Beautiful streetscapes. Retail and commercial spaces with the look and feel of parks. Incredibly designed school campuses. The great ones all have something in common: Hardscapes that make them accessible and welcoming to human interaction.
Hardscape installations for large projects — multimillion-dollar projects — are a big deal. They are often multiple-scope projects with compressed construction schedules. Not only does the finished work need to look like a million bucks (at least), completion dates are not negotiable. In this high-pressure niche market the players have to be at their best, all the time.
Site Technologies Inc., one of the premier full-service hardscape and decorative paving contractors in the United States, is one of the companies that led the way in developing and carving out this niche market.
Like many successful companies, Site Technologies started small. Charles Curtis established Atlanta-based Paverscapes in 1988, specializing in the installation of concrete unit pavers. Within a few years, the company began seeking opportunities to perform additional services on larger and more complex projects.
“As we became more proficient with other hardscape trades, we came to the conclusion that we could expand our business as long as we gave our customers excellent service and outstanding workmanship,” Curtis explains. “But you don’t just snap your fingers and become proficient in other scopes of work overnight.”
A structural engineer formerly on staff with the Portland Cement Association, Curtis began recruiting and hiring skilled tradespeople and management staff who could take his company to the next level.
By 1995, the company’s name had been changed to Site Technologies Inc. to better communicate the firm’s broad range of capabilities as a full-service hardscape and decorative paving contractor. The company grew physically as well, with one office in Roswell, Ga., headed by Curtis, founder and president, and a second office in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., headed up by vice president and managing partner Lamar Moore.
Chuck Beckman, vice president of sales and marketing, says the company saw a need. “General contractors on large projects were running ragged coordinating multiple site subcontractors and maintaining construction schedules. Managing a $3 million hardscape project with five different subs over the last 90 days of a project was driving them crazy. We saw opportunities to provide complete hardscape packages with quality construction and guaranteed completion dates.”
And general contractors saw the benefits of awarding all the hardscape work to one firm. “Developers and general contractors are receptive to the value they gain,” Moore points out. “We help control the site and coordinate the many scopes of hardscape installation, self-performing where subcontractors would otherwise be. The general contractor has one company to hold accountable for quality and performance.”
“Over the past few years, we have seen the hardscape package trend grow into other markets and we believe we played a major role in developing this market,” Beckman adds.
Of course, orchestrating and performing these mammoth installations is a team effort. Site Technologies may have 50 to 80 men in the field at a time on a project.
“We have learned that to control quality and schedule, we must rely on our own in-house staff, not subcontractors,” Beckman says. Some 140 people skillfully handle the fieldwork, from pavers and decorative concrete to water features and site amenities. “These are the guys that make things happen. They are hard-working and committed to doing their best work — they take pride in their workmanship.”Moore agrees. “The size of the projects we take on and what we can actually do is the result of team spirit. We’re committed to developing our employees and their skills, and they’re committed to the best quality and meeting deadlines. We show up and we show up prepared. And as we’ve gotten larger, it has gotten easier to attract better quality employees.”
Though not a family business, the company works much like a family, so turnover is very low. Many individuals have been with the company 10 years or more.
Even in the operation and management of the company, bringing together professionals with diverse backgrounds has made the company stronger and more capable, Beckman explains. “We have a diverse group of people, so we are able to learn from one another. For example: Chuck Mauldin, our pre-construction manager, has project management and landscape design experience and is a registered landscape architect, while Jason Detko, one of our project managers, learned construction management in the Air Force, and he brings a totally different construction management process to our company. We have professionals with all kinds of skills. Because of this, we have a level of credibility that is hard for other subcontractors to match.”
Try this on for size: A $7 million-plus hardscape and landscape package Site Technologies tackled at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., included more than 150,000 square feet of architectural concrete paving in five finishes, concrete and equestrian pavers, site walls, cast stone, an amphitheater, a water feature, site lighting, landscaping, irrigation and more — everything outside the building face. Most of the exterior site package construction for the project was completed in 90 days.
“Challenging” and “invigorating” are two words Moore uses to describe the many projects the company takes on.
The use of the latest technology helps a lot in streamlining projects.
“We’re trying to go paperless,” Beckman says. “We use On-Screen Takeoff (software) technology. We use project management and scheduling software, and an electronic document management system. Superintendents have Blackberries, laptops and electronic job clocks for job reporting. We want the staff to focus on construction, not carrying paper.”
Heading into the future, company founder Curtis’ mantra is, “The only thing I can promise you about this business and our company is that things will change.”
The challenge of being a leader in any industry is staying ahead of those companies that take your example and grow their businesses. Currently, the economy is keeping the company busy close to home in Georgia and Florida, Moore observes, though the firm has executed projects in other parts of the Southeast, including the Carolinas and Tennessee.
Still, Beckman says, the company regularly scans the horizon for new opportunities. “We recognize we can’t be everything to everyone. You have to find your niche as a company. Our niche is large, multiple-scope, complex projects that need to be built in a compressed time frame.”
It may be a small niche, but it’s always a big job.