St. Louis Success Story
After racking up solid experience in the St. Louis construction market, Tom McLaughlin P.E. and Nelson Grumney, Jr. decided it was time to strike out on their own. The contractors “wanted to found a business devoted to serving the customer,” Project Manager Rob Lundberg recalls.
The founders’ commitment to provide personalized service to every client – regardless of the project size or scope – has paid off, and Pinnacle has enjoyed steady growth since its 1998 launch.
The company boasts a broad skill base, offering full-service general contracting for owners and developers in the commercial, educational, health care, multi-family, senior living, industrial, leisure, office, retail, and historic renovation sectors. The team has built or renovated everything from police stations, fire stations, assisted living facilities, corporate headquarters, and university halls to big box stores, upscale boutiques, luxury townhomes, banks, and casinos. “There is not much that somebody could throw at us that we couldn’t handle,” Mr. Lundberg says.
To meet the needs of individual clients, Pinnacle’s managers can perform as traditional general construction, design-build, or negotiated guaranteed maximum price contractors. Acting as both owner representatives and construction managers helps the team to “view each project through the eyes of the client,” the company adds.
It certainly helps that Pinnacle Contracting enjoys solid relationships with its subcontractors. “We pay our subcontractors in a timely manner which has helped us continue to get good pricing,” Mr. Lundberg explains. “When we bid on a project we do hear from the subcontractor community that we are getting their best pricing.” Of course, delivering projects on time and within budget is always a priority. “We really work to make sure that the jobs are done on time and in budget and that we bill on time, collect on time, and pay on time. It does help set us apart.”
Pinnacle Contracting also enjoys a robust safety record. “Our EMR [Experience Modification Rate] is below one and has been as long as the company has been around,” shares Mr. Lundberg. “We are recognized by the Associated General Contractors, the AGC, year in and year out for upstanding safety performance, and we’ve had a zero incidence rate for 17 years. So we are definitely doing something right in terms of safety.”
LEED has become a strong focal point for Pinnacle in recent years, and the company achieved coveted LEED Platinum on the Clayton Police Headquarters and Municipal Building. “The architect got virtually every credit they went after, we got all of our credits, and it came out really well,” Mr. Lundberg remembers. Achieving LEED Platinum – the highest LEED certification – is a difficult, and relatively rare, accomplishment. The original goal was to achieve a minimum of LEED Silver on the project, with hopes of achieving LEED Gold, but Pinnacle helped push the envelope even further to make the six-storey, Colonial Williamsburg-style structure the first Platinum-Certified law enforcement facility in Missouri.
The building was originally built in 1959, and the team’s ability to keep most of the structure intact helped earned LEED points, as did the building’s location in a relatively dense urban area with plenty of public transportation available.
Clean energy efforts made the most dramatic splash LEED-wise. “One of the big stories behind that job was the renewable energy on site,” Mr. Lundberg says. The team installed the largest single-site solar array in Missouri on the roof of the adjacent garage to provide clean energy to the building. “There was a one and a half year return on investment for the solar panels; they’ve pretty much paid for themselves already. There was also a steel structure built above the top layer of parking so, when you factor that in too, it will take about 13 years to pay back. But all in all, it is a good investment for the city.” The team also installed high-efficiency HVAC, lighting and water systems. Equally important, Pinnacle developed comprehensive construction waste management and indoor air quality plans for its subcontractors to follow.
The renovated facility includes a state-of-the-art police headquarters with a new sally port and detention suite, forensic laboratories, a municipal court and offices, a back-up data center for the City of Clayton, and parking for more than 150 vehicles in the adjacent garage.
Pinnacle has a solid history of achieving a higher LEED certification than the project’s target goal. The team’s very first LEED job aimed for Silver, but the team managed to accomplish LEED Gold when they transformed a former retail grocery store, Schnuck’s, into a 58,000-square-foot multi-tenant retail complex. Work on the new Des Peres Centre included a brand new façade, a new roof and site utilities – all of which were completed in less than five months.
Pinnacle also achieved LEED Gold on a new, 94,000 square foot academic building at Webster University. The facility includes 31 classrooms on two levels, 10 large computer labs, 48 offices on a third level, and two large lobbies.
Scoring points on LEED projects is not easy, particularly when the team does not have control over the original plans. “It is a challenge when they have established a goal already and we need to meet it,” Mr. Lundberg explains. “When we are bidding on the work and are not included up front, we still have to be sure that we get every point that we possibly can.” Many aspects of the project, from site selection to design plans, will have already been decided, leaving no wriggle room for point loss during the construction phase.
Pinnacle earns LEED points through a variety of efforts, including the use of recycled and local materials and the prevention of waste. “At every job I’ve done, we’ve gotten over 90 percent diverted from landfills,” Mr. Lundberg reports. “That has picked up a lot of points.” Pinnacle also works closely with subcontractors to ensure that LEED requirements are carefully maintained. “In the Midwest, we are coming into the whole LEED idea a little later than some of the companies on the coasts; one of our challenges is educating our subcontractors.” Paperwork requirements can be daunting, so Mr. Lundberg, a LEED Accredited Professional (AP), hosts seminars before launching a project to ensure that the subcontractors understand how to earn credits and complete the associated paperwork.
Achieving LEED standards is not the only challenge that Pinnacle is overcoming. “The St. Louis market has been slower to recover from the recession,” shares Mr. Lundberg, but the company has managed to overcome the situation by utilizing the same strategies that other businesses in the same situation have, he says. “Our margins have gone down to maintain a good workload. Customers have had the benefits for a number of years now of really good pricing on renovation projects or new out of the ground projects.” The company has also shifted focus to the lucrative office fit-out market. “We’ve kept busy because a lot of the landlords have had similar issues with rental rates; they are all competing with each other and [office space tenants] are moving to capture better rental rates. Somebody needs to fit-out the new space to their needs, so that is a niche that we have become involved in.”
Pinnacle has proved remarkably resilient through the tough times. “There have been some struggles with the economy but we have actually hired people on,” Mr. Lundberg reports. “We’ve been able to maintain our workload and expand with some additional staff. We are looking to grow and capture more of the market as we go forward.”