First Team Construction Co. Inc.

First Team

First Team Construction specializes in hard-bid work in Alabama,

especially education projects for school districts and universities.

By Russ Gager

Education is one of the largest expenditures of local governments, so it is a good niche for First Team Construction Co. Inc. to cultivate. “Schools have been our bread and butter,” Vice President Chad Beasley says. The company works on many public bid jobs throughout Alabama such as for the Alabama Department of Public Safety or the Department of Human Resources, but it keeps returning to education.

“We try to be easy to work with,” Beasley declares. “Life is not perfect and drawings are not perfect, and we try to recognize that the folks we hire oftentimes are not going to be perfect, but we need to strive to be that way.”

That striving for perfection is being put to the test with the construction of the 115,000-square-foot Sugar Creek Elementary School in Lester, Ala. Designed by architects McKee and Associates, the building’s hallways radiate out from a central hub like the spokes on a wheel that allows the hallways to be monitored from a central location. Construction has to be accurate so all portions of the building meet in the middle. “Every line is critical when you’re building back to that center hub,” Beasley stresses.First Team fact box

As general contractor, First Team Construction discussed with its subcontractors and surveyors to decide how to build the school accurately. “We agreed that everything really had to start at that center hub,” Beasley says. If construction on individual wings began before the hub was started, the possibility of a small difference becoming large was huge. “If you get off a quarter-inch in a 100-some-foot run, you would see it in the hub, but you might not see it until you get to that hub,” Beasley says. The solution was to establish a centerline in the hub and survey out from there.

Construction of the Sugar Creek school began in April and is due to be completed in summer 2017. The schedule will be challenging because of the school’s size and its masonry construction. “We hard-bid projects, so that makes it very difficult, because we don’t always have the ability to handpick subcontractors or negotiate timelines with the school district prior to the bid,” Beasley says. The Sugar Creek school will require the efforts of an estimated 30 subcontractors.

First Team Construction typically has to turn in a list of subcontractors to a project’s architect and owners within 24 hours of making its hard bid on most of its projects. “In most cases, we have the ability to justify changes in the subcontractor list, but our biggest obstacle from a hard-bid standpoint is a spread in pricing,” Beasley says. On occasion, First Team may not have had time to fully vet a new subcontractor during the bid process, and when a later investigation results in an unsatisfactory evaluation, First Team’s next move can be difficult, especially with many other subcontractors at their workable capacity due to favorable economic conditions.

Kitty Stone

Another education project that First Team Construction is completing in July is the 99,000-square-foot Kitty Stone Elementary School in Jacksonville, Ala. This school, which also was designed by architects McKee and Associates, uses a more traditional hallway design. “Every owner is different,” Beasley emphasizes. “The design depends on what the owner and architect agree on in the early planning stages.”

First Team Construction is self-performing the concrete on Sugar Creek and the exterior concrete on the Kitty Stone school, along with doors, hardware, Division 10 items and various other scopes on both. Construction of the Kitty Stone school had a more relaxed, 17-month schedule that began in February 2015 and has required approximately 18 subcontractors.

Each school is being built on undeveloped sites measuring approximately 30 acres each. Both sites were 100 percent cut-and-fill “balanced sites” so no materials had to be brought in from offsite to establish the building pads. No piers or piles were required for the buildings. Continuous perimeter footings approximately 2 feet below final grade were used for the buildings with a 4-inch slab-on-grade foundation over a porous fill sub-base.

Value-Engineering

First Team Construction was involved in value-engineering of both schools. “We did it heavily on Kitty Stone,” Beasley recalls. “On that job, we credited over $600,000 from the time it bid to before construction started.” That figure was necessary even after all 11 deductive bid alternates were taken. A good percentage of the savings was achieved on the mechanical side by finding an alternative to a centralized HVAC system.

“We put mechanical closets in each classroom and did floor-mounted air handler units, eliminating a lot of the original ductwork,” Beasley says. Approximately $100,000 in savings was realized by selecting a simpler temperature control system that still offered remote monitoring and operation for the scheduling and programming capabilities that the school district required.

“We took out some of the bells and whistles, but it’s still a very functional system and a nice building,” Beasley insists. “It just doesn’t have as much fanciness to it that was originally specified.” Savings at Sugar Creek were smaller and included substituting a readily available grass for a more expensive, drought-resistant variety, making changes to the power supply requirements and adding LED lighting. Pricing for LED lighting is becoming more favorable in the market.

This is the kind of innovative contracting that First Team Construction provides for its clients. To achieve this success, Beasley recommends that contractors “do what you say you are going to do and never leave an unfulfilled commitment anywhere. Don’t over-promise, but do over-deliver.”         

Beasley also suggests doing what is necessary to keep a project moving and successful rather than litigating differences or staying in conflict. “If it is going to cost us $10 to save $1, we would rather spend the dollar and move things along,” he advises, “Then we are not tied up in turmoil all the time. We have had a pretty successful history of doing that with all those we work with. Everyone is bound to make an error at some point, and we try to work with the parties as best we can to satisfactorily resolve the situations if and when they occur. The big thing in the end for us is knowing that everyone is pleased and we delivered a project that the owner is happy about.”

 

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