With 50 years in Buffalo, LPCiminelli has earned a reputation that’s allowed it to expand in New York. When the Sons of Liberty and subsequent governmental leaders were establishing New York’s constitution in the late 1770s, they had grand plans for their piece of the union and adopted “Excelsior” as the state motto.
This means “ever upward” when translated from Latin, and the motto remains fitting to this day, as construction volume throughout the state comes to more than $30 billion annually. One of the top contributors to this volume is Buffalo-based LPCiminelli.
Founded in 1961, LPCiminelli provides general contracting, construction management, design/build, energy solutions and program management services to industrial and commercial clients throughout Western New York. However, because it has remained in Buffalo since its inception, LPCiminelli has made the largest mark on its hometown. Its local projects span the gamut of project types, including structures for schools and universities, hospitals, art museums, government facilities, manufacturing plants, high-rise office buildings and community centers. With so many projects completed in Buffalo, the company has made its presence known.
“We’ve been here for 50 years – many of us at the company have our roots in Buffalo,” Executive Vice President Joe Mannarino explains. “We deliver quality work, and customers throughout New York, but especially in Buffalo, know that. They know that they can count on us for years after the job is done – we are always here, and we will come back to help with any issues.”
At any given time, LPCiminelli is involved in numerous projects throughout New York, and it is currently actively working on or planning for a number of large projects in Buffalo. Mannarino and Vice President Steve Dechert took time to speak with Construction Today about these projects, and how LPCiminelli has consistently delivers quality work.
On the University of Buffalo’s (UB) North campus, the expansive Ellicott Complex is named after Joseph Ellicott, who was the first resident agent with the Holland Land Co. and is credited with finding the site for and planning the city of Buffalo. The Ellicott Complex is home to 38 buildings, each of which is named after a prominent figure in New York state history. LPCiminelli is constructing the newest structure within the complex – the William R. Greiner Residence Hall – named after the man who was UB’s president from 1991 to 2004.
Covering 193,000 square feet, the $55 million construction of Greiner Hall began in August 2009 and is scheduled for occupancy in August 2011. Delegated as a space solely for sophomores, the structure is being built to the standards of LEED Gold certification, which is “going really well, even though it’s a big building,” Mannarino says.
The Greiner Hall project has “all the usual challenges” of any construction in Buffalo, including enclosing the building before winter and ensuring the workers have heat and protection from the elements, Mannarino notes. The difficulty on this project, he explains, is working on an occupied college campus. LPCiminelli always has to be aware of safety issues and noise levels during its projects, but they have been even more of a concern at UB.
“This is an occupied campus – there are other dorms 20 feet away – so we have to be careful about our noise levels and disruption of the area,” he says. “We have limited hours to work – it’s an 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. work day – so our schedule is really confined and we have to have everything well-planned out.
“In terms of safety, separation is critical between the construction team and the students,” he continues. “We keep the gates locked and the site very secure, not only to keep the students safe, but also to keep them from taking anything. We’ve all seen construction signs and lights used as decoration in dorm rooms. There is a lot of lighting at the site and we work with the university’s police department to patrol the site when we’re not there.”
At Buffalo’s Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), LPCiminelli is contracted to complete three projects from now until the end of 2013. This work involves the construction of three new buildings that will extend north of the main hospital structure.
LPCiminelli’s first task is to complete $45 million in renovations for 14 different departments in the existing hospital structure; this work began in late October. Not only is LPCiminelli helping the hospital update many of its services, but it also is completing a number of small renovations throughout the space.
“For this part of the ECMC work, we’ve been coordinating with Kaleida Health and the Great Lakes Healthcare System, which are partners with the Erie County Medical Center,” Dechert says. “They are working together to consolidate some of their services, and these upgrades will assist with that.”
This phase, which will be completed at the end of 2011, also involves the new construction of a four-story dialysis center on the hospital’s grounds. The 36-bed dialysis unit will be on the first floor, Dechert explains, and the other floors will be used for offices. As part of this phase, the company is renovating the existing hospital structure’s 10th floor to create a transplant center. Through the construction of an axial quarter, LPCiminelli will connect the transplant and dialysis centers. It also will build a new plant to serve all of the new structures it will be building in the next few years.
In February 2011, LPCiminelli will begin the next phase of work at ECMC – the construction of a seven-story, 390-bed skilled nursing facility. Scheduled for completion by the end of 2012, this $80 million phase also includes the construction of a parking ramp for the nursing center.
The third phase of ECMC work involves the construction of an orthopedic center. Dechert admits this structure isn’t even designed yet, but the current plans call for a five-story building, and he estimates it will cost approximately $45 million. The 18 months of work on this structure will get under way in May or June of 2012, he says.
The ECMC project is divided into a number of structures for different purposes, but one thing that will remain constant throughout its work is LPCiminelli’s focus on safety.
“All of this work is happening on a campus where there is an existing structure that will remain open,” Dechert says. “We can’t disrupt the hospital’s operations, and it is critical that we keep the patients, staff and public safe.”LPCiminelli is using BIM technology to assist in planning at ECMC, and to help eliminate surprises in the field, which will aid in the successful delivery of the project.“We’re using BIM primarily on the skilled nursing structure, but overall we’re using it on a lot of our projects now,” Mannarino says. “At Greiner Hall, for example, BIM helped us find clashes with the conduit and duct work that we were able to correct before we got on site. We’re using BIM 4-D and 5-D technology.”
The company has previously worked with these same healthcare clients on a number of projects, and it recently was a part of the major renovation and addition to Kaleida’s Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital In Williamsville, N.Y. LPCiminelli constructed a new lobby, registration area, retail space, operating rooms, angiography suites, perioperative area and laboratory. During this project, it was responsible for renovating the hospital’s first floor to expand the emergency medicine department and imaging services facility.
Additionally, the company also constructed an addition to the structure’s second floor, which allowed the hospital to add 60 inpatient beds. The facility remained fully operational at all times during this project, so LPCiminelli took great care to ensure its construction activities did not impact the hospital’s work.
At another of the city’s higher education institutions, LPCiminelli is building a new student housing structure for the young minds at Buffalo State, which is the largest four-year college in the State University of New York system. Under a $38 million contract, LPCiminelli is constructing a 222,000-square-foot structure that will have space for 507 beds. The company started its work on the structure in December 2009 and is scheduled to complete it in April 2011. Mannarino explains this dormitory is being built in response to an ongoing trend toward students’ increased demand for on-campus housing.
“This will be mostly for upperclassmen who want to live on campus,” he says. “It will be more of an apartment-style living because every student will have their own bedroom. In each suite, four students will share a living room and kitchen, and there will be two bathrooms. “At this point, the structure is fully enclosed and we’re working on the masonry now,” Mannarino continues. “We’ve also started the drywall. We’ve made sure the site remains safe and secure, but this is nice because it’s not close to any existing dorm or structure. We are building on a space that used to be a parking lot.”
LPCiminelli has worked with Buffalo State before through the support of the university’s Upward Bound Program. In place since 1986, this program offers intensive need-based collegiate preparation to high school students. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
This past summer, LPCiminelli hosted two interns from the Buffalo Public School system as part of Upward Bound. Students Taylor Branch and Jewel Freeman worked at the LPCiminelli corporate office during the six-week summer program. During this time, the students toured a project site, learned about the pre-construction process and were taught how to read blue prints.
Mannarino explains that LPCiminelli is a big proponent of programs that attract students to the construction industry. In the past, members of the company have visited local schools’ career days and participated in unions’ construction career events.
In 2008, the company was constructing an addition to the primary and intermediate schools within the Starpoint Central district in Pendleton, N.Y., and a crew of 40 workers spent a few months performing various tasks outside of a kindergarten class.
Throughout the fall and early winter, the class of 21 four- and five-year-old students used the activity outside their window as a class project, and Project Manager Rick Castner began visiting the classroom to explain what was happening at the construction site and to answer the students’ questions. At the end of December, when the project was finished, the students in this class were the first to tour the new facility and met the architect. “Watching their eyes light up with enthusiasm and being witness to their vivid imaginations has truly been the best part of this entire project,” Castner said at the time. “It’s all about the kids. They have made every day of this project an absolute joy.”
At the end of 2006, New York’s Commission on Healthcare Facilities in the 21st Century – known locally as the Berger Commission – released a report on healthcare capacity and resources throughout the state. With a goal of “rightsizing New York’s hospitals and nursing homes,” the commission recommended closing two of Kaleida Health’s nursing homes – the 242-bed Deaconess Center and a 75-bed skilled nursing facility at the Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital – and replacing them with a new facility. In July 2010, LPCiminelli began work on this new structure. It is located at Buffalo General Hospital, which is another facility that is managed by Kaleida Health.
On this $47 million project, LPCiminelli is constructing a four-story, 200,000-square-foot skilled nursing facility that will have space for 300 beds. Scheduled for completion by the end of 2011, the center will include such services as long-term care and sub-acute, pediatric and ventilator beds. It will also add healthcare services to an area designated as “medically underserved” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
”This project, just blocks from the new heart and vascular institute already under construction, is another example of Kaleida Health's commitment to delivering quality, compassionate care to all Western New Yorkers,” says James R. Kaskie, president and CEO of Kaleida Health. “Our physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals are focused on advancing people's health in the communities we serve.
“As our nation's population ages, there will be greater demand for healthcare services such as those that will be provided in these new facilities,” he continues. “Despite the prolonged recession, there are large numbers of uninsured and underinsured patients, as well as dramatic changes affecting the entire healthcare industry, and Kaleida Health is working to ensure that Western New Yorkers have access to the healthcare services – and employment opportunities – they require now and in the future.” This project is unique because its design is not typical of a healthcare facility – it was designed to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood but also will be equipped with state-of-the-art systems, Mannarino says. “It needs to be comfortable with a home-like atmosphere,” he notes. As for this project’s challenges, he believes they will be primarily weather-related.
“We started this project in the summer, so we will be erecting steel and pouring slabs during the winter,” he says. “Being in Buffalo, we definitely have plans on how to work through the dead-of-winter months. We will be paneling sections of the outside walls to keep the heat in, and we’ll set them quickly by using a crane.”
The skilled work of its employees is critical in delivering quality projects, stresses Mannarino and Dechert, and because of this, LPCiminelli has worked hard to provide a comfortable and enjoyable working environment. Earlier this year, the company was named one of the Best Places to Work in Western New York by Buffalo's Business First newspaper. The firm won a silver
medal in the category of large businesses.
These awards are based on the responses of a company’s own employees to a voluntary, online survey. The survey covers all different aspects of the work environment, including career development offerings, diversity, communication and benefits. Each year, hundreds of businesses of all sizes participate, according to the newspaper.“We are honored to receive this recognition and find it particularly gratifying because it is a measure of how LPCiminelli employees view their company," Chairman and CEO Louis P. Ciminelli said in a statement. “I have always said our company's greatest resource is our people, so when our team from top to bottom is engaged and energized as the survey shows, I see a tremendous future ahead.”
Explaining that LPCiminelli “has a long resume in healthcare and housing projects” throughout New York and Buffalo, Mannarino admits the firm had a big foot in the door toward winning these four current projects. Even so, the company understands that it must continuously earn a quality reputation, and LPCiminelli isn’t going to coast just because it’s well known in Buffalo.
“The owners of these projects are repeat clients of ours, but we still have to prove ourselves, and we did compete with other construction managers to get the contracts,” he stresses. “That being said, relationships are important. At Buffalo State, we completed an art museum for them a few years ago, and that helped us land the housing job that we’re working on now. We also will be building a technology building for them, which will get started next year.”
Dechert explains the company’s previous work with ECMC also helped win the contract for the center’s new skilled nursing facility. “The nursing facility is the first large project that we’ve done for ECMC, but we did an $8 million project for them last year. We built on that work and gained the owner’s trust. However, they also know we have a big commitment to the Buffalo community.”
Both stress that a constant in the community is that “weather is always a challenge,” in the Buffalo region, but LPCiminelli doesn’t allow that to get in the way of its work or the level of quality it provides. Dechert says the quality of the local work force enables the company to successfully work around problems.
“We start projects at all times of the year, so we’re used to having to adapt to the weather circumstances,” he explains. “We figure out what we’re going to do, and then we communicate our strategy in the bid documents so our subs can bid a project appropriately for the time of year when they’ll be working. We are lucky to have a tremendous amount of good-quality subs working with us all the time. Most of them are union contractors, but we have an excellent union and non-union work force. “They know how to deliver the quality work that we’re known for,” he adds.
Mannarino agrees that LPCiminelli’s own team and its relationships with local contractors will enable the company to remain a large player in the area.“We definitely have access to the most talented work force in the region,” he says. “We are distinguished among other contractors because we take a highly ethical approach to our projects, and we always will. Integrity means a great deal to us, and that guides everything we do. This is a family business, and everyone working with us becomes a part of that family.
That is a big part of what has made us successful.”