Q&A With EBI Consulting’s Frank Cook
We sat down with EBI Consulting’s National Program Director of Construction Services Frank Cook to learn how enlisting construction consultants who use a methodical, tested approach while leveraging and integrating new technology can remove headaches like late deliveries and budget concerns.
Bisnow: What are some of the most common barriers and problems associated with construction loans that clients seek your help with?
Frank: We work to identify the most common construction-related risks through a comprehensive review of the project. Then, we help our clients understand those risks through communication via reports and one-on-one communication. Some of the common risks are incomplete plans, over-aggressive schedule projections and inadequate budgets.
Bisnow: What are the most common hang-ups and frustrations with the construction process itself?
Frank: In addition to the risks noted above, it can be dealing with sometimes overly optimistic presentation of projects. Getting complete information and documentation on a project before starting work is not always easy and straightforward.
Contractors, particularly in the northeast, report that after the 2008 recession, many workers left construction for other careers and have not returned. Keeping projects adequately staffed with skilled labor continues to be the a challenge and the key to a successful project.
Bisnow: Is it best for clients to consult you at a project’s inception?
Frank: Most of our clients bring us in early so that our staff can help them avoid fires. However, those fires do happen, and clients call us to help them deal with the issues.
Bisnow: Do you think the current approach to construction is misguided at all?
Frank: Something our clients like about EBI is that we are flexible enough to understand and analyze atypical, creative or otherwise out-of-the-box projects, rather than insisting deals fit a rigid set of rules. They don’t have the option of taking only perfect projects, so it’s our job to help them assess the risks and take the ones that make sense for them.
Bisnow: How has technology changed the construction process?
Frank: Construction materials and methods change slowly, but do constantly change with new applications for wood, stone, steel, aluminum, concrete, glass, etc. showing up on every project. Electronic technology has dramatically changed the way construction works.
It’s not uncommon to run into superintendents and tradesmen using tablets and laptops instead of plan rolls and note pads on-site. The same basic challenges—budgets and schedules—remain, but electronics make dealing with issues more efficient and orderly.
Bisnow: How do you envision the future of construction, and how are you and your team working to adapt to any changes you foresee?
Frank: Currently, the deal mix is changing to smaller ground-up projects and more value-add projects. Fewer deals are being done in New York but more are being done in California and other parts of the country.
We have extensive experience with small to large ground-up projects as well as renovations, repositioning and value-add projects. We have also been hiring or repositioning staff in key locations. The majority of our construction work is done by full-time employees so we can be very responsive to market changes.
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