Perspective

Perspectives: Building Safety

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The tragic building collapse in Surfside, Florida, hit the news as we were in the middle of putting together this issue of CNR. It was sheer coincidence that our 2021 editorial calendar, determined many months ago, included this issue’s feature about building security and safety systems and a feature story on Resilient Buildings that will appear in our upcoming September-October 2021 issue.

When coverage of the Surfside incident began to unfold, we reached out to some of our trusted sources in engineering, architecture and other related disciplines to ask for their thoughts on the Surfside collapse and what cause or causes might have precipitated that horrific event. Even though these companies had no connection to the tragedy, we found no one who was ready to dip their toes into the unfolding story due to the massive loss of life and what undoubtedly will be years and years of litigation.

Early reports about the Surfside collapse uncovered warnings from earlier inspections that the building was in need of massive, expensive repairs. This building was reportedly a middle-class residence, and it seems the cost of repairs would have been overwhelming – tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per family. While it is too soon to know for certain, early stages of the investigation suggest this tragedy was entirely preventable and we will be following the story closely as more is revealed. American building standards are among the best in the world. There is clearly an ongoing need to review, update and, in some cases, improve enforcement, but I think we are most fortunate that catastrophic building collapse of this magnitude is incredibly rare in our country.

 Owners and occupants of commercial structures have a vested interest in attending to the more common safety and security matters that affect everyday life. The attention those issues receive is driven largely by insurance companies who strongly prefer prevention over remuneration. Fire protection has long held a position at the top of the building security pyramid. Over the last decade, other ascendant concerns have come to the forefront such as how to prevent people with malicious intent from entering spaces to which they should never have access, protect business software and computer data systems from a world full of hackers, and provide protections that keep building occupants as safe as possible in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

While our team loves reporting on exciting new projects and product innovations (and we hope you enjoy reading those stories) safety is and always will be an aspect of the construction industry that we take very seriously. We consider it a privilege to serve as an information source for our readers, especially when the subject matter is so very important.

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A View From the Top

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By: Michael Chollet, Publisher – St. Louis CNR Magazine

 

Mike Chollet

A few weeks ago, my son and I set out on our annual trout fishing trip to the White River in Arkansas. The Fall weather and Ozark mountain scenery were beautiful and the fish were exceptionally cooperative. We’ve been making the trip for several years now and I always look forward to a stretch of river where there are a number of impressive homes – my favorite sits at the tip-top of the tallest hill in sight, 300 or more feet above the river. The house is easy to spot because of its distinctive red, metal roof. Over the years, it has become a fishing reference point that we nicknamed the Red Roof Inn. I’ve often wondered about how the world looks from way up there.

This year, on our first day out, my son laid his rod aside after a few hours of fishing and pulled a surprise from his knapsack – a small drone with high-def video capability which he launched from the front transom of the boat. He flew it low over the river a few hundred yards and then it rose and rose until it was flying a few hundred feet above the “Red Roof Inn.”  All the while he was controlling it with his phone and viewing the video footage as it recorded. The structure we could see from below was the largest of a few others surrounding a large concrete courtyard. The drone footage showed that this hill was indeed the highest for miles around and the view from the top, as I had guessed, was truly spectacular.

Seeing that little gizmo in action, I felt lucky to be living in a time of such magical technology. Winston Churchill’s life spanned the invention of the airplane and the moon landing, but folks of my generation have witnessed technological advancements that far surpass those experienced by old Sir Winston.

We’ve had the privilege of seeing impressive progress in a lot of other areas as well. As the eldest son of no-nonsense woman who ran her own company for as long as I can remember, it’s meaningful for me to see women gain an increased presence in leadership roles in a range of industries. They are outnumbering men in graduating into professional careers such as law and medicine and the number of women graduating from business schools is nearing 50 percent of all enrollees. Inroads have also been made in the traditionally male-dominated construction industry.

Those inroads and the remarkable people who are forging them were the inspiration for our 2020 Women in Construction Awards which are featured in this issue. An all-star selection committee made up of eight industry insiders took on the daunting task of choosing our winners from among the 60 nominations we received, and we are extremely grateful for their time and effort.

Reading through the submissions, it was clear that the nominees share a common characteristic of tenacity which is a requisite tool for a woman attempting to open doors in the construction industry. The high-achieving women highlighted in this issue scratched out their own futures through advanced education, serious mentorships, challenging work experience and careful cultivation of industry relationships. We salute our 2020 Women in Construction winners and applaud all the nominees on their success. Your contributions have made the industry and the region better for all who aspire to share your view from the top.

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Fragility. Resilience. Recovery.

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FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailSeveral years ago, I read a newspaper article that presented an alarming statistic – the proposition that in any given month, more than 40% of Americans would be unable come up with an extra $400 to pay for an emergency auto repair. At the time, I remember hoping that number was somehow incorrect, and in fact it has since been disputed as a possible misinterpretation of a polling question. What isn’t in dispute is the fact that many Americans were woefully unprepared to weather the economic shutdown that began in March of this year. Analysis of Federal Reserve data from 2018 revealed the median American savings was $5,200 and one in three Americans aged 45 years or older had zero savings set aside for retirement.

I admit I am having trouble grasping how a country with such breathtaking wealth could be so fragile at its foundation. Perhaps the rise of the U.S. economy and the stock market over the last few years had obscured the view of people struggling at the fringes until, as my father used to say, “lightning struck the out-house.” In a matter of weeks, the undeniable vulnerability of a huge segment of our population has been laid bare and our resilience as a nation is being tested like never before.

At the end of last year, our team sat down to select topics for the 2020 issues of St. Louis CNR. Ironically, we planned for our May/June issue to include a look at the world of environmental remediation, which is essentially the correction process for previous miscalculations. Amid these very strange times, I can’t help but see parallels to our current situation around the themes of fragility, resilience and recovery. As an example, had we known asbestos would later be identified as a human carcinogen, it would never have been adopted for use in construction materials like insulation and flooring. We simply didn’t know what we didn’t know, and as such we were vulnerable. It was a miscalculation that broadened our perspective on what could possibly go wrong and it ultimately birthed strong construction industry segments dedicated to both avoiding and recovering from mistakes.

“The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” written in 2005 by Tulane Medical School professor, John M. Barry, describes another kind of miscalculation. The book tells the story of the first world-wide pandemic which was caused, in large part, by American soldiers returning from Europe after World War I. It is estimated that between 21 and 50 million people succumbed to the Spanish Flu in 1918 and 1919. Others have estimated losses at above 100 million.

Surely, one hopes, the world is better positioned now to weather a problem of such epic proportions. Experts are racing to come up with medical treatment and ultimately an effective vaccine. To date, the quickest vaccine ever developed was for Mumps, which is a virus spread in ways very similar to COVID-19. That solution, developed in the 1960’s, took four years start to finish, but I am banking on mankind’s collective ingenuity and that faith is based on innovations brought to light in the face of other looming disasters.

In the early years of the 20th century, Europe was facing a population explosion and was desperate to produce large quantities of ammonia essential for agriculture when Fritz Haber, a Prussian chemist, figured out how to basically pull this vital element out of the air. The production of nitrogen-based products such as fertilizer and chemical feedstocks, previously dependent on acquisition of ammonia from limited natural deposits, suddenly became possible using an easily available, abundant base — atmospheric nitrogen. The ability to produce much larger quantities of nitrogen-based fertilizer increased agricultural yields and prevented billions of people from starving to death.

Perhaps the solutions we need will likewise come from an unexpected source. One that is not among the many currently undergoing dissection by our 24-hour news outlets. In the meantime, experts agree that testing is the truest arrow in our medical quiver and the surest path to a return to the life we all miss so dearly. What I know is this… Throughout history, smart, motivated people have accomplished amazing things. Right now, I sleep a little better knowing the world’s smartest people are hard at work on treating and preventing COVID-19, and they could not be more motivated. My hope is that when all is said and done, we will emerge with fresh perspective on the fragility of both life and lifestyle, and that we will be strengthened and unified by our resilience even in the darkest times.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Much More Than a Fish Story

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FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailI have had the good fortune of experiencing some amazing things in my lifetime, and I can say without hesitation that snorkeling an ocean reef ranks at the top of the list. My first venture into the magical and almost incomprehensible world of undersea life is decades behind me now, but I was awe-struck then and the sense of wonder I felt left a lasting impression.

These days, my close encounters with marine life tend to involve bait and a boat, but I am still fascinated by the notion that fish live out their lives completely unaware of the world that exists beyond the water’s edge. On the rare occasion that a fish finds itself on the end of my line, I imagine that for the fish, the experience of being caught, reeled aboard a boat and released back to the water must be the equivalent of a human being abducted by aliens. I acknowledge the strong possibility that my fascination might not be reciprocal. Maybe the fish don’t care at all about the who, what, where and how of what happens on land, but I’m certain I am not alone in my very human curiosity about what goes on in the world below the sea.

Here in St. Louis, the idea of developing a premiere marine-life attraction has been floating around for long time. Some of the country’s first tank exhibits made their appearance at the 1904 World’s Fair, and those of us who have been around awhile probably remember a scheme to establish a major aquarium feature as part of a master plan for the St. Louis river front that surfaced in the early ‘90s.

Like other big concepts that require a great deal of vision and commitment, this one has taken some time to materialize, but St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management has finally made the long-held local dream a reality. The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will open in December with 44 exhibits and 130,000 animals representing 257 different species.

As you can imagine, building a two-story, 120,000-square-foot aquarium inside a National Historic Landmark structure dating back to 1894 presented some unique challenges. From demolition to site preparation to completion, St. Louis building companies large and small have contributed their expertise and creative genius to overcome those challenges and bring this project to fruition. We are pleased to bring you their story in this issue of St. Louis CNR.

When the doors open next month, visitors entering the aquarium lobby will be dazzled by a 14-foot-tall clock tank holding 10,500 gallons of water and a collection of colorful discus fish native to South America. Arched ceilings will add to guests’ sensation that they’re embarking on a train journey, especially as their ticket (which includes a specific “boarding” time) is called out and they enter simulated, life-size train cars to begin their tour of the aquarium.

The River Monster exhibit, designed and constructed to look like the ruins of a South American temple, will house enormous fish native to South American rivers and lakes. Not surprisingly, the Piranhas will be housed in their own separate exhibit.

No doubt one of the most talked-about experiences will be an exhibit known as Shark Canyon, which will house 60 sharks and rays. A walkway will lead visitors down below the 250,000-gallon tank, some 18 feet deep at its deepest point, for a close-encounter moment with schools of sharks swimming all around and directly over their heads. I can’t wait to check it out and I am excited to think that with the opening of the St. Louis Aquarium, I won’t have to don flippers and a snorkel to hang out with the fish on their own turf. I wonder if the aquarium’s residents will be as impressed as we are by the genius that went into creating their new home.

Mike Chollet
Publisher

P.S. As we close out our 50th year of publication, I want to take a moment to thank our readers, our advertisers and the countless individuals whose professionalism and dedication have enriched and strengthened the St. Louis construction industry over the years. On behalf of the entire St. Louis CNR team, it is an honor to serve you and we’re grateful for your continued support of our endeavors.

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Changing Times

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FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailMillennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, are at the center of our cover story in this issue. They make up a segment of our population that have been known to elicit reactions from folks my age ranging from mild amusement to serious concern about the future of the American workforce. It’s an age-old story of one generation coming to grips with new methods and attitudes of the next – the young adults who are finding their way in the working world of today. Both of my children fall neatly into the Millennial category.

In 2008, at the height of the economic downturn, my son graduated from the Missouri University Science & Technology with a degree in computer networking. Like many of his peers facing a daunting job market, he decided to embark on a five-month backpacking jaunt through Europe. He had a pretty good time (including hazy memories of Octoberfest in Munich, Germany) before dwindling funds inspired him to come home a month early.

Shortly after he got back, he did something many of us older folks have probably never done – posted his resume online in view of potential employers. To our amazement, within days he was contacted about a position with an online medical records company in Kansas City. We knew landing a job at the intersection of technology and healthcare would be a major win for him. He drove up for the interview and a few days later was offered a job with a starting salary that I didn’t achieve until midway through my working career. Though he is not an engineer per se, his STEM education – the subject of another feature in this issue – provided him a huge push forward.

Though the company he works for is not a Disneyland environment like Google or Facebook, they offer excellent pay and an incredible buffet of work benefits such as an onsite medical care, onsite child-care facilities, low-cost legal services, etc. He has been with company now for almost 10 years and was recently granted permission to work remotely. In early January, he left Kansas City and relocated to an area called Germantown in Nashville, TN. Just this morning, he sent me pictures of his new “office” on the roof deck of his apartment complex which features a spectacular view overlooking Music City. His mother and I have followed his progress with a kind of a “what the heck is this?” admiration.

I imagine the challenge of wrapping our Baby Boomer heads around the new normal is similar to what earlier generations experienced when the workweek was trimmed from seven days to six and then to five, when collective bargaining came into being or when child labor laws were enacted. At the start of my own career, I clearly recall thinking that my new ideas were the future and that the “old timers” were just too set in their ways. It is the interminable march of progress and I believe it is to be embraced. What real option do we have but to roll with the changes?

The story of the inspiring young men and women in this issue highlights new attitudes of today’s incoming workforce.

Marquez Brown, a state wrestling state champion in high school, was awarded a full ride to St. Louis Community College. After his first year, feeling unfulfilled, he joined the Air Force and wrestled in the Armed Forces while training to be military police. After military service, he returned to his hometown of Alton, IL, completed tests to enter the District Council 58 of the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades (Glaziers 1168) and began an apprenticeship in April 2006. At 36, Brown is now a Glazier Field Supervisor for IWR North America.

Nathan Garrett, 31, has been a member of the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council since 2014. An encounter with Carpenters Council Director of Training & Workforce Development, Dr. John Gaal, led to a tour of the Carpenters’ training center and Garrett knew then that he’d found his niche. Garrett is currently working for Kirkwood Stair & Millwork.

Matt Murphy, 32, recently completed the apprenticeship program with Bricklayers Local 1 of Missouri and is a journeyman. Thanks to his background of completed courses at Missouri College and St. Louis Community College, Murphy was able to test in as an improver on an accelerated track. Murphy is now working with a team of bricklayers for Superior Waterproofing & Restoration, caulking windows on a 22-story-tall glass building owned by Hertz Investment Group in downtown St. Louis.

Kelly Stokes, 38, is a licensed electrician and member of the IBEW Local 1. Stokes says he took a great deal of math and science at his mother’s urging. After graduating from Ritenour High School in St. Louis, he enrolled in the night school electrical engineering program at Washington University. Stokes graduated in 2014 with his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and has been working since for BRK Electrical Contractors.

These fine young people and others like them are helping to move our industry forward in new and exciting ways. I’m inspired and encouraged by their ambition and I believe it serves as a great reminder for all of us that fresh perspectives make excellent fuel for progress.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

A Legacy for Tomorrow

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FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailI was driving a winding back road in Eureka recently when a sign at the entrance to the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area caught my eye. I knew the Glassbergs back in the 1970’s during my stint at the Washington University faculty club and they were a lovely couple. Seeing that sign sparked fond memories of the Glassbergs, and I was pleased to see that they had left a legacy that reminds folks like me that their family was here, and that they cared deeply about nature and their community.

Personally, I am not a person who feels compelled (or qualified) to leave my mark on the world in such a literal way. When my time comes, I will be satisfied to have simply lived the best life I possibly could, but as a native St. Louisan I have a deep respect for the heritage ingrained in our city. We have long track record of creating exciting new structures, and a wonderful propensity for paying tribute to the builders of the past by revitalizing older structures to be enjoyed by current and future generations. One such project, City Foundry STL, is featured in this issue of St. Louis CNR.

Driving through St. Louis, you don’t have to look very far to find buildings that were long-ago shuttered and slowly being absorbed into a decaying urban landscape. The sad truth is that without a lot of vision, determination and funding, many of these structures will eventually be beyond help. Thank goodness there are people in our community who are willing, able and passionate about making the investments required to bring them back to life.

Transforming an old manufacturing site into an urban, mixed-use mecca while preserving as much of its original character as possible is the objective of City Foundry STL, a $230 million redevelopment project coming to life in Midtown St. Louis. City Foundry STL is but one facet of an $8 billion of development-related investment occurring within a five-mile stretch from the Gateway Arch to Washington University in St. Louis.

Steve Smith, CEO of Lawrence Group, is principal owner and developer of City Foundry STL.  Located on 14 acres, the site is bounded by Forest Park Avenue on the north, Highway 40 (Interstate 64) on the south, Spring Avenue on the east and Vandeventer Avenue on the west.

Smith developed City Foundry STL’s master plan in close collaboration with the neighboring Cortex Innovation District, directly west of the project site, to propel and sustain the synergy that both share in terms of innovative minds and their brightest ideas.

City Foundry STL sits on property that once belonged to one of the largest electrical manufacturers in the nation. The original foundry opened in 1929 and for the first 40 years, the site was known as Century Electric Foundry, where a vast variety of electric motors, castings and automotive parts were produced. After the final property owner, Federal-Mogul Automotive, closed its doors in 2007, the property stood vacant until Smith and team began preliminary work to develop City Foundry STL. As expected, the decade-long dormancy presented both challenges and opportunities.

An excerpt from a website chronicling the City Foundry STL project says it all:

If these walls could talk, they’d tell a story that’s uniquely St. Louis. They’d speak of more than a century of grit, hard work and determination. But most of all, of constant transformation. It’s a transformation driven by inspiration, creativity and collaboration – and the vision to create something new.

The project team has intentionally left as much of the character of the original foundry as possible with the perspective that it’s more important to preserve relics than to make things look new and precise. In addition to an oversized crane that will remain inside the building, original masonry, cleaned but not modified, will line the interior walls of a food hall that will be a central attraction. Smith said construction teams chose to leave the walls as they were rather than replacing them with a modern brick façade, in part to comply with historic preservation standards, but more to the point, because they felt it was important to retain the building’s original character.

Fantastic.

It’s an exciting time to be in the building industry and it’s wonderful to imagine how the builders of tomorrow will harness their vision to pay tribute to today’s work.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

These Things Take Time

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FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailMy parents were happily married for 57 years. She was 17 and he was a 24 year-old army veteran when they got married in 1950. Until 2007 when my father passed away, they rarely spent more than a few hours apart. They lived together, worked together and, as dedicated golf fanatics, they played together every chance they got. Some people might say that sounds like an awful lot of togetherness, but reflecting on their deep commitment to each other reaffirms my belief that family connections are the glue that binds the world together.

I mention that they worked together because it was such a big part of their lives. My parents were small business owners—proud proprietors of an instant printing company on South Grand Ave. When they started their business, “instant printing” was new and transitional technology, but over time it was swept away by the advent of desktop and digital printing. My parents made a modestly comfortable living while it lasted and when they were ready to retire, they made the difficult decision to close their shop for good.

As executor of their estate, I was grateful to find that their legal and financial affairs were in good order when my mother died in 2017. Aside from some knotty gas and mineral rights which my forward-looking grandfather acquired in the 1950’s and bequeathed to his only daughter, the whole process was pretty straightforward. Textbook stuff for the most part but still, unraveling their modest estate was a slog even with a good head for math and accounting. It would have been considerably more difficult if the process had included liquidating or transitioning their business.

For many business owners, the complexities of planning for and making the transition of their life’s work to the next generation of the family can be daunting. Our cover story in this issue is about that very issue and it includes some data you may find surprising: According to the Family Business Resource Center and the Conway Center for Family Business, 88 percent of family-owned businesses think their family will still be running the business in five years and 40 percent of family execs expect to retire within that time period, but fewer than half of these owners have selected a CEO successor and eight out of 10 have no succession plan in place. One-third of those companies won’t survive into the second generation, only 12 percent will remain viable into the third generation, and fewer than 3 percent will survive the transition into the fourth generation. Despite those sobering national statistics, construction-related companies in the St. Louis area provide many examples of families who have safely navigated the rocky shoals of transfer of ownership down through the generations. It’s a great story and, if you haven’t already, we hope it inspires you to consider getting started on a succession plan of your own.

Also in This Issue:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road A tax increase in Illinois has some residents fuming while others look forward to better roads, new building structures and safer bridges. In this issue we cover the large-scale transportation needs that have been on the wish lists of IDOT and MODOT and the direct impact of those future projects on the construction industry.

Embracing Creativity to Make Large Commercial Deals Happen In this story, we delve into the critical function of banks and commercial lenders in making deals happen and creatively financing construction projects using non-traditional tools and resources.

BJC West County Hospital, Florissant Siteman Cancer Center on Track for 2019 Finish Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, a replacement for the existing 47-year-old facility, is being built by joint venture PARIC/KAI and designed by Christner. The 6-story, 260,000-square-foot healthcare destination is part of BJC HealthCare’s overhaul of the 54-acre campus, including construction of an 125,000-square-foot medical office building.

ARCO Ice Rink Projects Score Big for the Stanley Cup-Winning St. Louis Blues When Arco’s ice rink projects are completed, the St. Louis Blues will have a new state-of-the-art practice facility in Maryland Heights and Maryville University will open a $15 million facility at the Chesterfield Sports Complex in Chesterfield Valley.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Building a Legacy: The Vision Continues

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Mike Chollet

Washington University in St. Louis has played a unique role my life. Though I was never registered there as a student, I spent a large part of my youth on its storied campus.

Our cover story in this issue features a transformative $280 million project called “Campus Next” which is focused on the east end of the Danforth Campus at Washington University. Growing up in University City, my family home was about five blocks from that area, but back then it was known as the Hilltop Campus. As a kid, I thought the Hilltop Campus moniker made a lot of sense given the elevation of the property and the steep hill which extended from the north side of the athletic complex down towards the old Channel 9 building and Forest Park Parkway. My siblings and I called that stretch of landscape “suicide hill” and it was our favorite destination for sledding. When we needed to thaw out between sledding runs, we found the perfect spot in the lower level laundry rooms of the married resident housing. Every Spring, our entire neighborhood crew looked forward to the annual Thurteen Carnival fundraisers. The rest of the year (assuming the statute of limitations for trespassing has run its course by now) I confess that we pretty much ran wild, exploring campus buildings, galleries, tunnels and engineering facilities. Those were much simpler times.

In my twenties, I found a more legitimate excuse to hang out on campus when I took a job as a manager of the Whittemore House, a wonderful old mansion built in 1912 on Forsyth Boulevard which serves as the faculty club for professors and staff of the University and the medical school. The five years I spent at Whittemore House ultimately laid the groundwork for what turned out to be a rewarding 30-year career in the hospitality industry. During my time there, I was privileged to meet many of the great people who helped make WashU what it is today and whose names now grace buildings across the campus.

In a roundabout way, I could even credit WashU for the existence of my two wonderful children, since the campus is where I met their mother Debbie. In the late 70s, she took a job waitressing at the faculty club to help finance her graduate studies in the engineering department. As she neared the completion of her degree, Debbie began her job search. Always one to aim high, she reached out to William Tao, one of those great people who helped to write the University’s story. Tao was a true giant in the local engineering community, a member of the Washington University governing board and, conveniently enough, a Whittemore House member.

Debbie likes to say that his written response to her resume, in which he thoughtfully provided suggestions for some other companies that she might consider, was the kindest rejection letter

she ever received. Soon after the letter arrived, Debbie was working a club party when she spotted Tao and his wife Anne and approached him to thank him for the letter. After a five-minute conversation, they agreed to meet again later that week to continue their discussion. Charmed by her intelligence and tenacity, Tao hired Debbie as his assistant. She worked for William Tao & Associates for more than eight years and in the process built a lifelong friendship that continues to this day.

Washington University has always been a dynamic part of the St. Louis landscape, and its reputation as one of the premier educational facilities in the world is a diamond in our city’s crown. Over the decades, the University’s visionary leadership has provided the St. Louis building community with a continuous supply of challenging and innovative projects and we look forward to continuing our role as documentarians of the University’s the next chapter. As for me, my sledding days may be over, but the WashU campus will always hold a special place in my heart.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

A Good Story Well Told

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Mike Chollet

St. Louis Construction News & Review was launched in 1969 as The Voice for the St. Louis Construction Industry, and the founding Publisher was adamant about his choice of the word “for” rather than “of” in that tagline. Nearly 50 years later, we are mindful of that subtle but very important difference. Our stated purpose is not to speak on your behalf, but rather to provide a voice for the local construction industry. We see our role as story teller – the stories themselves are yours and our goal is to document and share them.

Every year around this time, the St. Louis CNR team comes together to brainstorm and identify topics for the two or three “Industry Features” that will appear in each of the six issues scheduled for the upcoming year. As you can imagine, it’s a tricky assignment to look ahead, sometimes 14 months into the future, and land on a dozen or more stories that will be timely, relevant and interesting to our readers.

The “Building Features” you see in each issue are obviously more time-sensitive, subject to unexpected setbacks, projected completion dates and dependent on our ability to round up the industry contacts we need to help us tell the story accurately. Whether the topic is chosen 12 months or 12 days before we start writing, the truth is, setting up those interviews can be a struggle. The more players connected to a project, the more difficult it is to identify the right spokesperson for each entity and locate a window in their schedules for the interview.

When we can get it, access to a subcontractors list is optimal. Those lists give our writers perspective on the complexity of the project which improves the accuracy of their reporting and often adds dimension to the stories that might have been missed. Subs lists also make it more likely that we will get the attributions right. For the record, publishers hate running corrections. Not because it’s inconvenient, but because it means we didn’t get it right the first time. We are always grateful to the General Contractors who understand the value of a good story well told and support our commitment to getting it right by providing subcontractors lists for their projects.

Occasionally, our efforts to report on what’s happening in a particular segment of the industry are similarly thwarted by communication issues. In fact, we were forced to cancel an “Industry Feature” planned for this issue when significant efforts to arrange interviews with leading providers of the products and services we intended to cover failed. My optimistic evaluation is that everyone doing this particular line of work is swamped right now and too busy to talk to a reporter. Our team was disappointed about losing what we thought was an important story, but we also regret the lost opportunity to support those companies by featuring their work.

On the heels of this loss, our always-sunny editor, Kerry Smith, made what I think is an important observation. Kerry noted that most of the companies she called were not prepared to tell (or to help us tell) their stories. Without a designated media spokesperson or an understanding of the value of editorial coverage in their home market, opportunities were missed. If my hunch is right, and all the companies we called were buried in work, that’s fantastic, but the missed coverage still matters because it might have helped queue up projects for when the pipeline eventually slows down. The next time the phone rings, whether it’s St. Louis CNR or another publication calling, remember that your story is worth telling, and you can help make sure it is a good story well told.Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Publisher’s Perspective

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Mike Chollet

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
― Albert Einstein

The library has always been one of my favorite spots. As a lover of history and an avid reader, I believe I’ve probably learned more in the last 15 years than I managed to absorb in the previous 50 combined. Inversely, the older I get the more challenging it becomes to embrace change. Depending on how you interpret Einstein’s statement above, I could be headed for a zero-sum game, intellectually speaking.

History tells us that while mankind’s relationship with change is complicated, great things can happen when a society is willing to embrace new ways of doing things. In this issue of CNR, several feature stories highlight the connection between the construction industry and our city’s need to adapt and change. We hope you enjoy the issue and we invite you to reach out and share your own stories with me or with our editor, Kerry Smith. 

In this issue:

Prefab to Fast-Track Projects – The practice of pre-building large components before delivery to the jobsite is on the rise. Advantages include convenience cost-savings and one partial solution to the challenge of recruiting and retaining a qualified labor force.

Construction Management Programs in Higher Education – Colleges and universities are taking the bull by the horns to address the construction labor shortage, offering degreed and post graduate study programs in construction management, engineering and other programs. It is a forward-thinking trend that promises to be a great boon to our industry in coming years. 

Engineering to Withstand Modern Threats – Engineers are being put to the test as they face down the challenge of designing public buildings and schools that can withstand terrorist threats and the increasingly common occurrence of natural disasters.

Back to School – In the midst of an economic downturn that decimated the construction industry, we were encouraged to see funding continue for construction and expansion of colleges and universities. A successful $85 million bond referendum, passed in 2016, is providing funding for an extensive rework of Ladue High School.

Transforming Olin Library at Washington University – Sometimes, building projects are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get. Read about the challenges Alberici Constructors faced in effecting “inverted vertical expansion” as this WU landmark was transformed; literally, from the ground up.

Mike Chollet

mike@stlouiscnr.comFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail