We recently sat down with one of our design partners for a conversation about ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit and responding to changes in the market. Our dialogue with Stephen Bezner, CEO of Texas Steel Tech follows:
Q: Your background is in steel manufacturing, but your company has had several different iterations all in response to needs in the market. Can you tell us about some of those changing market needs and how you responded?
A: I initially started in the steel business in 1976, then transitioned to cold form process, and have since adopted the latest technologies to make the entire process as efficient as possible. In particular, when we started manufacturing pre-fabricated steel framing in the ’90s, there was no prescriptive way of doing anything – construction, inspection, permitting. We created the Steel Framing Alliance and through prescriptive testing wrote the rules and presented to city inspectors for their approval. We’ve since been training people around the world in the same methodology. Basically, we wrote the book on how to build with steel and it has now been adopted internationally.
Q: What are some of the challenges you see ahead in the construction and real estate development industries?
A: Often we see an archaic process where there are individual players around the hub of a project each doing their own thing, delaying the project’s completion and often proposing things that don’t fit the budget. An architect designs a concept that visualizes the dream of the owner. An engineer delivers a set of plans that hold up structurally. The general contractor is following the plans to get the project toward completion. Often alternative means and methods aren’t weighed early in the process and each of these players acting separately and at different phases don’t meet the budget requirements or embrace more efficient labor methods. You don’t want to redraw or redesign the building after you’ve already done so much of the work.
By partnering with Vision+Architecture Studio as a design and build assist early in the project – and often as engineer of record, we can find the most efficient, cost-effective methods for completing the project. For example, we’re building the first steel-frame Whataburger in Texas in Austin, and were able to complete the first phase – foundation through framing – in 2 weeks rather than 2 months. By value engineering using modular construction methods and pre-fabricating the steel frames in a plant, the on-site construction took considerably less time and labor. Anything you do in a plant environment is more efficient because it’s more controlled – plug and play modular systems are the better solution versus needing specialized professionals in the field.
Q: Describe your role as a partner with Vision+Architecture, and what that means for clients and their projects.
A: Kevin [Wallace] has an inventive mentality like I do – he’s constantly pushing the industry forward and finding creative solutions. As a design assist and engineer of record with Vision+Architecture, we can find the most efficient means of constructing a building or doing a tenant finish-out project that also is built within budget and on a quicker timeline.
Q: How are you making a positive impact toward change in the industry?
A: We’re finding efficiencies and figuring out how to build something quicker and help save the owners money, because the margins are very slim to begin with. Because we’re getting involved in the early phase of a project, we’re changing a very antiquated process. By thinking more creatively and involving all team members along the way, we’re able to expedite the process and avoid construction delays, redesign, and exploding budgets.
Q: In this industry, there are a lot of constraints. How can we find ways to insulate ourselves from those outside influences that drive up costs, decrease efficiency, and diminish the dreams of someone trying to see their vision realized?
A: With an integrated design, engineer, and build approach we are able to deliver on time with a much more valid budget, expediting the construction process by matching products along the way.
Q: What do you see in the future of the industry?
A: We’re forever in pursuit of better productivity, new methods, and new approaches to make sure buildings are designed and constructed efficiently, quicker, better, with less materials and money. We’re raising the knowledge level of our workers to be sure they control the computers and can create twice as much product with advanced technology. Software and technology systems are advancing the construction industry to produce lighter, yet stronger, more cost-effective and efficient products and buildings.
It's through forging strategic partnerships, like those Vision+Architecture Studio is creating, that we’re able to advise clients in the most efficient, cost effective and quick methods for their real estate development.