragnets were used by both the project and hospital team to collaborate on topics that are traditionally handled in silos.

The technology helped maximize efficiency of move routes during transition planning and also assisted in the discovery and repurposing of space to create “grab and go” stations for employees.

Project and hospital members were able to self-correct and reduce man hours, overhead costs, and resources because work was focused and organized by FreightTrain. The initial occupancy timeline, established by project and hospital staff two years prior to construction completion, was never adjusted. The final step of the project, the relocation of the last patient to his new home in the pavilion, was within two minutes of its initial target.

It is typical to see California hospitals spend more than $100,000 each week during the fit-up period to secure, maintain, and staff the new site. By implementing technology, Rady Children’s was able to close out with construction, project, and transition work efforts finishing on time and under budget.

Silver: Falewitch Construction Services
Omaha, Neb.

Accountable Production
Company growth is usually unpredictable. Start at the right time, growth is assured. Start at the end of a boom, anything can happen.

Falewitch Construction Services has grown from a one-man operation to a well-respected 200-employee business. The firm, founded in 1995 by owner John Falewitch, conducts work involving interior systems projects in metal studs, drywall, acoustical ceilings, EIFS, Stucco, access floors, and operable walls.

Falewitch Construction is one of only three companies within its industry to be approved for the Voluntary Protection Program by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Admin.). In order to be accepted into the program, Falewitch submitted an application demonstrating proficiency in basic elements of an effective safety program. To keep this classification, Falewitch Construction must submit a report to OSHA every year outlining all safety program improvements, and safety problems or trends being addressed.

Along with a focus on safety, Falewitch Construction Services also keeps track of technology trends. A long-time user of Quick Bid from On Center Software,, The Woodlands, Texas, the company was approached in 2007 to be a beta tester for Digital Production Control, the project-tracking program. Since then, the company has completed more than 75 jobs using the software.

One of the first challenges came with the 30-month-long Lakeside Hospital project in Omaha. The job included EIFS, interior framing, exterior metal stud framing/sheathing/Tyvex, insulation/vapor barriers, drywall, drywall finishing, and acoustical ceilings. With so many tasks on a single job, Falewitch benefited from its strong tracking system.

Falewitch’s director of estimating used Digital Production Control to monitor areas on a daily basis to identify hours by code and time remaining for each specific area, set completion goals, and to determine the most efficient crew sizes based on schedule duration. Close monitoring allowed the generation of a weekly gain/loss report, which was then compared to the job cost to date, giving a true running total of actual project costs.

Using Digital Production Control helped the company build a culture of “accountable production” that increased its labor budget. However, the biggest benefit is Falewitch was able to identify problems early and correct them before it was too late to take action.

Silver: Capparelli / KHS&S Contractors, a joint venture
Orange County, Calif.

A Profitable Partnership
Collaboration is the name of the game in construction. Capparelli Contracting Co., and KHS&S Contractors understand this and have developed a joint venture to provide drywall and framing for construction of healthcare facilities in California.

With Capparelli’s background in healthcare and OSHPD (Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development)-related fields and KHS&S’ experience as an interior and exterior design-assist building organization, the contracting companies each had something unique to bring to the table. In addition, KHS&S uses 3D technology and VPD (virtual project delivery) in preconstruction planning. Bringing all these skills together was bound to lead to a great partnership.

However, there was still a clear challenge. In construction, it is paramount to achieve a high percentage of approved inspections on the first request, as well as a short duration of time between request and approvals.

Compounding the challenge, hospital building regulations in California require continuous inspection to be fully documented by certified OSHPD inspectors. To meet this need on a Kaiser Downey Medical Center project in Downey, Calif., Capparelli and KHS&S used technology to manage the 2,883 inspections that would be performed for the drywall segment of the construction project. The team used the Inspection Request Module in the FreightTrain software from HTS (Healthcare Technical Services),, Los Angeles, Calif.

Using the technology, the drywall inspections with no issues averaged three days from request to signoff, while inspections that had issues required more than six days between inspection request and signoff. Capparelli and KHS&S had only 3% of inspections with issues compared to the industry average for California hospitals of more than 15%. In the end, the team reduced rework, which meant higher productivity for the owner.

In addition to using the inspection technology, Capparelli and KHS&S were among the first wall and ceiling contractors to use VPD. By enabling BIM (building information modeling) and IPD (integrated project delivery) through use of design tools, the companies have been able to grow their partnership and improve collaboration.

Team Award: Regional Transportation District – Denver
Denver, Colo.

Keeping Projects on Time
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) runs a comprehensive system of trains, buses, and transit facilities. With more than 40 projects currently at various stages of construction, this includes the FasTracks Program, a $6.7 billion project to build 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail within the district, plus 18 miles of bus rapid transit service, a new commuter rail maintenance facility, and 31 new ‘Park-n-Ride’ stations with 21,000 parking spaces at rail and bus stations.

The FasTracks Program is broken up into 12 projects, one third of which are under construction. RTD’s capital programs add another 25 smaller projects to the portfolio, including $1 million in repairs to station and bridge infrastructure, driver relief stations, and lighting.

As more projects are added, RTD continues to s