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How A Team Of Diverse Talents Became BEAR Construction's 'Swiss Army Knife'

BEAR's ISPD team lifts a championship stock car through the facade of a building

BEAR Construction's Industrial & Special Projects Division had just put the finishing touches on a 100K SF high-tech office build-out in the historic Merchandise Mart when an urgent request came in from the client. Back at its headquarters in Chicago's northern suburbs, where BEAR was nearing completion on a 340K SF redevelopment project, the client had run out of employee parking.

The solution was to develop several acres of low-lying fields, complete with the drainage and site utilities set forth by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and Cook County. And the client needed it as soon as humanly possible.

Despite the surprise request and a challenging timeline, BEAR's ISPD was able to deliver on time.

“The time in which you delivered this finished [project] to us is nothing short of amazing,” the client wrote in a note to the ISPD team.

BEAR's ISPD provides construction services at multiple power generation facilities throughout Illinois, including a Will County Generating Station, above.

For more than a decade, BEAR has been growing its Industrial & Special Projects Division to accommodate projects that other general contractors do not have the expertise or the willingness to take on. The ISPD has designed, built and managed projects in a multitude of markets, including utility and power, warehouse and logistics, food and beverage, marine, rail, civil infrastructure, aviation, research and development, banking, telecommunications and mixed-use development.

“Many of the projects we are involved with are not exactly typical or common,” said Project Executive Ryan McDonough, who leads BEAR’s Industrial & Special Projects Division. “But we're always ready for a challenge."

The ISPD began as a small group dedicated to servicing large industrial, manufacturing and pharmaceutical facilities. Recently, ISPD has added several team members with extensive backgrounds in markets that allows BEAR to pursue more opportunities than ever before.

“They’re our Swiss Army knife; they can do anything,” BEAR Senior Vice President Dennis Hill said.

BEAR's ISPD at a marine sea wall project

From power plants to mission-critical data centers, many of the sites and facilities that BEAR's ISPD work in have detailed and strict safety programs to protect workers on-site from hazards. In these locations, many clients prefer to work with BEAR, BEAR Director of Safety John Brennan said, because each member of the ISPD undergoes specialized safety training.

According to Brennan, the company has a safer track record than many of its competitors. BEAR’s Experience Modification Rating, which tracks the expectancy of workers’ compensation claims, currently sits at .77, well below the industry benchmark of 1.0.

BEAR's ISPD at a civil infrastructure project in Northbrook, Ill.

“Each project is different and brings its own set of risks and hazards," BEAR Project Executive William Webb said. "We need to be prepared as a team to address and mitigate each hazard to achieve our goal of zero injuries." 

For more than five years, BEAR’s ISPD has been in the preferred vendor program at Northwestern University in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois, with a primary focus on research laboratory renovations and clean room environments. These projects usually present their fair share of technical challenges and stringent guidelines and require an exceptional level of detail.

The Professional and Student Instrument Shop at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., built by BEAR's Industrial & Special Projects Division.

“As a project manager, it is critical to be an active participant from beginning to end when building research labs or clean rooms,” BEAR Project Manager Philip Williams said. “Since many of the spaces are restricted by size, it’s important to comprehend the intent of the space, in order to best explore all design alternatives that could impact construction costs, schedule or functionality.”

BEAR has created a practice out of projects that may be perceived as too challenging for many Chicago contractors. The Industrial and Special Projects Division serves as an all-purpose team that can handle projects across any market, BEAR's Swiss Army knife.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and BEAR Construction. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.