Kyle Loest, director of project management at Milwaukee-based J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., recently talked with BizTimes Milwaukee about the work the company is doing with the School District of Waukesha.
Can you describe the scope of work the company is doing for the School District of Waukesha?
In 2017, Findorff was hired to help with facility planning efforts for a November 2018 referendum. Our team provided pre-construction estimating, capital maintenance planning, and communication services which led to a successful $60 million referendum. We are now managing the work which includes:
- Addressing safety and security at all 12 district elementary schools, a STEM Academy, and Waukesha West High School
- Updating district-wide capital maintenance needs
- Adding onto and renovating all three middle schools and Waukesha South High School
What has been your biggest challenge while working on this project?
Even with our extensive experience completing over $1.5 billion in education projects the past decade, we hadn’t worked during a pandemic. Our Waukesha project team did a great job pre-planning significant construction to be done in three middle schools while school was in session. Since 90% of our work is done in occupied facilities, we had a plan in place to keep students, staff, and visitors safe during construction.
Then COVID hit and we rethought our plan. We still started over spring break, but we were able to get into more areas sooner than originally planned. We completed several projects, including South High School, months ahead of schedule. Our ability to quickly pivot saved the district time and money.
What role does technology and innovation play on projects like this?
Technology and innovation continually evolve in construction, and it’s important to use these tools when it benefits a project’s schedule and budget. A great example was during a middle school cafeteria demolition. COVID restrictions, such as social distancing and limiting the number of workers in an area, just started and the team needed to think differently about getting the work done. We opted to use a robotic laborer that kept the project on schedule.
When it comes to technology and innovation we find that a lot of the “tools” in our toolbox really interest students and staff. We use opportunities during construction to involve or educate them on what’s going on in their school. Whether it’s a virtual reality experience or drone demonstration, showing what certain equipment is used for, or explaining what the piping is above the ceiling tiles, these educational interactions are impactful and enjoyable. Also, our project managers and superintendents are great resources for teachers interested in understanding how elements of our projects could work into their curriculum.
What does Findorff enjoy the most about being part of the greater Milwaukee community?
Working in communities where Findorff families work, live, and play is really special to us. We’ve been part of the fabric of the Milwaukee area for 50 years, and have so many projects and relationships we are proud of. We work hard to establish partnerships with local subcontractors and businesses by treating them fairly and maximizing their bid opportunities on every project. We also enjoy supporting local communities by volunteering our time and donating the talents of our incredible trades people and staff.
1600 N. 6th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212