Building Green

OHL- Arellano Construction

OHL- Arellano Construction is a leader in green building. The Miami based subsidiary of the International OHL does not treat sustainability as a separate concept with a separate agenda – it is a philosophy and simply as a better way to build.
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“Green construction doesn’t need to have any kind of agenda outside of the fact that it is best practices construction,” believes Arellano’s Director of Sustainability, Pablo Gonzalez. “At its core, green construction just means that you are building something with as little waste as possible that is going to last as long as possible, be as cheap as possible to operate because it is energy and water efficient, and be as comfortable as possible due to indoor air quality. That is something that everybody wants.”

There are a lot of misconceptions about green building, Mr. Gonzalez feels. People “need to understand that when you say you want to build green, that doesn’t mean you want to build a house out of trash or draw a hippie magical bus on the building,” he jokes. “It means that you are trying to incorporate all of these different elements into a building in a way that is affordable and buildable. It is not just green construction; it is best practices construction to consider the process ahead of time, be mindful of what you are doing throughout it, and at the end of the day deliver a product that everybody will be happy with.”

From a project’s earliest stages, Mr. Gonzalez works closely with the architects, engineers, and owners to develop and accomplish the client’s green building goals. “We are definitely ambassadors of green building, but it is client driven,” he says. “They [the company] always bring me in on the pitch and on the negotiation to talk to the client about the benefits of going LEED or not going LEED; but at the end of the day, LEED is a certification based on a certain methodology and being able to prove that methodology. Some customers aren’t interested in that at all, and some customers are interested but they don’t want to pay any extra certification costs.”

Mr. Gonzalez has come to appreciate the benefits of LEED through personal experience and he is always ready to assist clients in obtaining LEED certification. “I wasn’t always a LEED follower,” he recalls, “I just cared about performance and how a building functions. But the USGBC [the organization behind LEED] has done a very good job. They have a well thought out vision.”

The OHL- Arellano team will also assist clients who don’t want to deal with the certification costs but are open to the concept of green building. “I still show them all the things they can do for their building that are not going to cost them any money, or will cost them very little money,” he explains. In fact, clients who follow green building practices will “save a lot of money in energy efficiency and water efficiency in the long run,” with a reasonably small investment upfront.

OHL- Arellano Construction specializes in the construction and renovation of higher education, healthcare, and commercial facilities. The company has served the South Florida market since 1974, and has been taking on larger and larger projects since being acquired by Madrid based OHL. “Since getting bought out by OHL, we have been merging with other brands and bringing other brands under us,” Mr. Gonzalez shares.

Many of the new projects this growth has brought have been LEED certified or are currently working toward achieving LEED certification. In fact, OHL- Arellano completed the first LEED certified office building in Miami-Dade County and has built over 20 more LEED certified projects. The company is also a member of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

One notable LEED project involved extensive work for the Florida Turnpike. OHL- Arellano partnered with a concessionaire and a team of architects to create a series of new service stations, convenience stores, and quick service restaurants for turnpike travelers to patronize. “People don’t have to get off the turnpike,” Mr. Gonzalez explains. “It is all between the north and south lanes.” The complex, $130 million project spanned 300 miles and seven different sites, and had to be carried out while travelers accessed the sites. “The challenge was to tear down and rebuild all of them while maintaining services at all of them.” The project has been a smashing success, despite the challenges. Old travel stations have been transformed into stylish new food courts full of natural light, glass façades, and a welcoming, upscale vibe. “They are completely night and day from what they used to be.”

The Florida Turnpike project involved 12 different buildings, each of which had to be certified separately, making the LEED process particularly demanding. “We went through a long process trying to figure out the best strategy for certifying all these different buildings,” Mr. Gonzalez remembers. The team carefully considered everything from materials and subcontractors to the design, but the effort paid off, and every building met the project’s goal of LEED silver. The team even exceeded expectations when 8 of the 12 buildings went a step further and qualified for LEED gold. “They are energy efficient, water efficient, and they have a lot of natural lighting,” Mr. Gonzalez says of the LEED certified structures. “We’ve used a lot of local and recycled material and all low VOC materials so there is very high indoor air quality.” The travel stations even have touch screens that show patrons the green building practices behind the buildings’ construction and the importance of green building in general.

OHL- Arellano’s work on the UM Alumni Center also exceeded the goal of LEED Silver to earn LEED Gold. “That was a project that ended up being a great success,” recalls Mr. Gonzalez. Built for the University of Miami, the state of the art center includes conference rooms, event spaces, a call center, office space, a kitchen, and an inviting outdoor space dubbed the OHL- Arellano Construction Courtyard. The FIU (Florida International University) M.A.N.G.O. Building is also slated to be certified LEED Gold. The six storey mixed use building includes a food court, classrooms, and facilities to support online classes.

The South Miami Hospital Clinical Expansion project is yet another example of OHL- Arellano exceeding expectations by achieving LEED Gold after aiming for LEED Silver. The project also earned the company a state safety award. The 80,000 square foot addition will house a new emergency department and a new operating room suite with fifteen operating rooms. The existing operating room space was also renovated to provide new support space including recovery and central sterile processing. Throughout the entire construction and renovation process, the hospital was able to continue operating normally, without any interruptions. Challenges of working on an occupied campus included the use of an infection control program and tight construction schedules.

These projects are just a few examples of the high profile work that OHL- Arellano handles every day. Since its founding four decades ago, the company has become a staple in the South Florida market, both professionally and philanthropically. Founder and Chairman Agustin OHL- Arellano has deep roots in South Florida, and the team has always been invested in supporting the community. Now, after being acquired by OHL, Arellano’s corporate social responsibility initiatives have become more formalized. “We are using a protocol that our parent company from Spain has developed,” Mr. Gonzalez explains. “We have an annual corporate social responsibility report. I think those things are going to become more and more important to the American market and we want to stay out ahead of it; we want to be as transparent as we can with corporate social responsibility.”

Certainly, OHL- Arellano’s green building initiatives are an important aspect of the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. The company has been a trailblazer when it comes to sustainability in construction and the team continues to educate and lead the community toward a greener future. “I think the future is really bright [regarding] the acceptance of green building into the construction world,” Mr. Gonzalez insists, pointing out that it is in the best interest of the industry as well as the environment. “Green building is just best practices building.”

August 24, 2017, 12:54 AM EDT

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