After 100 years in the construction business, MTI Construction Services has learned to roll with the changes. And the company’s people appear to have figured out a business formula that works.
Since its inception, the company has been involved with different facets of the industry including building and contracting, and real estate and property management. Finding its strengths in public and private sector design/build and construction management, MTI focuses its efforts on what it does best. “We concentrate on satisfying our customers,” claims Andy Jones, president and CEO. “Anybody can build a building of bricks, steel and mortar – MTI concentrates on building long-term relationships.”
Serving primarily the northeast suburban Illinois market, MTI takes a slightly different approach to standard construction management. “For the past 26 years, our role has mainly been construction manager [CM] as agent to our clients,” Jones indicates. “Following this approach, we can demonstrate potential savings and reduce the risk for the client.”
MTI’s CM-as-agent arrangement follows the philosophy that an agent always keeps the owners’ best interests in mind. “We’re pretty good at budgeting the job and delivering within the budget,” Jones says. This strategy allows the company to act as a single point of contact between the owners and all of the other entities such as subcontractors and the architect, thereby simplifying the chain of communication.
Jones asserts that MTI looks at all aspects of the project, from design all the way through planning and budgeting to circumvent potential issues. “By planning ahead, we can solve many problems before they become schedule delays or cost overruns,” he says. “We feel that contingency funds should be used for unforeseen problems like poor soil conditions—not on change-orders or errors in the construction documents.” He adds that most of the time the company will return these contingency funds to the owner because this money is saved through proper planning and minimizing change-orders.
The firm is heavily involved in the planning stages from the very beginning of a project. Typical project flow includes preconstruction, schematic design and design development, and the owner’s finish and product selections. From those stages, MTI proceeds to establish the budget for the project and then prequalifies prospective trade bidders. “We manage the project through design coordination meetings and weekly meetings with the owners,” Jones says. “Through this whole process we are able to mitigate the owner’s risk and anticipate problems before they add costs or delay the project.
“We feel the cost of every project is determined during the design phase when all of the critical decisions are made concerning the construction plan and what materials are specified—not during the bidding phase,” Jones asserts. “That’s why MTI’s involvement during this critical time is important to the success of the project.”
The company has had many repeat clients in both the private and public sectors, citing one entity as an eight-time client. This philosophy also has enabled MTI to boast a litigation-free track record. “We have never been involved in a lawsuit with a client or trade contractor in the 100 years we’ve been in business,” Jones claims.
MTI is also able to provide cost savings through value-engineering and alternative product selection. “One client wanted its structure to resemble a 12th century Spanish castle,” Jones says. “They wanted it to appear as if it were made of large limestone blocks.” Because the blocks are very expensive, MTI consulted a precast concrete wall panel manufacturer and presented them with the dilemma. The manufacturer came up with a design that incorporated 10-foot-wide panels that could be joined together to achieve the same look as limestone blocks yet at a substantially reduced cost.
A LEED-ing Firm
The company has been involved with municipal LEED projects for its public sector clients. In 2007, the Administration and Public Safety Complex in Elk Grove Village, Ill., was awarded the first LEED Gold certification for a village hall facility in Illinois.
The Elk Grove Village project entailed a 106,000-square-foot complex that houses the town’s operations, administration, police and fire administration. Some of the green features include a 20,000-square-foot green roof that naturally insulates the building and conserves water, as well as daylighting technologies, water-conserving fixtures and occupancy sensors for lighting systems. All of these features were implemented to reduce operational costs to the village. Additionally, MTI separated and recycled 90 percent of the demolition waste from the old building and sourced 72 percent of the new building materials within 500 miles of the site.
Not only did MTI deliver the project on time, when final costs were calculated the facility, which was expected to cost $30 million, actually cost $28 million mainly due to the slow economy and construction market at the time. MTI was able to return $2 million of the original budget to the village. It is estimated that within seven years, the municipality will recover $1.8 million through natural gas, cooling, heating and water conservation.
Two recently completed projects for Hoffman Estates, Ill., also achieved LEED Gold certification. Both the 79,000-square-foot police station and 22,000-square-foot Fire Station 24 incorporate daylighting technologies, a green roof, and energy- and water-saving systems. Together, these projects cost the village approximately $34 million.
Jones asserts that establishing good working relationships with its trade contractors and vendors results in a positive dynamic. “We make sure the trade contractors and vendors get paid on time,” he says. “Also, because we’ve worked with more than 500 trade contractors in the Chicago area, we know most of those that are qualified and reputable.” MTI’s key partners include Sherman Mechanical Inc.