Williams Co. – Sage Park
Williams Co. employs an innovative process for fabricating building frames on a new assisted-living community for central Florida.
By Tim O’Connor
J.J. Williams founded his namesake home building company in 1920 with an aim to provide quality product and great service to his clients. “He didn’t focus on being the biggest homebuilder in Florida or the cheapest,” Vice President Richard Shannon says. Instead, Williams wanted to provide the best value and experience. That attitude established a strong reputation that persists through to today.
The company remained in the Williams family for three generations until 2007 when it started the process of becoming employee owned, a lengthy transition that was finally completed in 2016. “Everyone in the company has an ownership stake,” Shannon explains. “We do see that translate into everybody taking ownership in what we do.”
Employee ownership has been a positive motivator for team members who understand their share prices will increase with the success of the company. But it has also been a strong recruiting tool that has attracted talented individuals who want to be rewarded for hard work.
The ownership structure encourages employees to put greater emphasis on customer service, which Shannon considers part of Williams Co.’s DNA. Service is built on relationships and trust, and Williams Co. wants to work with clients that value those traits. “We look for clients who understand and appreciate that construction is a service business, not so much a commodity,” Shannon says. “Every project that we chase we see that potential of being a long-term repeat client.”
Entering Senior Living
One such client is Providence One Partners, a forward thinking developer that is developing a 128-unit assisted-living and memory care community called Sage Park in Kissimmee, Fla. The luxurious three-story building will separate the 104 assisted-living residences and the 24 memory care residences in two sections, each of which will have its own set of amenities. Residents will have access to physical therapy, occupational therapy, hair and nail salons, dining rooms, massage rooms and a courtyard with fountains.
Sage Park is Williams Co.’s first project with Providence One, but Williams Co. previously completed a 40-bed skilled nursing facility in Orlando, Fla., and Shannon says the company will pursue similar construction jobs in the future. “Senior living is kind of an emerging market for us,” he explains. Although senior living is a new area for the company, its experience working in the Osceola Corporate Center development, where the facility is located, and the strength of its project team made it the ideal general contractor to build Sage Park.
Williams Co. broke ground on the project in June and as of September had begun work on the pad level and pouring the building’s foundations. Most of the work is being completed by subcontractors, although Williams Co. may self-perform some of the concrete pouring. The facility is expected to open in August 2018.
The biggest threat to that schedule has been the rain Williams Co. faced in the early stages of the project. Senior Project Manager Luke Johnson says it rained nearly every afternoon in the summer, but the project has been able to work around obstacles so far. “We were able to maintain our site work schedule despite the rain,” he notes. “With the right team and contractors, it’s very achievable.”
Even if unpredictable weather events such as Hurricane Irma do complicate the construction timeline, Williams Co. has a secret weapon to keep the schedule on track. For the first time and as a requirement of Providence One, Williams Co. is working with Intellisteel, a company that provides mobile cold-formed structural steel frame manufacturing and assembly. This is Inetllisteel’s second project with Providence One Partners.
Instellisteel’s system allows the steel frame to be fabricated on-site under a large tent by producing pre-assembled and cut to precision framing members. This reduces labor requirements and produces frames 35 to 50 percent more quickly than off-site production. Further, if a flaw is discovered and a truss or wall panel needs to be reengineered, it can be manufactured and ready to install within a day, reducing the time and complications that occur when a truss must be shipped from a remote factory. “It definitely allows for a faster process, less manpower, and it’s a lot more flexible to allow for any changes,” Johnson says.
Johnson and Shannon are excited about the technology, but there is a learning curve when working with Intellisteel. Space is a concern. Intellisteel’s fabrication tent takes up a 80-by-100-foot area in the corner of the construction site, cramping an already tight work area. However, this fabrication tent will be demobilized prior to the completion of the project framing due to the production speed. The process also requires reviews of more than 3,000 shop drawings to ensure that the frames fit the openings precisely in order to avoid field modifications and to maximize the schedule benefits this process offers. “What they end up with on the final shop drawings is exactly what the machines will generate in the field,” Johnson says.
The on-site production of the steel frames necessitates closer communication between Williams Co. and Intellisteel when it comes to sequencing. The goal is to have panels fabricated a week before they are erected to avoid delays. “There is a lot more upfront coordination with them than you would have with a conventional framer,” Johnson explains. This upfront coordination is what enables the reduction of field changes, labor and what advances the project schedules.
Intellisteel is fabricating the frames, but Collazo Construction will handle the installation. Like many of the subcontractors and suppliers on Sage Park, both companies are Florida-based, which fits Williams Co.’s desire to work with local companies. “It’s not uncommon for us to be doing projects in Tampa with Orlando contractors and vice-versa without issues,” Johnson says. “But it’s beneficial to have that labor force local and have everyone arrive on site in a timely manner.”
With its first ground-up assisted-living community now underway, Williams Co. sees potential in the future of the senior living market – not only because of its business prospects, but because of the personal satisfaction that comes with building such projects. “It feels good to be part of something like that where you know it’s going to help people down the road,” Johnson says.