The Association of General Contractors and Why We are Members

I have always told my children to be careful who you hang out with because your peers can be a good influence or a bad one.

This is good advice for all of us and we have followed that advice here at Harman.  Harman Construction Inc. has been a proud member of the Associated General Contractors of Virginia (AGCVA) for nearly 30 years.

The (AGC) is the leading association for the construction industry. AGC represents more than 26,000 firms, including over 6,500 of America’s leading general contractors, and over 9,000 specialty-contracting firms. More than 10,500 service providers and suppliers are also associated with AGC, all through a nationwide network of chapters.

Assosiated General Contractor logo

We believe the AGC makes us stronger in many ways:

  1. Networking – The ability to network with and learn from the best of the construction industry keeps us sharp and gives us a resource to bounce strategies and ideas off of.
  2. Training – Top rate instructional seminars and workshops are scheduled to keep our team up to date on trends in the industry and to give us tools to do our jobs better.
  3. Advocacy – together we can make our voice heard at the national and state level of government.  Laws are often made by well meaning (sometimes) politicians who simply do not understand the issues that we face in our industry.  It is critical that we do our part to support our industry and make our voice heard.
  4. Workforce development – Finding well qualified workers for the construction industry is likely the greatest challenge we face.  As our workforce has aged we have found that younger workers are often not choosing our industry.  The AGC is working tirelessly to get the word out and train our future workforce.  Often middle school and high school students are encouraged to go to college even when it may not be the right fit for the student.  There are many well-paying and rewarding careers in construction that require a college degree and many that do not.  Working with the AGC we can match these young people with a construction career that is right for them.
  5. Service – AGC members give back to their communities through charity and service projects.  The local Valley chapter has sponsored a blood drive in recent years that has contributed on average of 75-100 units of blood each year.

The friendships I have made in my years of serving the AGC in various roles have been fantastic and have made me a better person and professional.

I would encourage each of you to get engaged with and contribute to the associations and peer groups in your work place or areas of interest.  You will be part of making a difference in people lives and contributing to the building of better places to live and work.

~Wayne Witmer

President & COO – Harman Construction, Inc.

Team Member Spotlight – Nancy Bowers

Here at Harman we are privileged to have such a great team of people working for our clients. Once a month we will be highlighting one of our team members so that you can get to know them a little bit better.

Nancy Bowers Harman

Nancy Bowers – Director of Finance

This month the spotlight falls on Nancy Bowers – Director of Finance at Harman Construction.  Prior to joining Harman in 1997, Nancy earned her accounting degree—cum laude—from Eastern Mennonite University. She also graduated from the U.S. Army Military Police Academy and from the Defense Language Institute with a focus on German.

Here are a couple questions we asked Nancy about her experience at Harman and why she believes Harman is a great place to work and a great company to do business with:

What is your role at Harman Construction and how does it relate to its employees and clients?

I have been with Harman for 18 years.  I am in charge of the accounting department, its staff and the overall ebb and flow of the department.  As an accounting staff we work diligently to make sure our reporting is clear and sound so that the Harman team, out on the field and those working with our clients, can do their jobs well.

What is the most favorite part of your job? 

I really enjoy the reporting aspect of my job.  I love the challenge of finding the most efficient way to accomplish a task and then putting it to work for Harman.  For example, We just implemented an accounts payable paperless routing system in the accounting office.  It is more efficient for the staff and provides a quicker turnaround of information to the Harman team.

What have you come to appreciate/value about working on the team at Harman?

I really appreciate and value the people at Harman.  I also appreciate that the owners of Harman stand firm in their Christian values which in turn create a great culture in which to work.  We have an excellent team that is talented and professional, not only in their roles at Harman, but out in the community as well.

What other life experience have you had that helps you in your job today?

My time in the military really helped me learn the importance of team work and that there are a lot of different ways to accomplish a task.  The time I spent traveling internationally with the military also allowed me to work with a variety of different cultures and people, which I believe helps me in my work today.

Outside of Harman, what other things do you enjoy in your down-time.

I love spending time with my family and with my grandchildren.  Being married to a Pastor Husband, we are both busy in the life of our church.  I also like to play the piano occasionally and work in my flower garden.

To read Nancy’s full bio or to contact her – Click Here.

Our Summer Vacation – An Inspiration for Green Building

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Rainbow Falls – Gorges State Park

On our summer vacation with family this month, we spent time Southwest of Asheville, NC in an area of the mountains near the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

The Blue Ridge Escarpment is the steep transition area between the mountains and the Piedmont.  The severe elevations changes, combined with heavy rainfall in this region, qualify the area as a temperate rain forest featuring numerous waterfalls, river gorges, and rare plant and animal species.

20 plus years ago I was introduced to a specific region around the Horsepasture River by a very good friend while we both were attending school not far away in South Carolina.  My friend grew up in this part of North Carolina and knew the best places to go and visit.   The waterfalls along the Horsepasture are one of those places.

In college, we visited these waterfalls as frequently as our schedules allowed, especially in the milder months when we could swim or slide down one of the waterfalls.  Unfortunately, after graduating from college, I heard that you couldn’t access this area any longer.   I was very disappointed to hear that such a wonderful place was not open to the public, and that I wouldn’t be able to share this area with my son and daughter.  However, earlier this summer we were excited to find out that North Carolina had created a new State Park in 1999 featuring a trail that provides access to these same waterfalls.

As we planned our vacation, a visit to this new Gorges State Park, was high on the list of priorities.    The weather was beautiful during our vacation and so one morning we set out with our swimsuits, snacks, water, and cameras.  We arrived at the parks visitor center,  newly opened in 2012, purchased a map, secured additional directions from the park staff and promptly set out on a reasonable 1.5 mile hike down to waterfalls.   We passed the creek and spot where my friends and I used to camp, hiked past Rainbow Fall, and then onto Turtleback Falls.   It was an incredible experience sharing this area with my son and daughter.  Now, 14 and 16 years old, they were now old enough to enjoy sliding down Turtleback Falls.

During this incredible adventure in the outdoors, I was also reminded of the responsibility we have as building professionals to the world we have been given and the impact of what we design and build.

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Visitor’s Center – Gorges State Park

When we arrived at the visitor’s center I discovered a thoughtfully designed site and building.   I was not surprised to find out that the Gorges State Park 7,100 square foot visitor’s center was designed to national green building standards and includes many sustainable building features.

In 2013 the project was awarded LEED Gold certification.   Like the park, the building and associated site development is special and includes elements in the design, such as a waterfall feature, which make it fit well into this special mountain setting.   Other site and building features include solar energy systems, geothermal systems, rainwater collection, water saving fixtures, local materials, and beautiful water efficient natural landscaping.  The building also has museum-quality exhibits, some which educate visitors on the green features of the building and site, in addition to letting visitors explore the natural and cultural history of the area.

After visiting Gorges State Park I can’t wait to go back!  If you are traveling in this region or if you are planning a trip, I highly recommend visiting this area and visiting Gorges State Park, DuPont State Forest and other surrounding natural areas that are breathtakingly beautiful and wonderfully unique.

If you are like me, you will be inspired by your visit.

Travis Layman

LEED AP, HCI Preconstruction Team Member

Travis Layman

Travis Layman

Team Member Spotlight – Zack Fletchall

Here at Harman we are privileged to have such a great team of people working for our clients. Once a month we will be highlighting one of our team members so that you can get to know them a little bit better.

Zach Fletchall

This month the spotlight falls on our LEED AP, Project Executive – Zack Fletchall

Zack joined Harman in 2011 bringing his love and knowledge of building construction to our team.  After winning a Lego building contest at age four, it’s no surprise Zack grew up to complete a degree in building construction from Virginia Tech.  Active in the industry, Zack currently sits on the executive committee for the AGCVA Valley District and has previously served the USGBC’s SWVA chapter as both vice chair and chair.

Here are a couple questions we asked Zack about his own experience at Harman and what he believes makes Harman a great place to work and a great company to do business with:

What has been one of your favorite projects with Harman? Why?

One of my favorite projects has been Generations Park in Bridgewater.  As both an ice hockey fan and player, it’s exciting to be getting an ice surface here in the Valley.  It is also exciting what it will bring to the area community.

I also really enjoyed watching the project for Dick’s Sporting Goods in Harrisonburg take shape.  It was a fast paced project and really neat to see come together so quickly.

What have you come to appreciate/value about working on team at Harman?

There are several things I appreciate about working here – The people, Haman’s strong corporate values and the level of expertise are what continue to make it an enjoyable and rewarding place to work.

Outside your Harman work, what other things do you enjoy in your down-time.

Enjoying time my family, especially outdoors.  This summer we spent a lot of time at the pool, the park, bike riding and visits to the zoo.

What other life experience have you had that helps you in your job today?

Over the past 15 years I have worked on wide variety of projects with many different clients.  I would say that there are aspects from each of those experiences that are used on a daily basis.

To read Zack’s full bio or to contact him – Click Here.

Green Light on Green Building

Green Building LogoI’ll have to admit, I wasn’t always a fan of green building.  Early reviews of green systems and their associated payback periods weren’t adding up to substantial value for most clients.  For this reason Harman did not pursue green building much in the early years unless asked.

However, today technologies are improving and making things like solar panels, LED lighting and skylights a more viable and affordable option for some of our clients.

In the last few years HCI have undertaken a number of large solar panel projects and have been able to include “day-lighting” into some of our industrial projects through the use of skylights.  If you are in Harrisonburg, VA stop by and check out Weaver’s Flooring America.  We added onto their warehouse space in 2014 where we were able to incorporate skylights throughout.  As a result during the day when you walk through the warehouse it’s easy to believe the lights are on, when in reality they are not.

“Pretty cool” is what I often hear after showing the skylights off.  Through the use of prismatic skylights, the light is dispersed evenly and hot spots are eliminated.  We incorporated the same system up at Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative’s (SVEC) distribution center in Mt. Jackson, VA.  Over the years day-lighting has become more and more popular and a efficient means to saving on a company’s overhead cost.

Over the last six years, Harman Construction has ramped up our efforts toward green building and becoming a leader in sustainable construction.  We are excited to have been a part of eight Green projects with six of these projects being LEED Certified jobs.  These projects have ranged from a metal building warehouse/office for SVEC to dormitories for Eastern Mennonite University.  Our latest green project is for a six story Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Northern VA.

Green projects can demand much more attention in their planning and delivery, but with a seasoned team here at Harman we are more than willing to step up to the plate and deliver.  As part of our commitment to building green we currently have three certified LEED AP’s on staff here at Harman.

Technology advancements in the green building envelope and green building systems analysis are making it easier to find the best solutions for each project.  Today there are tools that can measure multiple systems quickly, which can help us make smart, informed decisions.

Each project is unique, so finding the best solution for one project is not always the best solution for the next.  Today’s tools can help us optimize efficiency and give owners the biggest bang for their buck.

Our team is excited about what the future holds for green building and we will continue to be on the leading edge of delivering smart solutions for our clients.  If you want to talk to someone about your next building project, please give us a call.  We’d love to hear from you!

-Ryan Strite

Business Development Manager

Team Member Spotlight – Jim Ellinger

Here at Harman we are privileged to have such a great team of people working for our clients. Once a month we will be highlighting one of our team members so that you can get to know them a little bit better.

Jim Ellinger

This month the spotlight falls on our Design-Build Manager – Jim Ellinger

Jim joined Harman in 1988.  His past experience working for a civil engineer and a pre-cast factory gave him the groundwork and tools for working with Harman as a design-build manger.

Here are a couple questions we asked Jim about his own experience at Harman and what he believes makes Harman a great place to work and a great company to do business with:

What has been one of your favorite projects with Harman? Why?
  • I have been with Harman for 27 years so it’s a little hard to pinpoint just one project.  However, a couple of key projects stick out in my mind: Rockingham Eye Associates (My very first project), Valley Pediatrics in Verona, the churches we have worked with over the years and the industrial project with Merck.  Every one of these projects have had something unique about them and it has been exciting to work with the clients and see their dreams become reality through our work.
What have you come to appreciate/value about working on team at Harman? 
  • I appreciate the effort that each team member puts into each project that we do.  As a design-build team we work hard to listen to our clients and really become the client.  When we understand at that level, it makes bringing a project together successful.  While we may work as individual teams – from sales, to design-build, to estimating, to the crews on the ground – working together we can accomplish the goals of our clients.
  • I also appreciate the strong work ethic our teams display and the Christian atmosphere here at Harman.  No matter how stressful the job may get we know we can rely on our team members to support us and even pray with us if we have that need.
Outside your Harman work, what other things do you enjoy in your down-time.
  • My wife and I love to camp.  We love to take the weekend, load up our two rescue dogs and head out.  We spend time walking and just sharing life together.  Other than camping, anyone that knows me knows that I love to bowl.  I’ve been bowling for 46 years, been all over the US for tournaments – sometimes on a team but also as an individual competitor on the Amateur Bowling Circuit.  My dad introduced me to the game at 16 and I’ve been bowling ever since.  I have one friend who has been bowling with me for 40 years, same day, same time every week.  I love to bowl.
What other life experience have you had that helps you in your job today?
  • Before I came to Harman I went to work for a Civil Engineer.  It was my first job out of college.  I didn’t know anything about civil engineering, but over the course of my 10 years there I learned a wealth of knowledge that has contributed to my success at Harman as a design-build manager.  I also spent 1 1/2 years working at a pre-cast factory in Waynesboro prior to Harman.  Both jobs helped to build my skills, especially in reading site plans, which is a critical part of my job today.

To read Jim’s full bio or to contact him – Click Here.

Client Spotlight: W. O. Grubb Crane Rental

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Recently Wayne Witmer and Brian Mininger had the opportunity to return to Grubb Crane Rental in Winchester to take a look at the finished facility that Harman built a few years ago for this growing company.  It was a great oppourtunity to learn more about the work of Grubb Crane Rental and find out just what had drawn them to Harman Construction when they were deciding to build their new facility.

Before taking a tour of the facility Wayne and Brian sat down with Scott McDougle – Vice President of Sales – Business Development – and talked about the history of Grubb, it’s ongoing values and priorities and their experience working with Harman in their most recent build.

Here is a transcript of that conversation.

Tell us about the history of Grubb Crane Rental?

WO Grubb Crane Rental was started in 1962 by Willy Grubb.  The company grew over a long period of time through the perseverance and dedication of the Grubb family.  In 1984, Willy’s son Bill purchased the business from his father with a dream and vision to grow the company even bigger than it’s than 15 cranes.  That vision has become a reality with the company growing from 1 branch, with 15 cranes, to now running 8 branches with 200 cranes.

What values are important to Grubb Crane Rental?

People are the heartbeat of our business.  Everyone from our team members to our clients are important.  Safety is also a high priority here at Grubb.  We want to create a safe culture for our employees and our clients.  By valuing people and valuing safety we feel our team members are invested in Grubb Crane Rental because they know we care.

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What was happening in business that you decided to expand to Winchester, Virginia?

Our goal is to get into areas that can use our services and be impacted in a greater way by them.  With the expansion of the power companies, expanding to Winchester would allow us to be available to the power companies and the wind farms going up in the area.  We were also able to hire good people with great talent to help get this branch off the ground and up and running successfully. Honestly, it always comes back to the people and we have some great ones working for us.

Top Priorities for Grubb when looking for a contractor?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Communication was the #1 priority to us.  We needed a company that would, and could, communicate well from beginning to end.  We saw that quality in Harman, which helped in our decision making process.  In fact, Harman went above and beyond in communicating with us, which adds incredible value to the ongoing relationship.

Why Harman?

Besides communication, relationship is really important to us too.  We already had a good relationship with Harman from the past and we appreciated the fact that relationship is also important to Harman.  Harman really takes a partnership approach, displays a great level of professionalism and gives great attention to detail.

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What was your experience with the Design/Build Process?

The design/build process was important to us because it allowed us to sit down and really see the project from start to finish, from the layout to the aesthetics, before we even broke ground.  We could see the process laid out in front of us through the 3D renderings and make changes without having to bring in an expensive architect.  Because of the design/build process we only had a few areas that needed tweaking, which allowed the project to move forward without getting hung up over and over again.

Why is the look of the building so important to Grubb?

Image is important and it helps convey who we are.  We are proud of what this company has become and we feel it’s important to present ourselves well to our clients.   We also feel it instills a sense that we value our customers.  If we take such great care with our facility and our equipment it sends the message to our customers that we value them and we will give the same attention to detail and care that we give to our own staff and facility.

Our motto has always been “We always want to be invited back.”  Taking time to care about the details, about our customers and their projects, hopefully conveys that message.  Honestly, we want to be the best in class.

To see photos of the project check out the Grubb album Here.

 

Construction & Technology: A Symbiotic Relationship

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Construction and technology have not always had a symbiotic relationship.

Many people picture construction workers using old out dated technology, one step above a chisel and stone tablet, to deliver homes and commercial buildings.  Here at Harman we strongly believe that using the latest technology will help mitigate risk and improve the overall customer experience for our clients.

We do this from the design phase into the construction process through the use of 3D modeling capabilities and mobile construction management technology.

 What is 3D building model rendering?  

3D building model rendering is a 3D rendering process for the planning, design and construction of a building.

3D rendering is useful to owners, architects and contractors by allowing for virtual tours, fewer RFIs (request for information)  and an overall reduction in field changes.

Clients who are not familiar with reading standard construction blueprints can have difficulty visualizing the final look of their building.  3D Rendering allows clients to take a virtual tour of the building, improving the customers experience while helping to solidify pre-design decisions.

From conception to completion, 3D rendering reduces risk and ambiguity in the design phase. This means that revisions can be made prior to putting a shovel in the ground. This equates to savings, more efficient work time and a high quality product at the tail end of the construction project.

Implementation of technology in the construction field is another key to a successful project.

Submittals, drawings, RFIs, emails and invoices can be maddening on any sized project.  It is through the management of these documents that we are able to minimize mistakes and maximize efficiency.

How many times has the phrases been uttered, “you didn’t send me that”, “wasn’t that changed?” or “I don’t have the latest drawings”.  These all lead to negative results.  Lost documents, incorrect finishes, costly mistakes and delays are the project’s demise.

At Harman we are working toward mitigating that risk with the utilization of tablet technology and construction software in the office and field.  Now there is an effortless update with the click of a button. Revised submittals, RFIs and drawings are available in real time to managers and subcontractors on the job site.

Mobile technology is the future of the construction industry and at Harman we are taking the necessary steps to have that competitive edge.

A good customer experience is paramount to the success and growth of our company.  In a world with sprained thumbs and buzzing phones, we understand the importance to adopting the latest technology and see the value it provides to our team and our clients.

 

Dustin Harper-Dustin Harper

Harman Senior Project Manager

Harman Team-Building Day

IMG_0141Do you ever find yourself so busy with the day to day of work that you can’t catch your breath?  Sometimes it takes putting something on the schedule to break the routine and allow us to experience something different.

On May 21st we scheduled a day just like that.  We put down the blueprints, cell phones, and computers and traded them for coffee cups and climbing harnesses.

We broke the routine and in the process found wonderful benefits.  We got to know each other better, grew stronger as a team and accomplished things we didn’t think we could do.

In the morning we heard Wayne Witmer share the company vision, listened to a panel of clients share about their Harman experience, and was inspired as Matt Lohr spoke to us about “A Lasting Legacy.”

IMG_0153After a delicious lunch we headed out into the drizzly weather to tackle the ropes course.  Many of us were pushed beyond our comfort zones, learned to work as a team and cheered each other on.

It was a wonderful day and we are thankful to John Hall and the staff of Camp Horizons for serving us so well.

Here are what some of the members of the Harman Team had to say about the team-building day.


“It was a good opportunity to come together and connect with other employees.  Learn a bit more about them, strengths areas of improvement and learn how to help each other be successful. It was challenging to let your guard down and share things in a group that you wouldn’t normally do.”  – Zack Fletchall


“Great day! We are busy most of the time and don’t get a chance to pause and spend time together and learn about the advantages of teamwork and communication.  I was reminded of the critical items of team-building and working together.” -Travis Layman


“Great day together with the whole staff outside of the office in a relaxed setting and, getting to hang out with people that you don’t see every day.  It was challenging to share strengths and weaknesses.” – Ryan Strite


“I am the newest office employee and it has been wonderful to get to know people that I haven’t met yet, specifically some of the guys that work in the field. The most difficult thing was walking blindfolded through the woods.” – Tammy McKibben


“I learned things about people that I didn’t know.  It was hard to share some personal things, but it broke the ice to our working relationships.” – Nancy Bowers


“It was neat to get to know people that I hadn’t met in 2 years since working at Harman. Once people know each other they work together better. Since I am scared of heights, I am glad I got this opportunity to go across the cable and accomplish that.  It felt great.” – Sandy Rohrbaugh


“I think it helped people understand each other better than they did before, and broke down some our assumptions.” – Wayne Witmer


“We are all in this together, I want us to continue to be a good team working together.  Teamwork is each person on the team helping solve the other person’s problems.  If we do that, we will be strong and the chain won’t be broken.” – Carl Harman


So You Want To Build A Building. Now What?

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So you want to build a building! That’s great news and we would love to build it for you.

First, however, you will need to decide which project delivery method you would like to use. It is a very important first step and could set the tone for your entire construction project. In this blog post I will discuss the pros and cons of the two most common delivery methods for small to mid-size construction projects.

  • The traditional bid-build model
  • The design-build model

Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages that owners need to be aware of.

In the traditional model, also known as lump sum bid, the owner selects a design team and completes the building design prior to selecting a contractor. Once the design is complete the owner solicits competitive bids from multiple general contractors. In most cases, price is the deciding factor in contractor selection.

Lump sum bid is typically the most cost effective model because it utilizes competitive pricing across the board. Suppliers competitively bid material to subcontractors, subcontractors competitively bid to general contractors, and general contractors competitively bid to the owner. Everyone is providing their best number.

While having the lowest possible initial contract price appears ideal on the surface, there are some distinct disadvantages to be aware of that can ultimately affect the overall success of the project.

  • Did the contractor miss anything in his bid?
  • Can he complete the building within your timing constraints?
  • Are the subcontractors capable of performing their scope of work?
  • Did the design team provide sufficient detail in the bid documents to allow bidders to include all the desired building elements?
  • Does the constructability of the design allow the contractor to be most efficient in his construction operations in order to minimize cost and time?

It is impossible to know the answer to any of these questions when a contract is awarded. However, finding out the answer is no, during construction, can result in delays and additional costs to the project.

The design-build model attempts to mitigate the concerns listed above by involving the contractor at the beginning of the process.  

Instead of splitting the design and construction responsibilities, the design-build contractor is responsible for both. Because the contractor is involved at the onset of the project he can provide valuable insight to ensure scope is complete, contractors are qualified, the design is constructable and he can meet the schedule requirements for the project.

Instead of having design and construction independent of each other, and sometimes at odds with each serving his best interests, the design-build model creates a collaborative team atmosphere where the success of the project is the foremost concern.  

There are certain considerations for an owner to be aware of, however.

In the design-build model the owner does not have the expertise of an architect at his disposal. This creates less control over design and quality of construction. An owner is completely reliant on his contractor.

For that reason, it is imperative that an owner selects a design-build contractor who is trustworthy and has extensive experience in design-build contract work.

To learn more about how we can help you meet your project goals through the design-build process you can contact us here.

– Seth Lind

Harman Senior Project Manager