Many people envision construction projects with tower cranes, large amounts of materials on site and hundreds of people working together to construct a new building in a community, build a bridge to span a waterway or expand an international airport terminal. However, there is also a smaller scale version of construction that many people don’t recognize – hospital room renovations, bridge rehabilitations or restaurant upgrades – that require the same collaboration, management approach and quality, but with fewer people. PCL’s Special Projects Division was established to respond to the smaller scale but equally unique needs of those clients.
The PCL Special Projects team is identified by the specialized approach to meeting the needs of clients with unique projects that range in scope from less than $50,000 to $15 million. The teams across the U.S. are built on a solutions-focused approach and bring a wide range of expertise across diverse markets from buildings to civil infrastructure and industrial projects. The team is structured to manage quick turnaround projects with a lean team and provide highly customized solutions to benefit both clients and the development of construction professionals.
Over a holiday weekend in February, PCL received a call from a current client – a bridge experienced a structural failure, requiring all freight traffic to be rerouted. The bridge was located in a remote area in Alabama. Within hours of the call, PCL employees within a 4-hour radius in adjacent states were in their cars and on the way to the site. “Our division is structured to mobilize quickly to provide top quality, collaborative services on complex projects,” says Brandon Hinson, Manager of Special Projects in Tampa, focusing on civil infrastructure. “The complexity of our projects is in tight turnaround schedules, repair response and engineering challenges to keep our client’s business running.”
Within one day, the construction team was on-site with over 30 people working three 8-hour shifts and collaborating with engineers on repair details. Within five days, the project was complete and the client’s bridge was back up and running.
“It is rare that we are called for emergency repairs, but we are prepared to support clients with unforeseen issues no matter what the size of the project,” continues Hinson, “we bring the best of both worlds – the responsiveness and commitment of a local contractor and the expertise, innovative solutions and purchasing power of a large construction organization.”
David Campbell, manager, Special Projects in Denver, Colorado says “our project managers and superintendents get the opportunity to oversee multiple diverse projects, often simultaneously. This lean team structure creates a very collaborative approach and helps enhance relationships and build trust. We are always interested in achieving our client’s vision regardless of project size.” These smaller projects often create opportunities to expose new clients to PCL’s construction process and lead to more opportunities with expanding relationships.
In addition to building client relationships, the division can utilize small business communities across the U.S. Great subcontractor relationships are key to a project’s success. The large number of small-scale projects completed each year provides opportunities in the market for small and diverse businesses and builds lasting relationships to support the growth of the industry. “Our projects may be smaller in value, but they have a huge impact when it comes to building relationships in our industry and our community,” says Campbell.
The smaller scale projects of the Special Projects Division not only benefit PCL clients with quick solutions and project deliveries but offer unparalleled opportunities for construction professionals. A large-scale construction project could span three to five years and a construction management professional may only be exposed to a portion of the scope for a short duration of the project.
Special projects are run by small teams, on average only two people will staff a project – a project manager and a superintendent. “Special Projects creates a unique opportunity for our personnel to manage the whole construction process from start to finish. It’s amazing how we deliver the same complex construction services on a scale that is quick, efficient and easily digestible,” notes Dan Johnson, manager, Special Projects in Seattle, Washington.
For industry professionals, completing one or two special projects jobs amplifies one’s knowledge of the project lifecycle and easily translates to a larger scale. These projects also create an opportunity to be the face of the company to clients and build interpersonal skills. Johnson says, “every professional that joins the division is coached and offered guidance to help build on their construction management skills in the fast-paced environment.” Employees are able to immerse themselves in the project details that may not be available on a larger job and work closely with clients and subcontractors to deliver a successful project.
PCL Construction’s Special Projects Division is a vital part of the company, for clients, employees and subcontractors – not all projects are in need of large teams and long schedules. The nimble teams provide opportunities quickly to respond to client’s needs. While the scale is different, the steps and the processes are the same across markets.