Commercial Construction in Lincoln, NE – 2019
Lincoln’s Rising Population Creates Opportunities for Commercial Construction
According to census data, Lincoln has maintained an average growth rate of over 1% per year since the 1950s, a noticeably higher and steady rate of growth compared to the national average. While this explosive rate of growth may be slowing, the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau indicates that Lincoln’s population continues to grow, with a gain of approximately 26,000 people since 2010. Nebraska, and Lincoln in particular, is growing as more people are moving to the area for jobs, as the state has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. This steady growth has created an ongoing need for commercial development of new and remodeled properties in Lincoln. We spoke to professionals within the Lincoln community who have an ear to the ground on commercial construction to find out what the future holds for the business world of Lincoln.
There are two distinct, but related, fields that affect the local architecture and cityscape of Lincoln: commercial construction of new building projects, and the restoration and renovation of existing buildings. However, whether the buildings are new or old, Lincoln contractors are offering the latest technology available to preserve and efficiently maintain the buildings in town.
Because of the growing market for new residents, property management company Perry Reid Properties established Perry Reid Construction (PRC) in 2017, with a vision to create a contracting company that valued its employees, subcontractors, architects, and all owners. After over one year in operation, PRC provides a glimpse into the speed of Lincoln’s growth. In addition to renovating The Lodge, an apartment clubhouse in Lincoln, PRC was also responsible for five other multi-family construction projects across Nebraska and Iowa last year. On November 26, 2018, they broke ground for what will become the new Primrose Schools of Lincoln at Wilderness Hills, one of their five current commercial projects.
“These are just some of the 40 million dollars worth of projects we have scheduled for 2019. PRC is equipped to take on commercial and residential projects in the Lincoln area. We have expertise in the areas of multi-family dwellings, hospitality buildings, and medical facilities,” says Alex Perry, director of operations for Perry Reid Construction.
Perry says that the most important thing for a construction project to be completed efficiently is a dedicated staff. “It’s the people…There are times where, when we are building a big project, it’s all hands on deck. We want to treat our people well, make sure they are truly invested in the company’s work, both monetarily and personally,” explains Perry. A firm’s relationship with its sub-contractors is vital because it can affect how efficiently a project can be set into motion. “Every general contractor is going to have subs that they would prefer to use if they can, because they love working with them, but you have to price competitively. On the other hand, because of our relationship with those subs, during the bidding process, we can encourage our subs to get this on the books so we can start as soon as possible.”
Reid explains that the benefit of a general contractor is their ability to handle a variety of different issues for a client. “Let’s say you want to build a gas station. You might know an architect, but do they know anything about real estate development? I think we help fill in the gaps. Our experience on the property management side, on the development side, really comes into play. A lot of this you might not even pay us for, we just like to do it. A general contractor provides a good combination, for any client who doesn’t do this every day,” advises Perry.
Medical office projects are another area where PRC provides its services. Current projects include remodeling Lincoln Children’s Dentistry and the construction of Gentle Dental, a new 4,800-square-foot office space. In addition to new commercial projects, such as three retail spaces in the past year, PRC has also been involved in three residential remodeling projects for homes, illustrating the overlap that exists between the residential and commercial construction industries.
Notable contributions have also been made to Lincoln’s development by Cheever Construction, an employee-owned construction firm responsible for the renovation of the Willard Community Center in 2018, which entailed expanding the 100-year-old facility and installing a new roof, windows, HVAC system, handicap accessible restrooms, and elevator. They also completed a design-bid-build for a 16,000 square-foot addition to the UNL College of Law in 2017.
President of Cheever Construction, Justin Kurtzer explains that there are three traditional delivery methods that business owners can choose from when contracting a construction firm.
- Construction Management (CM) – The owner hires an architect/engineer responsible for design and a contractor responsible for establishing a program and schedule, organizing sub-contractors, and preparing a benchmark budget. An advantage of this method is the scope of the project can be clearly laid out during the design process.
- Design Build – The owner hires a single contractor, responsible for both the design and construction aspects. An advantage of this method is a single firm is responsible for completion of the project.
- Design Bid Build – Unlike Design Build, the owner hires an architect to design the project in its entirety. Competitors then bid for the contract to complete the building. An advantage of this method is the bidding process establishes the project cost.
While each of these delivery methods offer options to owners, the responsibilities for a general contractor consistently focus on completion. Rod Berens, the president of Kingery Construction, describes it this way: “Our role as the construction manager/general contractor is to ensure the project is completed the way the architect created the project on paper. Many owners are only involved in one or two major construction projects in their career and are relying on us to make sure their vision becomes a reality.”
Berens believes that wide open and flexible spaces have gained so much popularity for contemporary buildings, they are becoming the norm. “Flexible office space has changed the design and functionality of the newer offices. This holds true especially in the tech industry,” says Berens. “Elements of design remain strong in the industry as well as eco-friendly building materials,” he continues. This year marks a milestone for Kingery construction. “As we celebrate our 95th anniversary this year, we will continue to improve technology and processes to ensure the best possible product for our owners,” says Berens.
Another example of a Midwest business focused on both construction and restoration is Ironhide Construction, which has been in operation since 2008. Troy Bridgford, president of Ironhide Construction, describes their specialty as “all things metal.” Bridgford describes the process of construction as a “comprehensive process from initial planning to completion.”
When asked what the most important steps of a construction project are, Bridgford noted that a construction project should begin with pre-construction consulting. “Because we offer comprehensive service, we can work with a client during the pre-construction phase, through completion. We partner with Chief Metal Buildings of Grand Island, NE for many of our projects, which include pre-engineered metal buildings and small structural steel projects in the Lincoln area,” explains Bridgford.
An important distinction, which is illustrated by Ironhide’s portfolio, is their work in both new construction and restoration. In 2018, Ironhide Construction was responsible for both the exterior and interior construction of a new Amigos restaurant. When completing restoration projects, Ironhide Construction partners with structural engineers to identify failed structures and restore these older buildings’ integrity.
In addition to new commercial construction, the rising population for Lincoln has increased the need for residential housing and remodeling, as well as mixed-use property, a form of commercial construction, which began gaining popularity in the 1990s. As many new citizens of Lincoln are professional young adults following employment opportunities, apartment housing is important to meeting their rising housing needs. Construction of multi-family dwellings is a focus of Kreuger Development. Having completed four apartment complexes in the Lincoln area, Kreuger focuses on offering a variety of living options to different individual needs, including senior residences.
Dave Conde, director of commercial leasing at Kreuger Development, stated that their most sought-after and key offering in commercial construction is that they are capable of designing, not only the shell, but the interior of a building. “Clients’ needs are completely met for the exterior and interior when working with Krueger Development. This makes the entire process more economical and time efficient, getting the client into their space as fast as possible without having to work with numerous designers,” says Conde.
In 2018, Krueger officially opened the Sierra Suites, which is their first mixed-use property, combining commercial and residential space, for the city of Lincoln. Whereas traditional residential housing focuses on individuals seeking to become homeowners, mixed-use property is more popular in large and growing cities because it allows residential properties to also fulfill other purposes for a community.
“There will always be trends, but what remains the same is that our clients are seeking the most desirable locations and an experienced landlord who can help them make their vision a reality. Our team of professionals work alongside our clients to ensure that they see us as a partner in the success of their business,” assures Conde.
One aspect of construction that dramatically affects the look of a city is the distinction between new construction and restoration. As a project manager and estimator for McGill Restoration, Jennifer Baldwin has performed extensive research on restoration for older buildings. “When it comes to construction, generally when new construction is up, restoration or investment in aging infrastructure is down. However, with the influx of younger generations into the metro areas, we are seeing a steady increase in both new construction and restoration projects. The new construction is happening in the suburbs while the restoration is happening in the city centers. The trend of restoring older buildings or converting older spaces into modern designs is contributing to this trend. An excellent example of this is the Blackstone Hotel in midtown Omaha. This turn of the century building is being restored to its former glory,” Baldwin points out.
Baldwin explains that restoration requires an in-depth understanding of a building’s history and details. “When it comes to restoration, research is key. Researching the building, the materials, and the best techniques is essential to providing a beautifully restored building/project. When it comes to the planning and execution of a project, we want to offer our expertise. Most companies know the finer points of new construction, but McGill understands the intricacies of restoration,” she says.
Because restoration involves different requirements than new construction, asking questions about the building is vital. “I would say the best advice I have received is ‘ask a lot of questions and never make assumptions.’ In restoration, you can never ask enough questions. The more questions you ask the more you learn the history of a structure, be it a parking garage, a Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge, or a building on the national historic registry. Every structure has a history and that history is important to its restoration. When was it built? What is it going to be used for in the future? These questions will provide a lot of answers to the type of material that must be used in its restoration,” states Baldwin.
Baldwin explains that McGill Restoration specializes in these four market segments:
- Department of Transportation
- Parking Garages and Stadiums
- Masonry Restoration
“Each of these areas are important to the aging infrastructure of our communities and nation, these are always our main focus of work and will continue to be long into the future,” emphasizes Baldwin.
Her most important advice for any construction project to be a success is to build a competent team. “Construction is a team sport. Everyone from the architect and design team, all the way down to the project manager and craftsmen are vital to the success of a project,” says Baldwin.
New construction and renovation can be an opportunity to add or detract from a neighborhood. This means that during the planning process, architects and construction firms have to consider the area beyond the building itself. Just ask Bo Jones and his classmate Steve Powell, who co-founded Tru-Built Construction as UNL students. Since founding Tru-Built, they have won awards, including the 2017 Build Nebraska Award from The Association of General Contractors. As a full-service new construction and remodeling company for residential and commercial projects, they employ five project managers and a CAD (Computer Aided Design) architect, as well as their own on-site construction team.
“In the first 14 years of business, we have built an incredible group of employees, subcontractors, and clients. I get to work every day with some of my best friends,” says Bo Jones. In addition to their contributions to the Lincoln area, Tru-Built Construction was recently selected for construction of a new addition to the Milford Elementary School. Jones says that one of the key considerations for their firm is the local character and how a building contributes to it.
“For example, when we were asked to renovate a 100-year-old building for our 1421 P Street Project, everything inside had to be modernized. The alley behind the building was considered an eyesore. We converted that into a courtyard area that is much more pleasant for residents. That’s a good example of the kind of work we want to build our reputation on. We want to be known for our integrity and for making Lincoln a more beautiful place to live,” assures Jones.
For both new buildings being constructed and older buildings being renovated, building control is a vital consideration for any modern space. “In our 20 years of operation, Engineered Controls has provided innovative and cost effective control solutions to over 3,500 satisfied customers,” explains Pat Killeen, the president and CEO of Engineered Controls. Some examples of Lincoln projects completed by Engineered Controls includes the Ameritas Insurance Building, Southeast Community College, The University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and the Lincoln Surgical Hospital.
There are five key products offered by Engineered Controls:
- Building automation to make buildings smarter, reduce energy costs, and provide comfort.
- Lighting controls to sense wasteful electricity usage in unused rooms and use daylight harvesting to reduce excessive lighting.
- A range of security products meant to serve a variety of individual security needs, including intrusion detection and surveillance.
- Gas detection and ventilation to prevent sickness and death caused by vehicle exhaust in parking structures.
- Parking management solutions, to streamline parking gates for any major private or public entity which provides parking.
Energy savings is a consistent emphasis of Engineered Controls, and in addition to improving the bottom line for their clients, Killeen also believes they have promoted sustainability and reduced wasteful energy use for all their major clients. “Our vision is to transform the way buildings are designed, built, and operated,” says Killeen.
While building controls can provide solutions to the electric and temperature maintenance of a building, certain aspects of the building itself are most subject to wear and tear over time. These are important considerations for both new projects and when restoring older sites. Often, construction firms arrange for sub-contractors to fulfill the variety of responsibilities for construction and restoration projects. Roofing, siding, outdoor woodwork, and flooring are all examples of individual aspects that generally require specialists as sub-contractors. We spoke to several sub-contractors who are responsible for specific areas of construction and remodeling.
One of the most important and difficult aspects of planning new construction is the number of professionals with different areas of expertise who must collaborate. During the construction process, electricians have to work in collaboration with other teams, which requires not only experience in their field, but communication and planning with other professionals. Jon Eicher is a project manager for ABC Electric, which has worked with numerous major Nebraska clients, including the construction of Stonebrook Exteriors new corporate headquarters.
“ABC Electric offers something most other electrical contractors cannot. We offer the stability that over 85 years in business brings, and the reliability and ethical business practices of the inaugural Lincoln Better Business Bureau Integrity award ensures. We can offer design/build construction processes or firm bid estimates, whatever the project requires. We are also in tune with the latest lighting and lighting control technologies. We believe the advancement of LED lighting products and controls will continue to be major issues driving electrical construction projects in the future,” states Eicher.
Eicher has witnessed first-hand the importance of scheduling for major construction projects. “Develop a workable schedule and ensure all project financing before moving forward with construction. Both of these items cause unseen and problematic cost increases to the overall budget if not addressed early. Surround yourself with quality and proven design firms and contractors. Use their resources and specialized knowledge to reach the ultimate goal of building a functional and long lasting building,” advises Eicher.
An exciting new technology Eicher has witnessed emerging in the field is Building Information Modeling (BIM). “We are seeing a continued growth in the implementation of BIM. This allows for detailed 3D-based modeling of proposed building construction and how all parts, architectural, structural, mechanical, and electrical, fit and work together. ABC Electric first encountered BIM while working on the wiring of the Pinnacle Bank Arena in the historic Haymarket District. BIM was previously only used on the larger projects, but now we are seeing it on smaller scale projects more frequently,” explains Eicher.
Because damage to flooring can become expensive and unsightly, Jacque Lee, office manager of EMO Flooring, has recommended contemporary technology for sturdy and easy-to-clean flooring. For example, resilient flooring uses several layers, including two protective layers meant to preserve the look of the flooring.
“Today’s resilient flooring (also called Luxury Vinyl Flooring or LVF) is like a chameleon—designed to replicate the world’s most beautiful wood, stone, and ceramic flooring with amazing realism. But unlike those floors, you can put it almost anywhere,” explains Lee. For those interested in a more cutting edge style, Shaw flooring is a solid option. “One thing that makes Shaw different is great designers who create innovative styles. Designs pulled from everything—an olive tree, a weathered door, a piece of hardware. Edgy and stunning, our designs range from rustic to contemporary to traditional to enhance any room or office space,” says Lee.
Because water can be a major destructive element, EMO Floorings offers waterproof Floorté products. PVC and resin are both used to create a core water cannot penetrate, and the seams are designed to block water from seeping along the sides. Of course, damage to a building from excessive flooding is still possible, but the flooring itself is completely waterproof.
Concrete also has a long history of use for flooring, but many may be surprised by its recent popularity as a decorative design choice.
“There are a variety of techniques to stain and dye concrete for a unique, colorful look,” explains Millennium Decorative Concrete President Gustavo Luna. “As concrete contractors, we are not only familiar with the functionality and easy up-keep of concrete floors, but the aesthetic elements as well.”
Some samples of available styles include:
- A flat work style, which includes squares of concrete in a consistent, checkerboard pattern
- A flake floor style, which features a more rustic, rugged look with a variety of rectangular shapes using a stamped concrete method to create a variety of textures including old stone.
- A metallic epoxy style, which creates an incredibly smooth, flowing style reminiscent of marble.
- A decorative concrete style, which uses organic, asymmetrical shapes to create a folksy, welcoming look.
- As a specialist in concrete work, Luna is hopeful that many business owners will reconsider the possibilities for concrete for professional, decorative applications.
ROOFING AND SIDING
Because the design of a building can help protect it from the elements, the roofing and siding of a building are two of the most important exterior considerations. As a family business established in 1981, Neemann & Sons began as roofing specialists and have since expanded. In January, Owner Terry Neemann announced their acquisition of Sprague Roofing and JL Exteriors, allowing them to offer new services such as commercial roofing and expanded services for siding. Many of Neemann & Sons services focus on the insulation and protection of homes and commercial buildings from the elements.
Brick is also an ideal material for siding and it continues to be a popular choice for its charming aesthetic. Established in 1881, Yankee Hill Brick produces its own clay mixes and high temperature firing kiln to produce a range of looks for their own brickwork. In addition to their own bricks, Yankee Hill also imports a selection of imported bricks from other manufacturers, chosen to complement the local Nebraska market. The biggest advantage of brick siding is that its low maintenance.
Yankee Hill Brick’s face brick is made using the highest quality materials and the most advanced manufacturing techniques. Their on-site mining facilities produce unique clay blends that allow them to produce a wide range of colors to fit any architectural design requirement. Face brick is used for its look, color, and texture to add a beautiful quality to certain buildings. Just a few of the many distinctive styles of face brick include the following:
- Standard face brick, available in numerous colors, notable for its smooth, sharp look.
- Tumble face brick, notable for a rugged look without sharp corners.
- Antique face brick, notable for a stone-like texture.
- Iron spot face brick, notable for a subtle, consistent texture of spots and marks.
Brick siding also withstands heat and offers better fire protection than wood and vinyl siding. Building insulation is very important to keep in mind during the construction process.
The insulation of a building is not only affected by the walls, but also by the temperature of any attachments such as parking garages. As the owner of Overhead Door Company of Lincoln, Cecil Grant is aware of how much an improperly insulated parking garage can cost a building. This principle applies to both residential and commercial properties. “Regular maintenance is important on garage doors and openers. Like your personal car for instance. If you don’t change the oil and have it serviced regularly, it’s not going to last as long as it probably should. Garage doors also need routine maintenance with all of the moving parts a door and opener has.”
Grant says he is proud of Overhead Door’s history of service in Lincoln, which is only two years away from its 100th anniversary. “The Genuine, The Original, Overhead Door Company with its Red Ribbon products will be turning 100 years old in the year 2021. Companies don’t make the century mark of being in business if they offer poor products and poor customer service. Enough said,” says Grant.
Some technological innovations have made it possible for older buildings to reduce costs while remodeling, bringing them up to speed with the most current options available for newly developed properties. Having served both residential clients and light commercial projects like Saint Paul’s Methodist Church’s community garden, the experts at Mark’s Plumbing have witnessed a transformation in the plumbing industry during their careers.
“With the significant improvements in insulation technology for water heaters over the past five years, people want more energy efficiency,” observes Mark Gotula with Mark’s Plumbing. He adds that with improved insulation, new water heaters can perform well while also taking ¼ of the space of previous models.
Owner Mike Montanez recommends that buildings with copper piping consider upgrading to PEX piping. “PEX is a new type of piping. It’s a hard-form plastic that’s more efficient, and allowed within code to use in the city now. It gets the hot water there sooner and it sounds quieter. On PEX piping, you do not hear the sound as much as copper because copper is more solid,” explains Montanez.
Mark’s Plumbing has a two-year guarantee on their service. They are one of the few in the city that offers that. Providing plumbing services for 35 years, Mark’s Plumbing knows what they are doing.
Most importantly, they are known to treat their customers like family.
The aesthetic factor of a commercial space is important, especially for businesses that plan to entertain clients at their office. A comfortable and even “homey” office plays a role in employee satisfaction as well. As remodeling contractors, the family-owned Jonathan Curtis Design has provided woodwork which includes decks, patios, and outdoor construction, as well as indoor elements, for over 11 years. “We are a very unique company here in Lincoln. We design and build interior and exterior spaces, whether that’s additions on homes or businesses. Kitchens, bathrooms, decks. A lot of companies offer just one or two of those things. Not only are we able to design the space, but we are also able to fabricate and install,” explains Owner Jonathan Curtis.
Curtis describes his process for executing a design project in a series of steps, beginning with meeting with a client to gain a personal understanding of their goals for the project. Following the initial meeting, a budget is prepared, and drawings are created to illustrate the final look to the client. A specialty of Jonathan Curtis Design is their woodwork, and Curtis believes balance is important for designing a beautiful space. “I think you get a different feeling when you look at a natural wood than when you look at a painted wood. There is a warmth that you get from natural wood. Sometimes people use too much wood when it would be better to have some combination of paint and wood so the wood stands out and you are not overwhelmed,” suggests Curtis.
“What sets us apart is we design the space, we take care of every part of the remodel process. We do a comprehensive service. It’s not just the cabinetry. I want to make sure everything is taken care of,” says Curtis. For business owners considering remodeling and enhancing their office space, Curtis believes it is important to have economic options and has observed a trend toward more minimal aesthetics. “We are trying to encourage people to actually save money in their remodeling process. That’s part of what we do. We will try designs that are more minimal. We may suggest floating shelves instead of upper cabinets. That can be a way to save on materials, and many people are starting to go that direction.”
With the potential that new construction brings to an area, there also comes the risk of attracting trespassers to an unattended site. With over five years of experience in security work, Spenser Ware is the owner of AnyWare Security. His previous clients include universities, clubs, music concerts, apartment complexes, grocery stores, and construction sites. Ware describes his goal in this way: “Keeping their business safe in a secure environment, so they won’t have any problems in their establishment.”
Because construction sites have been known to attract thieves, vandals, and thrill seekers, Ware believes it is important for a security provider to hire alert people who are always aware of their surroundings. Ware recalled his experience working for a UNL Construction site. “I believe there were 12-hour shifts. You would walk each floor around the perimeter. We made sure there were no cars and looked for anyone wandering around.”
With experience in providing both armed and unarmed security, AnyWare seeks to be a flexible, all-around company. We asked Ware what many people might not know about the importance of providing security for construction projects. Ware observed that because construction teams tend to use expensive tools and machinery, these can make them tempting targets for thieves. “People want to steal high dollar tools and machinery,” said Ware. He also mentioned that while many people assume you only need security guards at night, many thieves may target an unattended site during the day time. AnyWare Security can go state to state if there are construction projects going on outside of Lincoln.
In addition to security personnel, a critically important way to protect a building from trespassers post-construction is at the entryways. Whether it is a home or a commercial warehouse, garage doors should be designed to prevent forcible entry. As a residential sales manager and project manager for Raynor Doors, Jacob Hiatt says this is a valid concern for customers. “The most common question we get for security is what can we do to keep more security on the door. There’s a lot of up-and coming-technology. One of the things we often use is smartphone technology. There is a door monitor that will sense if the door is closed. Also if you are away, you might have a time where you wonder if you left the garage door open or not. It helps to give you that peace of mind knowing you can keep that door closed remotely if you forget,” explains Hiatt. “There is a new lock called a secure lock that as soon as the door is down, it puts a deadbolt above the rollers. The only way you can open it with the opener itself,” he adds.
Hiatt explains one of the best advantages of new garage doors is they allow almost any visual style without sacrificing safety. “The great thing about getting a new door is you have lots of options to get a door that’s what you think it should look like without compromising security. You don’t have to sacrifice strength or integrity of the door just because you want a particular look. A higher insulated door is going to be a little tougher to break into, and in hot and cold weather, it’s going to keep that out,” addresses Hiatt.
All the companies we mentioned each contribute to an aspect of the commercial construction process. Similarly, each building project contributes to the total look and character of Lincoln. With the label “Silicon Prairie,” more businesses will continue to pop up in Lincoln, resulting in more commercial construction. It’s good to know the friendly faces and names of those behind the progressive transformation of our community’s cityscape.