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Knowledge, Safety And Experience: Building Better Through A Self-Perform Approach


It has been three years since the start of the pandemic, but the burdens it placed on the construction industry remain. According to the Associated General Contractors of America’s 2023 Construction Outlook National Survey, project delays due to supply chain disruptions and an insufficient supply of skilled workers remain top concerns for industry professionals, along with rising materials costs and the possibility of a recession.  

To navigate these challenges, clients and contractors alike need an experienced partner that is committed to seeing a project all the way through, from before the drawings are set until after the paint is dry. Ted Jarosh, project executive of the self-perform team at Chicago-based construction firm Leopardo, said that is the level of commitment his firm brings to each of its projects, driven by the company’s self-perform approach.  

“Our self-perform team includes in-house skilled labor and trade professionals that perform all critical activities, including demolitions, rough and finish carpentry, steel stud framing, drywall, painting and more,” Jarosh said. “By handling everything from demolition to painting and everything in between, our self-perform team is able to have maximum oversight over schedules and budgets while delivering a high-quality product.”  

The work begins before the plans are even finalized, when Leopardo identifies cost savings through value design, works around long lead items that could impact the schedule, and uses technology tools such as 3D scanning, building information modeling and digital layout.

Jarosh said the team looks at projects from the perspective of the end result. Its carpenter foremen identify issues that may not even impact their direct work, including HVAC, plumbing and electrical issues, and communicate them to project managers and superintendents to ensure the success of the project.  

Many members of the firm have more than 30 years of experience that gets passed down among the ranks of the self-perform team to further drive quality, Leopardo Senior Field Coordinator Andrew Rous said.

“Our team works across all markets, all different types of construction, clients and products,” Rous said. “They share generations’ worth of knowledge and industrywide contacts throughout the organization, building out our database of lessons learned and product tricks and tips for the next generation. This knowledge, training and the relationships that we have built within our self-perform group with all the other trades is what sets us apart.”  

In addition, the self-perform team can use enterprise-level resources that smaller contractors may not have access to. One example is Leopardo’s in-house virtual build group, which can 3D-scan and model the project before any layout lines have been drawn.

Jarosh said that as a general contractor itself, Leopardo understands how a GC works and thinks, and the team uses its depth of experience and enterprise technology to not only better serve its clients but also to partner with other general contractors throughout a project to help them succeed and grow their own networks and resources. 

Safety is at the core of Leopardo’s self-perform approach. Jarosh said that because his self-perform team spends so many hours out in the field, it is extremely important to focus on safety and set an example for everyone else working on the project. Leopardo’s field coordinators act as an extension of its GC safety department and are Safety Trained Supervisor Construction-certified, while its carpenter foremen are all 30-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration-certified and trained to perform CPR and first aid. 

“As a result, we have an excellent experience modification rating, which is an insurance rating based on your number of incidents versus man-hours out in the field,” he said. “Ultimately, this saves our clients money on insurance premiums.” 

One recent project Leopardo worked on was the Covenant Windsor Park expansion project in Carol Stream, Illinois. From the very beginning, there were extremely tight scheduling demands. Due to how volatile the market has been since the pandemic began and the massive amount of steel the project required, the team coordinated with its truss manufacturer to order the steel coils and store them on-site right away, before drawings were even in place and before steel prices rose any higher. Soon after, the prices rose by nearly 100%.  

Leopardo’s virtual build group used its building information modeling tools to design an entire truss system —  402 trusses equating to just over 32K SF of roof surface — and the self-perform team built 188 wall panels. By virtually planning everything ahead of time, the team was able to see any potential problems before they arose and address them. The team prefabricated the truss systems on the ground to reduce the amount of time spent on ladders and cranes, further limiting safety issues.  

“We virtually built the project on a computer before we actually had any material on-site,” Jarosh said. “We knew what sections of the trusses were going to be set before the materials were delivered, and we coordinated to minimize crane time and minimize safety risks by building more on the ground than in the air. This made the project safer, saved costs for the client, and we were able to meet the client’s tight deadlines.”  

All of this was happening during the pandemic, on a site that was an active retirement community with residents and guests regularly coming in and out nearby, and on a project that Leopardo’s truss manufacturer called one of the top five most complex it had ever worked on, Rous said. Despite all these challenges, the self-perform team completed the work on time, on budget and with zero safety incidents.  

“It’s clear that this is an approach that gets results, thanks to our decades of experience, industry knowledge, deep connections and skilled staff,” Jarosh said. “Our self-perform team had over 277,000 man-hours worked in the field last year, and we’re looking forward to what the rest of this year will bring.”  

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Leopardo. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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