HBD Construction

HBD offers its clients an in-depth knowledge of the construction industry. In the St. Louis area, HBD Construction can be considered an expert of sorts in restoration projects. In fact, in four of the past seven years, the company’s projects have won the prestigious Associated General Con­tractors (AGC) Keystone Award. “We deliver a quality project even under challenging and difficult circumstances,” owner and COO Brian Kowert explains. “We renovate buildings that are considered difficult and our efforts have been recognized.

“One Keystone Award was for a 23-story historic building vacant for 25 years; another award was for a historic building,” Kowert says. “This façade restoration had posed the biggest challenge of its kind in the region.

“Another award was for the renovation of a historic city elementary school into senior housing; and for the project that won the 2009 award, HBD constructed an addition to a bank building that needed to remain open and maintain its facility, but add floors above it, so we built a steel superstructure over the bank and added three floors.”

Today, HBD Construction is utilizing its expertise in restorations on the renovation of a 215-unit apartment complex in St. Louis’ historic Midtown neighborhood. The complex includes nine three- and four-story buildings that line both sides of a historic roadway in the city. HBD is working hard to retain the character of the buildings, which were built between 1910 and 1920.

“The historical character of the buildings is definitely being maintained,” Kowert says. “We’re rehabbing the brick, terra cotta and stone. It’s a very attractive area and everyone wants to maintain the historical fabric.”

HBD is working on a phased schedule, because the project owner, NHP Foundation, wants crews working on only two buildings at a time due to full occupancy.

Kowert says HBD began work in early February, and the project is expected to be completed in 15 months. The buildings’ interiors will receive new electrical and mechanical systems, new plumbing fixtures, kitchen updates, bathroom remodels, new doors, new layouts, new floor coverings, new paint and will be upgraded to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The challenge [of restoration projects] is the unforeseen conditions once you get started, seeing what lies behind the walls,” Kowert notes. “We also determine how to provide solutions to the owner to maximize value and give them a building that will be maintenance-free for the next 15 to 20 years.

“We try very hard to do it right,” Kowert continues, noting that the client has been very pleased with the results of the company’s work. “We will be very proud of having a very satisfied owner who now has a maintenance-free building.”

Delicate Work

HBD Construction also is at work on phase three of a renovation of a St. Louis retirement home, St.?Agnes Home. The third phase requires the remodel of a wing of the building. The company also completed phases one and two, which called for a new wing and remodel of an existing wing, respectively. The third phase is scheduled to be completed in fall 2010, Kowert says.

“It includes mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems being updated and just a total facelift of the area, including life-safety building codes and the like,” he explains.

A major challenge crews are facing is working in an occupied building, which calls for working from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. “Working in an occupied building is one of the biggest challenges,” Kowert says.

“We’re just trying to blend in and not become a problem. We don’t want to make too much noise or create dust. We aim to get in, do the job, do the renovation and have everyone enjoy the time while we’re there.”

Providing Value

In addition to renovations, HBD Construction provides a broad-based spectrum of services, and Kowert notes that the only types of projects the company doesn’t work on are single-family homes and heavy industrial.

Typical projects for the company include construction of new assisted living/nursing homes, multi-family buildings, shopping centers, office buildings, medical facilities, educational and religious facilities. But no matter the sector, an HBD principal is involved in every project the company undertakes, which Kowert estimates has led to the company’s 70 percent repeat client rate.

“That, I feel, is a very significant item for our company,” he says. “We’ve done that for 88 years now. “Our goal is not to be the largest – our goal is to have a developer know that he’s in good hands with a person who knows the industry and has his best interest at heart.

“We have younger persons who are coming up through the organization, but they’re always working with one of the principals in the company.”

HBD has five principals, and Kowert says the company is working on 20 to 25 projects at a time, which he says is a very manageable number for its principals. He adds that another area in which HBD aims to provide top value for its clients is in staying in touch with the latest industry trends and processes.

“We want to give the owner the best price and the most value,” Kowert notes. “So we focus on staying informed, knowing what the industry has to offer, staying up with the current suppliers and knowing the new available products. We push the schedule, and we emphasize time management. We focus on getting it done and done correctly.”

To keep up with ever-changing industry trends, HBD Construction is actively involved with the AGC, the Engineers Club of St Louis, the Masonry Institute of St. Louis and various other industry associations.

Growing Relationships

As is common today, HBD Construction has been negatively affected by the economy, but the company is setting out to do something about it rather than waiting for conditions to improve, Kowert says.

“It’s really all about meeting and knowing developers who are currently looking for opportunities,” he continues. “There are many now who are just willing to sit out the cycle and wait for the good times to return. Others are saying, ‘I see an opportunity,’ and it’s our goal to find those individuals.”

Kowert also explains the current conditions have led HBD to focus on specific areas of work, so the company isn’t as broad-based as it typically is. “It’s not nearly as broad-based as it has been,” he says.

Historical Work

HBD Construction was founded in 1922 as H.B. Deal & Co. Inc. by Horace B. Deal as a general contracting firm. During World War II, the company’s focus shifted to federal work.

“The success of this program may be judged by the fact that the Army-Navy E award – the War Department’s highest recognition of achievement – was presented to H.B. Deal & Co. Inc.,” the company says. “The award was made in 1943 in connection with the Ozark Ordnance Works, but applies as well to all of the war construction work of the company.”

The company attributes that long-lasting success to its talented and experienced work force. “Perhaps the most valuable attribute of a company is the experience of its personnel,” it says. “Throughout the company’s 88 years of existence, we have likely encountered every type of building problem. It is the skill and knowledge from this broad experience that has proven invaluable to architects, engineers and owners whom the company has served.”

Today, HBD is run by partners Mike Perry, Dan O’Keefe and Kowert. The management team together has a combined 78 years with the company. HBD is in its fourth generation of leadership and will enter its fifth as Kowert’s sons Brian and Paul, among others, are being prepared to take the reins in the next decade.

“The new HBD organization continues to be committed to the original corporation precepts of quality and integrity,” it says. “We have continued to build a reputation as a well-established organization.”

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