Skip navigation

Chicagoland developers just can't get enough

Two speculative developments totaling more than 950,000 sq. ft. are on the horizon in Bolingbrook and Naperville, Ill., while Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Inc. has selected a 43-acre site in Elgin, Ill., to expand its distribution efforts.

Denver-based ProLogis is developing a 450,000 sq. ft. speculative warehouse in Bolingbrook in the Remington Lakes Business Center. Locally based MTI Construction Services will serve as general contractor for the building, which is slated for December completion. The building will offer 60 dock doors and parking for 195 trailers.

One month ahead of schedule, locally based FCL Builders Inc. last month completed a 400,100 spec facility in Naperville. Locally based Arthur J. Rogers & Co., an affiliate of The CORE Network, is leasing the building, which is in the Interstate 88 corridor.

In Elgin, Motorola will lease a 292,500 sq. ft. distribution center at NorthWest Corporate Park. Milwaukee-based WISPARK Corp. owns the property, and locally based Kiferbaum Construction Corp. will serve as design/builder for the facility. Locally based Colliers Bennett & Kahnweiler Inc. represented Motorola. The company plans to move 500 employees from a site in Schaumburg to the Elgin facility, with plans for an additional 500 employees at the new distribution center in the next five years.

On the fast track No one's really asking for a return to simpler times, but the demands of industrial tenants who want their building completed last week aren't exactly easy to meet, either. Tenants are willing to pay for such fast-track services, but, to paraphrase late rap star Biggie Smalls, more money can equal more problems.

So how do builders and developers handle the demands to construct better buildings faster?

St. Louis-based McCarthy, one of the nation's largest general contractors, expects to build more than $400 million of industrial product this year for clients such as General Motors, Monsanto, Motorola and Wyeth-Ayerst. Particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, where companies already have plowed billions into R&D and clinical trials, tenants and owners have shaved construction schedules by up to 50%, says Derek Glanvill, senior vice president of McCarthy's industrial division.

"It's all a sign of a healthy economy," Glanvill says. "Companies are demanding shorter and shorter times in the delivery of their products. Every day that they can shorten the process and get their products to market just enhances their bottom line."

With the four basic tenets of any project - cost, schedule, quality and safety - one aspect will suffer if another is emphasized over the others, says Glanvill. Generally, it's going to be cost because, even with a tighter schedule, no one is going to throw quality and safety out the window.

As the schedule tightens, quality becomes harder to ensure, especially with today's labor markets. Builders and developers have to cover quality assurance at the outset and maintain focus at every stage of the project, says Glanvill. For example, upon completing a clean room for a semiconductor manufacturer, the builder cannot just go back in for a few touch-ups.

"You can't build a plant and then go into a long period of start-up and flush out the bugs," Glanvill says. "Quality assurance tends to parallel to the building cycle where, in contrast with a traditional building cycle, you do a lot of quality assurance after the fact. In your front-end planning, you have to plan for quality from the beginning, so that when you execute, you only execute once."

Labor is the toughest part of the equation. In regions where McCarthy has an established presence, the company's strategy is to find a workforce that will stick with McCarthy, whether those workers are union or non-union. In new markets, the company attempts to forge relationships with the community and local businesses that can help McCarthy find the best workers.

"When we give an owner a price to do something in a certain amount of time, we're bidding on our ability to get the labor to execute, and it's extremely difficult," says Glanvill.

Technology plays a part in easing the strain, even in an industry that has been slow to embrace change. McCarthy has tripled its IT staff during the past few years and hired full-time trainers from other industries to bring employees up to speed.

McCarthy also works with software company Meridian Project Systems to develop and improve construction management software. One of McCarthy's strategic initiatives is to provide each salaried employee with a computer, a given in most other industries but a truly groundbreaking move for commercial construction.

Also, a new generation of hires helps industry old-timers catch up.

"The old, crusty superintendent way back would scratch out a three-week look ahead on the back of a piece of paper," says Glanvill. "Now, he might not do the key punching, but he'll go grab one of his young engineers and say, `Hey, I want you to whip me out one of those fancy bar charts.' Then, all of a sudden, he takes ownership of the technology and wants to know how to make it work himself.

"For the most part, you'd be surprised how people have overcome their fear of technology and are now using it."

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.