Ellisdale’s light gauge metal framing approach helps its clients achieve strong savings on projects.
By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing
Not many companies can say they have a new approach that has the potential to change their industry, but Ellisdale Construction can. The Leesburg, Va.-based contractor has brought benefits to its clients’ projects through its use of light gauge metal construction.
“It’s a game changer in some difficult markets,” President Kevin Ash states. “We’re executing with developers and architects on new ways to build high rises with less labor and less cost.”
Ellisdale, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, initially specialized in wood frame work for multifamily and restoration projects. With its footprint in the Washington, D.C., area, the firm was able to keep busy with affordable housing jobs through the Great Recession.
“We became very proficient at occupied rehab/affordable housing,“ Ash recalls, adding that Ellisdale worked schedules from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. so tenants did not have to be completely displaced from their homes.
Over time, the company turned to light gauge metal framing, which allowed it to compete with contractors using cast-in-place concrete for high-rise buildings. Today, “Concrete construction has become so expensive that there are quite a few projects that are stalled right now,” he says.
But Ellisdale’s use of light gauge metal has given some of these projects new life. “Developers are bringing us in to explore and execute our light gauge metal product type, which is pushing us up into a new strata of clients and work,” Ash says.
More for Less
Ellisdale’s work with light gauge metal requires prefabrication, which has allowed it save both time and money on projects. This is particularly beneficial, since “our labor rates are continuously going up,” Ash says.
For each building project, Ellisdale will prefabricate the walls off site and put 15,000 to 20,000 square feet in place with only 15 people on site. In comparison, “A concrete building would take 50 people to produce 15,000 square feet,” he explains.
It also would take twice as long, due to the rebar work and form work involved. “But in this manufactured process, we are able to put a lot more building in place with less labor and less time,” Ash says.
Ellisdale’s proven results have captured the attention of clients who might normally be dubious. “People don’t want to be the guinea pig,” he says. “They want to see it executed elsewhere.”
In fact, Ash says, Ellisdale often has been able to save its clients up to $50 less per square foot. Right now, “We’re just educating developers and architects on new ways to build high rises with less labor and less cost,” he says.
Ellisdale’s project portfolio includes the largest light gauge metal project in its district, The Aspen. Standing 11 stories with 133 living units in Washington, D.C., the building’s apartment levels are framed out of light-gauge structural frame with a corrugated metal decking.
Ultimately, the company delivered the final product ahead of schedule and under budget. “The Aspen put us on a lot of developers’ radars,” Ash says. “When they saw us execute that very successful project, it went up quick at an extremely competitive price point.”
Another project for the company is The Adele, a mixed-use project in Washington, D.C., with 14 condominiums and 18,616 square feet of office space. “Instead of a mixed-use building with retail on the lower floors, we decided that office and residential use was a good fit,” Managing Partner Richard Ward recalled in a statement.
The project, which was completed in March 2018, earned Ellisdale praise. Delta Associates’ 22nd Annual Apartment and Condominium Industry Awards for Excellence selected The Adele in the category of Best Washington/Baltimore Boutique Condominium Community.
Currently, Ellisdale is at work on New Carrollton, a 282-unit apartment building project in New Carrollton, Md. But what has made Ash especially proud of the project, he notes, is the fact that the owner and the architect, Urban Atlantic and BKV Group, brought the contractor on board at the project’s inception.
When Ellisdale was initially brought aboard the project, it was charged with building it at $140,000 per door. But as it was developed over 12 months of design, its numbers went up. Fortunately, Ash says, the company was able to use its talents to bring the budget back down to where it needed to be for the client.
According to Ash, bringing builders in early will be more common on projects in the future. “Architects and developers want the contractor at the table,” he says. “We provide a very heavy preconstruction services platform to all of our clients right now and ensure the pricing all the way through.”
After 15 years, Ash is proud of Ellisdale and its longevity. “We’ve had persistence,” he says, noting that this is an important characteristic for business owners to possess.
“You weather the highs and lows and stay humble when you do that,” Ash states. “When you also have great people around you, you will be successful.”
He sees growth ahead for Ellisdale in the next five years as it helps developers through the housing crisis with light gauge metal construction. “I think that this methodology is going to change the way we build in this region,” he predicts.
It also will help Ellisdale grow. “It’s going to allow us to enter into other markets, such as student housing and hospitality,” he says. “That’s some of the additional growth we’re pursuing.”