2018 Holiday Giving

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Colvos Construction is excited to support two very deserving local charities this winter and we invite YOU to join in.

New Phoebe House and the Tacoma Rescue Mission have been working tirelessly caring for youth and their families in an effort to the stop the cycle of homelessness in Tacoma. 

Boxes are waiting to be filled in our lobby. If you would like to donate, simply stop buy with a gift or monetary donation (we'll purchase toys and warmies for you).

Deliver your donations to our office at 
711 Court C, Tacoma, WA 98402 by

Friday, December 14, 2018 

2018 Holiday Giving Wish List

New Hats, Gloves, Scarves & Socks

Baby Dolls & Stuffed Animals

Learning Toys    

Cars, Dinosaurs & Action Figures     

Legos

Arts & Crafts

Disney Princesses

 

Construction Trends in the South Sound

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President of Colvos Construction Devin Page examines trends in the construction industry and considers what factors are affecting the change.

By Devin Page, President of Colvos Construction

Since the turn of this economic cycle, the promise and security of commercial construction in the South Sound has been apparent in the real estate industry. It will be interesting to see how the Seattle market continues to drive Tacoma’s, but from what we’ve experienced, it’s our local job market and improvements to downtown Tacoma’s core that’s been attracting new development. Companies are locating in Tacoma to meet the demand of the tech giants up north, but prefer the rent, recruiting and community down south.

From our position as a general contractor, we’re experiencing increased demand to build multi-level self-storage, multifamily and, most excitingly for Tacoma, adaptive re-use of underutilized masonry and industrial buildings.

The Rise of Self-Storage

Self-storage directly correlates to job growth and apartment vacancies, which are historically low. The continued strength of our region’s job market has reduced area unemployment to four-percent, the lowest annual rate in 18 years. The metro’s increasing population reinforces gains in retail sales. Also, the delivery of more than 4,000 apartments creates a need for self-storage space. Where there’s people there’s storage - and as we’ve seen with apartments going vertical - it has its advantages when land space is limited. 

A Migration in Housing Types

Where we’re seeing a switch in market popularity is in multi-family residential with a migration from podium multifamily to infill apartments and adaptive reuse multifamily. Larger podium multifamily projects – 150 units and up - aren’t penciling out as easily as they used to, with increased construction and land costs. Within the last 12 to 18-months, these projects have suddenly been challenged to acquire commercial lending. We predict that there will be more entitled properties coming online than in recent years, given that some undercapitalized first-time developers will be unable to find the equity needed to fund construction. This is an attractive prospect for many developers, as a fully entitled property has received all the necessary governmental and regulatory approvals for a particular use and provides a turn-key opportunity for the buyer.

Now, while large projects may be waning in this cycle, there’s still a strong market for garden-style apartments in suburban areas, like Frederickson and Port Orchard. In these areas, the rental market is seeing a demand for floorplans that can accommodate families with children, with amenities such as pools and community space, and within safe neighborhoods and high-performing school districts.

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Why Adaptive Reuse?

Adaptive reuse refers to the reuse of a building or a piece of land for purposes other than what it was originally intended. Many of our clients, including local developer Horizon Partners NW and high-tech employer InfoBlox, are attracted to the historical value, architectural character, higher ceilings, and open space provided by these former manufacturing buildings and warehouses. From an owner’s position, adaptive reuse buildings also hold up well to multiple renovations after the initial renovation, with the highest costs for seismic upgrades and hazardous materials abatement most of the costs absorbed upfront. Infoblox is a good example of second or third generation Tenant Improvement.

Adaptive reuse also segues into the restaurant market, mainly from Seattle restaurateurs coming into Tacoma. These clients are attracted to Tacoma’s less expensive rents, but prefer in the core downtown areas, such as the Stadium District, near UWT, and along 6th Ave. We’ve found that they, like our commercial office clients, are drawn to older underutilized buildings, thus increasing the quantity of adaptive reuse projects. For example, recently renovated Pizza Press was converted from an unreinforced masonry building, formerly a liquor store.

In the end, it’s hard to dispute that the spill-over from Seattle’s construction boom hasn’t benefitted Pierce County and beyond from a commercial real estate and construction position, but we’re at a strong advantage with lower land prices and growing rent both for commercial spaces and residential.

By the Way…

We’re often asked, “Are construction costs going to continue to rise?” And our answer is “yes” from a labor stand-point, and “maybe” on materials. We’ve experienced that there’s limited, if not negative, exposure to youth regarding the trades, such as electrical, masonry, and framing. Therefore, we believe that unless schools promote the trades in a positive manner, that there will be less skilled labor for the construction industry and this will continue to affect labor costs. Recently, the cost increase of materials is driven by tariffs and other trade issues that are difficult to predict in an unstable political climate

But there are opportunities for construction cost savings, which start well before we break ground. By far, the top reason for stabilized construction costs during a project is an investment in preconstruction services and complete design. By spending resources on these up-front efforts, client expectations are not delineated, and those details will get budgeted into the project during the preconstruction and estimating phases. A painfully simple but all too common fact is that changes to the design during construction will increase the price of the project, much more so than if they had been flushed out in preconstruction.

The good news is, with all the development in the Downtown area, the outlook for 2019 is very promising.

10 Questions with Vice President Anders Bjorn

Anders discusses his experience in the industry, how Colvos fits into a changing landscape, and provides some local dining recommendations.

How did you get started in this field?

From a young age I was interested in construction and loved to build things with my hands. My grandpa had a heavy equipment yard that I would visit often, and as a teenager I was able to work some of the equipment. In college, I framed houses while going to school; even though it wasn’t commercial construction, it did give me a foundation of knowledge and experience, and some basic carpentry skills. I looked in to the construction management program and knew that really interested me, and earned a degree in Construction Management from BYU, Idaho.

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Can you speak to the current state of building & construction in the Puget Sound region? How does Colvos fit into the changing landscape?

The commercial construction industry in the region continues to move at a rapid pace, mainly in the Seattle/Bellevue area, but in the South Sound as well. Colvos Construction fits in well because there are a lot of large general contractors in the South Sound who are very busy. That leaves a nice opportunity for a small but diverse company like us. We provide exceptional customer service, good pricing, and we can rely on the solid relationships we’ve built throughout the Puget Sound to deliver a good project for our clients. This trend of larger contractors going after big projects will likely continue into the next year or so, leaving a lot of opportunities for a company like Colvos to go after smaller projects.

How do you see the Puget Sound region changing in the next two years, and how do you anticipate Colvos responding to that change?

We don’t anticipate a large decline in private work; however, to remain diversified and build relationships in the public sector, we have focused about 20% of our efforts on hard bid work with public agencies.  We know that things will eventually change, and public work will increase as private work tapers off. 

Name one trend in your field that you are either currently embracing or bucking?

The younger generation (high school kids and those graduating soon) is moving away from the trades/construction/blue collar work, which is a trend that is a big challenge for the construction industry as we have a generation (which has been doing this their whole lives) will soon be retiring. With as much work as exists in the Puget Sound region right now, that is an especially difficult challenge. We are trying to help address this issue locally by visiting schools like Pierce College, which has a two-year construction management program, to teach them about the industry and get them excited about the field. We’re also working with Tacoma Public Schools, which has a program to provide information to students about alternatives to four-year degrees.

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What do you consider your specialty?

Working with people is my specialty. I like working with subcontractors, I like sitting down and spending time with architects and owners to problem solve, going through the design and preconstruction phase. I like working with everyone on our team at Colvos, and enjoy spending time with and learning from them, regardless of their role.

What’s the most significant project you’ve worked on in your career and why?

As an intern in college, I worked on the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center campus on Lake Union in Seattle. It was a really cool, unique project for a great cause. I also worked on a big project onsite at SeaTac airport for a few years, where I learned a lot about different parts of construction. More recently in my career, I worked on the McMenamins Anderson School in Bothell. That was an amazing project that was fast-paced, and I really enjoyed working for the McMenamin brothers.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have four daughters, so a lot of my time away from work is spent with them. They love playing sports, so there is usually a practice or a game to watch or go pick them up from. I also enjoy playing golf and camping with my family in the summertime.

Why did you decide to join Colvos Construction and what do you enjoy about working here?

In 2016, Devin Page and I were talking and he brought up the idea of starting a new company and working together. I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to build a company. I really believed in Devin’s ability, skills, and experience, having worked with him before, and I’m really glad I did it. It’s been fun and challenging, and it’s been a great learning experience.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently responsible for all construction activities on all our projects, as well as overseeing those budgets and contracts, and managing the relationships with our subcontractors and clients. More specifically, I am currently focused on wrapping up the Sea-Tac Lighting project.

Tacos or pizza? Favorite spot in the region to enjoy?

That’s an impossible decision because the tacos from Tacos Chukis are incredible, and I really love pizza from the Pizza Press that we recently completed.  So, I'd say both!

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Building a Culture of Safety

Building a Culture of Safety

Safety is a core value at Colvos Construction. Our culture of safety is built upon the idea that everyone who steps foot on one of our job sites should return to their families each night in the same condition they left that morning. To do this, we make safety a priority from day one.  We build a solid foundation, and then implement and follow protocol that keep our job sites safe and incident free. 

Thought Leadership Series: Procore

Implementing Procore

with Operations Support Manager Michelle Cartwright

Colvos was just beginning to use the Procore software system when I came on board, but they were not yet fully utilizing the software's capabilities. I was able to get them up to speed once I started because I had just implemented Procore at my previous job, so I was quickly able to show them how to optimize their experience.

Compared to the process of implementing Procore for a large company, we didn't experience any additional challenges or issues as a much smaller, newer company. In fact, one of the benefits of being a small, new company is that you can simply present the systems and processes to employees and have the understanding that this is what we are doing going forward. 

Ideally, we would have done a more gradual roll out by starting with a group of tools, training employees, then moving on to the next group rather than doing it all at once, but we didn’t have that luxury in a fast-paced startup environment. Fortunately, the software is user-friendly enough that our employees quickly figured it out, and Procore's customer service and support has been great when we needed help.

Procore is somewhat customizable, which is beneficial. I am currently building a Colvos training platform that will be hosted on the Procore site, with position-specific training information available to employees so they can access workflows, processes, training videos, etc. It has been a lot of work but it will be incredibly helpful; we are hoping to roll it out in Q2.

Procore has not only helped with developing the Colvos training process, but also with the overall business process standardization. This leads to predictable results on projects, which will ultimately help make us scalable for future growth.

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Procore seems to be equally useful for field-based and office-based employees. For example, it has simplified the process of completing daily logs for our Superintendents. They all have the Procore app on their phones, so they can snap job photos with their phones, and attach them to the log.

In the office, it also makes the project management and financial side of the work a lot simpler. It has made my own job easier because everything lives in one spot. We don’t need to use multiple systems to find information because almost everything we need to conduct our daily business can be found within Procore.

It has really emerged as the industry standard as there aren’t currently any high-performing alternatives geared toward construction. Many of the construction management programs in the colleges even offer Procore courses as part of their curriculum.

It seems that these days, it’s not really a question of if a contractor is using Procore, but how they are using it.

Thought Leadership Series: Preconstruction

What is Preconstruction?

Preconstruction is the valuable preliminary planning phase during which the client and contractor work together to define project scope, schedule, and budget, allowing potential issues to be identified as early as possible while keeping the client’s goals in mind.

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 Small Team = Big Value

The Colvos team members who will influence the project are at the table during preconstruction. We’re a smaller firm, so we’re both afforded that luxury and forced into it by virtue of our size. Larger companies with separate preconstruction departments may ultimately encounter a loss of knowledge as teams transition through the project. At Colvos, we embed the Superintendent and the Project Manager into those preconstruction meetings with the client.

 

Why does it matter?

Ultimately, the goal of preconstruction is for everybody on the team –the contractor, architects, and owner – to be better prepared for the way things will unfold during construction in terms of costs, schedule, and logistics. Preconstruction:

o    Allows the contractor to make recommendations related to budget, schedule, and design elements, giving the client a better idea of how their goals can be met

o    Prevents design rework and cost surprises

o    Adds value to the project and results in a more successful construction process for all parties

Preconstruction is also beneficial from a project sequence and constructability standpoint. This is an opportunity for the contractor to provide guidance on potential problems that may arise; for example, it may be easier to run an underground sewer line in one direction versus another. Ideal outcomes from a successful preconstruction phase include an accurate design, budget, and schedule, and a satisfied client whose goals will be accomplished.

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The most critical elements of the preconstruction process include:

o   Assembling the project team early on (contractor, architects, consultants, engineers, etc.)

o   Having an organized and structured approach to preconstruction, including regular team meetings with action items and objectives for everyone

o   Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all team members

o   Knowing the client’s goal(s) and making sure the team members understand those goals

 

Types of project that are good candidate for preconstruction include:

o   Projects with strict budget requirements and/or many design-build components

o   Larger projects generally reap more benefits from engaging in a preconstruction process

o   Projects with unique site or logistical constraints

o   Multi-family projects (usually large, on tight sites, lots of design/build components), larger commercial office projects, industrial projects, and larger tenant improvement projects

 

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Preconstruction Ensures Success

The Colvos preconstruction philosophy is to ensure from the beginning that everyone fully understands the client’s goals. We have QA/QC processes in place at every step of the project to make sure those goals are being achieved; if there are issues, we correct them immediately. As long as the whole team keeps this measure of success in mind, the outcome at the end of the preconstruction phase will be a satisfied client.

10 Questions with President Devin Page

Devin sat down to answer a few questions about his motivation to open Colvos, his management philosophy, and most importantly... tacos or pizza? 

How did you get started in this field?

My entry into this field is unique. Most people get a construction management degree and then work for a general contractor. I have a degree in Physiology and then worked for a biotech company in facilities & operations when I graduated from school. It was interesting and I got to learn a lot about building systems and client/vendor relationships. One of the vendors we had was a general contractor, and after understanding what they did I became interested in it. I was offered an entry -level job by one of our vendors, so I took a 20-percent salary cut and decided to start over in construction. I got to understand the client side because I was the client. For occupied tenant improvement projects, particularly, understanding how to run those efficiently so as not to impact the occupants (because I knew the pain points on the client side!), correlates to a higher level of customer service.

 Devin signing Colvos' first project contract early this year. 

Devin signing Colvos' first project contract early this year. 

Can you speak to the current state of building & construction in the Puget Sound region? How does Colvos fit into the changing landscape?

There’s currently a huge construction boom - which is great - and we know that the market is cyclical and we’re probably on the high side. For Colvos:

We think Tacoma is going to be a growth market for a long time, partially because Tacoma tends to absorb some of the coattail benefits of being Seattle’s neighbor. Tacoma’s also a bit underserved on the general contractor side: there are some GCs who’ve shut down or left town recently, and others that have grown into a different market to serve larger projects.

When the cycle’s high, there are labor shortages so contractors tend to hire less qualified employees and client service suffers. Here at Colvos we have a set of employees who have worked together for a long time, even though we’re a new company.

Starting a new business, you have an opportunity to slough off some of the baggage that naturally accumulates over time, and we’re positioned to offer great service to our clients. I think that, by nature, businesses can sometimes accumulate bad habits or lose focus of what their mission and objectives are. As a fresh, new company, we don’t have all those burdens… including financial burdens, so we can be competitive on the cost side as well.

How do you see the Puget Sound region changing in the next two years, and how do you anticipate Colvos responding to that change?

Over the next two years I expect more of the same – fairly aggressive growth, barring some sort of unforeseen event that could disrupt the economy. I think there’s going to be higher-than-average growth in Tacoma, and I think Seattle will continue to experience growth, with a little bit of slowing. Multi-family, commercial, office, assisted living, and hospitality, will all continue to be strong markets. Ultimately, what’s probably going to kill the cycle is the fact that there’s not enough labor to meet the demand for construction. Our industry is suffering because 1) the amount of construction managers that graduate from college every year can’t meet the deman, and 2) Craft labor isn’t being strongly promoted to younger folks. They don’t tell you to be a plumber/electrician/pipefitter, etc.; they tell you to be a computer programmer/data analyst; the consequence is that there isn’t enough qualified craft labor coming out, and that produces labor shortages which translates into cost increases.

Name one trend in your field that you are either currently embracing or bucking?

The (possibly temporary growth cycle) trend of bringing on less-than-qualified personnel is not something that we’re participating in. Also growing too fast, getting too big, and being forced to take on less than A team players.

I think we are embracing more of an integrated approach to the entire project process, which includes the preconstruction phase. We want to be embedded with that project and that client from the very start to the very end, instead of just coming in when the construction drawings are complete, and then bidding and building. Also, technological trends that include cloud-based construction management software, cloud-based data storage, and paperless processes: our contracts, subcontracts, and pay applications are mostly submitted electronically, which reduces costs for everybody involved.

What do you consider your specialty?

Personally, preconstruction and business development. I enjoy helping our clients get something off the ground, and I enjoy seeing our clients’ businesses be successful. I also enjoy that part of my job is to bring business in the door and put a team in place that can execute the vision and the mission.

What’s the most significant project you’ve worked on in your career and why?

I worked on a $75 million tenant improvement project for Safeco when they moved their campus from Redmond to downtown Seattle. That was at an early stage in my career, but it was a 2-year project with the same team for the entire 2 years. There was a lot of opportunity for me, personally, to learn and refine skillsets because I was given a lot of responsibility at a fairly young age. When you have a lot of responsibility on a project like that, you really get to see the consequences of the decisions that are made by all the team members - what’s beneficial for the project or the client, and what’s not. It gave me a good foundation for understanding and mastering the life cycle of construction projects.

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Why did you choose to create Colvos and/or what do you most enjoy about working here?

It’s always been a goal of mine to start my own business. I was fortunate enough to have team members that were willing to launch a business with me and I had the support of clients, subcontractors, vendors, and colleagues within the industry that encouraged me to do it. I was also fortunate that the timing with the economy and the market cycle was favorable.

I enjoy the people I work with and the fact that we have the opportunity to make the business anything that we want.

How do you encourage creative thinking or leadership within the company/team?

My philosophy is that you hire smart, qualified people and give them the tools to do their job and the framework in which to do it; smart people excel under those conditions, and if they don’t then this probably isn’t a good place for them. We aren’t very structured, so I think under those conditions independent thinkers and leaders can thrive because they’re somewhat unconstrained. If they love what they do and are good at what they do, then I think they’re going to excel in that environment.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to fish, boat, do things with my kids, travel, play golf (I’ve been playing a lot of golf this summer!), and I like to visit new restaurants.

Tacos or pizza? Favorite spot in the region to enjoy?

 I’m kind of a breakfast burrito aficionado. I went to school in Tuscon and I got addicted to breakfast burritos there, so I would say the chorizo breakfast burritos from Taqueria El Sabor.

Saturday Night J-Bird

Team photo shoots can get pretty boring when you're used to fast-paced construction schedules. Good things we have Superintendent Jeff Bird on-hand to get the party started. 

The shoot was held inside the Frye Warehouse in the shadow of Century Link Field, where the Colvos team is currently demolishing the warehouse for King County. After demo, the site will be graded and paved to provide addition space for the Transit Authority hub across 1st Avenue. 

Featured in the DJC's 2017 Contractor Surveys

Survey: Colvos Construction

Specialty: Tenant improvement, multifamily, commercial office, hospitality, design/build
Management: Devin Page, president
Founded: 2017
Headquarters: Tacoma
2016 revenues: N/A
Projected 2017 revenues: $10 million

Projects: Infoblox tenant improvement in downtown Tacoma; parking lot upgrades for El Centro de la Raza’s Beacon Hill mixed-use development in Seattle; 40 small efficiency dwelling units for Kamiak Real Estate in the University District of Seattle

Colvos Construction is doing tenant improvements for Infoblox to expand its office in downtown Tacoma.

President Devin Page answered questions from the DJC about his new construction company, which was named after Colvos Passage in Puget Sound.

Q: You are a new firm. What is your background?

A: Anders Bjorn, Colvos Construction vice president, and I have been in commercial construction in the Puget Sound region since the early 2000s. We began our careers as project engineers for growing and large-scale companies, including Skanska, Turner and Andersen, which is where we first worked together. Anders was a project manager in the emergent special projects division that I was responsible for growing. In 2013, I left Andersen to lead the construction arm of a South Sound developer and increased its revenue and staff size by 300 percent.

Participating in the strategic deployment at the executive level for established companies has given me the skills to develop and run a successful construction company. Our combined experience shapes the strategy that we live by at Colvos Construction: Bring on the most talented team members in the region and focus on adding value for our clients.

Q: What are the biggest issues in your industry?

A: There’s fewer subcontractors available than in the last economic cycle, which we feel results from an exodus of skilled labor during the recession and a lack of positive outreach from the trades to millennials. Likewise, local universities produce a fraction of construction management graduates that were produced in previous decades, creating a hiring frenzy for competent superintendents and project engineers. The result is severe cost escalation, schedule delays and talent entitlement. We mitigate this challenge by working with subcontractors we know and trust and by hiring only reputable, vetted team members.

Q: In which sectors are you seeing, or expect to see, growth or a slowdown?

A: Multifamily and mixed-use will continue to dominate the market, but we anticipate a change in popular development project types. Since many of the larger sites have been built in this cycle, we see infill projects and renovation of B and C product in the urban areas of Seattle and Tacoma becoming more attractive to developers. Senior housing and assisted living will also continue sharp growth rates, as more national operators enter the region.

Q: How has design-build changed how jobs get done; where are you using it?

A: Design-build effectively reduces the risk of last minute cost escalation to the owner. Not only are the design and engineering consultants involved from the onset of the project, but so are the subcontractors, allowing us to proactively identify and mitigate any future pain points in construction. Typically on our multifamily projects we design-build the shoring, plumbing, fire sprinkler, HVAC, electrical and fire alarms.

Q: How are rising land costs in Seattle affecting what gets built?

A: Land price escalation is certainly delaying or canceling some projects in Seattle, but savvy local owners who can manage versatile product types will continue to purchase land and move forward with development. Many are exploring submarkets like Bothell, Shoreline, Tukwila and Tacoma. Likewise, with the progressive increase in allowed heights for new development in many Seattle neighborhoods, we’re finding that more SEDU (small efficiency dwelling unit) projects pencil and will be built.