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Lean and Green

O’Leary Group Respects the Past While Tackling New Trends
From left, Patricia Titcomb, executive assistant at Aero Fastener; James Avery; Kevin Donovan; and Michael Byrnes outside the new facility.

From left, Patricia Titcomb, executive assistant at Aero Fastener; James Avery; Kevin Donovan; and Michael Byrnes outside the new facility.

Horizon Solutions has offices across the Northeast, “from Bangor to Buffalo,” as Rob Barcome put it.

So the company decided that Holyoke would be ideal for a central location that will serve as a training mecca for the electrical/industrial distributor.

“It’s a place where we can train our customers, employees, and vendors on site, with some corporate personnel in another portion of the building,” said Barcome, the company’s purchasing and inventory control manager. The building, now being completed by the O’Leary Group, will house 50 employees and feature a demonstration lab and remote meeting capabilities, among other features.

“O’Leary was able to be accommodating to us, giving us suggestions as to what would look good and not look good, responding to our changing needs,” Barcome said. “Seeing something on paper come to fruition was easy.”

That’s the goal of every project O’Leary takes on, said Michael Byrnes, general manager of the Easthampton-based general contractor, which came under new ownership last year but continues to emphasize its reputation as a one-stop shop for design, construction, and maintenance.

“Design-build is simply a process where the builder is the designer, and you’re able to take it from paper to brick and mortar with any changes in between,” said Kevin Donovan, O’Leary’s director of sales. “It’s a streamlined process because all the different services are in-house.”

“That made it easy for us when we needed changes,” Barcome said. “It wasn’t a complicated process; we just got on the phone and made the changes that were necessary.”

The project didn’t happen overnight, Byrnes explained, noting that the company first contacted O’Leary in September 2007.

One holdup was obtaining the property, said Barcome. Once the Kelly Way site came on the market last July, Horizon Solutions bought it, and the project design began the following month. Construction started in January, and despite a series of weather-related obstacles stemming from an unpredictable winter, the building is set to open for business in June.

“Because we can design something and build it, we know what it costs; we know what the rough budget is going to be,” said Donovan. “We do a lot of feasibility up front, and we can make changes without taking the project back to the drawing board two or three months into the process.”

In this issue, BusinessWest takes a look at two recent O’Leary projects, why the company’s use of pre-engineered materials saves money and time, and why it’s important to stay ahead of construction trends — including an increasing focus on ‘green’ building — in order to stay competitive in a shifting marketplace.

Under One Roof

In 2008, ownership of the O’Leary Group changed hands, when the company was purchased by a team of three investors. “All of them have considerable construction background of 25-plus years,” Donovan said. “They basically wanted the company to do the same things it had been doing since 1955 under prior ownership.”

That means a heavy emphasis on design-build, which essentially brings the design and construction of a project under one roof, and is becoming a more popular model in the industry for several reasons, said Byrnes, from the cost-consciousness rising from the slow economy to a tendency for customers to demand projects completed faster than ever before.

“The nice part about the building process is, when customers like Rob come to us, we can tailor the project to meet their exact needs, and it allows flexibility for revisions during the process as a customer further defines their actual building needs,” he added. “The other thing it does is, it allows for cost control along the way, which is obviously critical in this business environment.”

Although O’Leary can tackle any type of building, said Donovan, 95% of its projects use pre-engineered metal frameworks manufactured under the Butler name, which provides not only strength but flexibility of design and efficiency during the construction process.

“Butler has been involved with pre-engineered building systems since post-World War II, and they’ve developed an attractive product line that’s one of the best in the pre-engineered building market,” said Byrnes, ticking off a series of benefits to property owners, from lengthy roof warrantees to state-of-the-art finishes and exterior wall treatments. “They maintain their durability over the years. We’ve got buildings still functioning well that were built in 1957.”

“The ease of construction means more flexibility than other buildings,” Donovan added. “A pre-engineered building doesn’t have to be a metal-sided building. It can have any finish you want on the outside, from clapboard to a log-cabin look.”

The fact that pre-engineered components arrive at the site already punched not only saves time, said Byrnes, but it ensures that every piece will have the necessary plumbness and squareness, which eliminates waste. “Because of that, you can move more quickly than with traditional welded buildings.”

To James Avery, however, none of that mattered as much as timing.

“The specifics of the building weren’t the key to the project; getting it built on time and on budget was,” said Avery, owner of Aero Fastener Co., an aerospace-industry distributor, which opened its new site in Westfield in mid-February — a date that was set in stone when the construction project began last summer.

“We could not be without an approved site; all our qualifications have to be in line for us to ship our parts,” he explained. “For us to miss the completion date by a week would cost Aero $300,000. So we needed a commitment to getting the building done on time. That was an essential ingredient in picking O’Leary. And we were successful; we were operational within five business days of moving in.”

Avery had worked with O’Leary’s previous ownership on a massive remodeling of another property, increasing its size from 10,000 to 25,000 square feet, and his recent experience was equally smooth. One of the key factors, he said, was the fact that the company’s final price hardly moved from the bid price, as it tends to do with many projects. “Other people lowball you at first,” he said.

Byrnes said that consistency in pricing speaks to the nature of pre-engineered structures; it’s easier to anticipate changes using the Butler system, which means fewer surprises for clients.

“Because of what they know about the business, it was an easy bid process,” said Avery. “They didn’t come back with any excuses.”

Going Green

Byrnes said the O’Leary Group also boasts an extensive service department to maintain buildings it has erected.

“We’ve been constructing buildings since 1957,” he said, “and as customers’ building needs evolve and change, we provide ongoing services and products they need to maintain the function and appearance of their building.”

And priorities in the industry are changing all the time, perhaps most notably in a growing emphasis on green building, which considers the overall environmental impact and energy efficiency of a structure.

The Horizon Solutions building boasts several green features, including extra insulation to reduce heating costs; a white, reflective roof that keeps the structure cool during the summer and holds air-conditioning costs down; and sensory lights in many areas that automatically switch off when a room isn’t occupied.

“Green seems to be the trend; a lot of people are asking for it, given fuel costs and operating costs,” Byrnes said, noting that all construction companies have to stay up to date on this trend. In fact, every green feature earns a company points with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. And LEED isn’t only concerned with construction processes; it also promotes healthy lifestyles, which is why bike racks, vending machines that carry healthy snacks, and building locations along bus routes all earn points as well.

But despite shifting trends, some priorities are timeless — and cost and speed are certainly among them.

“Our bank told us that we should budget 10% to 15% worth of overages, and we came in at 4%,” said Avery of his Aero Fasteners project. “That was important to them because they didn’t want the mortgage to increase very much. In the end, we paid for the overruns with self-funding.

“In today’s market, you can’t have surprises,” he added. “It’s important to know that the costs are going to be fixed.”

Because green is important in more ways than one.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at

[email protected]

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