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April 30, 2015

Survey: GLY Construction

Image courtesy of BioMed Realty Trust [enlarge]
GLY Construction is building a seven-story life-sciences research building in South Lake Union for BioMed Realty Trust.

Specialty: Commercial office, health care, technology, life science, interiors and special projects, senior living, education

Management: Jim Karambelas, president and CEO

Founded: 1967

Headquarters: Bellevue

2014 revenues: $433 million

Projected 2015 revenues: $620 million

Current projects: Lincoln Square expansion, Bellevue; Bothell City Hall; 500 Fairview life-sciences research building, Seattle

Jim Karambelas of GLY responded to questions about what the future holds for the company.

Q: What’s your business outlook for the next few years?

A: GLY’s revenue stream will likely peak in 2015 at approximately $620 million, which we believe coincides with the peak of the current local economic growth cycle. We’re starting to see our backlog softening late 2016 into 2017. What’s not clear yet is the steepness of the curve of a potential softening economic cycle in 2017 and beyond.

Q: Is there anything clients are asking for now that they weren’t a decade ago?

A: The conversation is similar but different. In the past it was more about faster, better and cheaper. Today we’re being asked to drive more efficiency across all aspects of project delivery in terms of time, cost and quality.

This is a different conversation, requiring the optimization of technology, innovation, ingenuity, collaboration and teamwork. At GLY we positioned our firm to respond ahead of the curve, anticipating where the industry was headed — we’re hiring top-of-class engineers, architects, construction managers and tradespeople who have tremendous technical aptitude, a desire to be hands-on builders, use technology for the purpose of creating efficiency and accuracy, and are team players who put our clients’ and design partners’ interests first.

Q: What’s something unusual or challenging you’ve worked on?

A: GLY Lincoln Square expansion team’s successful completion of two 13,500-cubic-yard continuous mat-foundation pours within 30 days of one another.

Each required a synchronized effort consisting of three 12-hour shifts, over 200 GLY and subcontractor staff, seven concrete pumps, five batch plants and 21 hours of continuous concrete pouring. We achieved this without injury or disruption to the overall operation. We’re very proud of our (Lincoln Square expansion) team, who coordinated these efforts flawlessly.

Q: How much of your work involves public or institutional projects?

A: At the moment about 7 percent, although we envision moving more into the public sector as public procurement methodologies change, the relationship with the owner becomes more like the private sector and the selection process is more qualitative than quantitative.

Design-build delivery is likely to be undertaken more frequently in the public sector, and GLY is well-suited and skilled for this type of work.

Q: GLY is working on a number of large projects. What’s the bigger challenge: managing or staffing them?

A: Staffing is not as much of an issue because we carefully and conservatively manage the volume of our work commitment — we do not take on more than we can reasonably staff.

The more significant issue is over-commitment within the subcontractor community. Selecting subcontractors early in the process, ensuring they have capacity and appropriate financial strength, thoroughly researching the delivery chain, in-depth questioning, and managing every step of the procurement process very carefully is the only way to ensure timely and efficient project delivery for our clients.

Q: Name a construction industry trend you find heartening, and one you find worrisome.

A: The transformation of project delivery is very exciting. New technologies are allowing us to work ever more collaboratively with our design partners. We’re developing highly resolved field drawings for construction early in the design process using 3-D drawing technology, and lean planning techniques are allowing us to become more integral to the design coordination process — to build more efficiently and creatively. Working in this manner, the entire team is more focused on construction details, being great builders, accomplishing assembly line-like planning and delivery with time less focused on needless administrative and change order processes.

Forecasting future economic cycles across all industries will continue to be a complex and challenging issue to tackle. As we plan for the future, having a diversified resume will be increasingly important to offsetting recessionary periods while taking advantage of growth periods specific to different industries’ economic cycles.

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