Design-Build Success In Northwest Florida

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

Vision Construction, founded 11 years ago, is a design-build contractor that handles projects ranging from large institutional and commercial jobs to municipal water projects in the Florida Pan-handle area.

"We have a very broad client base," notes company owner Garry Crook, adding that the firm's client list includes city, county and state governments, school systems, manufacturers, and major utilities.

"Typically, we sub about 60 percent of our work," Crooks says, "though if it is a total concrete job we'll do it all ourselves."

Before starting Vision Construction, Crook worked as a project manager for a large national contracting firm. Tony Clement, who is the company's general superintendent, came to Vision from the residential construction side — and Crook sees the combination of backgrounds as a definite strength in the northwestern Florida market.

Currently, Vision Construction is a licensed general contractor in both Florida and Alabama. Vision Construction also has on staff a Certified Safety Professional, certified by the International Bureau of Safety Professionals, as well as an FDLF-trained storm water management inspector.

"We are a good team," Crook says.

Commercial Projects

One recent project was a 95,000-square-foot warehouse addition in Pensacola, Fla., for door and window manufacturer Wayne-Dalton Corp. Vision Construction has handled all aspects of the project, including site work and erection of the new structural steel warehouse addition.

Plans called for the new addition to be constructed on what had previously been a large retention area.

"It was like a moat around two sides of the existing structure," notes Garry Crook, owner of Vision Construction, adding that about 9,250 cubic yards of fill was required. Fortunately, suitable fill was available from a pipeline project just up the road.

Preliminary site work also included construction of 24-, 36- and 42-inch storm sewer leading into a nearby retention pond. The pipe was installed at depths of 9 feet to 14 feet.

To handle the site work, Vision made extensive use of a Doosan Daewoo Mega 200-V loader, a Vibromax VM75 roller and a Deere 450J LGP dozer.

In selecting equipment, Crook says, he generally prefers newer machines.

"In a loader, for example, I look for plenty of power and ease of operation," he says, adding that it's important to "listen to the guys who will be running it to get their input on what they like."

And in rollers?

"In selecting rollers," he says, "fuel economy is a big consideration, because a roller is probably going to be running constantly." This is another reason he tends to favor newer models, he continues, adding, "Fuel economy is going to be better in newer equipment."

Building Construction

The building addition is a steel frame structure utilized more than 300 tons of structural steel. But before new construction could begin it was necessary to remove more than 300 linear feet of existing concrete wall. Originally erected as tilt-up panels, those wall sections were 34 feet tall, 9 inches thick and weighed up to 56,000 pounds apiece.

To remove the panels, Vision developed a lifting system utilizing tong-style lifting brackets secured to the top of the panels using six 1-inch steel bolts. To remove a panel, the top of the panel was first drilled for the bolts. The lifting tongs were then positioned, and bolts were slipped through tongs and panel. A Grove crane then removed the panel.

The new building is constructed on an 8-inch-thick reinforced concrete slab with concrete footings measuring up to 19 feet square and 3 feet thick. Constructing the slab and footings required about 5,000 cubic yards of concrete and approximately 120 tons of reinforcing steel. The massive footings were necessary to deal with potential uplift forces which could occur during a major wind event.

The building utilized more than 300 tons of structural steel. Bell Steel Company, Pensacola, fabricated the steel. Sunrise Steel Erectors was the erecting subcontractor on the project. Vision also subbed out the roof as well as plumbing and electrical work.

Hurricane Recovery

Recognizing the value of diversity, Vision Construction takes on not only large industrial projects such as the Wayne Dalton Corp. job but also smaller, more specialized projects. One such project, at Big Lagoon State Park west of Pensacola, involved rebuilding park structures damaged by Hurricane Ivan.

David Colbert, Big Lagoon State Park site manager, notes that the work includes construction of two new hurricane-resistant restroom facilities (a large one at the east end of the park and a smaller one at Governor's Pavilion, a popular group shelter) to replace structures that were virtually destroyed by Ivan. The largest of the new structures, the East Beach facility, will boast complete restroom facilities, showers and related boardwalks — all designed for ADA-compliance and hurricane survivability.

The new facilities are built on driven timber pilings, notes Kenny Woodruff, Vision Construction's superintendent on the Big Lagoon work.

The crane used to drive the piles arrived without incident on a Friday, Colbert recalls, and was set up to be ready to go on the following Monday morning. But Monday morning brought a surprise, as Colbert explains.

"Between Friday and Monday," he says, "an osprey had built a nest at the very top of the crane boom." Ospreys are protected species, and pile driving was delayed while park personnel determined what to do next. Eventually the osprey issue was resolved to the satisfaction of everyone, including the ospreys, and pile driving moved ahead.

Pile driving progressed quickly, with typical penetration about 15 feet. As the structure progressed, additional bracing was added to strengthen the facility even further.

"It's an awesome restroom facility," Big Lagoon's Colbert says, adding that it will go a long way toward making the park "whole once again."

Entering The Tilt-Up Arena

What is ahead for Vision Construction? Crook notes that the company is always open to new opportunities, adding that the firm recently earned certification as a tilt-up concrete contractor.

"We think that tilt-up construction is a great thing in this area because it is highly resistant to hurricane damage," Crook says.

Vision Construction's first tilt-up project, at the Sabal Industrial Complex in Pensacola, is now nearing completion. Also a design-build project, the facility provides ample provide space for seven tenants — one of which will be Vision Construction, which will move its corporate offices there once the facility is complete. The slab was placed using a laser screed, and panels were formed and poured directly on the slab.

Once tilt-up work was completed, roof trusses were set and the roof was completed. Attention then turned to interior work as steel stud work began.

Meanwhile, the contractor went to work on the project's underwater stormwater retention system. As on many sites these days, the system utilizes an underground system of perforated steel pipes to hold storm water runoff and allow it to percolate back into the ground.

Even as Vision's first tilt-up project nears completion, work is underway on the contractor's second tilt-up job. This one will be the home of a marine parts supply company. Concrete footings have been constructed, and preliminary site work is currently wrapping up.

High-Speed Relaxation

As it develops new markets, Vision Construction and its personnel find themselves constantly facing challenges. But even with all that Vision Construction has going on, company president Crook still finds time to enjoy his favorite high-speed diversion — Sports Car Club of America club racing. His D-Sport car is doing well on the track, he says; in fact, at the time of this writing, Crook ranks third in the national point standing in the southeast region.

"With its new engine," he adds, "the car should do about 165 miles per hour."

Crook notes that there's definitely a parallel between his interest in racing and his business in construction.

"Racing is a lot like contracting. It's the competition," he says, adding, "Competitive bidding and competitive racing have a lot in common."