RQ Construction

Military construction is the hero of the current recession, but RQ Construction volunteered for this work long before it became the only base in town. A recent example of the company’s expertise is that of the 35 contractors that vied to construct a military data center, only three were short-listed, and RQ was one of them.

“Those are not very good odds for applying – three out of 35 – but that just shows how competitive it is for people trying to do work for the Navy,” points out George Rogers, CEO and co­founder. “The Department of Defense [DOD] is spending more on facilities than virtually any other owner. It’s a good relationship and a good expertise to have.”

Located in Carlsbad, Calif. – approximately five miles from U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Pendle­ton north of San Diego – RQ Construc­tion has been doing contracting for the DOD for 21 years, building a variety of structures. “It’s been the focus of the company from its beginnings in 1989,” Rogers notes. 

Despite the stringent submittal processes for every product and process, and the payroll requirements and paperwork, Rogers likes working for the government because it pays promptly and doesn’t go bankrupt as some developers sometimes do. 

“We love working for the Department of Defense for that reason as well as others,” he concedes. “The good thing about the DOD is, for the most part, they’re a savvy owner, and therefore we’re dealing with experienced construction people who know their stuff. The other reason we love working with them is that more often than not, they select their contractors based upon value and not just low price. And they allow us to do 80 percent to 90 percent of our projects as design/build, and that allows us to be innovative. Being innovative is fun, and not being innovative is boring.”

In-company Design

RQ Construction performs much of its own de­sign work. “We determine whether or not we have the competence and the capacity to do the architecture work in-house,” Rogers exp­lains. “We prefer to do work in-house because it al­lows for tighter integration, but we work with other architectural firms on a job-by-job basis.”

That integration is key to RQ’s job success. “What makes RQ really innovative is that we are committed to an integrated and lean approach to delivering facilities,” Rogers de­clares. “We’re actually partnering or increasing the relatedness between our subcontractors and ourselves, and we’re moving toward our own form of integrated project delivery. Our profits and those of the key trades and the key designers will be all tied together based on the success of the project.”

RQ is applying the lessons of Japanese auto production to construction. Using building information modeling (BIM) enables the company to anticipate and solve problems in advance. “It has to do with managing based upon a certain flow and rhythm of work in a project,” Rogers explains. Such management could eventually eliminate wide fluctuations in workload from day to day.

“We’re trying to get to where we can predict the amount of work done every day and then plan variability out,” he says. “We’re not perfect, but we find that as we get better and better, we’re at the point where we’re shaving off 30 percent of the schedule.” The company’s goal is to cut project time in half.

Board Work

On many of its military projects, RQ has been using Ecolite, a two-inch-thick, precast concrete panel for exterior cladding manufactured by EcoWall, an RQ subsidiary. The panel’s light weight reduces structural requirements because the building is not as heavy, saving money, and its prefabrication with metal studs speeds construction, saving time. It also is manufactured with recycled materials.

“It creates almost an airtight enclosure so you don’t have the heat loss that you would in a normal building,” Rogers maintains. “It’s a pretty cool product.” Its combination of energy efficiency and ecofriendliness recommends it for LEED projects. The product is being used on three current RQ projects for the military that all are applying for LEED certification. 

For Marine Special Operations, RQ in March 2010 finished construction at Camp Pendleton of an eight-building campus with a total value of approximately $70 million and a total square footage of approximately 300,000. The campus, which was completed in two years, will centralize training and operation of this elite special force. Rogers estimates the project finished six to seven months early.

At the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss in New Mexico and Texas, RQ in March 2010 began building a $42 million, 145,000-square-foot headquarters for the First Heavy Armored Division and its data center near El Paso that has extensive electrical and mechanical requirements. That project is scheduled for completion in January 2011, which Rogers says is very fast for this complicated of a facility.

Follow Those Customers

RQ’s work historically has been in the South­west. “Now with the economy – which at best gives good companies heartthrobs and at worst is threatening the survival of a lot of com­panies – we decided to diversify geographically and go with our customers,” Rogers ex­plains. The company is joint venturing with other com­panies and beginning a project at the Marines’ Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as well as other military bases.

“We’re basically looking at geographical areas we can get to fairly easily,” Rogers notes. “Our rule of thumb is if Southwest flies there, we will consider doing work there. It sounds like a silly strategy, but Southwest is so easy to fly for business purposes, it makes it easier.”

RQ’s philosophy maintains making money is a requirement but not a goal. “I would say one overriding principle about RQ is that we’re a company about people, ethics and treating people with respect,” Rogers insists. “Every­body talks about people, but you don’t see people being treated with respect enough.”

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