Western New York’s strong construction market over the past few years has brought an influx of firms vying for market share that was once divided between a handful of players.
For those of us who – as contractors – have been around to experience the shift, it brings an obvious challenge to continually step up our game and deliver value and quality at a fair price. It also poses a challenge for those buying construction services: to determine whether below-market rates offered by hungry firms are really bargains in the end.
Answering that question requires some investigation.
- Is the contractor scaled to handle the job? Do they have access to internal resources and connections in the local subcontractor market to correctly staff the project, stay on schedule and manage the budget?
- Do they have a risk management program? As a part of that program, do they prequalify subcontractors to protect the project and budget from defaults and other unexpected issues?
- Have they earned a reputation for quality? Do they have a track record of doing things right the first time without need for rework and budget increases? Can they provide contacts who give positive reviews on past performance?
- Are they accessible? Do they have a local team if help is needed after a project, or if a similar project comes up in the future?
Armed with this basic information, owners and developers can further gauge a contractor’s capabilities and commitment during preconstruction. Often contracted separately, the preconstruction phase enables an owner and designer to work with construction professionals to ensure the project plan is complete and achievable. It should result in detailed schedules and scopes of work that will ensure materials are available on time and that subcontractors have the information needed to submit accurate bids – eliminating unexpected costs and delays later in the process.
Preconstruction also provides an opportunity for value engineering – looking at alternative methods or materials to deliver a desired result faster or less expensively. For example, could using prefabricated exterior wall panels help enclose a structure before the onset of winter weather to keep a project on schedule? If structural steel costs are rising, could concrete provide an economical yet viable substitute in some cases?
Although evaluation takes time, it’s worth the upfront investment, and contractors looking for long-term partnerships will welcome an opportunity for open discussion. It helps define expectations for a project so they can submit accurate, fair rates that ensure clients get the best value for their construction dollars.
LeChase’s work on UB’s new Murchie Family Fieldhouse was much different than the restoration of iconic Hayes Hall – an award-winning project LeChase completed on campus a few years back. Hayes Hall involved adapting historic architecture to accommodate new office and gathering spaces; in contrast, the fieldhouse was designed and built with a single goal: to provide the latest in custom practice spaces and equipment for student athletes.
The facility is already a game-changer. Before its March opening, the school’s football team often traveled an hour from campus to use the Buffalo Bills’ indoor practice facility. Now the UB team can practice on campus year-round – including Western New York winters. In addition to its full-size football field, the facility features 6,000 feet of rubber track, long/triple jump and pole vault pits and motorized suspended softball/baseball hitting tunnels.
Construction of the open, 95,000-SF structure required some unique techniques as well as specialty contractors. After the vertical columns for the structure were installed, the roof was assembled on the ground and then lifted into place by two cranes working simultaneously. LeChase engaged various manufacturers to custom make and install the turf, sprint track, netting, sports equipment and other amenities.
Student athletes won’t be the only ones to benefit from the new fieldhouse. It will also be used for recreational programs, intramural sports and other university events for the entire campus community.
- LeChase role:
- Scope of work:
- Construction of single-story steel-frame facility with custom practice spaces and equipment as well as storage, lobby, office and M/E/P spaces.
- Removal of north side stadium seating to incorporate fieldhouse as part of the stadium
- New sidewalks, plantings and site updates around the fieldhouse and stadium
- Approximate size:
- Started: September 2017
- Completed: March 2019 – one month ahead of schedule
”“LeChase provided outstanding support throughout the entirety of the project, leading to the completion of a first-class facility… it truly felt like their primary goal was to provide the best possible outcome for us as the customer.”Nate Wills, deputy director of athleticsUniversity at Buffalo
This project is named for its prime location near Kleinhans Music Hall – home of the Buffalo Philharmonic. When completed later this summer, Symphony Circle Active Living will offer an upscale city address for seniors age 62 and above.
The facility will include 119 luxury senior apartments on a 3.6-acre property. The lobby features a two-story fireplace and ample gathering areas, setting a standard for the building’s modern feel.
In addition to its mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, Symphony Circle features amenities that include underground parking, a commercial kitchen and dining hall, a bistro and bar, an activity room and a media room.
In addition to providing a comfortable lifestyle, Symphony Circle was also built with safety and accessibility in mind. For example, the apartment bathrooms are equipped with roll-in showers, and apartment walls have handrails to help residents with mobility issues.
- LeChase role:
- Scope of work: Construction of 4-story wood building with underground parking
- Approximate size:
- Started: March 2018
- Expected Completion:
Buffalo’s Women and Children’s Hospital had provided services in the city’s Elmwood Village neighborhood for more than a century before its operations moved to a new location in late 2017. Today, several different projects are planned to revitalize the former hospital complex. One is Elmwood Crossing, a mixed-use facility that LeChase will build for Sinatra Development and Ellicott Development – LeChase’s client for another mixed-use facility that recently opened at 500 Pearl Street.
The first Elmwood Crossing building will go up on a corner lot that had been used for parking. Because at one time it had been home to a gas station, it is considered a brownfield site, requiring remediation work prior to construction.
LeChase is playing an active up-front role in terms of “value engineering.” The goal of value engineering is to examine specified materials or other aspects of the design and suggest alternatives that can hold down costs while maintaining the overall integrity and quality of the project.
Though no start date has been set for construction, when the 5-story steel and concrete structure is complete, it will offer retail space on the first floor, office space on the second floor and 22 apartments on floors three to five.
- LeChase role:
- Scope of work: 5-story steel and concrete mixed-use building
- Approximate size: 81,000 SF
- Expected Start Date: TBD
- Expected Completion: TBD