The Weitz Company LLC – Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex

Weitz CompanyThe Weitz Company delivered a unique project on the University of Denver campus.

By Chris Petersen

When The Weitz Company acquired Al Cohen Construction in 1986, it brought a wealth of experience in the Colorado market under its umbrella. Already a consistent fixture in the Midwest construction market since 1855, The Weitz Company entered the Colorado market shortly before the acquisition and has been there ever since.

Today, The Weitz Company is one of the largest and most respected builders in Colorado, and the company continues to burnish its reputation with high-profile projects like the one it recently completed on the campus of the University of Denver. Executive Vice President Troy Garrett says the company’s work on the Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex is another example of the company’s dedication to the finest possible construction.

The Weitz Company is well known as the largest builder of Class A office space in the state, but the company’s expertise is by no means limited to that segment of the market. Garrett says the company’s portfolio in Colorado and the rest of the nation runs the spectrum from complex light and heavy industrial engineering and construction to large-scale vertical projects in healthcare, senior living, hospitality and educational projects. Additionally, the company has gained significant expertise in both low and high-rise multifamily residential projects, something Garrett says it expects to do more of as Denver and the entire Front Range corridor experiences a population boom.

The company’s most recent project for the University of Denver represents a bit of a departure in terms of its unique construction and accelerated schedule. Nevertheless, Garrett says, the experience The Weitz Company brought to the project made for a smooth process and a successful completion.

Premier Project

Garrett says The Weitz Company has thrived in the Denver market by focusing on building long-standing relationships with clients, and that certainly has been the case with the University of Denver. After successfully completing the Joy Burns Center for Hospitality Management for the university several years ago, The Weitz Company was one of five contractors invited to propose on the new Sie Complex, and ultimately was selected for the $19 million project. Weitz box

Named for retired businessman and philanthropist John J. Sie and his wife, Anna Maglione Sie, the Sie Complex is the new home of the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, alma mater of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The five-story, 46,000-square-foot building is a project that Garrett says The Weitz Company is especially proud of because of its connection to the University of Denver’s legacy of diplomacy and human rights. “It’s a fantastic project that will help ensure new generations of peace makers for the world,” he says.

The construction of the Sie Complex also makes it a one-of-a-kind addition to The Weitz Company’s portfolio. As Garrett explains, the building utilized structural masonry construction, something that is rarely seen on university campuses in the United States. Having built several projects for schools such as Yale, Rice and Texas A&M, Garrett says he has only encountered a structural masonry project one other time. “They are  an interesting scheduling and technical challenge,” he says.

Structural masonry construction involves concrete blocks with a slab poured on top for each floor, a process that was challenging enough on its own before the university’s scheduling requests came into play. Garrett says the project originally was planned to be completed in July, in time for the beginning of the fall semester, but along the way the university asked if it would be possible to bump the completion up to March. “They wanted to see if they could turn it over a semester early,” Garrett says.

Thanks to close coordination with its subcontractor partners, The Weitz Company developed a new schedule for the project that allowed crews to alternate between exterior and interior masonry. This way, Garrett says, crews could begin working on the exterior of one level while the slab for the next level was being poured.

Advanced Planning

The successful completion of the Sie Complex is an example of how advanced planning and close coordination with subcontractors are helping The Weitz Company thrive in Colorado and beyond. Garrett says these skills have become all the more important for the company as the declining number of skilled tradespeople in the labor pool is limiting the overall capacity of the construction industry.

As more tradespeople retire without as many young people joining the workforce, Garrett says service providers like The Weitz Company have adopted new processes and technologies to compensate. In particular, he adds, the adoption of lean manufacturing principles such as the use of pre-fabricated components has gone a long way toward making the company more efficient. “We’re getting smarter and, like a lot of industries, getting more productive with less manpower,” Garrett says.

The company also has invested extensively in BIM software, and going forward The Weitz Company anticipates almost all of its projects will be constructed virtually prior to actual work beginning, as in the case of the Sie Complex. Developments like these are expected to help The Weitz Company continue to grow in Colorado, Garrett says, and the company already has an 18-story luxury apartment high-rise in the works along with two new major office building projects.

The Colorado market has been good to The Weitz Company, and Garrett says that’s because the company continues to focus on building strong relationships with clients. “We don’t follow markets; we follow clients,” he says.

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