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116 www. bus- ex. com July / August 09 Designing and building rental housing for the children of the baby boom generation is lucrative for American Constructors Inc., CEO Greg Parker explains to Gary Toushek theechoboomers Housing " W e're in the process of reinventing ourselves as a company," says Greg Parker, CEO of American Constructors Inc. ( ACI) at his office in Huntington Beach, California. " For the last 20 years we've been a general contractor, building large multifamily projects in California, New Mexico and Texas. A few of these projects have been design- build, using

" From the point that an architect draws the first line on paper," Parker continues, " the opportunity for value engineering to be meaningful in terms of dollars that can be saved becomes less and less. It's the broad concepts where the greatest amount of value can be obtained, and at American Multifamily we have the in- depth industry knowledge and the creativity to innovate great architecture that utilizes value- engineered concepts as the basis of the design. Our approach is pre- value engineering." Among the projects Parker and his staff are working on is a building product they call " urban- style echo boomer housing." This market sector, aimed at the children of baby boomers, he explains, has been largely overlooked by apartment developers. There's a large sector of this echo boomer group ( also known as " Generation Y" or " the trophy generation") aged 18 to 29, who currently amount to 24 percent of the population in the United States. In five years this group will comprise 33 percent of the nation's population. This particular demographic group has some characteristics that distinguish it from previous generations: 94 percent are single; they are educated and confident, have high expectations, and are law- abiding team players, highly collaborative and conscious of their health, their image and the environment. They don't want to waste time commuting; they prefer to live and work in the city. Their current average income nationally is $ 27,700. " They've been very polished, protected and programmed," Parker says, " and when they're living on their own, they need and look for some structure in their lives, and we've developed an apartment concept that meets their social as well as their economic needs. We're also using the same concept in building other, more conventional one-and two- bedroom unit projects. But we spend a lot of time in this echo boomer arena because we feel it's a huge market for apartments; in fact, it's the only segment that's growing right now." American Constructors has been building urban projects, as well as mixed- use projects for the last 20 years. " We've also built a number of student housing projects to meet the economic needs of the echo boomers. You need to build small units to achieve efficiency, so we've created small American Constructors Inc. outside consultants. In the past year we've added architects in- house, to develop design-build projects that employ our concept of ' pre- value-engineered' architecture. With the current market we've been able to attract the best talent from the major architectural firms." An architect since 1982, Parker also obtained a civil engineering degree from MIT while in the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps on active duty for 13 years. After leaving the service he worked in the construction business in the San Francisco Bay area, then moved to Southern California. He was president of Benchmark, the multifamily unit of Morley Group, before founding ACI in 1989. Then in 2004 he founded American Multifamily Inc. as a parallel company to do primarily design- build projects, including upscale four- and five- story buildings over retail and subterranean parking structures, as well as design- build student housing and the renovation of older projects. Parker defines pre- value- engineered architecture as building in the least expensive way, discovered " through years of lessons learned." Value engineering itself, he says, is a concept that has developed over 30 years and has been used most frequently when a project is over budget and one or more contractors are asked to provide guidance to bring it within budget by finding better value for dollars spent. " Used in this context, value- engineered means cutting certain elements out or replacing them with less- expensive ones. This is done by working at the back end of the design process, after the working drawings are complete. This process usually delays the start of construction and frequently results in design errors from the ripple effects of the changes, which in the end diminish the savings. July / August 09 www. bus- ex. com 117