Sometimes clients are not clear on the delivery process to get exactly what they want. They know they want a building or an addition to one, but they may not be sure how to go about it. That is where the integrated services of gkkworks can be helpful. “From the very beginning, our philosophy was rooted in the concept of providing an array of services, because not all our clients have the same need,” Senior Vice President of Construction Services Charlie Merrick points out. “Every client and every project is different. Sometimes the client wants standalone architecture or construction management, sometimes an integrated, design/build solution is best for the project.

The very first slogan of the company was, ‘Consulting Services in Design and Construction,’ and we’re still offering that today. We approach clients, listen to them, understand what their needs are and then apply one of our delivery models to suit whatever their project demands.”

An example of that is a 55,000-square-foot, net-zero-energy maintenance and operations facility designed and built for the Los Angeles Community College District’s Pierce College campus in Woodland Hills, Calif. “We offered an integrated design and construction solution and proposed a combination of things that would cut down their energy usage, and so we’re proud of the result,” Merrick relates.

Net Zero

Among the features to help the building provide up to 90 percent of its energy requirements are a solar hot water collection system on the single-story facility’s standing seam metal roof that feeds the central heating and cooling plant for several of the campus buildings. Additionally, a 190-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel array on the roof of the single-story parking facility provides most of the building’s power requirements.

Rainwater is harvested to irrigate the $21 million building’s 5-acre site, and LED lighting along with clerestory skylights and abundant use of daylighting reduces the building’s lighting requirements. gkkworks provided an integrated team of architects, engineers, and builders to complete the project.

gkkworks teamed with 30 partner companies to complete the design of the facility in six months and construct it in 16 months. “Two partners on the project were Southland Mechanical and Cupertino Electric,” Merrick says. “They were major partners in that endeavor, and they really helped us with the net-zero design and installation.” Three-dimensional modeling was used to increase communication among the partners about construction sequencing, cost and detail development.

“Our goal in the integration process is to increase the level of communication between designers and contractors and to eliminate inefficiencies that add up to 25 percent of the cost to manage a project,” Merrick points out. “The old way is the design team gets up to a year to design and approve it, and the contractors get four weeks during the bid process to figure out what they’re going to build. This old model, the design/bid/build process, is outdated and is a major factor in cost overruns.” Instead, working together with a 3-D model, gkkworks and its team partners were able to wring expense out of the project.

“Because it’s a net-zero facility, the energy costs are minimal over the 40-year projected lifespan of the building,” Merrick emphasizes. “We were able to substantially reduce that cost of ownership because of our approach to the net-zero facility. In addition, we were able to save them a couple million dollars in the way we put this together. The good news for institutions is the fact that you can create a facility that is very energy-efficient. It’s remarkable what you can do if you put your heads together and combine all these systems.”

Architecture and Construction

Another current project is a $255 million surgery and emergency room addition to the Los Angeles County Medical Center’s UCLA campus in Torrance, Calif., on which gkkworks is the construction manager. Hensel Phelps Construction Co. is the design/builder. The project is approximately 50 percent complete and is scheduled to be finished in the second quarter of 2013.

gkkworks was founded in 1991 as a professional services firm in architecture and construction management. By 1995, the company was doing at-risk construction, design/build and integrating its services to clients. 

In 2010, gkkworks acquired Syska Hennessy Group Construction and now works in 25 states. The acquisition expanded gkkworks into the federal sector providing design/build services for the Department of Defense. The acquisition also expanded the firm to the data center marketplace. gkkworks offers planning, design and construction to Fortune 500 companies requiring data center expertise. The company also has an office in Pune, India, that provides architectural assistance with 3-D modeling and construction documents. 

Although gkkworks has the polish of an architectural firm, approximately $145 million of its $180 million revenue originates from construction rather than architecture. “What sets our company apart from our competition is our ability to integrate services, and we’ve been able to do that with architecture and construction,” Merrick points out. “For a company of our size – we’re currently about 240 people – there are not a lot of firms in that space that offer our depth and breadth of services. Our goal is to cut 25 percent out of the whole delivery process, which includes both cost efficiencies and schedule enhancements.

“Bringing architecture and construction together is a work in process – we certainly have more to learn,” Merrick continues. “Although they are different sides of the same coin, they are very different practices.” He adds that architecture is not so linear – the creative process is very dynamic, and contractors have to learn a new way of thinking.

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