Business Leader Insights

On behalf of LeChase, welcome to our first edition of Regional Connection.

As a second-generation construction professional with more than 20 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of change in the industry; but as manager of LeChase’s southeast operations, I can’t just react to change – it’s my job to anticipate what’s on the horizon and leverage change to build projects better, safer and faster than ever before.

Recently, we asked several hundred LeChase subcontractors what they saw as their biggest challenge, or change, going forward. While several noted new regulations, rising material costs or tighter schedules, the overwhelming majority cited finding qualified workers to grow their businesses. It’s a change that’s been coming for a while, as U.S. demand for construction continues to grow at a time when fewer young people are choosing to enter the skilled trades. General construction firms share this challenge, and at LeChase we’re using both high-tech and high-touch methods to address it.

Our high-tech approach involves innovations, like the growing use of prefabrication. In our highlights section below, you will read about the AC Hotel Chapel Hill, where entire guest rooms were built off-site and later set into place – streamlining work for crews at the jobsite. Among our high-touch efforts, we have programs to identify and mentor small and minority firms to work with us on projects. This includes the Durham Police Headquarters where, as you will read below, these firms represent almost half of the workforce.

Though these efforts are used to address a challenge, they also make us stronger as an organization and as an industry. I expect the pace of change will continue to escalate over my next 20 years in construction, and while that’s sure to bring new challenges, it’s exciting to work on new solutions that will keep our industry moving forward.

I hope you enjoy this issue.

Project Highlights

LeChase was general contractor for the AC Hotel Chapel Hill, which was the first Marriott-branded hotel on the east coast to use modular construction. Gaining popularity, this innovative process involves building sections of a project – in this case individual guest rooms for the hotel’s second, third and fourth floors – at an off-site location. Using prefabricated had several benefits. It enabled teams working on the guest room modules to focus on precision and consistency of work without distraction. It helped LeChase reduce noise, deliveries and disruption around the jobsite, which was limited in size and located within a busy area near the University of North Carolina. It also helped speed construction, as work on the modules could proceed simultaneously with construction of the building’s foundation and first floor. Once the site was ready, more than 100 fully furnished guest room modules were delivered and stacked into place by crane in a span of only three weeks – allowing workers to then complete the remaining electrical, plumbing and finishing work on-site.

QUICK FACTS:

  • 114,334 square-foot, four-story hotel
  • 123 guest rooms
  • Two-level, below-grade parking garage
  • Targeting LEED certification
  • Amenities include outdoor patio terrace, fitness center, kitchen, bar, and lounge
  • Easy walking distance to shops, restaurants, and the UNC campus
  • Opened in December 2017; celebrated grand opening in February 2018

Duke University’s new Alumni Center will serve as a gateway to the University for students, faculty, alumni and visitors. The project will include construction of two new buildings along with renovation to the historic Forlines House – which is part of the original campus architecture. Together, these structures will form an architectural arcade reminiscent of the original courtyard on the campus. Amenities will include a magnificent dining and presentation hall, cafe, exhibit areas, new meeting and lounge areas and a smaller pavilion wing.

QUICK FACTS:

  • 20,200 square-foot events building
  • 16,900 square-foot alumni office
  • Renovations to 7,400 square-foot Forlines House to better match original design
  • Interconnecting terrace featuring glulam (glued, laminated timber)
  • Project valued at $27,341,000
  • Scheduled to be completed in April 2019

With 40% more space than the previous police headquarters, the new Durham Police Headquarters Complex will bring the city’s currently dispersed emergency services under a single roof. It will also serve the growing city as a gathering place for community events, and as a showcase for local artwork which will be displayed both inside and outside of the building. Prior to construction, LeChase designed and conducted an active outreach program to attract a local and diverse workforce for the project. As a result, 92% of the workers are North Carolina locals, while 46% are members of women- or minority-owned firms.

QUICK FACTS:

  • 125,000 square-foot police headquarters and 911 emergency communication center
  • 433 car precast garage with forensic processing and special-use vehicle parking
  • Targeting LEED certification
  • Project valued at $50,000,000
  • Scheduled to be completed in August 2018