Alabama Projects by Alabama Builders
We asked eight Alabama contractors to tell us about their coolest Alabama project of recent years. From medical clinics to student housing to a high profile amusement park, here’s a look at their highlight projects.
Modern, Sleek, Iconic
BL Harbert: ServisFirst Bank Headquarters
Birmingham-based BL Harbert International’s fourth completed project for ServisFirst was the bank’s new headquarters building, which opened last fall in Homewood. Located on 4.5 acres, the 100,000-square-foot building includes a bank branch with four drive-through lanes and a 45,000-square-foot parking deck, says BL Harbert Project Manager Parker Evans.
The facility expands access for ServisFirst customers to the top tier of commercial banking, correspondent banking, cash management, private banking and professional consumer market services. In addition to serving as the flagship bank location, the facility houses office operations, including a server room, and a multipurpose room for hosting events and training. The facility was built to accommodate as many as 440 workers.
Ground was broken in February 2016 and the project was substantially completed in September 2017. Giattina Aycock Architecture Studio designed the headquarters building.
The building features floor-to-ceiling windows, a white noise system to make the office space sound quieter and lights that turn off and on based on motion to reduce energy requirements.
Says Evans: “We utilized extremely high-end finishes throughout the building, such as Alabama white marble wall panels within the bank branch and lobby, zinc panels on the exterior of the building, custom-salvaged timber and automatic blinds controlled by the sun. All these finishes create modern, sleek and minimalist aesthetics to the building. We developed several groups’ expertise on sourcing, securing and installing the finishes.”
The site itself posed its share of due diligence prior to construction.
“We really had to do a lot research and careful planning regarding the site,” Evans says. “It was difficult, in terms of unsuitable soils. The high-end finishes and massive amount of site work proved to be the most challenging to our team.”
Evans says the most rewarding aspect of the project was “for BL Harbert to build an iconic building, in a prime location, for one of the few publicly traded companies in Birmingham. We enjoy building all over the world, but any chance we are given to build near our headquarters is special to us. Our history runs deep in Birmingham as many of the early company’s projects began here. Additionally, we are helping revitalize our hometown, and that alone is rewarding.
“We had a great team with the architect, the bank department heads and executive leadership. Our team of subcontractors were mostly bank customers, and everyone worked well together to turn over the beautiful building.” — Charlie Ingram
Big Sparkling New Dorm
Fite Building: Alabama A&M Residence Hall
Pre-fab was a major part of building a new residence hall completed last year at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville by Fite Building Co. Inc. of Decatur.
“All of the load-bearing and non-load-bearing metal stud walls were engineered and built in a shop off site while other prerequisite activities were under way,” says Heath Roeber, project manager for the job.
“Since 80 percent of the suite types have the same layout, the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) contractors also designed and prefabricated ‘room-in-a-crate’ packages that proved to be a major time saver as well.”
Roeber notes that the project consists of 183,000 square feet throughout four floors and a basement that serves as a storm shelter. The residence hall can accommodate 573 students, with the typical suite housing four students in two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a common kitchenette/entry area.
The first floor common area features two multipurpose rooms, a game room, snack bar area, lounge and dining area. There are also two study areas on each floor. The total cost of the project, including change orders, amounted to a little more than $30 million.
Site work began in June 2016, and the project was completed in late November 2017, in time for the spring 2018 semester.
The biggest challenge of the Fite building was simple. It was the schedule. “With only 13 months to construct the building and get it ready for occupancy, there were several long days and nights put in by the entire team to push it across the finish line,” says Roeber, adding that it has been rewarding to see the positive impact the new hall has on the university and Huntsville in general.
“To see how much this project meant to the university was special,” he says. “It’s always rewarding to be able to leave a permanent footprint in the community you work and live in, and to be able to do so on a university’s campus that educates the future professionals of America is a neat feeling.
“It was also rewarding to be able to send all of the employees back home and healthy to their families each night, with zero recordable incidents throughout the duration of the project. Safety is the Number 1 foundational value in our company, and to be able to send everyone home every night with no major injuries was very rewarding.” — Charlie Ingram
White-Spunner: Premier Medical Daphne Office
It isn’t every day that a contractor’s advice is sought before the owner even owns a property on which to build. But that was the case when Mobile-based Premier Medical called in White-Spunner Construction Inc. to evaluate a former car dealership in Daphne as a possible medical facility.
“This particular situation, fortunately, was suited for us to come in and gut the entire inside of the building and convert it,” says Brandon Miller, White-Spunner’s project manager for the facility, which garnered an Alabama Associated General Contractors Build South Award.
Most of the focus of the facility was on the old showroom floor, which was about 14,000 square feet. White-Spunner initially planned to gut the entire interior, but a key change came when the company decided to shore up and leave the existing electrical room on the second floor, build around it and utilize it. “That allowed us to save the client a pretty good bit of money — by salvaging a good bit of electrical and piggybacking off that,” Miller says.
The existing parking lot was a perfect fit for the new facility. But White-Spunner reconfigured the service entrance into a covered porte cochere where patients can be dropped off at a facility entrance, saving them a walk from the parking lot — a feature that has proven especially convenient for elderly patients.
The $2 million design/build project, completed at the end of June last year, took about nine months from design to completion, including seven months of construction. Miller acknowledges that White-Spunner was fortunate to be called in for its insight at such an early stage. “With our reputation locally,” he says, “the client reached out to us beforehand and said, ‘Look, we’ve come across this building, the price point seems attractive but is what we’re thinking about doing even a possibility?’
“So that part was nice, and it all worked out. It’s one of those times when you swell with pride from knowing the impact your company has in your community. We’ve been in business for 37 years, home-based in Mobile, and we wouldn’t have made it that long without developing that kind of reputation and relationships.”
The new facility is for eye, ear, nose and throat patients. Premier Medical, formed through a 1997 merger, traces its lineage to 1915. The company has offices in the Mobile area, southern Alabama and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. — Charlie Ingram
In the Media Spotlight
M.J. Harris: UAB Football Operations Center and Pavilion
Last August, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) held a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the opening of the school’s Football Operations Center and Pavilion, a new $22.5 million facility for the team and the coaching staff.
UAB broke ground for the new facility a year earlier on Aug. 29, 2016, having awarded the building project to M.J. Harris Construction Services LLC, a privately held firm headquartered in Hoover.
“The building was constantly in the news, both locally and nationally,” says Adam Inzina, M.J. Harris’ senior project manager. “There was no way we could let it get behind or have any quality defects. We knew the project, and in turn M.J. Harris, was in the spotlight.”
Since its founding by father and son, Bobby and Michael Harris, in 1995, M.J. Harris Construction Services has focused much of its work on healthcare construction projects across the United States. Past projects include the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Modesto, California, Western Health Center in Midfield and the Physician’s Regional Medical Center in Naples, Florida.
But the firm also has expanded its resume to include projects like the Hoover Sportsplex, the new Jasper High School and the 714-bed Student Residence Hall on the UAB campus.
“While we’re proud to have a strong reputation in the healthcare construction market,” says Inzina, “we realize that to be successful, some market diversification was needed. We aren’t interested in bidding any and all types of projects out there. But certain markets and certain delivery methods can be attractive and align with the resources we already have.”
M.J. Harris is now working on UAB’s new College of Arts & Sciences building, which is set to open in 2019.
UAB’s Football Operations Center is 46,000 square feet with locker rooms, team meeting and film rooms, a weight room and offices for the coaching staff. The space also includes practice fields, one of which is an open-air field with an overhead, metal pavilion that is 70 feet high, 200 feet wide and 400 feet long, he says.
“With any fast-paced project, maintaining the project schedule is certainly a challenge,” says Inzina. “Because of the football team’s need to begin practice, we had to turn over the outdoor field in February of 2017. But because they were still using the old grass field, we didn’t have access to that portion of the site until mid-November 2016. That left about 75 days to get the old field demolished and the new artificial turf field installed.”
Despite wet winter, he says, they completed the first practice field by February 2017 and the Operations Center and Pavilion in July.
Inzina says that even today, seeing the building and practice fields fills him with pride.
“The return of UAB football meant so much to Birmingham,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to know that we had even the slightest impact on that.” — Gail Short
Bailey-Harris: Mell Classroom Building at Auburn
Auburn University’s new Mell Classroom Building is a $27.7 million structure where instructors and their pupils participate in one of the latest trends in education today, Engaged Active Student Learning or EASL, which replaces traditional lectures with interactive and collaborative class activities.
Bailey-Harris Construction, headquartered in Auburn, raised the classroom building that connects to the university’s Ralph Brown Draughon (RBD) Library.
In business since 1979, Bailey-Harris specializes in pre- construction, design-build, construction management and building information modeling. The firm’s past clients have included the East Alabama Medical Center, Alabama State University, Montgomery Performing Arts Centre and Auburn City Schools, as well as Auburn University.
Bailey-Harris started work on Auburn University’s Mell Classroom Building in December 2015. The building opened in August 2017.
The project included building 69,000 square feet of space for the Mell Classroom Building and another 38,000 square feet of learning spaces inside the RBD Library. Bailey-Harris renovated more than 30,000 square feet of the RBD library to match the new finishes and EASL spaces inside the Mell Classroom Building.
The Mell Classroom Building has two 166-seat lecture halls with floor-to-ceiling windows and more than 30 private study rooms.
The classroom building also has 26 EASL classrooms outfitted with glass boards and projectors. And, instead of a regular classroom seating arrangement, students in the EASL rooms can sit together in pods around tables that provide space for their laptops and other materials. Moreover, ShareLink technology in the specialized classrooms lets users project information onto a single projector from their laptops, tablets and smartphones.
One of the major challenges on the project occurred once they discovered that the second, third and fourth floors of the RBD Library required the removal of harmful asbestos, according to Bailey-Harris officials. As a result, crews installed temporary drywall partitions for egress to separate students, faculty and staff from the construction zones during the asbestos abatement process.
In addition, the large excavation for Mell Classroom Building’s basement was directly outside the library’s front door. Because the library remained open during construction, crews maintained the egress from the library and often worked during off-peak hours to minimize the disturbance to library visitors, the firm says.
Moreover, the Mell Classroom site had only one entrance, and the Bailey-Harris team had to keep a single lane open for emergency vehicles. Therefore, they used flagmen on the site and maintained an off-site staging area for offloading materials. — Gail Short
Amason: The Hub on Campus
The Hub on Campus in Tuscaloosa is an off-campus student apartment complex under construction along “the Strip,” just blocks from the University of Alabama and Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The eight-story, 276,700-square-foot building with 187 furnished apartment units is scheduled for completion in August, says Robert Amason Jr., president of Amason & Associates Inc., the construction company overseeing the project.
With specialties in construction management, general contracting, pre-construction and design build, the Tuscaloosa firm has, since its 1988 founding, built and renovated manufacturing and health care facilities, hotels, schools and structures on campuses that include Stillman College and Mississippi University for Women. At the University of Alabama, Amason was the general contractor for the Houser Hall renovation.
In Tuscaloosa, Amason’s portfolio includes multi-family and student housing projects like the Hub and The Nine, another upscale, eight-building complex close to campus. The Nine has 216 furnished units, a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, a fitness center and a volleyball court.
“We will or have constructed over 1,000 beds serving the UA student population within the last year,” says Amason. “In August of 2017, we completed The Nine at Tuscaloosa, which was a 544-bed student apartment community. We have another 500-plus beds in the pre-construction phase now for the UA market.”
The Hub at Tuscaloosa is a joint project of Core Spaces and UP Campus Properties, both headquartered in Chicago.
The Hub will have five floors of apartment units that together will add up to about 140,000 square feet. It also will have three levels of parking, including underground parking that Amason says has allowed them to build within the height restrictions specified by the local zoning ordinances.
The Hub’s apartment units will feature private bedrooms, high-speed Wi-Fi, walk-in closets, in-unit laundries, vinyl-plank flooring, stainless steel appliances, designer cabinetry and high-end finishes such as quartz countertops.
And besides the Hub’s “resort-style” rooftop pool and lounge area, the building’s other amenities will include a fitness center, yoga room, spa and sauna, clubhouse, BBQ pits and courtyards. The Hub also will have a business center and study lounge.
Amason says constructing The Hub apartment complex was especially challenging because of the tight land use constraints.
“We touch the right-of-way on two sides and are within 20 feet of the other property lines,” he says. “The entire site had to be shored, [there were] significant utility relocations and over 100 existing apartment units demolished to make way for the project.
“These initial activities were completed in only two months,” says Amason, “while the actual building construction will be finished in less than 16 months.” — Gail Short
Big Footprint Amusement
Rabren: Park at Owa in Foley
Rabren General Contractors’ business usually takes the Auburn-based contractor down the road of building construction. But last year’s business included a ride down a different road.
Rabren was the general contractor for the 14-acre, 21-ride Park at Owa amusement park, which is part of a larger resort destination, Owa, in Foley. The overall development consists of 520 acres and includes retail, dining, hotel and entertainment venues. The development centers on a 14-acre lake, and the name “Owa” is inspired by the Muskogee Indian term for “water.”
The Park at Owa opened last summer and has 30,000 square feet of conditioned building space, including administrative offices, ticketing, retail, kitchen and dining. The work also required 10,000 square feet of ride maintenance buildings, 450,000 square feet of landscape and hardscape and foundations for and installation of rides and attractions. The job was completed in July 2017.
Building the park offered its own set of challenges. “The differences that we had to prepare for were that we were working on a large footprint, 40 acres,” says Drew Brown, Rabren’s project manager. “While typical project challenges are on small and confined sites, this large site was a challenge that we had to prepare for differently.
“The large footprint meant many employees were spread out, and good communication and planning of activities was highly important, because the time it took to go from one area of the site to another on foot was greater than would typically be expected on a construction site. Additionally, the team had to prepare for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of installing rides, such as the Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster and the Twister. Rabren had to become amusement park specialists to ensure that everything was installed and functioning correctly, and to ensure that it was all done within the time and budget constraints of the project.”
Owa is backed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians through the tribe’s Creek Indian Enterprise Development Authority. Plans include a luxury RV resort, four additional hotels, a resort level condominium and outdoor waterpark. Owa is also adjacent to 16 athletic fields backed by the City of Foley as part of its push into sports tourism and a 91,000-square-foot indoor events center. — Charlie Ingram
Community Health Delivery
Hoar Construction: Infirmary Medical Plaza
When Infirmary Health, a not-for-profit health care system based in Mobile, decided to open a facility in nearby Saraland, it turned to Hoar Construction LLC for the job.
Hoar Construction, a contractor based in Birmingham, completed the new Infirmary Medical Plaza, a $25 million, 70,000-square-foot complex, last fall to serve communities in Saraland and northern Mobile County.
Hoar Construction, which has more than 580 employees, has completed numerous healthcare building projects across the United States.
“Our healthcare work opportunities continue to grow, especially in our Tennessee and Texas divisions,” says Mark Hendricks, vice president of Hoar Construction’s Alabama healthcare division.
For the new Infirmary Medical complex, Hoar gave the building a modular brick veneer along with Arriscraft manufactured stone, says Hendricks. The upper portion of the building has a composite metal panel veneer with a rigid foam insulation substrate.
The 10,000-square-foot imaging center houses technologies including MRI, CT scanners, ultrasound, X-ray and mammography equipment. The imaging center’s entrance consists of a fire rated curtain wall that gives visitors and staff an unobstructed view of the facility from the main lobby without sacrificing their safety, he says.
Infirmary Health’s Diagnostic and Medical Clinic is housed in the three-story, 60,000-square-foot medical office building, which boasts many distinguishing features such as lights on the building’s exterior at its rotunda, Hendricks says.
“The owner requested that these lights change colors by programming the light control computer. For example, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, they can change to pink to bring awareness to the cause and during Mardi Gras, they can show Mardi Gras colors to celebrate the occasion.”
Hendricks says weather posed a significant hurdle for the project. “With the record number of wet weather events we had on this project, the finish date was protracted some. The project experienced over a month and a half of lost weather days that were beyond the norm. However, we were able to make up much of that time by working weekends, overtime and re-sequencing certain affected activities.”
After Hoar Construction completed work on the Infirmary Health Plaza, staffers, members of the Hoar Construction team and others gathered in early December to celebrate the facility’s grand opening, he says.
“It’s always rewarding to be at the grand opening of projects like this with the job team,” says Hendricks, “and to hear what it means to the community.” — Gail Short