May 08 www.bus-ex.com 89 D.F.Chase projects from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale, from hotels, hospitals and distribution centers to college buildings and retail outlets. “Early on, we got a reputation as a company that can get things built, regardless of what type of building or project it is,” David Chase adds. Chase believes that culture and choosing the right employees are as important to being able to meet tight deadlines and stay on budget as any specific tool or process improvement. “You need to have the right systems to be able to report and document everything, but it really comes down to the people that you have. If they have the right personalities and attitudes, they’re not going to stop until they’ve done what the client is asking of us. We are a company of doers. No one is going to sit back and wait and let somebody else do it.” The culture is maintained by the hands-on work of Dean Chase and a team of seven vice presidents, most of whom have been with the company for 15 years or more, and some of whom have worked alongside the company’s founder for decades. “They all know exactly how things are expected to be done, and that filters down to the project managers,” says Chase. Although it has a diversified project roster, Chase has benefited recently from an uptick in hospitality industry construction, especially in fast-growing Nashville. The Gaylord Opryland Resort is undergoing a $400 million expansion, for instance, that will make it the largest convention hotel outside of Las Vegas when completed in 2010. Dean Chase had done work for Gaylord in the 1970s, and 30 years later his firm completed a $50 million, 2,400-room renovation at the sprawling property. “There was a long time when the hospitality industry was not doing well, but that’s turned around, especially in parts of the Southeast,” notes Chase. “We have that reputation that was created a long time ago as a company that knows how to get hotels built quickly and on budget, so that’s helping us now.” Expanding nationally has meant sourcing subcontractors in new markets. Since those subcontractors can be the key to keeping a project on time and on budget, Chase takes the time to carefully select who the company works with in new markets. It will also have subcontractors follow it into new markets, such as if a specialty sub is needed that the firm has worked with in the past. “We’ve done enough work in many markets that we have subs that we know can meet our standards,” Chase notes. When a new market is being entered, a thorough vetting process takes place. “You ask enough questions of the various trades and a picture emerges pretty quickly of who are the right firms to work with and who is going to fit into our way of doing things.” Chase believes one of the competitive advantages the company enjoys is its dedicated pre-construction group. Because it does not compete for public bid work, it is often asked to help establish pre-construction budgets for municipal projects. The added work means the group estimates between $600 million and $1 billion worth of construction projects in any given year. “It’s not a conflict of interest because we’re not going to bid, and we get all that data and information, which is very valuable to us,” says Chase.
in the LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) program of the Green Building Council, as is one of the project managers. The fi rm is completing work on what is expected to be one of the fi rst privately funded projects in Tennessee to obtain Gold certifi cation from the council, a renovation and expansion of an existing academic building at Lipscomb University in Nashville. Meanwhile, another eleven employees at Chase are pursuing LEED accreditation. “Knowledge is power,” Chase says. “It’s good to have knowledge of the sustainable aspects of building, even if some clients on the private side are not necessarily clamoring for it as much as those on the institutional side. It’s valuable to have for our clients who are interested in making that investment.” The result is a track record of extremely good pre-construction cost estimates, historically within three percent. “It’s defi nitely a competitive advantage for us, because we’ve got guys that know the numbers and can hone in on it pretty tight. It helps when we’re pricing a job we’re going to build ourselves.” It also means solid estimates can be done based even on preliminary design, as in the case of a corporate headquarters project in nearby Louisville, Kentucky, where Chase was able to develop a guaranteed construction number off a conceptual computer-generated image that was the winner of a design contest held by the company. “Our guys can literally give a solid price on a napkin sketch.” Chase has recently begun to develop an extensive in-house expertise in green building capabilities as well. David Chase is accredited D.F.Chase 90 www.bus-ex.com May 08