Balfour Beatty Construction – Blackbaud Corporate Headquarters

Balfour BeattyBalfour Beatty aims to finish Blackbaud’s new headquarters by March 2018.

By Alan Dorich 

When Balfour Beatty Construction takes on a client’s project, it also adopts their ethics. “It allows us to prove to the client that we can be aligned with their values,” Project Executive Roger Schwerin declares. “Our culture really stresses the value of being a relentless ally with our clients.”

Balfour Beatty is being that kind of ally as it builds the new headquarters of Blackbaud Inc., a software technology firm that serves the social good movement. Schwerin notes that the company wanted to double its office space after experiencing significant growth.Balfour Beatty info box

The firm partnered with Atlanta-based Holder Properties to develop its new location on Daniel Island, an island community in Charleston, S.C. The finished headquarters, he notes, will be a four-story, tilt-up concrete structure that will cover 174,000 square feet.

The tilt-up structure will be delivered much faster than a cast-in-place structure, Schwerin says. “It’s about a four-and-a-half month structure, which is the fastest delivery we could possibly use,” he says.

Amazing Spaces

Balfour Beatty plans to have the building finished for Blackbaud by March 2018. Schwerin notes that the headquarters will have many amenities for its workers, including an outdoor pavilion.

“That’s a gathering place for their employees,” he says, noting that the location also will have a putting green and bocce and basketball courts. “The purpose of all those fun things is to attract and retain young, top talent.”

The headquarters also features a two-story lobby. “It is absolutely decked out with information technology everywhere you can see,” Schwerin adds. “There’s a massive amount of data cabling that is planned for this building.”

It also will include a cafeteria, a Starbucks Coffee location and the “Incubator,” which will occupy a portion of the first level. “It’s an area of the building that’s dedicated to potential, future clients that want to start nonprofit organizations,” he describes.

A Unique Method

Balfour Beatty has coped with local conditions as it has built the headquarters. Because Charleston is in a seismic zone, “We had to come up with a way to mitigate liquefaction in a seismic event,” Schwerin recalls.

The ways to do this, he notes, range from concrete piles to the installation of a thick single mat foundation. But Balfour Beatty chose to use earthquake drains, “which are essentially sock pipes that are pushed straight down into the soil in a grid pattern,” he says.

Instead of the soils liquefying during a seismic event, “They actually compress and the water goes into these tubes,” he describes, adding that the water is pushed up through the piping. “That’s kind of a unique thing in the Charleston area.”

Locally Focused

Balfour Beatty has worked well with its subcontractors as it has built the project. “It’s been a lot of fun,” Schwerin says, noting that he has strong relationships with subs in the local area.

“Charleston is a unique market in that there’s plenty of qualified subcontractors,” he says, noting that he is a Charleston native. “They work for people they know and trust, and I’ve been able to maintain those relationships over the years.”

The company, he adds, focused on utilizing many local subcontractors as it could. “It’s been fantastic,” Schwerin declares.

Balfour Beatty requires its subcontractors to go “above and beyond” OSHA standards on the project, Schwerin says. For example, everyone on site must wear gloves, 100 percent of the time.

“We’ve seen trends over the past few years of hand injuries, over and over again,” he says. “They were mostly minor, but we corporately decided we’re going to mandate gloves.”

Any scaffolds that are two feet above the ground require a tie-off with a harness or handrails, Schwerin adds. “The OSHA requirement is six feet, but ours is two feet,” he says.

Its corporate and regional safety associates also visit the site on a frequent basis. “When I visit a job, I do a safety walk every time,” he adds. “The last thing we want is for someone to get injured on our projects.”

Paramount to Success

Schwerin is a five-year veteran of Balfour Beatty and credits its success to its leadership. “That’s how our culture is established, particularly through our regional leadership,” he says.

“A company’s culture, especially in the GC world, is paramount to its success,” he declares. “It keeps our people here.”

Balfour Beatty expects to keep busy in Charleston. Although the company does not have plans to open an office in the city soon, but “we may do that sometime in the future,” he predicts.

Balfour Beatty also looks to have a strong future nationwide. “Last year, we did $3.9 billion worth of work across the country,” Schwerin says. “We are still projected to do about that much this year.”

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