Construction Innovation in Schools: Protecting Our Future

By Steven Morse, Project Manager

K-12 schools across New York State have been taking on a lot more outside threats than usual.  Currently, containing COVID-19 is at the forefront. Aside from COVID, schools have been continuing to explore and implement ways to make their buildings and campuses safer. To effectively learn, students need to feel safe and comfortable.

Regardless of a school’s size, location, and reputation, school security is at the forefront of concern.  Innovative security technologies are now being designed and constructed into school infrastructure when at all possible. Campus Notification Lockdown and Access Control Interconnect are a couple examples of technology that provides security solutions.


Campus Notification Lockdown

This infrastructure system involves audio and visual devices that puts the building in lockdown and notifies law enforcement. The device shown in the image is installed in corridors, classrooms, business offices, and other large gathering spaces. Once the administrator deems the school to be in lockdown, it prompts the network server to notify local law enforcement and will broadcast a lockdown message on the device shown. This quickly initiates classrooms and other spaces to go into a practiced and pre-rehearsed lockdown hiding.

Additionally, lockdown will trip all doors that are ajar and are connected to the fire alarm system. This ensures that all classroom doors are locked shut and all corridor doors are closed similar to a fire. The features of this system are expanding with the capability of sending notifications to mobile devices. My opinion is the Campus Notification Lockdown system is a great asset for schools.

Access Control Interconnect

This infrastructure tool enables the school district to grant access via key fob to specific spaces for specific individuals. This security solution does not allow anyone (outside of faculty and staff) to enter a school building freely. For example, at one of Welliver’s more recent projects for the Addison Central School District, we played out how someone unaffiliated with the school would enter the building. When entering the school, the individual has to ring a video monitored doorbell signaling back to the main office, who can identify the individual through either a window or the video door bell. Once the main office grants access, the individual is able to enter the building’s vestibule area. When in the fully enclosed and locked glass vestibule, employees of the main office have another full body visual of the individual asking permission to enter the school. The main office can then trip the electric strike to allow the individual to enter. The school’s main office is also a secure space that would require the employee to trip another electric strike in order to release the door entering the actual school.

This example provides three (3) measures of security: 1.) the front door of the school is locked with vestibule access required, 2.) the school’s vestibule area is locked with main office access required, and 3.) the main office is locked with school access required.

Whether it’s upgrading video surveillance, door hardware, or even lighting controls signaling security breach, innovative technology in supporting school safety is going to play a big part in school construction for the foreseeable future. The two security measures mentioned above have a visible security presence, places student security at the fingertips of our school administrators, and contributes to protecting our students in school where they should feel safest.

Steve is a construction management professional who has managed projects of all sizes for clients representing diverse industries, including K12 Education. His broad range of expertise in architecture, quality control, budgeting and schedule, construction field inspection, as well as construction technology has brought significant value to his project management and construction competency. Steve’s motivation to learn and enhance new skills in construction management keeps him highly driven to take on complex projects. His ability to define the project and execute in the best interest of the client has built long-term professional relationships. Steve can be reached at [email protected].

Solid Pre-Referendum Planning: a must in K12 School Construction

By Michael Ginalski

A retired NFL coach by the name of Bill Parcells once said “you don’t get any medals for trying” and that phrase holds true in planning for a successful school referendum. To achieve support from a community, Superintendents and Boards of Education must recognize that the idea of “trying hard” isn’t enough. A very high level of strategic planning is necessary which addresses multiple factors which influence everything from how the project meets student educational needs to recognizing the socio-political forces within a community that can impact a vote. Starting from day one, here are five key elements to consider before launching your facilities planning effort:

What’s the plan?

Every district needs to consistently review and update their facilities Master Plan which includes Building Condition Survey (BCS) information. Ultimately, this plan must ensure that future construction supports the instructional plan of the school district. A long-term facilities Master Plan is definitely preferable and ensures districts stay on track.

Trust is a must.

Teamwork and a trusting relationship between the Owner, Architect, and Construction Manager is vitally important to the success of a vote. The three entities must be moving as one as directed by the district to ensure needs are met and the project is a success. Without this, a referendum will likely not be successful.

Communicate. Listen. Share.

Engaging the staff and community during this phase is vital. Teachers, staff, and community can help districts during this phase eliminate potential blind spots both in the development of the project proposal and managing forces within the community. A consistent commitment to communicating with the staff and public is absolutely necessary.

Finances, of course.

A thorough review of debt limit, state aid ability, maximizing dollars, and controlling costs in developing the plan is a very necessary step in the pre-referendum process. Solid estimators, bond counsel, and school business officials are a district’s best friend in this phase.

Walk the walk!

Make sure you follow through on all promises made during this phase. Complete transparency and being honest about choices creates trust and buy in. One of the worst things that can happen in this phase is to gather feedback and not use any of it. Or worse, being dishonest about decisions made. This can make a referendum effort turn sideways in a hurry.

A successful school referendum can transform a community. Doing the hard work up front the right way will ensure that opportunity is maximized.

Mike joins Welliver as our K12 Communication Liaison after 33 years working in the K12 education sector. He brings a comprehensive understanding and direct exposure to all of the issues facing public education today. In his 13 years as the Superintendent in Corning-Painted Post (CPP) Area School District, Mike led the district through four successful referendums which led to $260M in new construction from 2010-2020. Mike bridges the gap between Welliver’s construction management teams and K12 school district superintendents, school boards, and facility directors. He provides expertise and guidance, as well as helps districts carry out capital improvement initiatives involving pre-referendum voting, budget management, community outreach, and buildings and grounds personnel. Mike can be reached at [email protected].

Patient Centered Construction

by Doug Bailey, CHC, PMP

Patients come first. With hospital expansions and renovations on the rise, many healthcare facilities are challenged with protecting their occupants. Working in construction for the healthcare industry, you quickly realize that the focus is always on the patients. They are the reason why we set up and monitor infection control protective barriers, why we cover our carts before hauling construction debris through the hospital, why we check and verify that the plug-in on the other end is not a life support system before shutting off the breakers, why we confirm the fire and smoke barriers are properly sealed, and why we ensure proper negative/positive pressure and air exchanges in the hospital rooms.

Throughout the construction process it is critical to work closely with hospital staff, figuring out how to work through issues, and complete the project all without having a detrimental impact on the patient. Together, the top priority is keeping the patients safe during construction. One way to minimize the effects construction will have on patients is to implement mitigation strategies that will help to minimize dust, noise, vibrations, and shutdowns. One of the major concerns is the risk of infection caused by dust and other contaminates that may flow from the construction site into the patient areas. To avoid this, the Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) matrix, developed by the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), can be used to identify the level of precautions required on the type of construction and the risk-level of nearby patients. With the proper barriers in place, it helps to keep the job site clean, carts covered, and barriers checked to keep any contaminates from patients. Arguably, there are not many ways to limit construction noise and vibration. However, our task is to figure out how to reduce the noise so that patients are not at risk or in discomfort from lack of sleep. This may be accomplished by rotating work shifts around patients, using less powerful/noisy tools, and using separate entrances/corridors away from patients to enter the work site. The shutdown of utilities is another critical item that requires close collaboration with hospital staff. It is important to give them time to prepare and institute effective life safety measures for patients effected by the shutdown. Unexpected shutdowns, such as cut cables, power lines, or gas lines are serious problems. This may not be critical in a standard commercial project. In a hospital, it is a matter of life or death.

As we continue working through the COVID pandemic, there has been more of a shift on the construction project to increase the HVAC air exchanges, increase the 99.95% HEPA Filters, and/or add Needle Point Bipolar Ionization (NPBI)) that reduces airborne particles and cleans the air. The goal is to increase the patient’s comfort level to come in and see their doctor and/or schedule surgeries. We are all adjusting to the challenges of the ever evolving rules that may be causing delays and, at times, substantial shutdowns that further postpone the delivery of much needed built medical space for hospitals and patients.

Below are examples of first-hand experiences.

We were constructing a small, four-story addition on top of an existing hospital. As the equipment was being moved, and the steel structure was being erected, an eye surgeon was performing surgery on a patient four floors down. The vibrations from the work were felt throughout the hospital building forcing the shutdown of the project. As you can imagine, any slight movement will affect the outcome of the surgery. Who would of thought there would be issues with a four-story separation? As a solution, we collaborated with facilities staff and performed work on the project around surgery schedules in order to eliminate any risks.

On another project we were working below an active Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Along the ceiling below the ICU, the team was installing duct work supports, conduit runs, sprinkler supports, and drop ceiling supports up into the concrete floor above. Needless to say, we were shut down several times due to the noise and vibrations resulting from drilling up into the concrete deck and then running the anchor up in with an impact drill. We had to sit down with the hospital staff and figure out how the project could be completed while creating less disruption to the patients and their families. Our solution was to break up the project into quadrants in which we would install everything we could into these areas, one at a time while moving patients into less active areas of the ICU.

With the standards and requirements becoming more and more complex, patient centered construction requires a deeper level of expertise on how to eliminate construction related infections and ensure patient comfort. Health and safety should be at the forefront of healthcare construction projects. Although smart planning and extensive communication play a key role, patient care takes precedence.

Doug has been a champion of the patient for more than two decades. Leveraging long-term professional relationships with clients in the healthcare industry, Doug brings significant expertise in construction, scheduling, field engineering, commissioning, and management leadership. He brings a deep portfolio of experience working on construction projects in healthcare environments where he’s managed projects ranging in size from small facility upgrades to multi-million dollar stand-alone building construction. A project management professional (PMP), Doug is well versed in the rigorous process that complex projects require at all phases of construction.

K-12 School Districts: Construction Manager vs Clerk of the Works

by Ron Gillespie

Your school district has the results of your Building Condition Survey and a capital improvements project has been deemed necessary. The district has prepared a five-year plan and identified facilities needing renovation or replacement. Now what?

Do you need a Construction Manager (CM) or a Clerk of the Works for your upcoming project(s)? This is a question that many districts struggle with when considering a capital project. However, there is no finite answer due to varying factors at each district. There are several factors to consider early in the process to help you make the right decision that fits best for your project and your district.

What is the scope and size of the project?

A project with a value of $2-3 million that can easily be completed over the summer months may be adequately managed using clerk of the works services. This method typically only provides project supervision during the construction phase of the project. However, a project valued at $5-15 million and more with multi-year schedules require much more expertise and planning services. Examples include coordinating work in your buildings during the school year, managing multiple contractors in many different trades, as well as managing and tracking project costs. This is where a construction manager (CM) may be a much better value for the district and the project.

The main difference is the depth of resources available to make the project efficient and successful. A construction management firm can provide multiple staff experienced in complex construction projects as well as support services to document and track schedules, budgets, and progress of large projects. A CM is typically involved in the project early on and through to final completion of the process. The CM is also involved in the planning and design phases of the project as well as the construction phase. A construction management firm, working in partnership with the district, can provide pre-referendum and pre-construction services such as estimating and value engineering that can maximize the district’s investment. These services and resources are not normally provided through a clerk of the works.

What if my project is small but complex in design and duration?

Some firms offer hybrid services that can include pre-planning assistance and clerk of the works services for the construction phase. This can be a good option for financial efficiency while providing the safety net of resources, if needed, that a construction management firm can provide.

So, what is the right choice for your district and your project?

Each district should evaluate their vision pertaining to facilities. If it’s a small, short term project then possibly a clerk of the works is the best choice. If it is a larger project or part of a long term facilities plan, my advice would be partner with a construction management firm that will be on your team from the early beginning to provide all the resources needed and ensure a successful journey to meet your facility goals.

Ron brings a significant depth of knowledge and experience overseeing capital improvement projects for K-12 schools. He is the former Director of School Facilities and Operations for the Corning-Painted Post Central School District. Ron cultivated a 36-year career managing all facilities and grounds, maintenance, and capital projects for the district. Ron joins the Welliver team as K-12 Project Liaison. His focus is on assisting school districts with capital planning and project execution. Ron can be reached at [email protected]

Construction is one of the most innovative and adaptable industries.

by Drew Bloss, Project Manager

Innovation and technological advances within the construction industry are changing the way in which we work on a daily basis, and are helping us as construction professionals to produce stellar projects in an unprecedently efficient manner. I’m currently working on the North Campus Residential Expansion (NCRE) project at Cornell University and out of all of the projects I have worked on throughout the past 8 years, this project leverages the industry’s latest advancements and innovations more so than any other I’ve experienced in my career. Prefabrication and LEAN Construction techniques are two areas specifically that this project excels at, so I feel it would be interesting to share a few high-level examples of each.

Prefabricated Materials

At the conclusion of the NCRE project, there will be just over 2,000 new beds available to Cornell freshman and sophomores across 5 separate buildings. With this many occupants comes the need for a whole lot of bathrooms. From framing and rough-ins to the finishes and fixtures, constructing stick-built bathrooms is typically a very time-consuming process as nearly every trade has to contribute in some way, shape, or form.

At NCRE, we have streamlined this process by having the bathrooms premanufactured off-site and delivered when they are needed. Premanufactured bathrooms will be installed in most suites and individual residences throughout the buildings, totaling to a count of 432. We refer to these bathrooms as PODs, as they look like a framed box from the outside, but on the inside, they are fully finished bathrooms.

A few of my colleagues and I took a trip out to Ohio where these PODs are being manufactured to review the process. The production is set up in an assembly line fashion and at any given time, there are approximately 50 PODs on the line in various stages of assembly and finishing. It takes roughly 26 days for a single POD to make its way from the start of production to punch list completion, and every day 2 PODs come off of the line and two new PODs are added. This results in a production rate of 10 finished PODs a week, a timeline that would be tough to match with traditional on-site construction methods. On average, we set anywhere between 4 to 6 bathroom PODs in a single day and once a POD is set, there is minimal work that needs to be done until the PODs are framed in with the rest of the floors. By assembling bathrooms off-site, their production can be independent of the tasks that are occurring on-site, and visa-versa. This saves a substantial amount of time, and frees up manpower to focus their efforts elsewhere.

Prefabrication has also been utilized for the buildings’ exterior envelopes. Exterior wall systems can vary greatly in how they are constructed and the time it takes to bring them together, so manufacturing all of the necessary structural components and control layers of exterior walls off-site in controlled environments is an obvious time saver and allows for more aggressive scheduling. The majority of the buildings on this project have envelopes that are made up of pre-cast concrete wall panels. Across all of the buildings, there is a total of 1,570 wall panels, accounting for approximately 220,000 SF of building frontage. Each wall panel is comprised of an interior wythe of concrete, polyiso foil-faced insulation, an exterior wythe of concrete, and individual terracotta tiles that make up the architectural face of the panels. All of these components are cast together in two phases to create a unitized exterior wall panel. When they arrive at the job site, they are set one at a time by a crane and locked into place, immediately forming an insulated exterior wall. From there, panels need to be caulked from both the in and outside, and windows are installed in their designated openings. At a rate of roughly 8 wall panels a day, this process quickly encloses the buildings, which is a critical milestone for all downstream tasks within the building.

LEAN Construction

An essential aspect of managing construction projects is to always know where the project is in relation to the master schedule. It’s extremely hard for a project to be successful if milestones are not closely tracked and tasks not scheduled on a weekly basis. At the time that I am writing this, we have nearly 300 people on-site every day, working in all 5 buildings. The buildings are all in various stages of construction, anywhere from foundations and steel erection to taping and painting, and everywhere in between. It was essential that a process be put in place early on in the project that would enable Welliver as the CM, as well as all of trade partners and the client to understand what stage of the project we were in at any given time, and what tasks would be coming up in the near future. It was also important to be able to break down a 3-year long project into more manageable and less overwhelming chunks.

Ultimately the decision was made to utilize a LEAN Construction technique known as Pull Planning. As part of the Pull Planning process, we meet 3 days a week with the foremen, superintendents, and project managers of all trade partners to collaborate and develop a sequence of tasks that ensure that the project as a whole is staying on schedule. The purview of a Pull Planning meeting is typically 3 weeks ahead, although we often plan for certain milestones that are several weeks to months out. With this approach, everyone is made aware of what each trade’s tasks are and what they need in order to get it done. It is also extremely helpful in identifying potential issues well in advance since there are so many different perspectives that are involved in the planning process. We are nearly a year into the project at this point in time and so far, this process has been extremely successful. It creates a sense of teamwork between contractors and the CM, which breeds an overall culture of focus, accountability, and comradery.

Prefabrication and LEAN Construction techniques are only a few of the many examples of how the NCRE project is taking advantage of the latest innovations and technologies that the construction industry has to offer. It’s important to note though that although these things help to make the construction process more efficient and effective, it takes an extremely dedicated and organized team of people to make it all work. Between my colleagues on the CM team and the trade partners putting the work in place, the NCRE project has a truly impressive group of individuals that put their best foot forward on a daily basis to ensure that this monumental project is a success. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of it.

Drew has been applying advanced construction technology to projects for nearly a decade. He recognizes that every project has its own set of unique variables such as the weather, availability of materials, cooperation from project members, changes in scope, and constructability issues. One of the most challenging aspects of being a project manager is identifying and handling those variables while maintaining the project budget and schedule. Leveraging significant experience working with construction technology and innovative methods, Drew applies this knowledge to make the construction process more efficient.

Construction is open for business. Focus is on safety.

by Dale Partridge

Every business is now faced with the challenges of these unprecedented times. We as employers in the construction industry must move forward to the re-opening of our businesses – to complete our projects on time and bring our employees back to work all while complying with New York State guidelines and ensuring our job sites are safe for everyone. Construction has been able to continue to operate in a limited capacity through these challenging times while navigating the numerous changes and protocols.

When looking at re-opening we need to consider a multitude of items that effect how we will now conduct business. We have input from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York State Department of Health, New York State Executive Orders, as well as guidance from the State and Federal level.  It may seem a bit overwhelming, however the requirements from all these sources and more can be met with good planning and investment from your companies top management through to the newest hire.

Right from the beginning, Welliver formed a committee to stay abreast of the latest protocol and orders regarding safety on our job sites. We had just one chance to get it right and we enveloped this situation and information to ensure that we did. Without covering the natural progression of events over the past three months, I will explain how we are operating today.

Priority number one was the open communication to all our employees and educating them about the COVID-19 virus. We have come to learn that when employees are better educated on a topic they are more compelled to comply with changes. In addition to the education component there are a number of posters which also explain the signs and symptoms of the virus, how to maintain good personal hygiene, social distancing, proper wearing of face coverings and more. In fact, some of these posters are required to be present in multiple locations on job sites.

This new “normal” has left us with new procedures, policies, and protocols. We are now faced with having a COVID-19 Policy/Plan for every job site. For those that hire Union employees like Welliver, it may be best served to collaborate with other construction corporations to ensure a consistent policy and best practice is being followed throughout your region. We collaborated with other companies and the end result was a very positive message that we were all going to share the same information with our employees. In addition, Welliver was able to offer an already implemented COVID-19 Safety Plan to the other members of the group to use as a template for their respective companies.

We have been fortunate to be able to work throughout this pandemic at one location or another. With that we have continued to gather information and learn as we progressed. Once our initial foundation was set with our employees the rest was administrative changes to policy and procedures. Again, the changes were able to be made without resistance because of our continued open line of communication. Welliver has been very successful with the handling of this pandemic. We have made and continue to make our job sites a safe and healthy place to work.

For additional information, go to OSHA’s website. It provides coronavirus-related guidance for construction industry employers and workers. The guidance includes recommended actions to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus while on a job site or at the office.

Dale is Welliver’s Director of Safety. He is a subject matter expert on the topic of safety and a veteran professional with a diverse background in compliance and quality control. Paired with an extensive list of OSHA training and certifications, Dale is responsible for the overall status and facilitation of Welliver’s  safety training programs, as well as safety compliance, tracking, reporting, documentation, and oversight of all on-site safety managers. He creates an environment of personal accountability, and plays an integral role in maintaining Welliver’s position as a leader in workplace safety.

Coronavirus Impact on Construction

By Max Venuti, LEED® AP

As we move forward through these uncertain times, the overwhelming theme is to continue social distancing and follow the directives issued by State and Local governments. An updated executive order was issued by Governor Cuomo’s office this past Friday morning 3/27 at 9:15 am – Within the executive order, the importance of public safety protocol and the definition of “essential services” were further defined. We have come upon dangerous times indeed, and the need for us to follow actions mandated are essential to the speedy recovery of our human population and, of course, our way of life. Initially, I was going to devote my post to the potential impact on the supply chain, and still, I will be covering that topic. However, I felt it essential to include the executive order in my opening as this governs our business behavior and will have supply chain impactful consequences associated with it.

Fellow contractors and business partners are deeply concerned about the welfare of their workforce and the supply chain at large. Undoubtedly impacts will be felt, but to what degree remains an uncertainty. Dr. Fauci laid out our current situation in straightforward terms, “You don’t make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline.” As responsible neighbors, co-workers, and citizens, it is up to us all to observe the rules mandated by our State and Local governments. We must remain vigilant in protecting each other’s welfare; it’s the only way we can give the medical professionals a fighting chance to treat the sick, as our scientists relentlessly work toward a cure.

I recently read an article written by James B. Rice, Jr., deputy director of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. The material is entitled, “Prepare Your Supply Chain for Coronavirus,” and was included in the Operations Management section of the Harvard Business Review, February 27, 2020. In the interest of brevity and relevance to the construction industry, I boiled down Mr. Rice’s work to hit the key points. I believe the following synopsis offers a logical approach to preparing business leaders to formulate a strategy to deal with the uncertainty ahead.

What We Can Do Now

Start with our people: The people that work for us are a critical resource; therefore, the welfare of the employee is paramount. We have had to rethink typical work practices as non-essential employees now may work remotely from their homes. Essential workers will continue to manage their roles in the office. Similarly, essential trade workers will continue to cover their positions in the field under new health and safety protocols.

Maintain a healthy skepticism: Accurate information is a rare commodity in the early stages of emerging disasters, especially when governments are incentivized to keep the population and business community calm to avoid panic. Impact reports tend to be somewhat rose-tinted. However, local people can be a valuable and more reliable source of information, so try to maintain local contacts.

Run outage scenarios to assess the possibility of unforeseen impacts: Expect the unexpected, especially when core suppliers are in the front line of disruptions. In the case of the coronavirus crisis, China’s influence is so wide-ranging that there will almost inevitably be unexpected consequences. Inventory levels are not high enough to cover short-term material outages, so expect widespread runs on common core components and materials.

Designing for Response

Know all of our suppliers: We must map our upstream suppliers several tiers back. Failing to do this will make us less able to respond or estimate likely impacts when a crisis erupts. Similarly, we must develop relationships in advance with critical resources before the disruption has fully erupted. The coronavirus story will undoubtedly add to our knowledge about dealing with large-scale supply chain disruptions. Even at this relatively early stage, we can draw valuable lessons about managing crises of this nature that should be applied down the road.

Create business continuity plans: Our plans should pinpoint contingencies in critical areas and include backup plans for transportation, communications, supply, and cash flow. We must involve our suppliers and customers in developing these plans.

Don’t forget our people: A backup plan is needed for our people too. The plan may include contingencies for more automation, remote-working arrangements, or other flexible human resourcing in response to personnel constraints.

Revisit Your Supply Chain’s Design

Redesign with second sources: This supply-chain design provides backup capacity for supply, production, and distribution outages. The backup capacity spreads the risk of disruption across two sources (as long as the disruption does not also affect the second source location). Consequently, it is better to have a second source outside the primary source region. Although this supply chain design lowers risk levels, it incurs higher administrative, quality monitoring, and unit costs. Also, economies of scale vary according to the amount of supply allocated to each supply source.

Redesign to source locally: This design calls for a company to have production facilities with local sources of supply in each of its major markets. Like the above option, it spreads the risk. Since these sources are dispersed, the economies of scale are lower, and the capital costs are higher, but the transportation costs are lower.

Consider: These are gross simplifications of many design options that our company can take to reduce risk and ensure response capacity. More detailed analysis and assessment will be necessary as we continue to move forward. Obviously, in selecting a design, we must weigh the costs of each and how it will affect their ability to serve our partners and compete against other firms. Deciding which model is optimal is not a one-time process. To remain successful, we must regularly revisit and challenge our design choices and the strategies that underpin them.

The epicenter of the current pandemic is roughly 300 miles from us. The hospitals are filling, and the health care professionals and first responders are overwhelmed. The coronavirus spread is increasing at an exponential rate. Without a doubt, we are frustrated in dealing with a crisis that has no immediate solution. The time frame and sacrifices we need to make to flatten the curve remain unknown to us. But, by faithfully doing our part, we can keep the spread under control. Scientists are reporting that within several months the stabilization of controllable treatment procedures can be reached. However, the development of the vaccine is still 12-18 months away. These are serious times, and how we make it through the other end is ultimately upon our shoulders. Let’s get through this together – best to you all, and be safe!

Max has returned to the Southern Tier with more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry and rejoins the Welliver team as Vice President, Business Development & Construction Services. He leads strategic initiatives for sales and client outreach, drives revenue, and works closely with clients across current market sectors as well as explores opportunities in additional project segments. Max is an accomplished construction professional with extensive knowledge of preconstruction, project development, and management. He can be reached at [email protected]

K-12 Building Condition Survey – They say timing is everything.

by Ron Gillespie

As you are aware, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) requires all public school districts and Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in New York to complete a Building Condition Survey (BCS) for occupied public school buildings every five years. In late 2019, changes in the New York State Education Law were enacted which alters the five year cycle schedule for school districts to conduct these surveys. After years of lobbying by the New York State School Facilities Association, this was a welcome change.

So what’s in it for you? I believe that this change will benefit school districts as well as A/E firms, construction management firms, and contractors across the state. How? Previously, all school districts across the state had to complete their BCS in the same year. This created a heavy demand on the availability of A/E and construction management firms. By staggering the years that districts are required to complete their BCS, it will relieve the surge that we have seen every five years with districts all trying to file in a timely manner. It also reduces the demand for qualified A/E firms and construction management professionals to complete the testing and inspections needed to provide a comprehensive report.

The BCS is the primary instrument school districts use to develop capital project plans, identify scope, as well as prioritize needed work to develop capital schedules and budgets. When all 700+ school districts are required to complete the BCS in the same year, this creates a peak in capital project planning and design across the state that in turn generates an influx of projects being submitted to the State Education Department (SED) for review and approval. This results in bottlenecks and delays for districts receiving building permits.

The BCS acts as a “report card for facilities.”

A team consisting of at least one licensed engineer or registered architect will visually inspect all occupied school buildings to assess the current conditions of the space, major building infrastructure, and grading condition. They are looking for evidence of structural failure, deterioration, and probable useful life as well as need for maintenance and replacement. Your survey results will include opinions on the building’s condition, advice on any critical or future repairs, and the consequences of non-repair.

The purpose of a BCS is to properly plan and prioritize capital improvement projects. New York State refers to the BCS when planning for building aid reimbursement to school districts. With Welliver on your BCS team, we can provide a 360-degree view of the data. Real-time analysis can be performed incorporating the current climate, a district’s future goals, estimated cost to replace/repair, potential return on investment, and feasibility. Our depth of knowledge includes cost estimating, NYSERDA funding opportunities, capital project schedule development, constructability reviews, and MEP analysis and life cycle costing.

School districts to get relief 

Under the new schedule, districts must conduct Building Condition Surveys (BCS) on a staggered schedule as assigned by the Commissioner in calendar years 2020 through 2024, and every five years on that same five-year cycle thereafter. You should experience a positive impact in that this should create more favorable bid environments and less workforce shortages, enabling more projects to be completed on time. Spreading the schedule over a five-year cycle should also create a smoother flow for the capital project process resulting in better project review turn arounds and more favorable bid results for districts across the state.

Where does your district fit in to this new schedule?

And if it’s not in the next couple of years what other requirements do you need to complete in the interim? Answers to these questions and many other pertinent details can be found on the New York State Education Department website at: From the home page click on the “school business” tab and then select “facilities planning” from the dropdown menu. About a third of the way down this page you will find the heading BUILDING CONDITION SURVEY AND VISUAL INSPECTION, click on the highlighted “webpage” link and you will find detailed information on the assignment lists that tells you which year your district is required to complete the BCS as well as interim visual inspections that may be required, BCS detailed instructions, a sample BCS document, and a pretty comprehensive FAQ section.

Ron brings a significant depth of knowledge and experience conducting Building Condition Surveys, assessing results, and implementing capital improvement projects. He is the former Director of School Facilities and Operations for the Corning-Painted Post Central School District. Ron cultivated a 36-year career managing all facilities and grounds, maintenance, and capital projects for the district. Ron joins the Welliver team as K-12 Project Liaison. His focus is on assisting school districts with capital planning and project execution. Ron can be reached at [email protected].

Achieving Excellence in Construction

by Andrew Gimbar, Jr., PE, LEED® AP

Welliver employees come to work each day to construct buildings. Our efforts typically support customers in organizations whose jobs are not directly related to construction but rather, in manufacturing, education, medical care, retail sales, wholesale, warehouse storage, etc. Subject to dynamic influences, the facilities in which they work may be too small, inefficient, unattractive, unsafe, or otherwise unsatisfactory. Recognizing this, someone in pursuit of excellence may champion a project fostering new-found excellence. Thus, a project is born.

Now members of the customer organization will assume critical roles that will require them to exercise skills not necessarily required to carry out their normal responsibilities. Although highly skilled at their jobs, they may find additional skills are needed to add value to the project. Focusing on construction projects, professional consultants such as architects, engineers, construction managers, cost estimators, and tradesmen are needed. Although these professionals will have special skills, they will be most effective when supported and appropriately directed by communicative owner’s representatives. After all, there is typically much at stake; large investments in time and money will depend upon sound decision making to achieve the essential goals, while staying within budget, meeting code requirements, and addressing stakeholder concerns.

Independent of project size, divergent stakeholder concerns, experiences, skills, and practices are expected to create conflict including:
• Total cost may conflict with available budget and compromise is required to get to the finish line
• Tremendous regard for a project element may foster strong and compelling arguments and opposition to competing concerns
• Those most affected by project outcome have no previous project experience and have no expectations of future experiences. Nonetheless, they want to get it right.
• Goals are likely to be of paramount importance to those who will work in the facility, and they will have to be balanced with things like safety, sustainability, aesthetics, disruption, and schedule.

Resolving this conflict may cause trying circumstances, and for the best outcomes, perfection must yield to excellence. Respectful inclusive communication fostering generous participation from all stakeholders will develop deliberate and informed decisions. These processes are what the project participants will remember most. And well thought out and inclusively generated solutions to the problems encountered will produce the best results. When projects are delivered with strong input from the owner’s team, decisions will represent the customer’s needs, and imperfections can be accepted as gateways to excellence.

Andy has been a champion of sound decision making for more than three decades. He solves problems and assures high levels of satisfaction by end users within the built environment. Supporting construction management, Andy fosters innovation and excellence in sustainable mechanical system application. He estimates mechanical system construction costs subject to a broad range of evolving information in both pre-construction and construction phases of job development. Andy knows that pre-construction services support owner’s representatives, design professionals, and project stakeholders by identifying options and tradeoffs with iterative cost estimates for mechanical portions of their projects. Andy refines the information as design is developed in phases: conceptual, schematic, design development, and construction documentation. As Director of Mechanical Services and Mechanical Estimator for Welliver, Andy works with clients representing a broad range of market sectors including higher education, industrial, healthcare, and K-12 education.

Building opportunities for D/MWBE

by Estella Swartout

Welliver is a victor of collaboration with disadvantaged, minority, and women owned companies (D/MWBE). As a general contractor and construction manager, Welliver is cognizant of D/MWBE and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) requirements in all bidding situations. We are seeing an increase in requests to meet the D/MWBE goals. In these situations, Welliver uses the New York State database along with Welliver’s proprietary D/MWBE vendor database to reach out to certified companies in the region which match the scope of work needed for that particular project. We recognize the importance of including as many D/MWBE companies in our bidding process to ensure a high level of participation. If the requirements cannot be met, it is also important that Welliver has proof of adequate “good faith efforts” and communication in our attempt to find certified D/MWBE’s for any project. Several of our projects, such as the Hill-Rom/Welch Allyn Inc. Warehouse Expansion, Rochester Institute of Technology Magic Spell Studios, and Schuyler Hospital Expansion, have D/MWBE and EEO goals with state, federal or grant funding associated with the contract.

As a project administrator, I know from experience that monthly D/MWBE and EEO tracking is an important task for any active project. We communicate regularly with New York State to ensure all reporting data is tracked and entered into the NYS Tracking Database as soon as each monthly audit opens. EEO workforce tracking and D/MWBE payment reports are required each month. EEO workforce reports are used for employee tracking purposes to show diversity in the workforce. D/MWBE payment reports are tracked to ensure all D/MWBE companies are being paid efficiently and on time. It is critical that everything is monitored accurately and all paperwork is compliant and submitted. Funding is only distributed to the Owner at the end of the project if the goals and good faith efforts have been met.

Welliver strives to engage with all D/MWBE organizations no matter the classification of work, giving all companies an opportunity to bid competitively. Welliver’s due diligence in all bidding situations is important to be successful and to be prepared for any project requirements which are known to change at any given time. When we have successfully fulfilled all requirements for the project, I get a feeling of great satisfaction when I receive the completion email from the New York State Compliance Contact Division. In my opinion, Welliver goes above and beyond to make our customers and our subcontractors feel comfortable and confident in their work, not only in the field but in the office as well.

Estella brings more than a decade of experience working on projects requiring D/MWBE and EEO participation and knows her way around state, federal, and grant funding regulations associated with contracts. As a seasoned project coordinator in the construction industry, Estella is an integral member of the project team from start-up to close-out. Her contribution to the project’s success includes accurate project documentation, timely communication with client and team, and administration of up-to-date project intel. Detail oriented and highly organized, Estella has applied her knowledge of D/MWBE and EEO data tracking and reporting for numerous clients including Schuyler Hospital, Wayfair LLC, and Hill-Rom/Welch Allyn Inc.