Buch Construction – The Vine
Buch Construction learns from past projects as it takes on its second multifamily housing job.
By Tim O’Connor
Buch Construction’s relationships with its clients and subcontractors have always been more important to the Maryland company than pursing a specific kind of project. Buch Construction prides itself on working with clients for the long term, creating a symbiotic partnership where both companies grow together.
Its first client was Hecht’s Department Stores, a once-popular retail chain. Hecht’s sold its stores in 2005 and eventually became a part of Macy’s, but the relationship between Buch Construction and Hecht’s persisted through those mergers and the contractor works with Macy’s today.
“I think that is a testament to who we are as a company,” Director of Business Development Julia Corona says of the continued cooperation. It’s also a testament to Buch Construction’s status as a woman-owned business and the different perspective that brings to the male-dominated industry.
Husband-and-wife team James and Marie Buch founded their namesake company more than 30 years ago, but Marie has run the company since her husband passed away in 2008. Although she’s in her 70s, Marie Buch remains active in the company’s day-to-day operations with the help of her children, Denise, Carl and Mike. “We are a family and woman-owned company,” Corona adds.
Because Buch Construction is relationship driven, its clients have led the contractor to a diverse range of projects during the past three decades. The company is best known for constructing base buildings and and retail structures, but it recently completed its first multifamily housing project, the 418-unit Shady Grove Apartments in Rockville, Md.
Rising to Challenge
Its success on Shady Grove gave Buch Construction the opportunity to tackle its second multifamily project, The Vine, located in Laurel, Md. Work on the four-story, 283-unit building began in August 2016 and the first phase is expected to open in February of next year.
Once completed, The Vine will feature resort-style amenities such as a two-story fitness center, yoga room, pool, tech lodge, pet spa, pub bar, conference room and a clubroom. The outside will have four courtyards with grilling stations, a heated patio and a walking path to connect The Vine to surrounding developments and a nearby grocery store.
Like Shady Grove before it, The Vine and its amenities present a challenge in learning new construction methods and skill sets. “We’re used to steel and concrete,” Senior Project Manager Jim Packer says. “This is wood frame.”
In addition to being a new kind of project for Buch Construction, The Vine has another wrinkle. It’s the first time the contractor is working on a project for the development arm of the company, Buch LLLC. “It’s the same people we’ve been working with for years,” Packer says, “it’s just now it’s their money.”
Preparation for The Vine began by reviewing Buch Construction’s experience on Shady Grove. The company realized it could better staff its next residential project by improving its mix of on-site roles. The increased familiarity with residential building materials was also invaluable.
On Shady Grove, Buch Construction ran into an issue where plumbing pipes sheered off due to shrinkage of the wood framing. Going into The Vine, the contractor knew to accommodate that issue by using expansion joints in plumbing risers.
The sprinkler system was another area where Buch Construction made improvements between the projects. When building Shady Grove, the sprinkler heads were set to react to too low of a temperature, causing the fire suppression system to active in a mechanical room that rose to 100 F because of heat coming off the equipment. For The Vine, Buch Construction set the sprinkler heads to activate at higher temperatures.
Adjustments in the expansion joints and sprinkler system demonstrate the growth in experience Buch Construction made between the two multifamily projects, but the company sought to further its knowledge by hiring talented subcontractors that could help guide the process. “We were looking for people that have experience in multifamily residential,” Packer says.
The added expertise has been a benefit to The Vine. “I’m really impressed with the subcontractors we have out there,” Packer explains. “Some are probably even more experienced than we are with this type of construction.”
Regular quality checks and knowledgeable subcontractors have helped Buch Construction meet the challenges of the project. The original plan called for an overhead natural gas pipe that would run through The Vine’s 504-stall parking garage; however, it turned out there wasn’t enough space so the system was redesigned to go underground.
Weather has also been an issue during construction, creating wet conditions that slow down progress. “It’s been a wet year down here,” Packer says. “The soil out there is very moisture sensitive so we’ve had to spend a fair amount of money to treat the soil.”
Buch Construction’s expanding knowledge of multifamily projects is creating opportunities for the company. “We are in talks with another property,” Corona says. “We’re definitely open to it with the right owner.”