Wednesday, January 12, 2011 – Houston and Freeport, TX

McCarthy Construction – Houston, TX

Today we visited with McCarthy Construction Co. at several locations.  In the morning, around 8am, we met with Todd Freed, the president of the Houston Division, at their temporary office location in the Greenspoint Plaza near the midtown area of Houston.  We were given a brief introduction to McCarthy—information including how they are 100% employee owned, have an annual revenue of about $3.5 billion, their employee stock has grown 32% in the past four years, and what sections of the construction industry in which they participate.  We spent the balance of the morning discussing with Mr. Freed the extensive research that was taken into account for choosing Houston to be the new office location.  Through the course of our discussion it became obvious to that this decision was a well-educated, but risky choice.  While they have only been in town for a short while, they have submitted five bids and have been awarded a $12 million project.  They seem to have hit the ground running, wasting no time in their goal of becoming a full service office.  We concluded our visit to McCarthy’s new Houston office by touring the ‘white space’ that Freed will be developing into offices for the McCarthy staff.  It was eye-opening to learn just how much strategic planning goes into executive decisions in construction companies.

MD Anderson Cancer Center Alkek Hospital Expansion – McCarthy Building Co, St Louis, MO

Our next stop was the nearly completed MD Anderson Cancer Center site, an addition of twelve stories on top of the existing twelve story medical center.  There, Jason Cooper (Project Manager) and Ben Johanneman (Project Director) briefed us on the story behind the addition and answered our questions that we had along the way.  We discussed challenges that they faced during construction, like how to manage the tower crane’s activities on an extremely small sight and how to keep a safe working environment when working night shifts.  Another challenge of this project included noise requirements resulting from the lower twelve floors housing cancer patients throughout the construction schedule.  Around noon we took a break for lunch which included the opportunity for a very friendly and informal talk with different members of the McCarthy team.  After lunch, we went onsite and toured the (nearly) finished floors.  The project was a design-build delivery strategy so McCarthy was able to act as a constructability consultant to the designer.  They made it more patient friendly and patient-family friendly and also much easier for all the staff (janitorial staff, nurses, doctors, etc.) to access what their job requires.  What made this site tour quite meaningful was the evident pride that everyone on the project team carried with them.

Port Freeport Velasco Terminal, Freeport, TX – McCarthy Building Co, St Louis, MO

We finished our day by driving to Freeport, TX to visit a wharf construction project, also being built by McCarthy.  On site project manager Fitz O’Donnell presented on the challenges for wharf construction and introduced us to the particular challenges of the Port Freeport Velasco Terminal.  This wharf project has faced serious engineering challenges during construction and the project team is still in process of addressing these challenges.  O’Donnell explained the details and was very open to answering questions that the Global Leaders had.   It was a great example of the reality of our future occupations—rarely does a project go perfectly according to plan.  It will soon be our job to face these challenges, work well with project teams, and arrive at solutions to tough engineering problems.