SETEX Construction Corp.


Two schools and an emergency operations center near the Gulf of Mexico are being built concurrently by SETEX Construction Corp. to withstand hurricanes.

By Russ Gager

Management experts recommend having a succession plan for a business, but the absence of a successor for SETEX Construction Corp. turned it into an opportunity for Nathan Rivers and business partner Bruce Reyes.

“The previous owner had gotten to the point in time where he was ready to retire and was getting ready to close the business,” recalls Rivers, now SETEX’s president, who was working at another construction company at that time. “He had a great reputation and built a great company name. It was a company for which I would like to have my name associated. So we got together, started negotiating and ended up having a transition in 2014.”

The business has grown since then. “We’ve got the largest backlog the company has had in 26 years,” Rivers maintains. The company is using the latest technology on its projects, such as having drones fly over its construction sites to provide 3-D mapping and volume estimates of the area, incorporating building information modeling (BIM) and using lean construction methods.

Three current projects that Rivers cites show the variety of the company’s concentration on commercial, institutional and civil projects within a 120-mile radius of its headquarters in Beaumont, Texas, near Houston. The first is a 40,000-square-foot, two-story classroom building for the Lamar Institute of Technology that has an approximate construction cost of $17 million.

The Technical Arts building will be structural steel with an exterior of masonry, aluminum composite panels and impact-resistant windows. A clerestory skylight over the main entrance and staircase will provide energy-saving daylighting.Setex box

Before construction can began on the new Technical Arts building, two older buildings on the site have had to be demolished. These buildings use chilled water lines that are run aboveground and through multiple existing buildings from the chiller plant and then to the administration building on the other side of the campus. SETEX will move the lines – which will be used in the new Technical Arts building – underground and reroute additional utilities, such as electricity and fiber-optic cable, in less than three months to meet the construction schedule.

An outdoor glycol demonstration plant that was outside the two buildings that are to be demolished have to be preserved and remain operational. “That is a pretty significant feature to the campus,” Rivers emphasizes. “It was donated by local chemical plants and is a working model of an ethanol glycol plant reduced in scale that the students operate and monitor like a major plant.”

Drilled concrete piers will anchor the foundation grade beams and slab for the classroom building. The top three feet of highly saturated soil will be replaced with a select fill. The challenge of keeping students and staff members safe as they travel around the construction site will be met with protected walkways and safety awareness. Completion of the building on which approximately 30 subcontractors will work is scheduled for August 2017.

Ninth-Grade Academy

Another impressive project SETEX Construction is building is the Port Arthur Ninth-Grade Academy for the independent school district in Port Arthur, Texas. The academy will be located on the grounds of the district’s high school where grades 10 through 12 are educated, yet maintain a separation of the freshman students from upperclassmen.

The 100,000-square-foot standalone academy is being built on a marching band practice field between the baseball field and the high school. “It’s a very tight area,” Rivers maintains. “There will only be 20 feet of clearance on each side of the academy.”

The two-story building will be structural steel and masonry with several large skylights through the main corridor of the building. Because of the academy’s 18-mile proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and possible hurricanes, it will have a high wind rating to withstand a category 3 hurricane. This necessitates the use of impact-resistant building materials such as steel, masonry and impact-resistant windows. “There are not a lot of materials that can meet those wind loads,” Rivers remarks. “It requires comprehensive engineering and precise construction methods

The $26 million academy will connect with 13,000 square feet of prefabricated classrooms already onsite. Retaining these permanent structures helped the project stay on budget. Utility relocation began in March, and the academy is scheduled for completion in early 2018. Approximately 35 subcontractors are expected to work on the project.

Emergency Shelter

The third concurrent project on which SETEX Construction is working is the High Island Emergency Shelter for Galveston County that will function as an operations center during natural disasters. It is being located approximately 4,000 feet from the Gulf of Mexico on High Island, which is a small town 23 feet above sea level.

“When the last hurricane came through – Hurricane Ike – it brought some a massive tidal surge,” Rivers remembers. “High Island was the only area above the water line there. Everything else was underwater except for that little section of earth.”

Consequently, the 10,000-square-foot emergency shelter is being built there. Most of the time when there are no emergencies, the building will function as a gymnasium for the High Island School District only 60 feet from the shelter’s location. The building is being outfitted with the latest technology connections such as fiber-optic cable so mobile communications equipment can connect to it and the Internet during emergencies.

For this building, solidity is paramount. It will be anchored to 60-foot-deep auger cast piles with pier caps and grade beams on a 5-inch slab. Three feet of select fill will be used under the building. To withstand 180-mile-per-hour winds and category 5 hurricanes, the structure will be built of 12-inch, solid-filled and reinforced concrete masonry units with a brick exterior and structural steel frame. The project has been designed to limit the normal weak points of a building, so only a few hurricane-resistant windows will be included in the structure.

An outdoor concrete basketball court was on the site when construction started in March and some sanitary sewers were relocated. Approximately 16 subcontractors will work on the project that is scheduled for completion in March 2017.

Consistent Communication

Rivers attributes the success of SETEX Construction on projects such as these to “operating in an honest manner with everybody who is a part of the team, from the owner and architect to the subcontractor and suppliers with whom we have dealings.”

The company has many repeat customers. “Customers come back to us because they are treated fairly,” Rivers insists. “We have a very open policy of communication, and the owners respond to that. Most construction projects are going to have problems at some point, and we’re upfront with them. We keep our architects and customers informed and limit any surprises. We operate our projects utilizing our key value system: honor, integrity and a commitment to excellence.”

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