Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 | 6 a.m.
Since founding the firm in 1989 describe the changes you’ve seen in the construction industry over the past two decades.
One big change is that the construction activity by public homebuilders has superseded that of private homebuilders. Because they do things on a big scale, they have an overall higher standard. This has caused two trends in residential construction. First, during the 1990s, there was been a major emphasis on safety and fall protection – especially during the last half of that decade. Then, during the past ten years, the attention was placed on quality assurance, which has been spearheaded by the National Association of Home Builders’ NHQ (National Housing Quality) program. Now we’re seeing a new trend emerge for the decade to come, which is green construction. Currently, we’re optimizing waste and the usage of our materials at our construction sites. From our perspective, green construction practices are changing the way homes are built.
Describe how having separate construction, framing, concrete, glazing and masonry companies under the WestCor umbrella have been an advantage.
Because we have multiple trades under one umbrella, we’re able to integrate their activities within a construction project. Typically, when other companies work on a project, a lot of coordination has to take place between the concrete company and the framing company – even before construction begins. The concrete company has to go through the customer to talk to the framing company, and vice versa. So much time is wasted, especially if the two companies haven’t worked with each other. But because our concrete and framing divisions are under one umbrella, we’re able to get projects done faster, and more smoothly. The same thing applies to the coordination between our concrete and masonry divisions. In fact, our original decision to form a masonry division happened because we saw a need to make things go more smoothly. We figured that if we were already pouring the concrete foundations, we might as well put the masonry on top of it too, and take responsibility for the whole thing. Having all these divisions under one roof gives us a leg up on our competitors. It’s a huge advantage for our customers, because we can solve all kinds of problems without having to involve them.
Describe the emphasis you have placed on safety at your job sites.
I think we have one of the best and most knowledgeable safety departments in the industry, and we have numerous local, state, and national awards to show for it. Last year, our safety department won the NAHB Safety Award at the International Builders Show, which is a big deal. In California, we’ve received the Golden Gate OSHA award for the past two years running. That just goes to show that we’re very stringent about our safety. We have great confidence in our safety manager, Jim Hafen, who has been with us 17 years and is a true expert on the subject. Jim’s department includes three fulltime personnel who enforce safety practices daily. Thanks to Jim, we routinely adopt safety procedures before the rest of the industry does. Right now, we require our workers in California (and soon Nevada) to wear bright orange safety vests designed to make them more visible to machinery operators. We take safety seriously because we’re concerned about the wellbeing of our workers. Also, a safe construction site is good for a project’s bottom line. That’s because there’s less likelihood of interruptions or shutdowns due to accidents, not to mention insurance claims or OSHA fines.
Tell us about a couple of your most successful or interesting projects.
We’re currently working on several projects at Creech Air Force Base, home of the Reaper and Predator drones which are supporting operations in Afghanistan. Also, we’ve recently completed three or four custom homes in Hawaii. They have a different approach to framing over there, due to the climate. The material has to be termite treated according to the codes. As a result, every time we cut a piece of lumber, we had to dip the end in termite treatment. Another interesting project was converting the former Maxim Hotel into the Westin, just off the Strip. It required a total teardown of the façade. We had to remove all the glass and strip the building down to the shell, and then we refaced it. On the residential side, each house we’re framing right now is being completed in only two days. We consider every one of those to be a successful project.