Building green isn’t just a trend—it’s a responsibility. In 2021, several STOBG companies signed on to the Contractor’s Commitment, a pledge created by contractors for contractors, to set sustainability targets and measure their progress—divided into Good, Better, or Best tiers. Over the last two years, those early signatories were able to provide valuable input to make the Commitment even stronger and more impactful.
“Being one of the early signatories for the Contractor’s Commitment has been so critical for BCCI,” says BCCI Construction senior director of marketing, Cynthia Gage. “You’re in the room with a project team and you’re able to have real-life, on-the-ground conversations about sustainability and what makes a difference in construction.”
By pledging to the Contractor’s Commitment, BCCI, Ajax Building Company, Abbott Construction Los Angeles, and Structure Tone New York joined a larger movement to impact the sustainability of building projects and inspired others, including subcontractors and clients, to follow suit.
“We initially proposed the Contractor’s Commitment to Structure Tone New York because New York’s best practices were in most alignment with what it entails,” says Jennifer Taranto, STO Building Group vice president of sustainability. “We received plenty of support from our president, Mike Neary, and we saw that this would be meaningful for our clients.”
Two years into the Commitment, and the STOBG teams have seen progress and efficiencies in several facets of construction.
Waste diversion is one area where all four STOBG companies report clear success. “Many of the goals at the Good tier, including waste management, are already what we require of our projects,” says Teresa Fait, project manager at Abbott Construction in Los Angeles. “The Commitment gives us added framework for educating and tracking.”
Similarly, BCCI was already complying with California’s stringent sustainability requirements, and they were empowered by the Contractor’s Commitment to take things a step further and build more waste management tactics into each stage of a project. According to Priyanka Jinsiwale, project manager of sustainability and ESG at BCCI, the company is committed to standardizing waste diversion practices on all of their projects.
“Ensuring early engagement is conducted on all projects and integrated into our project workflow is key since these metrics need to be tracked consistently. We’ve created several implementation tools and templates to help.”Priyanka Jinsiwale, Project Manager, Sustainability & ESG
Structure Tone NY uses on-site source separation methods for select waste streams to increase the landfill diversion rate, rather than commingling all of the discarded materials in a single dumpster. “Although there are space limitations on our jobsites, we’ve found tremendous success with our closed-loop gypsum recycling efforts,” says Ryan Hughes, Structure Tone NY sustainability manager.
Local wallboard manufacturers such as USG and CertainTeed/Saint-Gobain take back the site-separated drywall trim scrap and use it as feedstock to create new products. “We’re also separating wood and metal on select projects and working with partners to recycle our carpet scraps as another way to contribute to the circular economy,” Hughes adds. By salvaging, donating, and reusing existing materials even before demolition, the Structure Tone team was able to achieve the Commitment’s Better tier. NYC also has the benefit of using Cooper Recycling, a nearby materials recovery facility with an RCI-certification that demonstrates best-in-class sorting practices.
Although carbon tracking was not a new task for Ajax, applying an anti-idling practice on all sites was a recent change for the company. Ajax’s anti-idling policy mandates that all engines—from passenger vehicles to construction equipment—must be turned off when not in use.
“Some people had a habit of getting out of their truck and running into the trailer for a meeting while the truck’s still running,” says Rowdy Francis, Ajax quality manager. “We’ve now addressed that. It’s a small thing but it reminds everyone to be more cognizant.”
BCCI also took their efforts on carbon tracking up a level since signing the Commitment. The team proactively began analyzing their baseline and identified areas of improvement. “Although 30% of our projects are required to be tracked under the guidelines of the Contractor’s Commitment, BCCI is aiming to track 80% of our projects,” says Jiniswale. As a new service offering, Structure Tone NY has also begun to track embodied carbon for projects seeking to measure their environmental impacts associated with materials and worker commutes.
Structure Tone has implemented various measures to monitor and reduce their utility consumption, but tracking and documenting those efforts at first posed a challenge. The team has since found an innovative solution to help, says Hughes. WASHBOX monitors temporary water use on-site and reuses the greywater during construction to reduce overall consumption.
Abbott also leverages partners to find new and improved tracking methods. “We are using the Contractor’s Commitment tracking template that a partner company showed us,” says Fait. “Each category has a field where project teams can provide feedback on how the goals were achieved—was it difficult, was there a cost impact, etc.”
With increasing global attention to mental health and wellness and the encouragement of the Contractor’s Commitment, all four STOBG signatories have made jobsite wellness a priority. Each company has regular and frequent wellness breaks—whether educating teams to stretch and flex before work or promoting health habits such as taking a break or staying hydrated.
Ultimately, the impact of signing the Contractor’s Commitment illustrates how each business unit is working to consistently implement best practices—which reinforces our Quality 360º program, striving to deliver the highest quality in everything we do.
5 CATEGORIES OF THE CONTRACTOR”S COMMITMENT
Contractors who sign the Commitment pledge to meet a series of goals in five categories
- Carbon Reduction: How well a contractor reduce carbon emissions
- Jobsite Wellness: Fostering wellness (clean air, nourishment, mental health, etc.) for anyone working on-site or in jobsite offices
- Waste Management: Promoting waste diversion, whether seeking green building certification or not
- Water Management: Assessing risks to prevent water pollution
- Material Selection: Assessing and selecting healthy and sustainable materials
As design trends come and go, law firms have historically stuck to a more traditional workplace aesthetic that is, in many cases, rooted in more than a century of legacy. However, with unprecedented challenges and shifts in workplace dynamics in the last several years, some trends are emerging.
“Our business really got started with law firms,” says Mallory Wall, project executive at BCCI Construction. “For the last 35+ years, we’ve delivered several law firm projects every year. Each law firm has its own unique needs and wants, but in that time, we’ve also seen some consistency across the sector, especially with all the uncertainty in the workplace since the pandemic.”
The big question? How to handle the return to the workplace since COVID. Many sectors have begun to adjust to a new, more flexible business model. The legal sector hasn’t quite settled on how to handle it.
“Other businesses are gearing their offices more toward creating spaces for employees to come in for collaborations and meetings only while they do their day-to-day work from home,” says Luke Thomas, director of operations at Structure Tone Philadelphia. “Law firms haven’t typically been as open to that kind of change, but we are starting to see it in their projects.”
One reason, says Wall, is the competition for talent. “Law firms are losing recruits as big tech firms hire them directly. Because we work with both tech firms and law firms, we’re able to offer some advice on what they can do to communicate a more modern vibe that’s most like that of a tech company.”
Even before the pandemic, law firms were starting to incorporate more café spaces and casual collaboration areas. With added pressure to convey an attractive culture, law firms are taking those amenities to a higher level.
As crazy as it sounds, says Wall, asking employees what they want can be the most effective means for attracting and keeping staff.
“Many of our clients have been torn between sticking with tradition or branching into more trendy workplace features. We suggest they survey their staff to ask what they think. They’re often shocked to find out it’s usually not about having ping pong tables or bean bag chairs, but things like nicer bathrooms or more lounge areas and break-out rooms. Those smaller upgrades can have a big impact on culture.”Mallory Wall, BCCI Construction
As the companies within the STO Building Group have continued to help law firm clients navigate this paradigm shift in the workplace, it became obvious they could learn from and help each other. And so the organization’s law firm initiative was born.
Representatives from across STOBG’s 13 companies, including BCCI and Structure Tone, meet on a regular basis to discuss trends, share lessons learned, and connect the dots for clients looking to upgrade or build offices in other cities. For some clients, the benefits are already clear.
“We have a great relationship with Gunderson Dettmer,” says Wall. “When they mentioned they were going to start a project in Austin, Texas, we were able to recommend an architect, introduce them to our Structure Tone Southwest team, and stay involved and engaged throughout the project.”
The same goes for negotiating the mounting challenges of the supply chain. STO Building Group’s procurement experts track trends and issue a monthly report on which materials are experiencing supply chain delays and which may be easing. The entire STOBG network has been able to bring that intelligence to their project teams to help inform decision-making.
“The information a team in one city has been able to share with colleagues in other locations has undoubtedly benefited our clients’ processes,” say Eugene White, STO Building Group executive vice president and leader of the firm’s law firm initiative.
“From supply chain challenges to local market nuances, it’s been extremely helpful to have that level of expertise behind our local teams. Advancing lessons learned from one project to another has helped us ensure more predictable outcomes.”Eugene White, STO Building Group
The efficiencies a client gains from working with this network of experts creates a win-win situation for everyone. “The client has a great experience, and we get to establish even stronger relationships with our sister companies,” says Wall. “Our clients tell us it’s just like working with the local team they know and love.”
Although the crystal ball does show a few changes in the future of law firm design and construction, law offices will undoubtedly continue to reflect legacy, reputation, and professionalism. The trick is finding just the right balance.
Gone are the days of the traditional law firm. We’re in a transition period, and culture will be key.”Mallory Wall, BCCI Construction
Luke Thomas agrees. “I believe law firms will move into creating more amenity spaces for everyone and less hierarchy in terms of designing extravagant office for attorneys. The change will be slow, but they’re getting there.”
BCCI Construction and Structure Tone Philadelphia have recently completed office projects for dozens of law firms, including these. (Bold indicates clients shared across the STOBG network.)
Debevoise & Plimpton
Fish & Richardson
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
Kirkland & Ellis
Originally Published in STOBG Insights Fall 2022
Eataly: A lively Italian marketplace with restaurants, food and beverage counters, a bakery, and more.
STO Building Group: A family of companies with a client-first mentality that keeps us at the leading edge of construction management. Two separate companies brought together by one common goal: to build amazing spaces.
2019 EATALY TORONTO
Govan Brown began their partnership with Eataly in 2015 after John Brown and Tom Mason met with partners from the global Italian marketplace looking to build in downtown Toronto. Challenges are inevitable in any construction project—especially such high-profile, high-finish projects like an Eataly Marketplace. Eataly Toronto was no exception. The three-story building, which opened in November of 2019, is Canada’s first Eataly location. Sitting at the corner of Bay and Bloor in the Manulife Center shopping mall, Eataly Toronto greets its guests with a street-level entrance and an interior crafted with two long passageways. The 50,000 sf building includes a new marketplace, a grocery store, and various bars and restaurants.
“Being able to have their trust and to deliver for them in many different markets with great teams is what I’m most proud of. It’s an amazing and rewarding experience, for sure.”Tom Mason, Govan Brown
Eataly’s goal is to create an authentic Italian eating experience, so obtaining proprietary Italian equipment is vital. From custom-built wood-burning ovens and bakery equipment to high-end terrazzo flooring, many components are made in Italy and shipped to North America. However, equipment that is designed to European standards doesn’t always perform the same way in North America. The certification process for European equipment combined with the different infrastructure requirements made implementing these proprietary components a challenge. The project team had to work very closely with their European partners and local engineers and subcontractors to work through those conversions to make it work as if it were operating in Italy.
But all challenges come with lessons learned. After the Toronto project, the team prepared a presentation deck and walked through what worked and didn’t work with each STOBG business unit with potential Eataly projects ahead. “After every large project at Govan Brown, we do an after-action review,” says Tom Mason, account manager at Govan Brown. “We tried to be as detailed as possible and highlight many of the lessons learned on Eataly that the Structure Tone London, Southwest, and BCCI teams needed to incorporate to make their builds successful. We find that these sessions are beneficial to both client and construction manager.”
2020 EATALY DALLAS
When Structure Tone Southwest began talks with Eataly to take on their new Dallas, Texas location, the project team jumped into research mode. They met with Gensler, the project’s architect, as well as Eataly consultants to ensure the final construction drawings were approved. An additional meeting in New York soon followed to verify the value engineering efforts. “We had quite a bit of education during those meetings,” said Eduardo Linss, project manager at Structure Tone Southwest. “On the visit to New York, we visited their flagship store in the Flatiron District and got a real feel for the flow of the store.”
Eataly Dallas consists of three floors with the markets, various to-go counters, and a pizza and pasta restaurant located on the second floor and a high-end restaurant on the third. The building welcomes guests with street and mall entrances and gives a comfortable yet sophisticated atmosphere with wood seating inside the restaurant areas, including the Gran Bar, a full-service, Italian-themed coffee bar on the first floor.
“Going through the grand opening, to hear the Eataly team say this is the smoothest build they’ve had in Dallas was definitely something I took away with me. It spoke volumes to the level of execution of the team overall.”Eduardo Linss, Structure Tone Southwest
As Govan Brown passed down their lessons learned, the project team was able to adhere to the level of expectations Eataly sets. Although each store in each market has its own standalone identity, it was important for the team to set a preliminary standard of execution for subcontractors. This ensured everyone was on the same page for the project and the client’s expectations from beginning to end. The Dallas team was able to use the Govan Brown team as a sounding board and talk through potentially challenging scenarios. In turn, Structure Tone Southwest was able to do the same for BCCI Construction. “Everything inside the marketplace has a unique look,” says Linss. “It was an intense project, but it was well organized.”
2021 EATALY LONDON
In London, Structure Tone began working on Eataly’s new location facing two completely different challenges than their peers: COVID-19 and Brexit. Despite the local challenges, the site stayed open throughout the early months of 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brexit proved to be far more problematic during the early part of 2021 where travel and shipping restrictions made life more difficult. Despite the hardships, Nik Quarm, senior project manager at Structure Tone London, sees Eataly London as nothing short of a success, thanks in large part to the information sharing and resources across the STO Building Group team. “The key to successfully delivering Eataly’s first UK store was utilising the benefits gained from STOBG’s global partnership with Eataly,” he says.
“This was a program-driven exercise. Yes, quality is essential, but having a program partnership is just as important and, quite frankly, the key to delivering a project.”Jack Dixon, Structure Tone London
As the winner of the 2021 Mix Interiors Bar and Leisure award, Structure Tone London and Eataly truly transformed the 42,000 sf building into a vibrant and engaging destination. Located next to Liverpool Street Station, Eataly London welcomed visitors to their grand opening in April of 2021. With colossal revolving entrance doors that lead to the Gran Bar, the London site includes two floors of pizza bars, grab-n-go foot markets, a towering indoor bar area, and an outdoor terrace. The market also offers a variety of quality Italian food products and houses London’s largest Italian wine cellar. “I’m proud of how my team communicated with Eataly, especially with the different cultures, languages, and currencies,” says Jack Dixon, project director at Structure Tone London. “We delivered this project through such difficult times, and I’m especially proud of how Eataly trusted us throughout to deliver a great project.”
2022 EATALY SILICON VALLEY
In North America, Eataly continues to expand with a new location on the West Coast. BCCI is currently bringing the Italian marketplace to Silicon Valley’s Westfield Valley Fair Mall in San Jose, California. Like its sister stores, the space will offer a mix of restaurants, cafés, bars, and to-go counters. After visiting several of the Eataly North America locations, BCCI also went through several lessons learned sessions with both Govan Brown and Structure Tone Southwest. “We went through the project insights they complied on preconstruction and issues they faced with specific subcontractors and processes during the build,” says Dave Herskowitz, senior program director of integrated services at BCCI. “What we learned allowed us to build a schedule and a more informed budget and discuss how to avoid similar challenges with the client.”
“The fact that Govan Brown built in Toronto and Structure Tone Southwest in Dallas gave Eataly confidence to partner with BCCI on the Silicon Valley location and the certainty we would deliver the same level of service in terms of execution, responsiveness, and quality.”Dave Herskowitz, BCCI Construction
Now three months into construction, BCCI has collaborated with Govan Brown and Structure Tone Southwest frequently to help troubleshoot and think through challenges. “We’ll check in with Govan Brown and Structure Tone Southwest and ask how they solved similar challenges,” says Herskowitz. “I’m also proud of the general willingness and enthusiasm from both teams. They immediately answer whenever we ask a question. They’re happy to jump on a call. It’s amazing to have that level of support and collaboration.”
Herskowitz is also excited about the prospect of supporting Eataly as they begin budgeting and reviewing other Eataly locations on the West Coast. “The collective experience of building the North American Eataly stores is helping shape program strategies for Eataly which can be applied to future builds.”
In January 2020, a cutting-edge automotive technology company—joined by AP+I Design and BCCI Construction—kicked off construction to transform a 111,000 sf building into their new headquarters. Then, a global pandemic and record-breaking wildfires threatened to throw the entire project off course.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Mountain View, California is an ideal location for a growing tech company’s offices. Now completed, the open plan features plenty of amenities, including conference
and huddle rooms, break areas, gender-neutral bathrooms, wellness rooms, a fitness center and game room, plus a 5,000 sf full-service café and large dining area. Accompanying the administrative areas is an
8,500 sf automotive shop and 11,700 sf of R&D lab space.
The layout is split into four, landscape-themed quadrants—you’ll know whether you’re in the lake, beach, desert, or forest building by the whimsical wayfinding wall graphics and signage, and creative conference room names. And the attention to detail doesn’t stop there—the client and design team selected lighting that mimics highway delineation lines for the ceiling and placed crosswalk graphics on the floor to reflect the company’s mission. There’s even a section of the building the client refers to as “The Open Road,” which is a wide circulation area featuring high, suspended ceilings. “It was specifically designed to be wide enough for the client’s car models,” says Katherine Schurba, BCCI project manager. “So, if they wanted to drive a car through the building, they could.”
BUMPS IN THE ROAD
Like most projects that kicked off in 2020, this build-out didn’t exactly go to plan. From manpower issues to scope clarity, the team faced several unforeseen logistical challenges during construction that could have impacted the quality of the end result.
Scope. While the headquarters build-out was underway, the landlord was upgrading the 1980s building and utilities. When BCCI was onboarded, the team realized the landlord general contractor’s design didn’t match up with their plans. Elements like the placement of storefront doors and skylights were either slightly off or missing altogether. Once the plans were reconciled and each contractor’s scope clearly outlined, the next challenge was managing the logistics—and relationships—between the landlord GC’s team and BCCI’s. “We made sure that everyone understood where our scope stopped and where the other contractor’s scope started,” Schurba says. “This continual communication helped us maintain a respectful atmosphere on-site.”
Schedule. The project’s progress was interrupted by COVID-19 and the region’s shelter-in-place orders last year. Once they were able to return to the jobsite, BCCI’s team and their subcontractor partners had to become experts in demobilization and remobilization. If a suspected COVID-19 case was reported, the jobsite was shut down, sterilized, and tested by a hygienist. Despite the effort to sanitize the space, getting a full crew, or the same crew members who were familiar with the project, back to work the next day was a challenge. BCCI worked closely with the foremen on these labor obstacles and staggered shifts to keep the project on track.
Power. The project also required a power service upgrade by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). Due to the wildfires, these types of upgrades were postponed considerably. The project’s scheduled delivery date was December 3rd, and as the project progressed, it became increasingly clear the power upgrade wouldn’t be completed in time. In order to stay on schedule, BCCI continued to build using generator power. Understanding this delay was out of BCCI’s control, the client agreed to accept their finished space without any of the permanent power related elements. “I have never built an entire space from start to finish without permanent power,” says Matt Ludwig, BCCI superintendent.
A QUALITY FOUNDATION
Each of these extraordinary challenges makes BCCI’s on-time delivery and zero punch at move-in all the more impressive. To the team, the project’s success was a result of BCCI’s unique culture of quality.
From their robust quality control training program to a detailed pre-punch process, quality is engrained in BCCI’s project planning and implementation. In fact, many of their field and operations staff—including project superintendent Matt Ludwig—started their careers at BCCI in the quality control program, where they were trained to analyze drawings, identify potential quality and scope issues, manage relationships with subcontractors, and support project teams on-site.
“A lot people think of quality control as a static role—a position you need to fill—but at BCCI, it has a long history of being a springboard position. You have to master the details to be able to scale your success and grow your career.”Lisa Dunmeyer, Studio Director & Quality Manager, BCCI Construction
On this specific project, BCCI quality control coordinator Eric Aboytes, who is currently in the training
program, arrived on-site a month before delivery to assist the project team and begin a pre-punch process. Without power, Aboytes swept through the project with a battery-powered work lamp and noted deficiencies and quality of workmanship—each of which was closed prior to delivery in December.
When the space finally received power in February, Aboytes did another sweep to make sure the finishes were up to BCCI’s high standards. “Obviously, with the lights on you can spot imperfections so much easier,” Aboytes says. After his final pass, the architectural punch walk resulted in only 75 items for the 111,000 sf space and all were resolved prior to the client’s move-in a week later.
According to Dunmeyer, this project’s positive outcome is yet another example of BCCI’s top-tier quality program at work.
“Even when you have challenges that are outside of your control, with a quality program like this, you can problem-solve as a team,” Dunmeyer says. “BCCI’s quality program builds teams that come together, solve for adversity, and deliver to the highest standards.”
Check out the podcast Quality Construction: A Celebration of Workmanship to learn more from the project team about the quality control process for this headquarters build-out.
In the modern era of sustainable building, human health and well-being continue to be at the forefront. The WELL Building Standard remains the leading tool for upgrading the physical environment of a building through improvements to air, water, light, acoustics, and other factors. Now more than ever, companies are looking to the design and construction industry to help enhance the occupant experience, whether pursuing the WELL Building Standard for the first time or preparing to recertify their space.
For businesses that have attained WELL certification, the recertification process enables them to renew their commit to health and wellness in their policies and the operation of their built environment. Once a company’s space is WELL certified, it must recertify after three years to ensure it continues to meet the rigorous standards and optimizes occupant health and productivity. But what happens if the rating system updates to a newer version or the goals of the organization shift? BCCI Construction’s Professional Service team weighs in on that question and shares tips to prepare for recertification.
Determine your goal. According to BCCI director of sustainability, wellness, & ESG Kena David, there is an advantage to upgrading to a newer version if a company wishes to pursue a higher certification level. For instance, “WELL v2 allows for more flexibility and offers more optimizations to aid in the pursuit of obtaining Gold certification if a company is currently at the WELL v1 Silver level,” she says.
Document annual maintenance and service. Regardless of whether a company decides to upgrade, the first step is to make sure yearly reporting is complete. This includes mechanical maintenance, janitorial maintenance, and occupant surveys. “We tend to check in with our clients who have just achieved certification and ask if they liked our help with annual maintenance and reporting services,” says David. “We want to make sure they’re prepared every step of the way.”
Plan ahead. When the decision has been made to reapply for WELL v1 or to upgrade to v2, gather all documentation, along with any annual reporting, policy and design changes, and performance testing completed within at least 6 to 12 months before enrolling for recertification. “A month or two before that three-year mark is when a company should get re-engaged to assess what needs to be updated,” says David. “Then we can correspond with the review team and get the on-site testing to happen within about six months of their timeframe, which would be ideal.”
Check what’s new. COVID-19 undoubtedly influenced how we maintain our spaces, especially in communal areas and regarding indoor air quality. Some of the COVID response has benefited WELL projects with air quality now monitored more closely, as mechanical and building engineers maintain better records and have increased filtration and frequency of cleaning. Other aspects of the COVID response that have changed operations are substituting fresh fruits, vegetables, and salad bars with prepackaged, processed foods to avoid potential viral contamination. Before recertifying, project teams should assess these types of policy changes that may affect their company’s WELL recertification.
Communicate and coordinate. In the event that policies have changed or the physical space has been renovated, David says that defining a schedule for quarterly check-ins is critical to staying on track with WELL recertification. Reengaging with your WELL consultant also helps keep the recertification process organized and efficient.
Consider cost. Lastly, project teams should consider the cost of recertification, particularly if there might have been alterations to the space or building that will affect the cost of recertification. According to David, the project team or WELL consultant should have a good line of sight to the budgetary implications and understand the client’s fiscal year. That way they know the best time to have the budget conversation and make sure there are no surprises down the line.
“One of the unique benefits of the work we’ve been doing with the recertification process is our continued relationships with our clients,” says David. “BCCI’s Professional Services Group continues to be the go-to for clients looking to pursue their recertification, not just the initial certification when they’re going through a build.”
Why is a zero-punch project so elusive? STO Building Group Executive Chairman, Jim Donaghy, discusses the ins and outs of delivering a top-quality project with a BCCI Construction team that recently completed a zero-punch move-in on a 111,000 sf headquarters: BCCI Studio Director & Quality Manager, Lisa Dunmeyer, BCCI Field Operations Manager, Matt Ludwig, and Principal with AP+I Design, Meera Agrawal.
Jim Donaghy: Hello and welcome to the Building Conversations podcast. I’m Jim Donaghy, Executive Chairman of the STO Building Group. I’m joined today by a few members of our California-based team: BCCI Construction’s Studio Director and Quality Manager, Lisa Dunmeyer, and BCCI Field Operations Manager, Matt Ludwig. Also joining us is BCCI design partner, Meera Agrawal, a Principal with AP+I Design. Lisa, Matt and Meera recently delivered a zero-punch project for a technology client in Mountain View, California. Today, we’re discussing BCCI’s approach to quality and how their process played out on that job. So, first I’d like to get started by getting some introductions out of the way. Can you all tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you were involved in that recent project? And we’ll start with Lisa, then Matt, and then Meera.
Lisa Dunmeyer: Thank you, Jim. Again, my name is Lisa Dunmeyer and I’m the Studio Director in BCCI’s San Francisco office, really focusing on directing the quality control staff, recruitment and training programs, and obviously the execution of quality assurance and QC on all of our projects in Northern San Francisco. I joined BCCI in 2017 and specific to the project we’re talking about today, worked closely with Matt Ludwig and my colleague, Matt Cabral in the Mountain View office who was working closely with Matt in the field on all of the quality issues.
Matt Ludwig: I’m Matt Ludwig, Field Operations Manager at BCCI. I’ve been in the construction industry for over 21 years, at BCCI for almost eight. And I was the superintendent on the project.
Meera Agrawal: Well, my name is Meera Agrawal. I’m a Principal at AP+I Design, an architecture and interior design firm in Mountain View. And for this specific project, I was the project manager from beginning to end.
Donaghy: So why don’t we get right into the podcast here, the meat and potatoes. Can you describe BCCI’s approach to quality who owns the process and what’s the goal?
Ludwig: I would say the focus on quality is a combination between safety and quality because you really can’t have one without the other. I’ve experienced that everybody on the project team really takes quality and safety seriously. Everyone takes ownership. So anytime anything gets priced by a PM, they’re always asking, okay, are we going to need any money for our safety team to do any inspections, any safety provisions in place. We want to make sure that they go hand in hand. One of the big things that I think has helped with our quality is we have our superintendents actively giving our estimators feedback to include items in subcontractor scope letters to make sure they meet our quality and safety standards. For example, depending on the site, there might not be any lay down areas. So, we will include that we have on-time deliveries, so we don’t have excess material in our way that we’re trying to dance around unsafely. That way it gives people enough elbow room to perform their work. Tegular ceiling tiles is one that I added to my scope letters – if they need to be cut and painted that they’re done with table saws and painted if they’re visible. So just a couple of examples of ways we use our best practices to ensure the quality and safety.
Dunmeyer: Really, it is an incredibly collaborative process. BCCI’s approach to quality is really simple. It’s to meet the highest quality standards in the industry and then surpass them and to do that, there’s a lot of collaboration. Everybody takes part and through the quality process at BCCI, we’re able to grow and mentor a lot of our future leaders. Many of us, myself and Matt included joined BCCI as quality control coordinators and it really builds an extremely strong foundation of quality.
Donaghy: Great. Thanks, Lisa. How does this approach differ from the way other contractors handle quality control and why does BCCI do it this way? Let’s start with Matt on that. And then we’ll, again, go to Lisa.
Ludwig: As a former subcontractor for BCCI who has worked with several other GCs, I’ve never seen a whole team of people assembled onto a jobsite, combing it from floor to ceiling looking for quality deficiencies and interacting with the site foreman, reaching out to PMs to rectify any issues that are found. BCCI’s developed a unique program around quality control, and it acts as a development tool for our quality control coordinators to become excellent superintendents.
Dunmeyer: You know, I think in the industry, the traditional assumption of quality control is that it’s focused on documenting the field conditions pretty late in the construction process. And the truth is the quality starts at the very beginning with the inception of the team, the early conversations with the client, and it’s very much more than just the documentation. Clearly, documenting where you’re at and tracking progress is very important, but it’s also about the accuracy and the access to that information for the whole team to work together, to find solutions all the way along from the scope letters to the early budgeting, the preliminary schedules all the way through to that finished architect walk, where we really try and have zero defects.
Donaghy: Terrific. From your perspective, what are some typical pinch points and causes of quality issues in construction?
Dunmeyer: I think first and foremost, a good pinch point to talk about is just who’s on the team and that consistency of leadership and planning for people’s vacations, making sure that we have coverage in case somebody’s sick. You know, people are living their lives. We’re not just on construction 24/7 and making sure that everybody’s really clear on who’s on the team and what are our contingency plans to support each other during absences. So, getting that built in from the beginning is critical. Obviously, procurement and materials is huge from understanding whether there’s an option that has a really long, problematic lead time or perhaps another material that could still meet the design intent that does not have a strong lead time for. So, getting on top of procurement tracking the submittal logs, and again, communicating as accurately and seamlessly with the entire team is keeping that going and avoiding that pinch point. It really is about building a very strong relationship with the client and then open partnerships so that when there are pinch points that are potential risks to the project, the whole team can speak openly to those pinch points and really try and find the best solution as early on as possible. And those are three key pinch points: relationship building, team building, and the procurement and selection of materials.
Ludwig: I would say from the field side of things is due diligence, understanding the drawings, identifying any potential limitations due to existing conditions is huge. I always tell everybody – my little quote or words of advice is that quality starts with layout. So not just looking at your MEP and your frame lines on the ground, but really get in there, lay out our finish lines as well as frame lines, get an idea of where things are landing inside and outside of rooms. From there, you can build the project kind of more multi-dimensional. Communication and daily morning huddles is a big thing that I do on my projects with all the trade foremen, understanding what their scope is for the day, where they’re going to be working, having everybody in one area to understand if anyone has any constraints, one trade to another. So just planning ahead, because if you’re not planning ahead, you’re not planning for quality.
Donaghy: Terrific. Matt, Lisa, I appreciate your construction perspective on this, but I’d love to hear our design partner Meera’s perspective on kind of a bigger picture view on zero punch. Meera, why is zero punch so elusive in the AEC industry?
Agrawal: They’re very few and far between as far as my experience goes. To achieve this, you really need to have a couple of things. One, I think Matt had talked about this, but within his own team is open communication between all parties: the client, the architectural design partner, the GC, the subcontractors, MEP team. Understanding the design intent. You know, what is a priority versus something that can be modified or let go based on certain field conditions. And how you work together to resolve issues. It’s huge to be able to work well as a team and to be on the same page. Not all projects perfect these things, and if any one of them is not there, the project outcome is affected.
Donaghy: That’s terrific. Thank you, Meera. Just to switch gears a little bit, Matt, can you explain how BCCI’s quality program is put into action on-site and how does it help field teams manage unforeseen challenges?
Ludwig: Yeah, absolutely. How and when kind of depends on the size and scale of each individual project. Generally, our quality control coordinators come into the project two to three weeks prior to the architectural punch walk to identify any quality issues, generate that list, send it out to all the project managers and foremen on-site. On this particular project that we worked on, we did not have permanent power from Pacific Gas & Electric, which added quite a bit of extra challenges to the project. So, for this particular project, we had them come in about little over a month early, comb the jobsite, looking for any issues with a battery powered flood lamp. But what this process really does is it takes the pressure off the superintendent, who’s worried about getting their finals, talking with a lot of the client subcontractors, and it gives the subs another person to go to to correct these issues. So, it really assists the superintendent while they’re trying to focus on completing the project.
Donaghy: Thanks Matt. Back to Meera. Meera, having just completed a project with BCCI, how does the BCCI quality program impact you and your team as a design partner?
Agrawal: Well, I have to say it was really nice to work with a contractor with the same focus on QA/QC as we do for our drawings. There are a lot of things going on in the background during the entire project along the way in terms of quality control, but our team generally doesn’t see BCCI’s program in action until the end of the project during the punch walk. BCCI creates a pre-generated list of items to be completed or fixed, which they’re already working on or in progress of assigning someone to work on before we even get there for the final punch. This shows foresight and initiative. And, you know, by the time we get to the punch walk where the client is involved, it really makes the entire project team look good as far as the end result and the quality that’s being delivered.
Donaghy: That’s great, thanks Meera. Back to Matt. Matt, what about the subcontractors? How do you gain buy in from them?
Ludwig: Well, our subcontractors are really trade partners. We all have to be a team because one person can’t do it alone. Creating an environment is what I try to do to make people feel heard. So, I allow subcontractor foremen to speak up at safety meetings. Once again, back to our daily morning huddles, identifying those constraints and making the individuals feel supported and allowing them to talk together. Kind of creating that environment makes it easier for people to be more willing to work with you than against you. Back to scope letters, they are contractually obligated to complete the pre-punch items. So, including that in those scope letters, again, in the contract also helps. We discuss it at our subcontractor coordination meetings, our QC team, when they come on-site, actually have separate on-site meetings with the foremen, tracking all these items. So, kind of keeping them honest, keeping them on their toes, and making sure that these items are getting closed out prior to the architectural punch walk. So, it’s a combination of things. I like to think it’s the environment in combination with our quality control coordinators on-site.
Donaghy: Thanks, Matt. How important is subcontractor prequalification and the teammates that you have in the office that have to do with everything from safety to payment and quality of the bid process and things that are not necessarily always in front of the superintendents. You know, how important is ultimately the prequalification process at BCCI to your quality control program out in the field?
Ludwig: Oh, it is of utmost importance. Luckily BCCI is very transparent. They send out who is prequalified, they have their EMR rates posted, but I would say most importantly is during pre-construction the superintendent who’s poised for that job actually gets to talk with the estimators and give their two cents on who they would like to see for this job. And a lot of times it comes down to numbers, but it also comes down to the right sub for the job. So, it’s nice to have such a collaborative environment when selecting our subcontractors.
Donaghy: Thanks, Matt. Lisa, so what tools do you use to make sure quality never lapses and how do they fit into the process?
Dunmeyer: Scope letters come up quite a bit, but it’s again, really more of a buildup of culture and these are just tools along the way that you use. The creation of the team who you are going to be working with, what needs to be in their scope letters is standard. So, at BCCI our quality control process is formalized. And our subcontractors not only understand that about our program, but are really truly partners in trying to minimize any items that are quality item leading up towards the architect work. But even before we’re on-site, getting ahead of it and completing preconstruction surveys, communicating existing conditions to the client so that they understand that it may be an area that they didn’t have in their scope, but that will ultimately affect the outcome of what they do intend to do in this space. So, preconstruction surveys are absolutely critical to setting an expectation for quality. The permit services and getting ahead of understanding what are the current delays and communicating back to the architect and the client team so that our construction schedules are realistic and that we can plan accordingly and preliminary construction schedules that are informing the budget are related to that permit services.
And once we’ve settled on a budget and we’re a go, the project kickoff with all of the team members, the project manager, the estimator, the superintendent, and the subcontractor labor foremen to review that preliminary construction schedule really get started very quickly on the submittals, the submittal logs, seeing if we’re running into any roadblocks with lead times. And another physical piece that we tend to do on the larger projects is seeing if there’s an opportunity for mock-ups. And this could be anything from an area of room that uses a grouping of finishes that are really standard and completing that area ahead of time to set up the opportunity to walk with the architect and see if that mock-up is meeting the highest quality standards. From there, the mock-up sets the tone for the quality for the rest of the space, and it serves as a physical example, so that if your labor foreman from one site needs to leave and another personnel comes on board, they understand what they’re aiming for. So, the mock-ups are critical. And the weekly subcontractor meetings, the pre-punch reports, the closeouts, and just the general comradery that builds as you’re working towards the completion of the project.
Donaghy: Thanks, Lisa. And back to Meera. Meera, how does focusing on quality make a difference to the client?
Agrawal: Well, Jim, the best part of the job is seeing your client’s positive reaction to the space you’ve created for them. I think this is why we all do what we do. Working as a team to get a positive outcome enhances the experience and the telltale sign if the client is happy is if they would recommend us and our team moving forward.
Donaghy: So true, you’re only as good as your last job. I’ve been hearing that my whole life. Matt, your input on that and then Lisa, please comment as well.
Ludwig: Absolutely. Very much agree with what Meera said. Quality is just not the finished product that the office space or the lab area or the building that the people are walking into every day. It’s the entire experience throughout the life of the project for the client and the architect. And having the entire project team being quality-focused really provides a positive experience for both the design team and the client. And with the quality control program that BCCI has, it really takes out the headaches and streamlines the process.
Dunmeyer: I think to build on what on your end, Matt, were saying is that we’re in business. We’re in the construction business and it lends itself well to transactions, lots of paperwork, but at BCCI the GC, client, and architect relationships are far, far more than transactional. And I think the success really stems from the relationship that’s collaborative, it’s built on trust, and it extends well past the delivery of the project. Many of our clients have worked with BCCR for over 20 years and every client knows that they can pick up the phone and ask us any question. And it doesn’t matter if it is a very small detail. We really celebrate the workmanship that goes into each one of our projects. And it shows in the quality of the teams that get a chance to work together.
Donaghy: Thanks, Lisa. I’d also like to add just when it comes to the client. My experience has been over many years is they remember the last 5% more than they remember the first 95%. So, knowing that you’ve got to finish strong is really something you work towards throughout the entire project and to leave the client team, the whole team with the impression that we were there as a partner from beginning to end and not as a contractor is another reason why they ask for you back. Because people like to give work to people that they like. And sometimes, it’s just that simple. And they like folks who added value throughout the process and had their back and things of that nature. And you know, the other thing all team members tend to remember is that you resolve issues early, or you don’t. And it’s night and day when a project has a team that resolves and addresses issues, identifies issues, addresses them and resolves them early, versus letting them build up, having activity slide to the right, and then there’s a mad rush at the end. And it goes back to that last 5% factor. So, resolving issues early, that’s just my two cents on the same question. So next question, how will technology and data analytics continue to improve the QA/QC process and project outcomes?
Agrawal: So, Jim, you were just talking about resolving issues early in the process. For us, I’d say software compatibility and using Revit, for example, is extremely beneficial. This works best when the entire team, including the MEP, is also using Revit, because what this does is it creates a coordinated set of drawings, from the beginning to avoid conflicts early in the process prior to construction. Now, I think we’ve all worked on enough projects to know that it’s totally impossible to avoid all conflicts because you get on-site, you open something up and then there’s something there that you just didn’t know was there, right? But when we’re working off of the same software, this makes it extremely easy to collaborate and resolve issues as a team. And that is sort of the biggest factor as far as the technology side is being completely compatible and using the same software that speak to each other.
Dunmeyer: Yeah. I really think that ideally technology and data analytics promise to improve the communication and the efficiency of the team, in an ideal world. And certainly, as projects become more complex, the collaboration between all of the different players is key, not to mention the access to the most current information is critical 24/7 as we work around the globe. And it’s been interesting to see that it’s not always the newest or hottest technology that becomes the most effective. I think I’ve been seeing more and more that use of QR codes, which is a relatively old technology, have a huge impact on jobsites so that any team member can walk up to a room with a QR code, scan it, and immediately see what are the active quality items for that area. And that’s tremendous. They don’t need to check in with the superintendent. They don’t need to check in with the quality control coordinator. They certainly can, and they probably are, but that QR code really helps everybody access the information in a timely way and really helped to integrate the teams, to find the solutions faster. And I agree with what Meera was saying about BIM, and many other technologies, whether it’s scheduling or project management or construction tools.
Ludwig: As I mentioned earlier, if you’re not planning ahead, you’re not planning for quality and there’s technologies coming out that tremendously help planning ahead. BIM is a great technology, understanding that not every project has the budget for it, but there are things like OpenSpace and Matterport that are cameras that scan the space. So, they’re extremely beneficial during pre-con surveys to help understand the environment you’re working in. Matterport, you can pull dimensions off of, you can also verify your BIM modeling using that tool as well. But like Meera was saying, working on the same software helps our subcontractors as well. When we’re all working off the same platform, it’s so much easier to overlay coordinated shop drawings, or even incorporate things into models.
Donaghy: Great comments. And this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart as we undertake a massive data transformation project and hiring data scientists in our company and things of that nature, which are going to really transform the way we use analytics and gain insights, but in the very near future, creating a subcontractor portal where we can really interact together, sharing data, instead of looking for data or requesting data, having data in a real-time basis and garnering those insights, so we can really understand the way a project should be man unloading. And then seeing actual against that, to understand how a project may becoming manpower deficient, which might then change the necessity to turned around decisions faster and etc. You can really get out in front of some of the challenges on a project. Sometimes project issues build up slowly and all of a sudden there’s a mountain in front of you and you didn’t really see it happen, right?
But analytics really makes catching the modeling early. And I think I heard a couple of you say the word modeling, and I think we’re going to get a chance to use a lot of our historical experiences all the way down to activity levels when it comes to productivity and schedule and costs in a way that in the future, we can really see these issues early and catch them early and resolve them early. Also provide much more detail and backup to clients and client team members to help them make decisions. One of the biggest challenges we see across the industry, it’s not unique to our organization, is the speed to which clients are making decisions. And you usually can go back to the data that they’ve been given to help them make decisions, so I think we’re going to really see a lot of enhancements and improvements.
You can’t, you know, the old saying, is you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it. So, imagine what we’re going to be able to do when we’re using this treasure trove of data we have in our industry to measure. I think you’re going to see a lot of productivity enhancements, not to mention catching lots of issues in the very early stages. So next onto the next question. STO Building Group has its own organization-wide quality program known as Quality 360°. Why is it important that we invest in building and maintaining our culture of quality? Let’s start with Lisa on that. And then I might add a couple of comments myself there.
Dunmeyer: Yeah. Thank you. It seems simple that we all want quality and the way we approach it is really vast. And what is exciting about Quality 360° as an investment is that the benefits of a culture in quality have economic, humanitarian, and environmental benefits. It’s a very broad benefit. It’s a no brainer, quality drives business demand. It’s an obvious economic benefit, but it’s also an issue of the team, right? Quality is an outcome of workmanship and it can attract top talent who want to be part of teams that define, meet, and surpass the industry standards and be an innovator, not just a delivery the mechanism for construction, but really being able to define what’s possible in construction and maintain that highest level of quality that drives people to want to work for the company. It’s also a cultural benefit from a human resources point of view because it’s much easier when people want to work for you. And it goes hand in hand with efficiency. If you have top notch talent, excited to deliver on quality and define what that means for the industry, it has a huge impact on efficiency, whether that’s construction waste management, energy use, and ultimately the long-term impacts of the construction on the planet. So, it’s a big deal. There’s many, many reasons why investing in quality is so important.
Donaghy: Well, I can’t add much to that. That was a great response. What I would like to add is just as an organization grows and any good construction management firm will continue to grow, you had said it best quality does drive demand. And that repeat customer experience that we look for is really key to our growth and our sustainability in the future. But as an organization like Structure Tone, being a private company which is maintaining the brands that have merged in over the years, it’s really key that we do have some common ground across the platform where everyone is kind of bought into the same concepts and ideas of what quality means, whether it’s our lingo or it’s our training programs, or it’s our software platforms. Not that we’re the same software in every region or every sector, but that there’s a lot of consistency and that the expectations are kind of understood that we’ve got a very high bar for quality, not just internal to our organization, but also external, down through the subcontractor levels and out to the suppliers and manufacturers and across the industry with the architects, engineers, landlords, and our clients as well.
And there’s a real synergy there and consistency that you can depend on and that consistency comes from the culture. So, giving it a name like Quality 360° is kind of simplifying this very complex effort to strengthen what is so important to our core business. Delivering quality, on time and on budget but the quality piece is the trickier component of the three, in my opinion. So, lots more to discuss on that for another day, but what’s next for construction quality?
Ludwig: I think as far as what’s next is technology. I think keeping up with technology, whether those are tools that are used by project managers or superintendents in the field is what’s going to improve our quality experience and the finished product overall.
Dunmeyer: I definitely think that technology allows for more complex construction and it’s a blend between physical construction and how integrated technology is in our buildings and everything that we do. Not to mention the working tools that we use to achieve the construction. I really think that the way that we use technology to collaborate, to problem solve on those more complicated issues around construction is really where things are headed and being able to achieve the highest standards of LEED, WELL certification and lean construction, I think are all definitely empowered by the new technologies coming for construction industry.
Donaghy: Meera, we’ll give you the last word on that, but I’m also going to make a remark or two on this one because the future of our industry excites me more now than ever before, but Meera, please give us the design view of this.
Agrawal: Sure, it is an exciting time, you know, I think I’m going to basically add on to what Lisa and Matt were saying. Compatible technology is definitely top of the list, but for construction quality, I’m going to also say for the entire project experience, I would say clear and open communication is key. Compatible technology, creating efficiencies and a team synergy. I think those are definitely key factors in the outcome of the quality and the experience for everybody involved.
Donaghy: Thank you, Meera. So, my take on the future and we’ve covered some of the ground, it’s really technology driven, but I heard Lisa say the word collaboration. A construction management firm like ours being able to go upstream and collaborate in a much, much more meaningful way where we can build structures, improving means and methods upstream in advance of the construction documents, in advance of the bid documents and incorporating bringing subcontractors and suppliers upstream with us, and using these new virtual design tools and thinking about where 5D and 4D BIM is going to bring us. You know, it’s exciting to think about the supply chain, no longer being that secret world behind the curtain, but actually pulling the curtain back and creating much more transparency upstream in the planning stages and how that’s going to create value for our design partners and for our clients.
And thinking about the ongoing operations after construction is complete and how that also adds value, where we can stay on board for day three – we all have day two, but how about day three? Why do we ever leave the property? Why not use technology and with our supply chain in a much more transparent way, join us in staying on board and providing the maintenance required and the upkeep required for many, many more years, certainly the life of the lease or the length of the building lifecycle itself. And then there’s also machine learning and artificial intelligence and modular construction, and these other ways of delivery and creating insights and value throughout the construction process itself. And we definitely see the traditional design, bid, build process becoming viewed as kind of antiquated and melding those together and finding savings in time and joining forces, thinking of the world around us as more of an opportunity to partner as kind of all comes out of the idea that data becomes much more insightful to us.
And the supply chain becomes much more transparent. I think the barriers drop when we go upstream and collaborate on the design side. We’re really partnering together and I think creating more value for the clients. So that’s some other ideas I have for the direction our industry is heading and where we’re heading in it. So that wraps up all of our questions for today’s podcast. I can’t wait to do another one of these with BCCI. As a company, BCCI is leading the way for quality in the STO Building Group so, thank you, Lisa and Meera and Matt for your time today. We’ll see you again soon.
Ludwig: Thank you, Jim.
Cynthia Gage, Director, Marketing | BCCI Construction
We are proud to announce the release of our first-ever Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report, which provides details about our company’s operations and commitments related to three key areas: our people, the environment, and our communities. The report emphasizes our long-term commitment to encouraging a culture of transparency and responsible business practices as an IWBI Just Organization and showcases examples of our progress supporting social equity, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in the built environment. It also provides an overview of our business goals in the year ahead.
“Together, we envision a more sustainable and resilient future by staying firmly committed to our people, making a positive environmental impact, and channeling creativity and innovation into a force for good.”Michael Scribner, President and CEO, BCCI Construction
Our in-house sustainability group compiled the report, supported by a cohort of representatives from our Human Resources, Marketing, and Finance departments and internal committees, including Community Builders, Sustainability Builders, and our Social Justice Focus Group.
To learn more about the impact and outcomes of our CSR efforts, click here to read the full 2020 CSR Report.
Wynd Podcast with Kena David, BCCI Construction and Max Kiefer, Wynd
Kena David, Director of Sustainability, Wellness & ESG for BCCI Construction and Max Kiefer, Global Alliances Lead for Wynd Technologies, discuss changing dynamics in construction and a greater focus on air quality in the built environment.
Max Kiefer: Hello listeners and thank you for joining another week’s podcast from Wynd entitled ESG 123. This is Max Kiefer, and I am the host of the podcast. I am also the head of Sustainability for Wynd, and Wynd focuses on air quality monitoring and purification technology. This week we’re very excited to have Kena join us. Kena and I have known each other for over ten years in sustainability and the green building environment. She comes to us from BCCI Construction. She has a background sustainability, green building, and environmental chemistry, and also as mentioned, she leads the BCCI Sustainability and Wellness team. In addition to her LEED AP, WELL AP and Fitwel Ambassador credentials, Kena is a WELL faculty member. That is a group that provides education and training on the WELL Building Standard and contributes to program development. We’ll touch upon a number of those different building certifications, not only how they apply to building a building, but then also the operations and maintenance after the building has been completed. In addition to that part of the podcast, we will talk about Kena’s other areas that she’s focused on. She has served as the chair of BCCI’s Community Builders philanthropic group, helped found the Sustainable Builders and Social Justice Focus Groups, as well as managed BCCI’s Just Label. We have a very exciting podcast with her, and a lot of good information to cover. Thank you for tuning in this week, and I encourage the group to follow up and listen to upcoming weeks as well.
Kiefer: Hello, Kena. How’s everything going?
David: Good, how are you doing, Max?
Kiefer: Yeah, doing well. I’m glad that we got a chance to make this happen. As I mentioned before, we’re lucky to have Kena here as an expert on a number of different areas of sustainability. To our listeners that are just tuning in this week, I do encourage you to check out a few weeks ago when we had Drew Shula on, he’s the founder of the largest Net Zero Conference. One of the reasons we’re excited to have Kena here is that Drew laid the foundation on everything sustainability at a high level. Kena comes to us from not only a general contracting and a construction background, but also with a chemistry background, and she knows her way around indoor air quality and a few other components. So maybe this is a good place to start here. Kena, we obviously connected when I was at CBRE in the construction management side of things. I think you would be a very great resource for our listeners to hear how construction is really focused on not only just looking at one time and place and building a building. But if you call it a lifecycle analysis, what goes into not only building a building and then after the fact, once it’s been completed, handing it off to the other folks or other teams, and having them work together. So maybe that’s a good place to start, and we’ll go from there.
David: Yeah. I’ve been part of BCCI, which is a general contractor headquartered in the Bay Area, for over ten years. And in that time, I think construction has really understood that their impact on global carbon emissions is significant. About 39% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the built environment. A portion of that is design and construction, and actually the things that go into building a building. The other part of that is operating the building. The trends, especially in California, with the green building codes have been really to reduce the demand of energy. Now we’re seeing a lot of buildings move towards electrification and getting away from natural gas. But as far as the impact of a contractor, it really comes down to onsite practices, lowering your embodied carbon for better materials, anti-idling plans onsite, lean construction practices, and better delivery schedules. Really simple things that we didn’t really think about as much as an industry that we’re starting to move more towards for projects, regardless of any sort of LEED or WELL or Living Building Challenge certification.
Kiefer: That’s very well said. One of our other interviewees, if you will, was Dustin Healer. He was over at Steelcase, and he was talking about embodied carbon. We’ll probably get into it more later in the podcast in terms of how these materials really fit into not only achieving some building certifications, but also the air quality. Maybe that’s the place to start is on the air quality front. I will give a refresher, no pun intended, to our listeners that Wynd is focused on air quality monitoring as well as purification technology. We were lucky enough to put together a number of case studies with BCCI. This is kind of an open-ended question. I know it’s always kind of changing, but really, you and I have been in this air quality space for a number of years now. I started my air quality journey, if we want to call it that at Healthy Buildings International, and that was in 2010. Won’t date myself too much here, but I have seen how focus on air quality has changed over the years. I’ve been with Wynd since 2019; Wynd has been around since 2014. And I remember it really just focused on not only the fires that we’re facing here in California, but how we get people focused on air quality in general. And that was obviously pre-pandemic, and now I’m not even going to say post-pandemic, we’re really still in it. So, with that, I will stop talking and ask you what is your take on these last few years? And just as importantly, how you see the built environment changing, geared more towards air quality and how it’s being addressed maybe even earlier on in the building of a building process.
David: Well, I think the one thing that COVID has really done in the built environment is acknowledge the importance of healthy air, and that is for any type of space, whether it be our home, a public space, an office, a stadium where we can watch the Celtics beat the Warriors. You know. Having that level of understanding of importance for really anyone, not just mechanical engineers and contractors, etc. We are seeing increases in filtration for mechanical systems. In California, they actually increased the code minimum from MERV 8 to MERV 13. What that really means is they’re collecting the finer particles that are being circulated from the outdoors in, but that does not address the recirculated air indoors in our spaces. That is really why we wanted to get engaged with Wynd on our space since we don’t have the control over the recirculated systems being a tenant in our office in San Francisco. Having that level of assurance with the filtration, the air purification systems you guys have, as well as that air quality monitoring is really something that we wanted to assure ourselves when we were returning to the office in May 2020. Since then we’ve had, I believe, still zero reported cases of transfer of COVID within our office, which is pretty cool. But COVID aside, air quality is really paramount for cognitive function in our spaces. At the International WELL Building Institute, IWBI, of which I’m a WELL faculty member, we really focus on the importance of air quality and all of these other parameters that help occupants optimize their life and their health and their productivity in these spaces. I think with the pandemic, with the information about cognitive function and fires in general, climate change, air quality is going to continue to be something that we focus on. And I’m going to just keep talking here.
Kiefer: This is great. Thank you.
David: As we look towards the future of sustainability, I think we really need to start to identify the relationship between energy use for indoor controlled air and air quality. And how can we monitor our indoor air quality in order to reduce the energy usage of bringing in that outdoor air? How can we use better technology in our buildings to really have the intersection of good air quality and lower energy usage?
Kiefer: Well said. And you had me thinking because CBRE was in Salesforce Tower, don’t get me wrong, there’s Class A offices, but we’ve gotten pulled into a number of schools. And I think the school side of it, nothing new in terms of the filters, and it’s HEPA certified and HEPA True filters that we put into our purifiers. But one of the elements that we found is you couldn’t put a HEPA filter into commercial ductwork or it would just disintegrate. The idea that a lot of these buildings, maybe they don’t have the means to make upgrades to their systems. Schools, thankfully, are getting more attention and/or more funding, especially from a federal standpoint where they say, okay, it’s finding the sweet spot between the two. It’s a balancing act between putting in the localized purifiers and sensors. Sensors are more to collect the data just to even figure out what’s going on. I think you made a great point in terms of WELL, IWBI and then the Harvard study on cognitive ability. A lot of places are starting on carbon dioxide. But that was an excellent point. Many excellent points, I should say.
David: The other thing I’ll mention right now is I’m part of a peer network with BuildingGreen, so sustainable engineers, design, and construction leaders. And we put out a paper, a white paper, about the considerations for continuous air quality monitoring. This is really focused on an office environment. And we’re currently working on a little bit more of that K-12/other types of buildings that haven’t focused on this, and the relationship between the energy piece. So, my plug is to look out for that. But it’s something that we’re all starting to talk about in the building sector.
Kiefer: Awesome. Thank you. And thank you for pulling that all together because as we just hit on, there’s a number of different parties and companies. I’m sure you’ve seen just in terms of building a building, how many different companies are involved and subs on there. But that is a nice segue. I encourage the group to check out some of the links. I will make sure that everyone has access to all those reports and studies, especially from the building part in terms of materials. I did, as we have Kena on the podcast, want to talk at more of a macro level of what companies can do as a whole. So, when Drew was on, Drew Shoola from Vertical Group, he had talked about B Corp. B Corp works, especially if companies are looking at becoming a public benefit corporation in the future. Another nice, dare I say, alternative and Kena can correct me if that’s not how it’s positioned, but is the Just label through ILFI. So, ILFI, for those who are not familiar, is the International Living Future Institute. They also have the Living Building Challenge, which when I was more familiar with it, was even more challenging to achieve level than the LEED’s and the WELL’s and the Fitwel’s of the world. But maybe two sides of that, because not only is Kena involved with WELL, being a WELL faculty member, but could you walk our listeners through what that Just label is for businesses and maybe the best places that they can start on that journey?
David: Yeah. The Just label is a social justice transparency label for organizations. And it really looks at metrics about equity, diversity, stewardship, community engagement, health benefits to employees. And it’s really seen as kind of a nutrition label of social justice and equity for an organization. I will kind of back up a little bit too, and share about BCCI’s journey with Just. We’ve had a Sustainability group since 2006, but in my ten years at the company, it’s really shaped from just green building to green building, wellness, sustainability, and ESG. ESG for those listeners who don’t know, is environmental, social, and governance. Our commitment to WELL and indoor air quality is part of that social piece of ESG that we see. We also have LEED certifications in our offices. But as part of the governance piece, we wanted to benchmark how we’re doing with social justice metrics. So, we had our first Just Label back in 2014 when it was first launched. We were actually the first contractor to ever receive a Just Label and the 10th Just Label overall. Since then, we have renewed every two years. We’re on our fifth Just Label now. And really what it’s done for us, is allowed us to look at these different metrics such as gender, pay equity, and figure out how we want to either do nothing or close the gap and get more stars. Identifying as a female, I am really proud that we have moved up in that rank, but we also look at things like charitable giving, so we’ve looked at how many volunteer hours we have through our Community Builders program and how many donations we make on an annual basis. Do we want to increase that based on our profitability? Is it something we’re okay with? And that all has been really dictated by the Just Label’s guidelines. Once you see your score on a page, leadership really wants to improve, right? So, looking at the metrics that are meaningful to us is something that’s been a really great thing; that we’ve been progressing as a leadership group at BCCI.
Kiefer: Well said. I got lost in your explanation of it. I almost forgot to read my script here of the next question. So in closing, it’s a nice segue. And last but not least is that I know you’re very involved in CREW. To our listeners, that’s Commercial Real Estate Women’s network. You’d hit on that in a couple of pieces here. Partly on the DEI, but also on the Just Label – another good place for people to get involved. I know a number of our own employees are looking to get involved in San Francisco-based events, but could you touch upon what your involvement in that network has been, and also how our listeners can get involved there as well?
David: Yeah, CREW is an international organization, and the focus of CREW is to develop and advance women as leaders in commercial real estate. That being said, it is not a women exclusive organization. It is really just to advance diversity in commercial real estate. My involvement with CREW really goes back probably eight years. I was the founder of the Rising Leaders Committee within CREW San Francisco, and since then, I’ve been part of a number of different committees. I’ve served on the board of directors for CREW San Francisco, and currently, I am the CREW Foundation champion. CREW at the international level has a 501(c)(3) organization, and that goes towards scholarships of women in the industry and also industry research and benchmarking studies. The benchmarking studies happen every five years, and it’s really about all factors and backgrounds in commercial real estate. That industry group is actually the leading organization putting out studies and metrics about diversity and inclusion in commercial real estate. If people really want to get involved in creating more diversity in the future of commercial real estate, CREW is an excellent organization to not only get information from, but also help with the industries that you have locally. There’s chapters everywhere. There’s a national network, but CREW San Francisco is where I’ve served most of my time.
Kiefer: Very well said. And I promise I will attend one of the upcoming events here.
David: It’s not a women’s only organization.
Kiefer: Just to reiterate. I know you brought that up. I will show up.
David: It is funny, though, my CEO actually went to a CREW luncheon with me, and he said he felt uncomfortable because he was one of the only men. And I turned right back and looked at him and said, well, that’s how we all feel in meetings.
Kiefer: Good for you.
David: Or on job sites.
Kiefer: Right you are. Well said. Nice. Okay, then as a great segue, I had another kind of thought on the fly here. We have just done individual interviews. I think this was great in terms of talking about business certifications as well as on the construction, the operations, and maintenance. If you’re open to it, and not to put you on the spot here, I’d almost want to have another podcast interview that digs a little bit deeper into the energy efficiency standpoint. Maybe we could have a couple of people join or get a panel going. So, if you’re open to that, we’d love to have you back on a future recording.
David: Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a lot going on in the “sustainability” world here, and DEI is a really big topic. ESG is a really big topic. Embodied carbon, energy efficiency, indoor air quality. There’s an endless amount of things that you can do and look at. What I would say is, don’t get overwhelmed. Start small. There’s always tomorrow.
Kiefer: I love it. Okay, well, thank you, Kena, for joining. And we’ll close on a “Go Warriors.” No, I won’t say that. No, “Go Celtics.” Diversity, inclusion. I’m for the best. Hopefully a good game.
David: May the best team win.
Kiefer: There you go. Thank you, Kena. Thanks for joining.
Halie Colbourne, Sustainability Associate and Matthew Koester, Sustainability Coordinator | BCCI Construction
This year, BCCI’s Sustainability Team had the privilege of participating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s GreenerBuilder Conference, San Francisco’s premier venue for architects, contractors, owners and other green building professionals to learn about cutting edge projects and latest trends in the Bay Area.
The conference opened with Vien Truong, CEO of The Dream Corps, who led the opening plenary. The Dream Corps champions nationwide policy to advocate for and address the needs of disadvantaged communities. Truong wove several threads, including the effects of poor air and water quality on Oakland and Flint-raised children, renewable energy, and state policy into a moral imperative for green building. In building inclusively and designing to mitigate the impacts on water and air quality, Truong notes that we have an opportunity to lift up disenfranchised communities and employ the community in a green economy. This theme was carried throughout the rest of the conference.
The first session focused on Rebuilding Resiliency, a crucial topic in the Bay Area due to the devastating wildfires that seem to occur during any season in California now. Led by Ann Edminster (Design AVEnues), Robin Stephani (8th Wave) and Bob Massaro (Health Buildings) the panelists shared solutions such as the urgency for cities to develop temporary housing ordinances. The idea is to utilize prefabricated housing for temporary use during and after natural disasters, similar to what Homes for Sonoma has been doing since the massive wildfires erupted in the North Bay last October. The speaker’s firms are actively working towards connecting wildfire victims with tax credits and rebates to rebuild their homes with features including Energy Star appliances, solar panels and passive heating and cooling systems. Massaro said Healthy Building’s projects are moving away from using natural gas as this can cause dangerous flare ups in the aftermath of these wildfires. He further explains that when building for a homeowner, his firm analyzes their fire insurance policy to pressure the company to finance these measures. The panelists also noted that the wildfires can still impact buildings throughout the Bay Area with high levels of particulate matter. Indoor air quality is a major component of LEED and WELL projects, and smoke/particulate matter (PM) levels become a concern when most building systems have to accommodate a minimum level of outside air. It is important to realize that wildfires directly impacting residential homes in Northern California can also indirectly impact commercial buildings in the city. Focusing on resilient building practices supports the green economy and reinforces the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.
The session Women in Green: The Power of Diversity was another wonderful session led by Gabrielle Bullock (Perkins+Will), Kimberley Lewis (USGBC) and Andrea Traber (Integral Group) who highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Bullock began Perkins&Will’s Diversity + Inclusion + Engagement council in 2014 as a way to foster their culture’s talent and engagement, and to create a “diverse and inclusive practice and profession”. Bullock shared some of their focus areas such as recruitment, retention and mitigating unconscious biases. At the onset of this council, they measured their workforce gender balance, finding that women in leadership make up 25 percent where the AIA (American Institute of Architects) industry average is a mere 17 percent; in 2014, 44 percent of their workforce was comprised of women. Through their devotion to diversity and inclusion they have managed to increase their percentage to 48 percent women in the span of four years.
Their commitment to workplace diversity has produced impressive project wins as their clients are looking for diversity in a project team. Traber elaborated on these metrics mentioning the International Living Future Institute’s JUST Label which has helped Integral Group quantify similar metrics around gender equality and transparency. As a participant of the JUST Label, we were pleased to hear other companies using the JUST Label as a metric. BCCI committed to its JUST Label in 2014 and since becoming a JUST company has been able to benchmark, create and improve existing policies, as well as utilize the platform to increase our company transparency. The JUST Label allows companies to understand where there might be room for improvement. BCCI is currently working on obtaining better data in the Equity category as a commitment to one of our core values, Transparency, and to continue to strive for authenticity and equality in the workplace.
As Kimberly Lewis, USGBC’s Senior Vice President stated, progress towards a green economy has not been without its moral challenges. From building resiliency for natural disasters to increasing equity in the workplace, we are excited to see these challenges being addressed by visionaries like Truong and our green building community. In Truong’s words, we will continue to “build up, build power and build the future.”