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Technology in Action: SPR Takes Precon to the Next Level

By: Harkins Senior Estimator JD Reynolds

Harkins’ Preconstruction Department set out over 15 years ago to differentiate ourselves in the industry by developing a process that would streamline all aspects of construction and bring added value to the entire project lifecycle. Our Government Group realized the effectiveness of the RediCheck system, required on their projects, in identifying coordination and constructability issues and minimizing construction RFIs, delays, and costs, so we began to use that as our model and expand and adapt it to Harkins projects. We called our new process the Structured Plan Review (SPR).

The SPR begins when the construction documents begin to reach 75% – 90% completion. We call for an internal meeting of all team members on the project and add 5-10 Harkins employees who have expertise in the construction type or systems being used on the project. These additional team members bring fresh eyes to the project documents and may see things that may have been previously overlooked.

At the meeting, all project documents are uploaded to Bluebeam Studio, which creates a virtual, collaborative workspace. All team members are assigned different disciplines to review within the documents, based on their experience and skill set. Any items in question or of concern are noted. Ultimately, a list of RFIs is created from the comments on the documents and submitted to the design team prior to bid documents being issued.

The RFIs that are created from the SPR cover a wide variety of topics. They could be items as small as missing door tags or dimensions, which will save frivolous RFIs from being written during construction. Or they could uncover larger issues, such as missing footings, significant MEP coordination, etc.

The SPR has evolved tremendously since its inception. We started incorporating BIM technologies when models are made available. One key aspect of the BIM model has been tagging coordination and clash detection issues (in Revizto) that are not as easily noticed during our 2D review. Taking BIM a step further, we have also incorporated 4D scheduling, where the team can see the model overlayed on the site plan and constructed according to the schedule. During this review, many site logistics issues are worked through, which saves time and money before we ever break ground.

The final step of the SPR is to deliver our findings to the design team and work collaboratively to ensure they are addressed in the documents prior to the bid process or breaking ground. The SPR is so effective at reducing coordination issues, RFIs, and time delays, that it creates a much smoother and cost-effective construction process. The SPR is an essential part of Harkins delivering our projects on time and under budget.

Continuous improvement is part of Harkins’ culture, and the SPR is no exception. To increase the leverage of collaboration, Harkins teams have begun to invite design team members to the Bluebeam Studio sessions so they can see, review, and comment on items and issues in real-time in one common space. Any issues or potential issues within the plans and specifications can be identified and immediately seen by the entire team. We hope this next step will help to identify more issues and allow them to be addressed at a faster pace, making the SPR and Harkins’ preconstruction process even more effective.

Header photo: Example screen from the Revizto Issue Tracker. The system has identified a clash between the wood frame truss, mechanical ductwork, and plumbing risers, which can be collaboratively tracked and resolved before construction. BIM technology has taken Harkins’ SPR to the next level of effectiveness.

Harkins Expands in Central Virginia/Tidewater

As part of our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, one of Harkins’ growth goals is to expand our geographic footprint and establish a presence in the Central Virginia/Tidewater region. Since welcoming Senior Project Manager Damion Pizarro to the Harkins team in late 2021, we opened a new office in Richmond to support our expanding presence in this burgeoning corridor. Located at 7400 Beaufont Springs Drive in the Boulders Business Park, our new office will further enhance relationships with local clients, architects, and trade partners. Both Damion and Steve Rubin, our project development executive, are working hard and logging many miles to develop new business relationships.

Starting with two active projects being managed out of the Richmond office, expansion plans include hiring opportunities to build a team of construction professionals working alongside several seasoned Harkins employee-owners. Friendship Court Phase 1 in Charlottesville is nearing 50% completion. One of a handful of new projects in Virginia that is designed to the highly coveted energy-efficient Passive House standards, the community will consist of 106 affordable housing units and a one-level structured parking garage. In addition, we recently broke ground on Altitude, a 118-unit market rate development minutes from downtown Raleigh, NC that is anticipating completion in fall 2023. Our team is working hard on a few other projects in Central Virginia, which we expect will break ground in Q4-2022 and Q1-2023.

In addition, Harkins was awarded a spot on the coveted $950 million NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk contract to support large construction projects in the Hampton Roads area of operation. This multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract is expected to deliver various project types throughout the region, including administrative offices, communications infrastructure, dormitories, industrial buildings, medical clinics, training ranges, and warehouses over a five-year period.

We look forward to growing the Central Virginia/Tidewater region into a thriving component of our Mid-Atlantic footprint. Please reach out to either Damion or Steve if you have a project in this region to discuss.

Feature photo by: CommercialCafe

The Future of Building Through Virtual Design

BIM Modeling

By: Harkins Virtual Design & Construction Engineer Patrick Scarpati

After an unsettling period in the construction industry, one thing has remained constant: the emerging acceptance and usage of technology. Harkins has always been a proponent of utilizing technical tools such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), virtual reality, and drones to assist in project collaboration, both internally and externally. We believe that technology provides our project teams, owners, architects, engineers, and trade partners the insight to communicate and plan more efficiently. According to a survey performed by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and FMI Corporation, 58% of construction professionals expect to see technology-driven changes that will drive the success of their organization in the next five years.

Sample BIM Modeling

Trending technology is nothing new. In fact, BIM made its way onto the scene in the late 1970s, and although it was cumbersome and expensive at first, it began to transform the industry’s perspective about project planning. Today, Harkins benefits from BIM through utilizing its cloud-based process with all team members in the Project Controls Department. The tool allows us to coordinate the model to enable unparalleled visibility between disciplines. Everyone can work from the same model with the same data, quickly identify and resolve problems, and work through those problems virtually. Imagine detecting a clash with a pipe or wall before anyone steps onto the jobsite, simulating schedules, planning site logistics, or using the latest technology to review for constructability. The possibilities are endless. With new technology workflows and capabilities provided by BIM, the ultimate payoff happens during construction, with increased cost savings, safety compliance, better quality, prefabrication, and improved scheduling.

At its core, technology is only as good as the team behind it, and ours not only brings the technical acumen, but field experience as well. By having both trained and knowledgeable employees, our team can see the true value of combining the old way of doing things with the next generation of virtual technology. There is a power to the combination of expertise that enhances mutual understanding and communication. Simply put, utilizing BIM or drone technology would not be where it is today without our internal team and partners involved to engage, adopt, and champion this new way of looking at a project. In the end, technology is a tool that bridges different opinions so we can have better coordination, collaboration, and communication. This streamlined approach provides opportunities for higher quality design and construction as well as greater insights for everyone involved, all while mitigating risk and increasing client satisfaction.

Friendship Court Phase I Demonstration

Recruiting Top Talent in a Pandemic World

Recruting Top Talent in a Pandemic World

By: Harkins Director of Human Resources Kathy Humm

Recruiting plays a key role in the success of every organization. With the right candidates, we can cultivate desired skillsets and continue to provide a culture that aligns with our vision, purpose, and goals. While recruiting top talent is challenging on any given day, the COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges that caused many businesses to shift their approach to conform with restrictions in the marketplace. One of the biggest changes was the shift to a virtual recruiting strategy. Hiring managers quickly adapted to this new model of doing business, which allowed Harkins to continue hiring top talent based on project staffing needs.

Harkins was fortunate to have launched Microsoft Teams company-wide prior to the onset of the pandemic, which was a major advantage in the virtual interview process. This technology allowed hiring managers to interview candidates using video capabilities for quicker access to responses and to better understand their body language in comparison to a phone screening. In addition, video interviews provide immediate insight into the candidate’s ability to communicate and use technology effectively, which are important skill sets that we look for in potential hires.  Although in-person interviews are preferred, virtual interviews were an optimal solution considering the circumstances. Harkins continues to use a hybrid model of Teams and in-person interviews, which have proven to be successful in our recruiting efforts.

While the world shut down and transitioned to virtual hiring practices, Harkins developed new strategies to attract and retain top talent.

  • Virtual Career Fairs – Harkins planned and hosted virtual career fairs to attract candidates with non-traditional degrees.
  • Winter Internship Program – Harkins kicked off its first program in January 2022 that welcomed nine aspiring construction workers to be placed on some of our most challenging projects with no construction management experience or education necessary.
  • College Champions – This approach has allowed our alumni to get in the classroom, meet professors, and determine the right candidates through networking and mentoring current students.
  • Expanded Interview Process – This now includes on-site walks with hiring managers and lead superintendents on active jobsites to gain insight into the candidate’s knowledge of construction, their strengths, and areas of opportunity, which has already proven to be a game-changer for Harkins.

Onboarding new hires during a pandemic has had its challenges, but Harkins continues to have ongoing conversations about our new hire experience to ensure that building relationships is a top priority for employee growth and development. When feasible, our teams have utilized an in-person and/or hybrid collaboration model to acclimate new hires to the Harkins family. As a company, we pride ourselves on grooming the next generation of leaders through building exceptional talent, and we will continue to do so for years to come.

Harkins’ Southeast Team Relocates to Midtown

Harkins Southeast Midtown Centre New Office

Charlotte, NC

Harkins has moved its Southeast regional office to the Midtown community of Charlotte, NC.

The new office resides in the Midtown Centre building along S Kings Drive at 1300 Baxter Street. Minutes from the previous office in Uptown, Midtown Centre is located in an up-and-coming urban area with beautiful scenery, fine dining, and endless shopping options, serving as the gateway between the downtown area and the residential areas of Cherry, Elizabeth, and Dilworth. The new 3,500 sf space offers individual offices for added privacy and productivity. There is a flex workspace, kitchenette, cubicles, and two conference rooms for team collaboration. The building also offers a large conference room for larger meetings or gatherings on the second floor.


Quote from Project Executive, Southeast Move to Midtown

The team has three projects under construction in the area: Junction 49, The Oliver, and Aspen Heights University City (UNCC Heritage). We look forward to the continued growth in this regional market.

Harkins Celebrates Groundbreaking of Ellicott Gardens Two

Ellicott Gardens Two Groundbreaking

Ellicott City, MD

On Thursday, March 3rd, Harkins attended the groundbreaking of Ellicott Gardens Two in Ellicott City, MD.

The second phase of an existing development, the property is located along Waterloo Road (Route 108) in a leading residential neighborhood surrounded by outdoor recreation, inviting plazas, and nearby shopping. Ellicott Gardens Two will involve the new construction of 70 units, a partially underground garage with 45 spaces and bike storage, and surface parking with 79 spaces. A 3,700 sf interior amenity space will consist of a fitness area, computer room, and a large clubroom with a kitchen. There will be a dedicated outdoor area with seating and space for recreation. This will be the eighth project that Harkins has partnered with Homes for America on.

Groundbreaking Photos

An Ever-Evolving Culture of Safety

Safety orientation video

By: Harkins CHST, Safety Officer Tyler Schulz

At Harkins, we take great pride in the role we play to improve people’s lives in our marketplace, in our communities, and in our company. But even more than that, we carry an unwavering responsibility to do whatever it takes to ensure that our people can return home safely to their families. Through heightened awareness and continuous training, Harkins continues to uphold the highest standards of safety.

We are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to communicate and initiate protocols across the company. This year, we plan to focus our attention on our current safety program, which has provided leadership and guidance to ensure the safest working environment for all employee-owners and trade partners. With the ever-changing rules and guidelines, it is important to continue refining our program to stay ahead of the curve and up to speed on
all things safety. Some of these changes include:

  • Harkins Safety Policy – We will be reviewing the entire policy and verifying that it is up to date with best practices in the industry, including the addition of heat and cold stress programs, ergonomics, working alone, and a leading indicator program.
  • Safety Manual – All sections will be restructured into separate documents to provide employee-owners an easier way to search and access specific information.
  • Safety Exhibit – This exhibit will be enhanced and incorporated into all commonly used documentation as a tool for our field teams.
  • Fire Safety and Temporary Heater Programs – These programs will be upgraded to the new NFPA 241 requirements that began in 2022, including changes to the types of heaters allowed in wood-frame buildings, fire watch durations, and on-site security measures.
  • Safety Submittals – Create a standard procedure for safety submittals and for all new projects to request, receive, and utilize.

Harkins prides itself on making training a top priority for the company. In 2021, we achieved an EMR rating of 0.56, which is the lowest in our company history and truly exceptional. The average rating is 1.0. If your EMR dips below 1.0, this
means you are considered safer than most. This ranking signifies the dedication that we have to safety on our jobsites. We offer Harkins University classes, OSHA10 and OSHA30 certification opportunities, Click Safety webinars, toolbox talks, and quarterly Safety Stand-downs as a way of educating our field personnel on various safety rules and regulations.
We plan to implement Shaping Accident-Free Environment (SAFE) workshops to explore why individual employee-owners continue to be at-risk in spite of regulations in place, allowing them to be directly involved in a new culture of creating an incident-and-injury-free workplace.

With the help of our marketing team and safety committee, we have completed the filming of a new corporate safety orientation video that will be shown to all trade partners before they enter the jobsite. This replaces our current video with more up-to-date industry standards and company policies that we feel will better educate our partners.

With these changes and more in the coming years, Harkins will continue to be a leading contractor with safety top of mind.

Safety Orientation Video

Harkins Celebrates Grand Opening of USO Quantico Marine Corps Base

Quantico, VA

On Tuesday, February 15th, Harkins celebrated the grand opening of the USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore Quantico Marine Corps Base (MCB).

The new location is made up of 5,100 sf within walking distance of the Barracks and Garrison Headquarters. The project involved the restoration of an existing office building into a premier gaming center. The building now features offices spaces, a conference room, multiple lounge areas, a TV room, arcade, cafe, support space, and ADA compliant restrooms. The exterior was pressure washed and touched up with a fresh coat of paint. With the help of our employee-owners, the design team, and trade partners, we were able to cut down construction costs to allow the USO to continue doing what they do best, providing support for our service members and their families across the country.

Quote from Lisa Marie Riggins

​​​​​​​Harkins’ history with the USO dates back over 30 years. It all started when late President J.P. Blase Cooke attended a USO ball and met his wife. Since he started at Harkins, we built a strong relationship with the organization through various philanthropic contributions and aiding in the construction of various USO lounges and centers across the East Coast. Along with USO Quantico MCB, Harkins recently completed a USO lounge at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and an All-Star Depot in Ft. Belvoir, VA. We look forward to our continued partnership to give back to our men and women in uniform.

Grand Opening Photos

Harkins Breaks Ground in Charlottesville

Friendship Court Groundbreaking

Charlottesville, VA

On January 15th, Harkins celebrated the groundbreaking of the Friendship Court Redevelopment Phase I project in Charlottesville, VA. The event was open to the public, both in-person and virtually. The groundbreaking attracted over 150 guests that included representatives from the Piedmont Housing Alliance, Portico Church, and the City of Charlottesville.

Friendship Court’s redevelopment will be the largest construction of low-income housing for the area in over 20 years. A multi-phased project, Phase 1 will consist of 106 units with buildings 1 and 2 totaling 35 stacked townhome-style units, while building 3 will include a one-level structured parking garage and three levels as a wood-framed, center corridor apartment building. The project is one of the few Passive House projects in the state of Virginia that is designed as a highly coveted, energy-efficient community, built to rigorous standards for insulation and energy use. This will be Harkins’ third Passive House project in two years.

​​​​​​​As part of Harkins’ 2025 Strategic Plan, our goal is to be resourceful and develop core business sectors in our current regions that will allow us to gain and maintain a footprint in our newly established Richmond & Tidewater region. The Friendship Court project will allow Harkins to continue to expand into this region as we look forward to future developments in the market.