MW Builders

MW Builders is tapping into more than 20 years of military experience. By Jim Harris. MW Builders’ work on a major housing development at one of the largest military bases in the nation is both a first for the company and the latest in a 20-year history of successful projects. Last June, MW Builders – which has offices in Texas and Kansas - started work on the $49.6 million Advanced Individual Training (AIT) barracks project at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The project is the first MW Builders has performed at the U.S. Army base, Project Manager Aaron Hoelscher says.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fort Worth, Texas, District in 2009 awarded the company a design/build multiple award task order contract (MATOC) for design, engineering and construction services on the project.“We’ve been doing these types of projects for 20-plus years,” he adds. “[The Corps] sees us as very qualified.”Although this is MW Builders’ first project at Fort Leonard Wood, the contractor has worked on barracks and other facilities at other U.S. Armed Forces bases in the past, including Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Riley, Kan., and Fort Lewis, Wash., just to name a few.

A Future Campus

The company currently is working on the foundations of the three three-story barracks buildings that make up the AIT complex, Hoelscher says. The structure of one of the three buildings is built up to the third floor, with crews ready to begin work on wall panels and roof tresses in February. Concrete work is under way to create the third floor of another building, while structural steel and first-floor wall panels are being set into place on the third building. Each building will feature center areas made up of structural steel anchoring two wings of prefabricated heavy gauge metal stud panels. The project is scheduled for completion in October 2011. The three buildings combined will provide 279,000 square feet of space for dormitory-style living units and support facilities including storage and laundry rooms, classrooms, arms vaults, and offices. Each building will house 450 soldiers in 150 units, Hoelscher says. The three AIT barracks buildings are the first phase of what is anticipated by USACE to be a multiphase AIT campus development on the 42-acre site. Future phases include a fourth barracks building and a running track on the northern end of the site, and a company headquarters building on the south end. MW Builders also is performing site work for the entire campus. Future building phases have not yet been awarded; MW Builders plans to bid those projects, Hoelscher adds.

A Successful Team

MW Builders is working in conjunction with a number of subcontractors to complete the project on time. The biggest challenge facing construction thus far is weather conditions, Hoelscher says. The start of foundation work in September 2010 faced major rains. More recently, crews have faced cold and snow during structure work. To overcome Mother Nature, crews have placed an exterior sheeting on walls and heating and enclosing floors once they’re ready, he adds.

“We’re re-sequencing our construction activities a little bit to allow us to temporarily heat these areas,” Hoelscher says. “As far as masonry work goes, we’re tenting scaffolds and heating underneath [the tenting] so we’re able to keep working.” MW Builders is using a mixture of local subcontractors and long-established partners on the project. “Half of the subcontractors have started on the project, and everything is going well,” he adds. “Our policy is to treat all subcontractors fairly and make sure they’re successful, because that in turn makes us successful.” Every contractor on the project is stressing safety with its workers through weekly meetings and daily inspections. MW Builders itself has established a safety incentive program awarding points for every injury- or accident-free hour. These points can be traded for prizes, Hoelscher says. “Our company is at more than 1.6 million hours [overall] with no lost-time accidents, and there hasn’t been a lost-time accident on this project yet,” he adds.

Small and Mighty

MW Builders was founded in 1932 as a plumbing contractor and branched out into general contracting over time. The company now has regional offices in Kansas and Texas. In addition to its extensive experience with military projects, MW Builders also has experience in the education, government, hospitality and multifamily residential sectors. “We’re very well-positioned with government projects, which in these economic times is very important, as private projects are slower right now,” Hoelscher says.
One of the company’s strengths is its small size and friendly working environment. MW Builders also is 100 percent employee-owned. “As we are a smaller company, we see ourselves as more family oriented,” Hoelscher adds. “Every person in the company is a name, not a number, and each person here is very involved in their work.”

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