White Builders

white builders
White Builders takes its role as a renovation and restoration contractor seriously by communicating well with its partners and clients.

By Jim Harris

White Builders feels a strong sense of purpose about each project it works on. “Our single greatest strength is that we believe what we do makes a difference,” says Marshall White, owner and president of the 40-year-old contractor based in Woburn, Mass.

“We are all shaped by the built environment, and we go into every project knowing that our work has an impact on the people who live and work in these spaces,” he adds. At the same time, the act of building is a collaborative, human endeavor and we hope to inspire the people we work with to realize their full potential.”

White Builders works with a close-knit group of subcontractors and vendors. “We’re been very lucky to find people who have the same values and drive for excellence that we do,” White says, noting the company only have five full-time employees, making the work of its subcontractors critical to its success. “It’s important for us to be open and communicate with our partners, and I think they appreciate that and it helps them do their job better.” White Builders box

The company uses both traditional as well as high-tech methods for keeping in contact with vendors, tradespeople and clients. Each of its field employees uses mobile and cloud technology to coordinate work. “We’ve always been early adopters of new technology,” he adds.

Most recently, the company began using the Procore project management software platform. “We are moving away from the information silos we’ve had in the past, and trying to open a dialogue with our design team, vendors, suppliers and owners,” White says. “We want to be as transparent as possible.”

Recent Projects

White Builders specializes in historical restoration, renovation and remodeling projects for commercial, institutional and residential property owners and tenants in the greater Boston area. The company’s services include general contracting, design/build, construction management and preconstruction consulting.

One recent example of the company’s skill is its work on the restoration and renovation of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s headquarters at 115 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Mass. The large shingle-style colonial revival house was built in 1887 for Annie Longfellow. The home is located near the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Renovation work at the home began last year and concluded in August. White Builders’ work included improvements to the building envelope, new electrical, mechanical and fire suppression systems, and a four-stop residential elevator. The work has not disrupted the home’s historic details and finishes. “This has been a lot of fun for us, as we’ve been restoring and updating the home at the same time,” White says.

The company was brought into the project early during the design phase. That allowed it to work closely with architects Tsoi Kobus & Associates to resolve constructability issues early. “This made for a very collaborative project,” he adds.

White Builders is currently working with Austin Architects on the preconstruction phase for an upcoming renovation of the Conservation Law Foundation’s office in Boston. The project is expected to begin later this year.

Other examples of the company’s work include renovating an academic building at Lesley University in Cambridge to make it more accessible to people with physical disabilities. The project scope, designed by Harrison Mulhern Architects, included modifying stairwells and installing a new elevator serving the building’s basement and three above-ground floors. The elevator installation required White Builders to perform shoring and underpinning on the building’s foundation before the new elevator shaft was placed.

Behind the Scenes

White Builders is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Marshall White’s father, Dennis White, started the business in 1977. “He took this company from being just himself to handling an annual project volume of $3 million a year,” Marshall White says.

Marshall White first became involved in the company when he was 10 years old, performing chores just as sweeping floors and washing windows on job sites. As an adult, he has worked in a variety of capacities for the company. 

White started taking on a larger role in the company three years ago after his father was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a degenerative brain disease. “The plan was always to transition the business, but that put a shorter timeline on everything,” he says. “We did the best we could to transition smoothly, but it wasn’t without its bumps. Fortunately, my father had great relationships with subcontractors, suppliers and clients that trusted and liked working with us, so when the transition happened, those partners made it easier.”

Following his father’s passing in September 2016, White became president and owner of White Builders. He says he feels a strong responsibility to honor his father’s legacy while finding his own path in the business.

“My father was more of a doer – he never thought of himself as being management, and was more focused on the physical aspects of our projects,” White says. “If he didn’t like how something was coming together on-site, he would go home, get his tools and fix it himself.

“I have the same passion for building that he did, but am more focused on building a lasting business,” he adds. “I believe that if you have the right people and give them latitude to make the right decisions, they will be successful.”

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