“This is The Perlo Podcast. We talk construction – it’s people, it’s challenges, it’s opportunities. We talk to industry and trade experts, movers and shakers, and people who get buildings built right. Join us. You won’t regret it.”

For full episodes you can visit our YouTube page or search “The Perlo Podcast” wherever you get your podcasts.

Welcome back to Episode 6 of The Perlo Podcast! Host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction, is joined by Perlo’s expert team in education settings: Drew Carter, Senior Project Manager; Stephen Alger, Senior Project Manager; and John Tompkins, Project Superintendent. In today’s episode, we’ll being going over K-12 projects and what makes them so unique.

Elissa Looney
Podcast Host & Director of Strategic Initiatives
Adam Smelley
Senior Project Manager
Stephen Alger
Senior Project Manager
John Tompkins
Project Superintendent

What are Some of the Factors That Go Into Planning Summer Projects?

Education projects often take place in the summer, when students are no longer in school. During the shortened summer construction season, we often see remodel projects that include anything from re-roofing upgrades and siding repairs to a “fluff and buff” on interior finishes. A lot of the time, these are projects that can’t be done while the campus is occupied when students are in school.

Drew notes that the biggest consideration when defining the scope and timeline to complete a project over the summer is, “Do we have enough time to actually do the work on the plans?” He remarks that although there is a lot that can get done in the summer months, it comes down getting on the campus early to look at the existing conditions and ensuring the construction documents are the same as what is actually on the ground.

John agrees, and adds, “The sooner you get into the building and get things opened up, the sooner you can get the District involved to figure out next steps.” This concept is something that the team learned first-hand, as John reminisces on one example where project teams opened a wall on a school project and discovered significant siding and structural issues that equated to about $100,000 worth of extra work.

Another option for project teams is to get into the building during a spring break or Christmas break period, which allows teams an early start to what they can tackle in terms of existing conditions, purchasing materials, getting a plan in place, and knowing who to contact. According to Stephen, the real key is what you can get done ahead of time, as “one week in advance is massive for a summer project when it is only 10 or 12 weeks long.”

” The safety part is really the toughest aspect on an occupied site when trying to make sure it accommodates the school and allows them to be operational.”

Construction Strategies When Spaces are Occupied

Elissa kicks off this topic by asking the team what changes in our strategies when a project can’t fit into a summer time frame and you must remodel a campus over the course of a school year. According to John, the biggest thing that changes is safety. “We know how to keep our workers safe, and we take it all seriously, but when it comes to having kids in your work area, it takes it to a whole other level,” he remarks. In one recent Perlo project, project teams put up barricades to cover demolition and used a material called ‘core ply’. Teachers ended up making murals on the material and, closer to the removal, Stephen came up with the idea of letting the kids in each class draw on it, as well. The goal for this innovative idea was to make the construction less intimidating for the students while still keeping them safe.

“The safety part is really the toughest aspect on an occupied site when trying to make sure it accommodates the school and allows them to be operational. The communication with the school to explain what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, what we need from them, and what they need from us is critical and is a challenge because of how many stakeholders we have,” explains Stephen.

With constantly changing expectations from the District, the general contractor, the school, the principal, and the facilities, there is always a constant struggle to find out who makes the final decisions.

What Makes K-12 Construction Different?

School buildings are constantly getting more sophisticated and complex. Each school has different bond objectives and requirements that come from funding sources, such as energy efficient or smart buildings, so there are many different systems in place that have to be cohesive. Elissa notes that it seems as though the districts have been working hard to standardize their processes for construction so that technology is centralized and processes are made more streamlined for future remodels.

Many schools are older buildings, so there are typically add-ons and renovations taking place. However, these are usually only done every 20 or 30 years, rather than more frequently. This means that improvements often haven’t been done for the duration of that time, and many facets of the building may be out of date or obsolete.

Building Schools to Stand the Test of Time

Schools must think about quality, as systems and materials must last 20 to 30 years. As a result, there is a bit more money spent upfront to make sure that the materials going into the buildings are high-quality, or else they won’t stand the test of hundreds of students every day. The goal is to make these buildings as flexible as possible, including taking innovative routes to make schools more secure and safe in the case of an unauthorized intruder.

Hard Bidding vs. Negotiating on K-12 Projects

At Perlo, w enjoy and encourage the CM/GC process. It allows for a stronger team aspect where everyone involved in the process is on board and there is ample time to look at everything upfront to make sure all facets of the project are correct.
From a school or community’s perspective, there are some advantages to a hard bid if it is a simple project. However, in the case of occupied schools, the CM/GC process has many more advantages, including:

  • Teams have the time to meet with the school to understand what their needs and challenges are.
  • There is an added benefit of project teams being able to do value engineering upfront, so the school doesn’t get blindsided by anything during construction.
  • There ends up being extra time and money to do more of what the stakeholders really want to do, such as painting the ceilings or adding tracks.

According to Drew, the communication piece is the biggest difference between a hard bid and a CM/GC process. If the team is involved early on and are attending coordination meetings with the users, design team, and facility maintenance, it is beneficial to hear what people’s needs are and what’s important to the different stakeholders to ensure the end result works for everyone and that project teams can deliver a high-quality project on time. If a CM/GC model is decided on and the contractor is brought on early, they are able to give advice on how to get the best value out of a project.

What You Need to Know About the Education Space

“These are always complicated projects. One of the items that is unique about schools is that often times there is a lot of emotions with the projects. Communities have ties to these buildings,” Drew states.

Drew also notes that these are complex projects with a lot of stakeholders. Overall, it can be more of a juggling act compared to a typical project. With a school, you’re working for the students, the staff, the custodial service, the District, and all of these different stakeholders that have ties to that building. It’s a constant juggle between making sure that everyone is heard but still being decisive and moving forward to get the project done.

Final Thoughts

Every school project is unique, with a different “recipe” for each. As focal points of the community, project teams must take innovative routes in order to deliver each project on time and on budget. Perlo is proud to contribute to our communities through our schools and understand the ever-evolving processes that make the end result so special.

“This is The Perlo Podcast. We talk construction – it’s people, it’s challenges, it’s opportunities. We talk to industry and trade experts, movers and shakers, and people who get buildings built right. Join us. You won’t regret it.”

For full episodes you can visit our YouTube page or search “The Perlo Podcast” wherever you get your podcasts.

Welcome back to the Perlo Podcast for Episode Five! Host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction, is joined by Kyncade Hardy, Superintendent, and Adam Smelley, Project Manager, on the site of True Terpenes, one of Perlo’s tenant improvements in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Elissa Looney
Podcast Host & Director of Strategic Initiatives
Adam Smelley
Project Manager
Kyncade Hardy
Project Superintendent

General Overview of True Terpenes

True Terpenes is a tenant improvement currently underway consisting of interior improvements in a 20,000 SF existing tilt-up building. The building interior, which had originally consisted of existing office space, was demolished to create the following:

  • A second-level mezzanine
  • Additional office spaces
  • Conference rooms
  • Manufacturing space complete with clean rooms and a warehouse

Kyncade Hardy, Perlo Superintendent on this project, notes that there are quite a few components to this tenant improvement, including a hazardous materials storage room with a concrete curb and steel barriers for chemical storage, as well as areas of the building with a Corrosion Resistant Coating (CRC) on the flooring to protect from the chemicals used for CBD production. In addition, this job required considerable HVAC and mechanical work for proper ventilation and air movement.

Adam Smelley, Perlo’s Project Manager on True Terpenes, remarks, “One of the unique things we’ve done is that we’ve maintained the general office area by adding a mezzanine area above that to amplify their office space.” In addition, the project team is also taking what was an existing warehouse from the previous tenant and modifying it for the current process rooms, complete with process piping and other production systems throughout.

Because the roof lacked the space necessary to store the building’s mechanical systems, concrete pads were added to the outside of the building as well as another second-level mezzanine. Kyncade states that this has been a great asset, as it has allowed them to avoid the risks and challenges that come along with opening roof structure in the winter.

The project, which kicked off in mid-November of last year, is expected to be completed in April of 2022.

Where True Terpenes is Today

This space has remained unoccupied for the majority of the work, along with being in the unique position of being procured through a negotiated strategy. This gave project teams the time to go over four rounds of budgeting before taking on the unique existing conditions. Adam states, “The client has been great to work with, and they were open to following our path on which is the best route to remedy the conditions and make this the right product for them.”

Kyncade describes the current conditions of True Terpenes as very close to completion. He describes that on one half of the interior, the office space area and mezzanine are in place, and the crews are currently finishing the drywall both upstairs and downstairs. On the other half, crews are finishing up the Fiberglass-Reinforced Polymer (FRP), a strong yet lightweight building material that resists corrosion, in the clean rooms. Electrical rough-in has been taking place in the clean rooms and manufacturing side, with ceilings ready to be installed in the area. It was crucial, especially with FRP, that project teams knew where certain facets of electrical work came into play. These factors, such as the location of outlets, are why project teams took multiple walks through the facility with the client to plan accordingly.

The mezzanine structure also contains a 4-inch concrete slab, which was initially intended to be stained concrete. In the end, the client decided to go with marmoleum flooring, which saved time on the job and helped maintain cleanliness on the jobsite. Elissa notes how stained concrete is a notoriously tricky item due to its intense requirements for maintenance to keep it looking nice. Although it might look great once it’s completed, it takes a lot of effort, coordination, and knowledge to maintain. “We love concrete as a company, but sometimes we look at these things and think that it may be safer to cover it up,” Adam states.

Regarding interior finishes in the building, the stairs leading up to the mezzanine will have a wood tread with the handrail around the mezzanine featuring a stainless-steel cable with a wood top rail to match the stair treads. In addition to a ceiling cloud over the office area, these features all come together for some truly unique and high-end finishes.

Final Thoughts
Like what you hear? Check out the full podcast to see a tour of this in-progress project.

“This is The Perlo Podcast. We talk construction – it’s people, it’s challenges, it’s opportunities. We talk to industry and trade experts, movers and shakers, and people who get buildings built right. Join us. You won’t regret it.”

For full episodes you can visit our YouTube page or search “The Perlo Podcast” wherever you get your podcasts.


Thank you for joining us for Episode Four of the Perlo Podcast! Host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo, is joined by two Perlo superintendents, George Trice and Mark Helling, to talk more about their experiences in the field.

George started with Perlo in 1994 as a carpenter in the field before moving into a foreman role and later a superintendent role in 2005. He has completed dozens of projects for Perlo with a focus in industrial tilt-up buildings. Mark, on the other hand, was a carpenter for 30 years before moving into a foreman role in 2006 and a superintendent role in 2012. Mark has completed a variety of projects since being a superintendent for Perlo, including multiple wineries, food service buildings, and industrial projects.

Elissa Looney
Podcast Host & Director of Strategic Initiatives
George Trice
Project Superintendent
Mark Helling
Project Superintendent

Typical Day in the Life and Coming Up Through the Ranks

According to George, although the environment on the jobsite can be serious, there is a lot of room to make everyday fun. Mark notes that the ultimate goal is to make sure the gets job done while still boosting team morale. The most important aspects to accomplish this are showing up early, making sure that jobs are ready to go, and ensuring the crews know what they’re doing. However, no matter how much preparation goes into the day, there will always be unforeseen circumstances that come up.

George remarks that he and Mark “read in the gray” back when they were partners. This meant that they didn’t receive the same supervision that we currently have to ensure everyone gets home safely at the end of every day.

“A carpenter and a rebar tier fall into an elevator pit, who comes out first?”

Tales from the Field

With many years of experience, it is no surprise that George and Mark have many stories from their time on the field. Elissa asks: “A carpenter and a rebar tier fall into an elevator pit, who comes out first?” According to George, this experience (which was intended to be a friendly wrestling joke) became a fall into an elevator pit back in the early 2000s!

George and Mark reminisce on working “back in the day,” where there was a lot more room for joking around without the same safety standards we have to think about nowadays. George notes one experience with another Perlo Superintendent, Fred Lutz. After Fred hit his hand with a sledgehammer, George’s response was to “put some dirt on it.” However, after going to the doctor, the team realized that Fred had been working two days with a broken hand!

Mark notes that a lot has changed since then, when you were expected to just figure things out without the extensive planning that now goes into projects. In the past, carpenters were thought of as being “more seasoned” due to completing the same types of projects over and over again. With that being said, Mark notes that we are still getting great talent here at Perlo. While the newer crews may work a bit differently than they did 20 years ago, they are accompanied by much more technical skill that many did not have back then. George agrees, and notes that in those days, it was always more of a competition to be the best worker and do the best job.

According to Mark, “All it takes is one good worker to make the rest of the team better.” He notes that not only is Perlo finding great workers, but we’re retaining them. We have also noticed an increase in mentorships, even if somewhat unintentional.

“I would say that is why I like Perlo. The history, relationships, and handful of great people that you’ve worked with back then and today is who you associate the company with,” says Mark. In response to this statement, Elissa notes that there has indeed been a lot of change over the years, especially in safety and culture initiatives that are now dictated by the clients and the industry. “Evolve or die,” Mark states. Although they are hyper-focused on getting the job done, they remark that it is still important to make the extra effort day in and day out.

How Mark and George got into the Construction Industry

When Mark was in high school, school wasn’t his main focus. Later down the road in his schooling, he found a father-son duo with a construction company that had two generations of skilled workers. The duo decided to bring construction into high school classes to mentor students and give them different perspective on trades to get into. Not only did Mark relate to the younger son, but he also found something that he felt could finally be his focus.

He notes that the class was filled with more difficult students that enjoyed pulling practical pranks on the teacher for their class. Three mornings a week, the students would pile into two vans and travel to jobsites. Their practical pranks included filling the air vents on the van dashboard with dairy-free creamer and filling the hubcaps with rocks! Jokes aside, this teacher ended up offering Mark a full-time job after leaving high-school. Mark remarks that he’s not sure what he would’ve done if it hadn’t been for this program and his past teacher.

George got into construction right after high school, as well. George and Tim Kofstad, Perlo General Superintendent, were best friends for about 17 years and around 1993, Tim asked George if he wanted to be a carpenter, and George accepted.

What is Rewarding About this Job?

To George, when he drives by a job with his family, a great feeling comes from being able to say, “I did that.” Mark enjoys a hard day’s work and seeing everything that has been accomplished at the end of the day.

Nowadays, it is sometimes harder to find satisfaction within a day because there are always obstacles and frustrations that arise. However, from the supervision aspect, it’s rewarding when you get people to work together. To Mark, if you can keep everybody positive and productive, that’s the most rewarding part of the job.

“Treating people better makes people work harder for you.”

What Should you Know Before Getting into this Industry?

To George, the biggest thing to know about this industry is how to deal with people, and that treating people better makes people work harder for you.

From Mark’s perspective, going into construction is a great living, even though there are many different paths to this career. Mark got advice from his high school teacher’s father that said, “If you’re going to be in construction, you need to be prepared to work with some rough people and develop a thick skin. It’s a career, but the job is not the career – the trade is the career. Every day, you’re working yourself out of a job just by completing it.” With that being said, Mark prioritizes the fact that in this field, you have to be able to find a new job and be okay with contacting different people to find your next hustle.

Final Thoughts
Both Mark and George agree that they’ve been extremely fortunate with Perlo over the years and that at the end of the day, you just need to have the drive to grow in life. Perlo is always looking for new talent to join our team. If you’re interested in a superintendent role, contact us now to find out about our open opportunities and visit our careers page today.

“This is The Perlo Podcast. We talk construction – it’s people, it’s challenges, it’s opportunities. We talk to industry and trade experts, movers and shakers, and people who get buildings built right. Join us. You won’t regret it.”

For full episodes you can visit our YouTube page or search “The Perlo Podcast” wherever you get your podcasts.


We’re so glad you’ve joined us for Episode Three of The Perlo Podcast! Host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction, is joined by two repeat guests: Chris McLaughlin, Vice President of Preconstruction, and Todd Duwe, Vice President of Business Development. Join us as we compare and contrast two common terms in the construction industry when procuring a general contractor on a project: “hard bid” and “negotiated”.

When a property owner decides that they want to build a building or renovate an existing space, they first must determine how they will pick a general contractor to use. Without getting too far into the nuances, we can use a few broad terms when referencing the subject. First, we have a hard bid strategy, which refers to when an owner has several contractors selected, and they are asked to give their best price on a project based on a set of documents. The second option is to do more of a negotiated strategy, where there is one specific contractor selected to come up with their price and complete their work.

Hard Bid

So, what does it mean to hard bid on a project? According to Chris, you need all of the documents 100% finished and the design to be fully complete to solicit bids and get the subcontractor bids to be competitive. Design elements include:

  • Civil design
  • Architectural design
  • Structural design
  • Landscaping
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Fire protection

Chris notes that this method requires a much more defined scope. Once the scope is defined and the project and construction documents are complete, the owner would need to select several competent and experienced general contractors to bid on the project. Traditionally, there is a hard bid time and date that the bid needs to be turned in, where the selected contractor is most often chosen based on the lowest price. As a result, teams typically work up until the last minute in a high-stress environment to get all subcontractor bids in by the submission time.

Negotiated

The word “negotiate” comes into play right away. According to Todd, this method comes down to “negotiating the terms of the contract, which might include price, schedule, scope, quality, and even individual team experience.”

There is usually a set of circumstances that lends itself to negotiating, most often because it is very early in the process of a construction project. For example, in the case of negotiated strategy, a client may still be getting a grasp of the project’s construction budget and scope, so there may not be a complete set of documents. Because of these circumstances, contractors are typically brought in early as a partner.

Todd notes that most negotiated projects can still be hard bid out. In a negotiated project, you still have the opportunity to hard bid subcontractors. However, there is valuable information to be gained early in the process.

Elissa remarks that when a scope is not necessarily clearly defined and an owner is not sure how to proceed with their project, a contractor can use this method to help develop a clear budget for the owner and can still participate in a hard bidding process to ensure that the owner is getting a competitive price.

Negotiated strategy is a more transparent process because you’re showing the client your numbers upfront, as opposed to a hard bid, which is a bottom-line lump-sum price. If the project is negotiated, you’ll see the math of what it took to get to the proposed price, which may include potential savings clauses.

Perceived Benefits

“The perceived benefit of a hard bid is that you’re going to get the lowest price. The truth is, you’ll have the lowest price on day one, but at the end of the day, there is no guarantee that you’ll have the lowest price overall,” Chris states.

In the case of hard bidding, you’re bidding off the documents, which may not be realistic. In this case, if any documents aren’t accurate or there is a change, a contractor will have to submit a change order, further increasing the price.

For negotiated strategy, you can find out about long-lead items early. Without this information, you don’t have a contractor on board to identify these items and preorder supplies. Additionally, some projects might be more complicated and come with unique challenges. In cases such as healthcare projects, occupied school sites, and seismic upgrades, negotiating allows you to plan how to phase out the project. Bringing a contractor in to identify potential issues is essential, as they can set up bid packages to help subcontractors and trade partners bid the scope out properly. The contractor has a lot to add to the process and can influence the design “both structurally and architecturally to design a more effective and efficient design cost-wise,” notes Todd.

One of the most significant differences when negotiating is that a savings clause can be incorporated so that a portion of savings can go back to the client. Additionally, a hard bid doesn’t necessarily have a schedule that you are bound to, as the priority is based on the lowest price. According to Elissa, “In a negotiated contract, you have a scheduled date you want to hit, and you’re finding out how to build it so that you meet that schedule.”

Chris agrees with this statement and touches back on long-lead items. If you have a hard bid, you start the clock once you are awarded the project, whereas in a negotiated contract, you can start the clock early to get those products on site.

Additionally, a hard bid job doesn’t account for risks as much as a negotiated project. Todd states, “In a negotiated project, you’re spending time in a period of preconstruction where you’re identifying all of those risks, both from a schedule standpoint and a cost standpoint, and you’re communicating that to the rest of the team, including the owners and design team. This makes negotiated contracts less risky for both the owner and the client.”

Challenges

One big challenge of hard bidding is the lack of risk identification. When doing job walks for a hard bid, people may see risks but don’t mention them because it’s what’s on the documents that matters at the end of the day. Subcontractors aren’t asking questions on the job walk because they know that everybody else will bid solely on what’s on the set of plans. If they attempt to adjust for potential risks they see, they will not be the lowest bidder.

If there is additional scope later on, the difference will have to be made up by creating a change order, which can create conflict between the owner, contractor, and architect. Contractors have no choice but to create change orders because they don’t get the opportunity to solve problems at the original price if they hard bid the work.

Unfortunately, this creates more potential for risk in a hard bid. However, this can be hard to quantify as every project is unique. It can be deceiving to just look at numbers in a hard bid, as you’re just looking at one component of a project: price. You aren’t able to get insight on subcontractor teams, onsite teams, and project management teams.

“If somebody doesn’t want to just look at the price, what options do they have to identify whether a contractor is qualified for the work and whether they would be a good partner for negotiating their project?”, Elissa asks.

We learn that in some cases, owners are doing a “hybrid” model, where they are prequalifying general contractors for projects based on qualifications for a specific type of work. Once this list of prequalified contractors is selected, they will conduct a hard bid. 

How to Decide When to Hard Bid

At Perlo, we look at the completeness of the drawings and how well they are done. The level of competition is also a significant factor and is determined on a case-to-case basis.

Todd notes that diversifying revenue streams or breaking into a new market sector requires you to build your resume up, as owners like to see a portfolio of relevant experience when negotiating for a project. Sometimes, you can only gain that project resume by hard bidding. Not to mention, hard bidding here at Perlo allows us to keep our pulse on the market and keeps us from getting complacent. Although the majority of our work is negotiated, we are not afraid of hard bidding and being competitive.

Final Thoughts
There are benefits and challenges to both strategies, and standards vary depending on the project. When choosing which strategy works best for your company, it is important to determine what is most important to you in a project.

Want to learn more about procurement strategies? Find more in our Newsroom here for more information on Hard Bid vs. Negotiated Procurement Strategies. If you’re ready to find a contractor, check out our article on achieving comparable bids here.  If you’d like to know more about the different project delivery types that go along with hard bidding and negotiating, review our article about Construction Project Delivery Types here.

As always, if you’d like to hear more on these topics or others related to construction, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you!

“This is The Perlo Podcast. We talk construction – it’s people, it’s challenges, it’s opportunities. We talk to industry and trade experts, movers and shakers, and people who get buildings built right. Join us. You won’t regret it.”

For full episodes you can visit our YouTube page or search “The Perlo Podcast” wherever you get your podcasts.


Welcome back to the second episode of The Perlo Podcast with host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction. In order to shine a light on careers in construction management, Elissa is joined by Whitney Peterson, Project Manager; Chris McInroe, Project Director; and Broc Van Vleet, Senior Estimator to find out just how gratifying these careers can be.

Like all career paths, there is a fine balance between challenges and opportunities. However, a career in construction management is not a path that many young people are exposed to. Statistics from Indeed.com show that the US currently has over 5,600 openings in construction project management careers, making it the perfect time to pursue this career path.

A Typical “Day in the Life”

There is a common theme among careers in construction management: no day is ever the same. There is a constant need for coordination, whether that be with subcontractors, owners, scheduling, or procurement.

Chris notes that every day typically starts out with a “script”. There may be meetings to attend and items to accomplish, but inevitably, you’ll get a curveball. It requires you to be flexible and have good communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. It is crucial that you have those skills to be on top of your game and get the critical items finished to get back on track.

Broc is on the preconstruction side of project management and deals heavily with subcontractors and their fielding questions, answering design intent, coordinating with design teams on bids, working on budgets, reviewing quotes, and attending preconstruction design meetings.

Interesting and Challenging Aspects of Construction Management

According to Broc, the most interesting part of his job is that everything is different. Each project holds its own set of challenges and there is always a new landscape to be creative and find new ways to solve problems.

You can never truly know everything in construction, and Chris believes that although you’re always building your skill set, there is never a shortage of learning opportunities. There are always new software programs emerging, new relationships to build, and new requirements for projects. While this makes the job both interesting and challenging, it requires a certain level of stress-management and multitasking.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the supply shortages it has caused, Whitney is always on her toes trying to find information for the best ways to solve a problem and improve. Nowadays, there are more projects available, but the sites are more challenging and they are wanted in tighter timelines.

Comparing and Contrasting Careers

When comparing and contrasting different careers in construction, there is overlap in positions like estimating and project management. In estimating, there is more of a quick turnaround, whereas on the project management side, the process is often more drawn-out and can even take place over multiple years. Broc states that you have to be able to understand both the estimating and project management aspects of construction to be successful.

A lot of what we do in construction is reactionary. However, you can only react well if it was planned out well in the first place. We spend a lot of time on the preconstruction side so that we can react when a curveball is thrown. It’s not a matter of if a curveball is thrown, it’s when.

Necessary Skills

Hard skills in the industry, especially on the estimating side, include working heavily with numbers. Broc notes that he works with various excel files, bid reviews, calculations, estimate sheets, and more. Chris strongly believes in “double-checking” your work and that having that skill ensures things are done right. Soft skills are arguably just as important, as you need to be able to adapt and move quickly with the changing times. Being dedicated, driven, disciplined, a good team member, and a self-starter are among just a few of the soft skills you need to be able to succeed in the industry.

Whitney notes that although it isn’t recognized as often, there is a fair amount of writing that is required. With contracts, project purchase orders, and proposals, there is a lot of double-checking that takes place. Clarity is key, and it’s crucial to be able to describe to the client what they can expect to ensure the highest quality experience.

Career Path Origins

Whitney got her degree in journalism and mass communications, but following an internship in that field,  realized it was not her desired career path. She started at Perlo as a Subcontractor Coordinator and worked in the Estimating Department. One of the co-owners of Perlo, Gayland Looney, recognized Whitney’s talents in organization and communication. He encouraged Whitney to take on the role of Project Manager, noting that you don’t necessarily need a degree in the field to be successful.

Chris started on his career path in high school when he participated in the creation of his school’s time-capsule. In this time-capsule, he wrote that one day he would be the owner of a construction company. The seed was planted early for him, and he later went to Oregon State University and was pulled toward Construction Engineering Management (CEM). He then had the opportunity to intern at Perlo and took an offer for a full-time position.

Broc’s dad is a retired structural engineer, so he was exposed to construction from the design side very early. Starting at Oregon State University in Civil Engineering, he realized it wasn’t the path he wanted to follow and later found the CEM program as well.

Favorite Stories, Relationships, and Opportunities

Chris’ favorite job was for Lam Research. He was approached with an extremely tight timeline on a 3-story build-out. It needed to be completed in 3 months, and everyone said it wasn’t possible. Chris knew that failure was not an option and, while it was a crazy process, he managed to pull it off and gain a repeat client. 

Whitney’s favorite aspect of the job are the relationships she’s built, both inside and outside the company. Elissa notes that her favorite experience was when she was working for a bread company and got fresh bread at every meeting she attended!

Career Fulfillment

For Chris, the camaraderie and team spirit that is shown during Perlo culture events gives you the opportunity to bond outside of the normal workplace, and he emphasizes that there is always a balance between work and fun.

Whitney states that her fulfillment comes from being able to train and mentor Project Engineers and Project Managers. Seeing them grow and develop year by year is what makes Whitney want to get up every morning. Elissa agrees and notes that mentoring people really makes you realize how much knowledge you’ve gained in your career.

Broc’s fulfillment comes from the variety of projects he sees on a daily basis and the support he receives from his team. The extracurriculars and team building at Perlo are what make each day worthwhile. Elissa remarks that it’s important to break up work with fun to make our days more enjoyable and productive. Once you are able to step back from something, it gives you the opportunity to think of new solutions to problems. The power of teamwork and help from others is what pushes you forward.

Top Advice

If you are in a position to pick up an internship, it is an outstanding way for both you and the company in question to have a trial. By the end of your internship, you’ll have a great idea of whether or not that career path is for you. Whitney also noted that talking to people in the industry and getting your foot in the door is crucial.

To Chris, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, so it’s important to define those relationships. The most essential part is finding your passion and aligning your career with that.

If there is one thing Elissa has learned, it’s that people like to talk about what they do and how they do it. There is no better compliment than asking someone about their job, so if you get a chance to have an informational interview, most people are going to be more than happy to offer their experience. There are also many organizations in the industry that work to expose kids to careers in the industry, as well as schools that are incorporating more technical courses in their curriculum, such as welding. Just reach out!

Final Thoughts
It might be overwhelming when you first come into this career path, but you have to stay humble to earn respect and trust. There is definitely a career progression, but it all comes down to how badly you want something and how hard you’re willing to work. In this industry, the sky is the limit and the future is at your fingertips if you really want it.

Elissa: “Final question: rapid fire. Would you encourage your children to go into your line of work?”
Broc: Yes.
Chris: Yes.
Whitney: Yes.
Elissa: Yes, all around!

Less than two years ago, we launched our weekly blog as a way to share our expertise with the community. Never in a million years did we think we could reach and connect on a deeper level with so many people, both inside and outside of the company walls. We asked ourselves, what more could we do? If you know us, you know that we are never satisfied with “good enough.” With that, we are excited to announce that we are launching our first ever podcast, The Perlo Podcast!

For full episodes you can visit our YouTube page or search “The Perlo Podcast” wherever you get your podcasts.


Welcome to the first episode of the Perlo Podcast with host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction. With a goal to bring insights into the commercial construction industry through conversations with a variety of leaders, Elissa is joined by Chris McLaughlin, Vice President of Preconstruction Services; Todd Duwe, Vice President of Business Development; and Dennis Bonin, Safety Manager.

Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry has shifted in a variety of ways, including how we operate, how we communicate, and our openness to new technologies. We’ve seen increased labor shortages, inflationary pressures, and supply chain constraints. The adaptation that the construction industry has shown is, as Elissa puts it, “nothing short of revolutionary.”

Effects on the Environment of Safety

Dennis, Safety Manager, shares his perspective on how COVID-19 and health concerns have affected safety, noting that the most significant impact he has seen is in managing a balance between the different local, state, federal, and individual client regulations. As each jobsite is unique, it is crucial to know what regulations need to be enforced and the guidelines that need to be followed.

Dennis also comments that managing a workforce with personal protective equipment and social distancing requirements has been a challenge. Because many crew members have been rigorously trained in a specific way to help one another, the sudden inability to have two people working in close proximity to each other has been jarring. This has required team members to “relearn” how to do these tasks and what the priorities are to get the job done efficiently under the appropriate guidelines.

The compliance drift has also become a complication we’re currently facing. We started off strong regarding compliance to new regulations, but as jobsites have remained relatively clean, crew members are starting to let their guard down just as we see an increase in new COVID-19 variants.

Although we’ve seen many challenges arise, Elissa notes that some positive aspects of these regulations include paying closer attention to sanitization. While there may have been a bit of drift on jobsites, these sanitization efforts have greatly improved, and we expect to see these remain long after COVID-19 is a factor.

Market Sector Changes and Cost Observations

Elissa switches focus over to Todd, Vice President of Business Development, to find out what he has noticed regarding how market sectors have changed over the past couple of years. Duwe remarks, “Two years ago, it felt like the world was going to drop out. Nobody knew what to expect.” He notes that the market quickly reacted, with some, such as the e-commerce sector, even accelerating. As a result, the industrial market took off, and, especially in the Northwest, we are seeing interest from national developers continue to grow.

Looking at the supply chain constraints, Todd points out that these issues are on a global scale, as many manufactured materials are made abroad. This is a week-by-week challenge but is driving manufacturers to move stateside.

Elissa inquires what the future looks like for the cost of construction materials. Chris, Vice President of Preconstruction Services, makes one particular comment that stands out – costs are not volatile, as they aren’t going down, they are only going up; it’s just a matter of how fast. According to Chris, some items have tripled in cost, while others have stayed relatively flat. At the end of 2021, we heard a lot of inflationary news that would eventually trickle into the construction industry. When asked what the present reality is of updating the price index and how often it has been changing, Chris emphasizes, “It’s down to the day.”

Changes in the Workforce and Sustainability

There are currently many efforts underway to increase diversity in our industry. According to Todd, it ultimately comes down to increasing exposure to our industry and the potential opportunities in construction. This is being done primarily in schools. Schools are starting to incorporate more programs that emphasize CTE – career technical education. Schools are giving students the opportunity to participate in trade-based classes, such as woodshop, welding, and even cooking, all in an effort to show students that there are many opportunities for great careers.

According to Dennis, the two groups of people that have been most impacted by COVID-19 are the elderly and workers that are young parents. We have lost a few of our veteran employees that have chosen not to come back to work due to being at a higher risk. Parents have experienced daycares shutting down and have been required to stay at home to provide care to their children. Some of these people have experienced home-life or found other things they can do from home and are therefore not coming back to the construction industry. 

We are also looking at how the industry is approaching the reduction of our footprint in terms of sustainability, regarding both the environment and our workforce. We have seen that younger generations that are coming into the workforce are more focused on seeing sustainable practices and emphasizing more of a work-life balance. We’ve seen this be gradual, but recently it has gained a lot of attention. Consumers are more focused on where their products are coming from, and companies looking to relocate are looking for more sustainable options.

One example of where the industry is implementing these changes is with mass timber. This building product is a renewable product and is something we’ve seen implemented more often as client demand requires. Todd considers this innovation as an opportunity to learn something new.

Advancements in Technology

Different technologies will not cause us to lose jobs but, rather, will create new jobs that are more technologically based. The technology that we’ve seen on the safety side is an exciting prospect as well. Electronic and battery-operated tools have reduced safety hazards associated with extension cords and other risks. However, we’ve seen that employees are losing proficiency with simple hand tools such as a hammer, which makes it a double-edged sword.

We are also using new technologies, such as the Building Image Modeling (BIM), to identify safety hazards and plan out where things like safety tie-offs should go in advance. The basic technology in the construction site has progressed so much in the last decade, that now Superintendents on the jobsite have technology that allows them to conference in architects and engineers on the spot to show them a situation and come up with a solution almost immediately. All of this innovation eliminates the number of materials that are going into the building, thereby decreasing our overall footprint within the building and in the environment.

Final Thoughts

Elissa ends with a “rapid-fire” question directed at the guests:

Elissa: “Do you see the pace of change within the construction industry continuing to accelerate so quickly, like it has in the last couple of years, as we move forward?”

Chris: “I want to say no. It’s been really hard to keep up, but we’ve always done it, so it has got to be a yes.”

Todd: “Yes. Emphatic yes.”

Dennis: “Definitely a yes.”