REJournals: Skender starts construction on 75,000-square-foot outpatient center for Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

The below article was first published by REJournals on April 25, 2024.

Skender, as general contractor, broke ground today on a new 75,000-square-foot outpatient center for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Lurie Children’s Outpatient, Primary Care and Infusion Center will be located at 1895 Arbor Glen Blvd, Schaumburg, Illinois. The center will offer primary care, ancillary and diagnostic services, orthotics and prosthetics, laboratory and pharmacy services, as well as an ambulatory infusion center with the capacity to expand services.

In addition to the main hospital in downtown Chicago, Lurie Children’s offers children and their families convenient access to the same expert teams of medical and surgical specialists with the same leading treatments and kid-focused technologies at 17 outpatient services locations, six primary care locations and 10 partner hospitals throughout the Chicago area. In Fiscal Year 2023 (September 1, 2022–August 31, 2023), Lurie Children’s had more than 900,000 outpatient visits.

The new outpatient center will grow Lurie Children’s footprint in the northwest suburbs and serve as a replacement to the smaller locations at Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates and Huntley. The project, with 40 exam and treatment rooms, is expected to be complete in the summer of 2025 and see its first patient in August 2025.

The project team includes HKS as the architect, Skender as general contractor, IMEG Corp. as the structural and mechanical engineers, and V3 Companies as the civil engineers.

Bisnow: ‘I Think It Can Change Lives’: How Skender’s Lisa Latronico Is Building A Diverse Construction Workforce

The below article was first published by Bisnow on September 17, 2023.

When Lisa Latronico started as a receptionist at Chicago-based Skender Construction in 2001, she fell in love with its family-oriented, welcoming culture and decided to stick around for a while.

Over two decades later, as the company’s newly promoted chief people officer and longest-serving employee, she’s the first person to greet every new hire after they pass through reception on Day 1.

Latronico’s drive to connect with each new employee is critical for an organization leading the way in workforce diversity and employee engagement. Construction as a whole has historically struggled with diversity, particularly when it comes to women in the field. Per the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics industry snapshot, women accounted for 1.2 million of those employed in the construction industry, or just 1 in 10 workers.

Skender’s workforce tells a different story. Women make up 50% of the company’s C-suite and 26% of its leadership team, according to data submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and reviewed by Bisnow. In the Skender workforce at large, there are 17% female and 35% minority employees — both above industry averages.

“At Purdue a couple of years ago, there was this talk that females should really apply to Skender because they treat them really well over there,” Latronico said. “This came to me through the grapevine, and I thought, ‘What a great recruiting tool. Do the right thing for the employees that you have, and word will travel fast.’”

Latronico has been at the forefront of Skender’s efforts, and People and Culture Manager Colleen O’Brien said diverse recruitment efforts are baked into the company’s DNA. Attracting diverse talent starts with increasing brand recognition in the areas ripe for recruitment, targeting the right job boards and going to a swath of career fairs at different schools, she said.

“We’ve been very intentional about ensuring that we are bringing on women across the board,” O’Brien said. “Lisa has been instrumental in that. We want our recruitment to always be organic because it becomes part of who we are and not a box we have to check or a statistic we have to hit.”

The number of women on staff was immediately striking to Project Manager Lily Lawrin. Lawrin, who was hired 11 months ago, said the number of women at the company provides great bonding opportunities and chances to connect with people with similar perspectives.

“It’s definitely noticeable,” Lawrin said. “It was honestly actually one of the first things I noticed when walking around the office on my interview, and I didn’t think it was something that would sway me, but it’s a really positive thing … There’s so many women. They’re everywhere.”

The federal government is looking to emulate the success of companies like Skender to bring more women into the construction industry. In August, the federal government awarded a $1.35M grant to the Illinois Department of Labor to aid efforts to train and support the entry of more women into infrastructure and construction careers.

The grant comes as part of the Biden administration’s implementation of the $1.2T Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, expected to create 800,000 new jobs in construction.

“We may still have a long way to go in dismantling decades’ worth of barriers, but we’re making progress on building that future today,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said in August.

In addition to breaking down barriers for women, Latronico has also spearheaded Skender’s efforts to partner with nonprofits to place individuals from underrepresented communities into roles across the company, particularly through pre-employment and pre-apprenticeship programs.

The construction industry has historically skewed heavily white, especially in management roles. Black workers constitute 12.6% of the overall U.S. workforce, but just 6.7% of construction workers, per 2023 EEOC figures, and only 5.3% of construction management positions. Hispanics are represented at double their numbers in the overall workforce, making up 34.2% of construction workers, though they are “significantly underrepresented” in higher-paying positions, according to the EEOC.

In hopes of changing that, one of Skender’s pre-apprenticeship partnerships is with Genesys Works, a program for youth from underserved communities, providing skills training and career development opportunities. The nonprofit pairs students from certain Chicago Public Schools with Skender. Those students go to school for half the day during the week, then work at the company’s office in the afternoon.

Skender has partnered with Genesys Works for several years and even hired a full-time information technology specialist to provide financial aid to help them go to college at the program’s conclusion.

“It’s been something that doesn’t happen overnight,” Latronico said. “You have to take some chances. And you have to really understand how to support people who may have no experience in construction, what is that going to look like? So lots of meetings, lots of education, lots of volunteerism, to make sure that everyone is bought into it.”

For Latronico, the impact of bringing people into the construction industry who are traditionally underrepresented in the field extends beyond the individuals themselves. These job opportunities can inject wealth into families and introduce communities to people with direct experience in a previously opaque field, she said.

To find groups of people that aren’t from a traditional pipeline of ready-made college graduates with construction-related majors, companies have to do a lot of outreach and look at other avenues to find talent, Latronico said. The untapped talent is important to the construction industry overall, she said, not just at Skender.

“I want … every contractor or even any company to be able to look to those nonprofits and help people,” Latronico said. “We all have a responsibility to do that. I really truly believe that. And I think it can change lives. I think it can change the trajectory of families.”

It’s no coincidence that Latronico is passionate about these types of programs — she came from one herself.

In Latronico’s senior year of high school, she took the train into the city every day around lunchtime and worked for a human resources department, learning how to write recruitment letters and use a computer — not as second nature in 1988 as it is today.

When presented with the opportunity to partner with Genesys Works and high school students, Latronico jumped at the chance to pay it forward.

“​​If it doesn’t work out, that’s OK,” Latronico said. “It’s a leap of faith, we have a super-strong culture, our foundation is strong. We know that we’ve got strong managers and coaches here at Skender. We’re willing to take that chance, we’re willing to take those risks. If it betters someone’s life, we’re going to do it.”

Latronico has been a part of large-scale growth as the company’s longest-tenured employee. When she joined Skender in 2001, the firm had 15 employees and $20M in gross annual revenue. This year, the company rosters 317 employees and enough projects to bring in $600M in gross annual revenue.

Chief Operating Officer Jerry Ball, who joined Skender about 18 months after Latronico, said her ability to create relationships with fellow employees is unmatched.

“Her overall leadership and relationship skills to pull all of that together has been the one single point of taking our culture from a good culture when I came 20 years ago … but then putting it on steroids and taking it to the next level where I would rival the Googles of the world,” Ball said.

It’s one thing to tout qualitative company triumphs — Skender boasts quantitative success as well. The company has earned 30 best-place-to-work awards in the last 15 years from three separate organizations, each based on comprehensive workplace evaluations and employee surveys.

Per a Gallup survey of employee engagement, 76% of the company’s workforce is “engaged.” To put that number into context, the average employee engagement in the U.S. is 32%. Skender’s figure is in line with the engagement levels at companies Gallup defines as “best-practice organizations.”

High engagement levels lead to better client results and increased revenue, Latronico said. Lower turnover is a result, too: Skender’s 2022 turnover rate was at 9.4% compared to a construction industry average of 21.4%, per an oft-cited statistic attributed to the BLS.

Start with engagement, Latronico said, and everything else will fall into place. “I always think about getting people involved in the decision-making process and really letting people have a voice,” Latronico said. “If you give employees a platform for doing that … that can go such a long way.”

That said, maintaining a high-level culture comes with challenges. In difficult situations like the height of the pandemic in 2020, Latronico stressed the importance of leading with vulnerability. Economic impacts of the pandemic led the company to close a manufacturing facility in California and shutter its San Francisco office.

Business leaders might not have all the solutions in tough circumstances, but they have to be available to answer employees’ questions and not shy away from honesty, Latronico said.

“It is not a utopia,” Latronico said. “We are not perfect. No one is, and not every day is this place where you walk in and it’s all sunshine and roses. Some days are hard and we work in a challenging industry. Try and do your best, try to communicate, reach out to people, show that you care about them and take the time to learn about what’s stressing them out or causing any kind of burnout. If you do that, I think that makes a big difference for people.”

Grand Opening: Step Inside Chicago’s New Salesforce Office

Last week, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson joined community and business leaders to celebrate the grand opening of Salesforce Tower Chicago and Salesforce’s new workspace (the latter built by Skender).

It’s one of the most notable buildouts in recent Chicago history and we were honored to help bring the vision to reality.

The space features: Employee floors, training floors, amenity floors, terraces, full-service kitchen, barista bar, interconnecting backlit staircase, state-of-the-art conference rooms, custom wood office fronts, SNA digital media walls, biophilic living columns, custom mosaic tile art, etc.

For more details on the impressive new space, watch the video or see the news media coverage below:

// Crain’s Chicago Business
// Connect CRE
// Chicago Tribune
// Chicago Sun-Times
// CoStar
// NBC 5 Chicago
// Urbanize Chicago
// Built In Chicago


Crain’s Chicago Business: Roundtable on Life Sciences

With thriving neighborhoods and more affordable real estate, Chicago is emerging as a life sciences hub.

Investment in life sciences was at an all-time high in 2021. As a result, demand is quickly growing for research and development space in Chicago which is emerging as a major life sciences market. Three experts in commercial real estate development, design and construction, shared their insights with Crain’s Content Studio on the trends that are shaping the future of life sciences in Chicago.

Life sciences companies are rapidly evolving, and they need spaces that can accommodate that. What factors most influence the commercial real estate, design and construction decisions companies face?

Andy Halik: Labs typically need more technically sophisticated structures with more complex mechanical systems—particularly power and HVAC—than a typical office building. Structurally, they’ll need more risers and shafts; the good news is, if the building doesn’t have these structural needs, they can usually be installed to accommodate the lab-specific needs. Access to adequate power is critical. Life sciences tenants use an average of seven times more electricity than office tenants, because their lab and systems like HVAC, exhaust and electrical load systems need more finely tuned environments.

Suzet McKinney: To meet the evolving needs of life sciences tenants, real estate developers serving the sector must broaden their vision beyond merely functional, purpose-built laboratory facilities of decades past. That journey begins with a collaborative relationship between the developer and the life sciences tenant to ensure an adequate understanding of the needs of life sciences companies, not just for their current business needs, but also for their growth needs as well. Some of the unique building needs for life sciences companies include a flexible lab footprint and space design to accommodate workflow, efficiency, size of equipment, and traffic flow throughout the lab, as well as proximity between labs and offices. Human-centered architecture and amenities are important because, at the end of the day, buildings and laboratories don’t make scientific breakthroughs–scientists do. By creating lab environments where research and the exchange of ideas is easy, enjoyable and seamless, we increase occupant satisfaction and set the stage for innovation.

Brett Taylor: Fundamentally, there are a few building requirements that are unique to life science tenants to accommodate their lab needs. The structural grid for a lab building consists of 11-foot modules, a time-tested and universal approach that takes lab bench width and other attributes into account. Floor-to-floor height is 1-1.5 feet higher than a typical office building to accommodate additional building service requirements. Additionally, some lab tenants may install sensitive equipment that require low building vibration, therefore the structural system may need to be modified to accommodate those specific requirements. Collaboration space is critical. As such, lab buildings typically have higher collaboration / amenity ratios than typical spec offices, especially multi-purpose areas that are often used for hosting lectures and other industry presentations.

What factors are driving the industry’s interest in Chicago?

McKinney: Most of the key demand drivers that make for a successful life sciences market already exist in Chicago. Namely, top-tier research universities and healthcare institutions, STEM talent, National Institutes of Health funding and venture capital funding. However, Chicago has never had sufficient lab space to keep entrepreneurs and their companies here. At Sterling Bay, we’ve recognized the damage this exodus has done to our economy for decades. We think by providing quality lab spaces and full life sciences ecosystems, we can stop the bleeding to the coasts and the departure of talented scientists and entrepreneurs that come out of the universities here. Our government has awakened to this fact as well. We now have a more cohesive effort that is centered around the goal of growing Chicago’s life sciences ecosystem and raising the city as a major life sciences market.

Halik: There are two main factors driving this industry’s growth. One is an increase in Chicago-area universities and local incubators developing young talent and providing them with pathways and resources to start companies. The idea of setting down roots in Chicago is appealing to this talent pool. The second main factor is the pandemic-related needs for more life sciences research. Both factors are resulting in demand for more specialized lab space in Chicago. Higher vacancy rates in traditional office space have also caused many building owners to consider converting office space to lab space.

Taylor: There’s a desire to invest in Chicago for lab space because it is an emerging market compared to coastal cities where the industry is more established. At the same time, many adjacent industries, including tech, education and health have large presences in Chicago. The talent and important points of connection are already here. There are opportunities to build synergy with nearby universities and hospitals, and that creates huge benefits. We’re seeing life sciences buildings being designed for various users who require a mix of dry labs, wet labs and office space. These new buildings are dynamic enough to accept a variety of users, which is another reason why the Chicago market is so desirable. Many life sciences companies are used to having to adapt an existing building to a lab use rather than working with a developer who can accommodate their specific needs.

The full Q&A continues at Crain’s Chicago Business.

REBusiness: Skender Begins Structural Construction of 250,000 SF Medical Office Building for Indiana University Health

INDIANAPOLIS — Skender, working with Meyer Najem Construction, has begun structural construction of the new Indiana University Health (IU Health) Capitol View medical office building and parking garage in downtown Indianapolis. The project consists of a 250,000-square-foot medical office building and a 310,000-square-foot parking structure with 939 parking spaces. A pedestrian bridge connects the building to the parking structure.

The project has been under construction since November and is now entering the structural phase of construction. Structural construction refers to components of the building that are essential to its stability such as foundations, floors, walls or beams. Completion is slated for summer 2023. The project team includes architect atelierRISTING, civil engineer Circle Design and structural engineer Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve. The team is pursuing LEED Silver certification for the property.

Source: REBusinessOnline

REJournals: Skender completes construction on Vista Property’s 609 W. Randolph, a next-generation office building

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on 609 W. Randolph, an innovative boutique office building in Chicago’s West Loop.

The 15-story building offers over 100,000 square feet of office space, as well as a tenant lounge, conference and meeting areas and a rooftop terrace on the top floor. The exterior building design combines the history of the neighborhood with an eye toward the area’s revival, featuring brick masonry as the primary finish around the whole building and a glass exterior on the east façade.

The penthouse lounge and terrace boast city and rivers views and provide a casual, nonrestrictive work environment for tenants to enjoy an alternative option for working, socializing or hosting clients. 609 W. Randolph includes other amenities such as the wellness studio, a 24-seat executive conference room, mixed-use communal space, secure bicycle parking, private shower rooms, and reservable meeting spaces.

As wellness has become a major focus for building owners and tenants alike, 609 W. Randolph is designed for health and sustainability, with WELL and LEED certifications and features including high-performance air filters, motion-sensor restroom fixtures, and touchless, automatic doors.

Skender and Vista Property collaborated with architects Antunovich Associates (base building) and Partners by Design (spec suites) as well as leasing broker CBRE.

Multi-Housing News: Occupied Rehab: A Solution for Affordable Construction Challenges

Skender’s Joe Pecoraro shares a solution for dealing with uncertainty in costs, schedules and labor.

Making the numbers work for financing affordable housing construction was a challenge even prior to the pandemic—and now the compounding factors of construction material delays, rising material costs and labor shortages are making it even more difficult. New ground-up construction needs solid financial data to secure financing, and the uncertainty of the supply chain and labor market means developers are facing protracted due diligence periods before they even begin work. The bottom line: it is taking longer to get much-needed affordable housing units into the marketplace at a time when the demand is greater than ever.

At the same time, much of the existing stock of affordable housing in the U.S. isn’t meeting the standards of safety, sustainability and disability accessibility required of new construction. Equally of concern, it’s not meeting our shared mission in the affordable housing industry of providing dignified and high-quality homes to our neighbors who most need them.

One option that helps to solve this problem, while not taking affordable multifamily stock off the already depleted market, is occupied rehabilitation. An occupied rehab program allows affordable housing developers to take advantage of the rehabilitation tax credit to make necessary updates to existing or recently acquired housing stock, while the building remains occupied.

How Occupied Rehab Works

During the renovation, residents are moved out temporarily (usually for a period of one to two weeks) to a hotel or a vacant unit in the building. They return to newly rehabbed apartments that not only have a fresh look, but also are ADA-compliant, have updated kitchens, bathrooms, mechanicals, and appliances, and are more energy efficient—all important components of the rehabilitation program.

Using Lean construction methods, which emphasize the reduction of inefficiencies, redundancies and waste, contractors can keep projects on budget for owners and complete them with minimum disruption to residents. Groups of units are worked on in a phased approach, and each subsequent phase is further streamlined as lessons learned are applied from earlier units in real time, such as knowledge of the building’s existing mechanical and electrical features and accommodations that may have to be made to bring energy-efficient appliances into the apartment.

Improvements can be relatively small in cost—especially compared to ground-up construction—but have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of residents. For example, plumbing work done during the rehabilitation has allowed residents to take hot showers for the first time in months. Other updates can improve the longevity of the building and reduce its environmental impact. Many older buildings need to upgrade their elevator systems and points of entry and exit for safety and accessibility concerns.

In addition to upgrading individual units, occupied rehab projects can include common areas. Renovating areas such as a cafeteria/multipurpose room, common restrooms or a fitness center, further provides opportunities for the residents to enjoy an improved living experience.

Why is now the right time to consider occupied rehab?

Lawmakers increasingly support raising affordable housing fund. Earlier this year, the 4 percent low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) was fixed at a true 4 percent rate, a boon for affordable housing investors. More recently, the “Build Back Better” legislation, which has so far passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, includes several provisions to expand and improve the LIHTC program.

While the bill’s details are still being debated in the Senate, housing tax credits could increase by up to 40 percent, and the package will include significant funding for affordable housing, including $65 billion for public housing repairs and preservation.

Most of the work done in occupied rehab can be financed through a combination of 4 percent tax credits, 9 percent tax credits, and other programs such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zones. With new federal commitment to bolstering these programs, developers should take a look at which buildings in their current portfolio could benefit from an occupied rehab project.

Occupied rehab can be a win-win for owners of affordable housing multifamily buildings as well as their residents. The renovation process treats residents with respect, giving them safer and better places to live, while not disrupting or displacing them for a long period. It allows developers to take advantage of tax-credit programs to bring their buildings up to standards in shorter time frames and without affecting occupancy rates. In this time of uncertainty in costs, schedules and labor, occupied rehab is a way to make affordable housing construction work.

Joe Pecoraro, project executive, Skender, is a leading adopter of Lean construction techniques and has helped shape Skender’s Lean-focused culture since joining the company in 2005. Pecoraro oversees Skender’s multi-unit housing team, and his expertise has helped deliver a wide range of successful multifamily residential, affordable housing and senior living projects.

This article was originally published by Multi-Housing News.

WSJ: Builders Hunt for Alternatives to Materials in Short Supply

Shortages of key construction materials are forcing some builders and contractors to turn to substitutes and hunt for alternative suppliers as they rush to meet high demand for new housing.

Construction companies are looking for replacements and new sources for everything from wood paneling to ceiling joists to pipes, saying that potentially higher costs and added complications to design and construction can be preferable to putting a project on hold for months while waiting for planned supplies.

Supply shortages stem from a series of supply-chain disruptions hitting industries around the world this year, from port congestion in Asia and the U.S. to labor shortages at factories. Heavy storms in Texas and Louisiana have also slowed production of some building materials, while semiconductor shortfalls have made appliances harder to secure.

Read the full article, which includes commentary by Skender’s Andy Halik, at the WSJ.

Podcast: IN Construction Influencers with Nate Lelle

This weeks guest is Brian Simons, Project Executive and Vice President, Indiana. Brian works with teams in Chicago and Indianapolis areas to build and manage healthcare and interior construction projects. Regularly managing new construction, build-outs, renovations, upgrades and modernizations for hospitals, healthcare systems and corporations.

At Skender, we build lasting relationships, create meaningful experiences and help our clients achieve groundbreaking results. We do this through high-performing teams who are obsessed with delivering the premier construction experience. Skender is a full-service building contractor with specialized new construction and renovation capabilities in all major sectors, including commercial, multifamily and healthcare.  Guided by efficiency, anchored by value and driven by results – our customers repeatedly rave about the way we work and our ability to deliver extraordinary results. Faster, smarter, leaner, stronger.

While the bulk of our work is in the Midwest, we also have extensive experience managing projects in other states. Our multi-state capabilities are enhanced by our national partner network.

Listen to the podcast episode here.

ENR Midwest: Top Contractors Persevere Through Pandemic Year

The Midwest’s top contractors—many of whom had projects delayed or stalled due to the pandemic—reported $41.3 billion in revenue for 2020, a slight decrease from a record high of $42.5 billion in 2019. Revenue totals were reported by 85 contractors and construction managers from 11 states who responded to ENR Midwest’s Top Contractors survey.

Just as they have in the past, contractors took on a wide range of projects, including construction of a 200-bed veteran’s hospital in Chicago, expansion of a parking and rental car facility in St. Paul and construction of an innovation center and library at a college in Traverse City, Mich.

The contractors on this year’s list tackled projects in a wide range of specialties, including, but not limited to, environmental, transportation, education, aviation, manufacturing, health care and senior living.

Read the full article at ENR Midwest.

Solutions for Building Office Properties Through Supply Shortages, Rising Prices

U.S. coronavirus cases are plunging and businesses are fully reopening. Meanwhile, the challenges of developing new office buildings and renovating existing ones are only compounding as project pipelines fill up amid unpredictable economic factors: skyrocketing materials prices, a tightening labor market, soaring demand and problematic supplies. Real estate developers, owners and their builders must take action to mitigate the financial impacts and keep projects on track.

It’s no secret that building component costs have risen at an unprecedented rate in the past year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from April 2020 to April 2021, material prices increased an astounding 143 percent for refined petroleum products such as diesel fuel and asphalt base, 90 percent for lumber and wood products, 78 percent for cold-rolled steel sheets that are used for metal studs, and 31 percent for copper wire and cable.

Such extreme material price increases have intensified over the pandemic and spread to other components, all while severe shortages and supply chain bottlenecks have lengthened timelines for production and delivery. These challenges are not limited to one type of building construction—both ground-up and renovation projects across all property types are realizing the effects of higher prices and scarce supplies.

How can developers, owners and builders overcome these economic challenges and mitigate the risk to their project’s bottom line? Consider the following five solutions:

Blend the team early

Time is money, so in order to ramp up speed to revenue, break down barriers and combine teams sooner than later. Early collaboration between architect and contractor—in a design-build or design-assist delivery method—will accelerate schedules and prevent expensive, time-intensive redesign. For example, making smart design choices in terms of where the major vertical circulation (i.e., stairs and elevators) is placed in a ground-up project can preserve substantial budget dollars.

Stronger, earlier collaboration on these elements avoids do-overs later, but challenges are bound to happen. Develop backup scenario plans in advance – this strategy will allow the team to rapidly and seamlessly shift to an acceptable plan B or C and avoid delays or cost overruns.

Build lean

Lean construction provides greater stability, reliability, efficiency and flexibility. A Lean builder can help navigate market conditions and material shortages and will maximize ROI by conducting ongoing research, monitoring economic trends and providing counsel on lifetime costs, environmental impact, inflation and more. Builders with Lean DNA are master planners and professionally trained in delivering optimally efficient projects, reducing waste during all stages of construction.

Dodge Data & Analytics research demonstrated that “high Lean-intensity projects” were three times more likely to complete ahead of schedule and two times more likely to complete under budget. Dodge found that of projects that did not implement Lean methods, 61% finished behind schedule and 49% completed over budget.

Expand the material mix

Evaluate and analyze substitute materials and systems to expand the menu of choices for all components of a building, including foundations, superstructures, framing, enclosures, systems, interior building materials and more. Working with the contractor and strategic trade partners early in the design phase can ensure that extending the list of acceptable substitutes does not compromise on safety, quality, durability or functionality. Every project has options.

Specifically, pre-cast concrete, ready-mix concrete and different wood species have become useful substitutes. On one recent project, the original plans called for Douglas Fir for the wood-framed structure, but the suppliers couldn’t guarantee delivery in time, so the team determined that Spruce Pine Fir would be a suitable alternate to maintain the construction schedule.

Procure materials earlier

Material prices are moving fast and furiously, causing daily uncertainty about how much a product could cost down the line. Working from real, data-driven expectations can aid in making material procurement decisions earlier. Buying materials earlier will typically result in cost savings and greater decision-making power about other factors later in the project. It mitigates unknown exposure to shortages and can ensure access to materials when needed.

Establish strategic budget reserves and a reinvestment plan

Try to carry extra contingency and avoid building to your max budget upfront. Build a strategic buffer, and, more importantly, a schedule of milestones for reassessing risk at the last responsible moment and gradually releasing reserved funds back into the project as risk diminishes. For instance, if your project budget is $15 million, target a spend of $14.5 million and then systematically release the balance if economic conditions improve. Converting surplus contingency adds real value and allows for adding project wish-list items such as upgraded finish materials, appliances, technology, landscaping and more.

The economy is uncertain, but the risks are tolerable and quantifiable. Lean, experienced builders know how to manage projects throughout increased volatility. A combination of these solutions—early team collaboration, Lean best practices, material flexibility and agility, and strategic budget reserves with reinvestment milestones – will help mitigate risky economic variables and ensure the reliable, on-time, on-budget delivery of your next construction project.

This article, authored by Skender’s Justin Brown and Dan Ulbricht, was originally published by Commercial Property Executive magazine.

‘Isolation Is The Enemy’: Next-Gen Office Designs Focus On Togetherness

Decision time is approaching for Chicago’s biggest office occupants. Companies that have been delaying their office return plans are now facing the choice of whether to renew their leases, find new space or even overhaul their entire real estate strategy.

“We’re seeing an uptick in tours and leasing activity, as well as clients who are ready to move forward with their pre-Covid real estate plans again,” said Andy Halik, a vice president at Skender who helps lead the Chicago construction firm’s interiors group. “They’re not looking to kick the can anymore.”

In Chicago, many of the companies setting the tone and pace of the return are those interested in the recently converted warehouses and new towers being developed in Fulton Market, an office submarket that has swelled over the last decade, attracting tech giants, law firms, design agencies and other corporations that pride themselves on culture driven by architecture and design.

The new challenge for these companies is not just to create spaces that are functional and cost-effective, but spaces that attract people to collaborate, coexist and build corporate culture, even for employees that may only be coming in a few times a week.

The yearlong experiment in working from home has shown companies the value of flexibility and how crucial it is to give employees control over how and where they work and even who they sit and work with on a daily basis. But 2020 has also revealed the negative impact on employee health when engaging with co-workers in an office environment isn’t an option.

“We are human, we want to coexist, and isolation is the enemy,” Halik said. “The challenge of designing an office now is creating a space that encourages flexibility while solving the problem of isolation by offering what the home office can’t provide: space that brings us together.”

Many of the companies in Fulton Market are anticipating that on average, their offices may only host around 70% of the staff that they hosted pre-pandemic, and Halik said most are looking to cut back slightly on their overall office footprints. But those reductions are likely to come from individual work areas, not collaboration and client experience space.

After a year of working alone and hosting video calls, the Fulton Market crowd expects its employees to be starved for collaboration and connection. Employees may choose to come into the office on days they need to meet face to face with colleagues, to give presentations or to welcome guests and visitors. Accordingly, conference rooms and other open areas for teams to meet are likely to stay the same or expand, as will event spaces to host celebrations or guest speakers. Those changes should make days spent in the office feel more purposeful and special, Halik said.

For many organizations, the idea that every employee must have a personal desk is fading. Halik said he is seeing more demand for nontraditional seating, including long high-top tables, as well as for spaces that can be cleared for large-scale gatherings and events. Some companies are creating online reservation systems for individual desks, while others are looking to create desk “neighborhoods” that allow small teams to gather for periods of a few weeks at a time to collaborate on projects.

At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the shoulder-to-shoulder density of modern offices was seen as a health risk. But as vaccinations become more widespread and fear of contracting Covid recedes, parts of the office may expand, but actual seating areas are likely to stay just as dense.

“Companies are looking to build more places for people to coexist and feel something that makes the office a compelling place to work,” Halik said.

Finishes that make the office beautiful — like biophilic design, art and wood accents — are on the rise, as are upgrades to daylight and air quality.

An office renovation or tenant improvement budget can be stretched a lot further by a contractor who knows the local market. Halik said that understanding the logistics of each building, localized construction activity and even parking within Fulton Market has given Skender clients more financial room to tailor their offices to their particular needs.

With the pace of vaccination rising, workforces may be ready to return to the office in a matter of months. But companies are also facing another deadline: While low demand kept construction pricing down during the pandemic, prices for tenant improvements and other small projects could shoot right back up as soon as the first wave of office users make their decisions.

“There is a real financial benefit to making a decision now, before others have jumped on the bandwagon,” Halik said. “We see the improvements in market confidence happening fast and when the tipping point comes, pricing advantages will quickly evaporate.”

This article originally appeared on

Chicago office designers envision post-pandemic workplaces that function and feel like neighborhoods

What will the post-pandemic office look like when workers return to downtown Chicago? One only needs to take a walk around their neighborhood to get an idea. At least this is what some top office interior designers and builders are saying as business leaders finally start preparing their strategies for bringing employees back downtown.

But another key theme that will come about from the tidal wave of the pandemic, and after spending more than a year working from home, will be the idea of control.

Having some semblance of control over the work environment will allow employees to feel safer, and when the workforce feels a deeper sense of security, then we can begin to move forward and get back to focusing on in-person collaboration and fostering company culture, Eric Gannon, a principal at the Chicago office of the global architecture firm Gensler, believes.

“The expectation now is that you’re returning to something different, and you’re returning to something that you have some control over,” says Gannon. “So, I think what that means is how you reserve or how you gauge the intention to what you need, and there’s an expectation that the space is flexible to us as individuals and what we might need to support our work.”

In addition to a flexible, hybrid model of work where employees can choose to work from the office or at home, there’s going to be changes to the office that give employees a similar sense of control that they have at home, Gannon adds. For example, allowing employees to directly adjust lighting at workstations, changing the temperature, or forming a workplace “bubble,” gives more autonomy to choose what feels most comfortable.

This focus on user control and autonomy in the workplace isn’t entirely new, but it’s something that’s being kicked into high gear because of the pandemic. And in many ways, it can also be viewed through the larger lens of the mainstream focus on wellness and fitness in recent years.

And then in terms of the actual layout and programming of any particular office, each company will have different needs, but the industry is moving away from a straight-forward open office environment to one that’s still largely open, but also intentionally planned.

“The open office was a product of real estate efficiency,” says Gannon. “We were crunching down desk sizes to fit more [people] and I think we believed for a while in the energy that was created in the ability to turn your chair around as a benefit to culture and to the work environment.”

Instead, the antidote to the current workplace conundrum in a post-pandemic world might be the office “neighborhood,” or a layout that looks towards urban planning for inspiration.

“When you think about a workspace from an urban planning construct, you’ve got the main plaza space that’s more communal and you’ve got smaller, more intimate type spaces,” Gannon says of the new way of thinking for office design. “So, I think that the modular approach to the neighborhood is a way to achieve flexibility but also prepare for ongoing change in the short term.”

Beyond the programming, the neighborhood concept is also different in the sense that it’s not a set-it and leave-it approach to office design, Gannon adds. Designers will have to continue periodically checking in with clients about what’s working and what’s not in order to make adjustments and changes to the office to better foster collaboration and productivity.

Andy Halik, a VP at Chicago-based Skender also sees a future for the neighborhood layout, or the “address-free office,” as he calls it. And we could start seeing these changes in the office sooner than later.

“Generally speaking, flexibility is more about how a business behaves rather than the space it offers,” Halik says of the oft-discussed theme of workplace flexibility. “The space that companies are offering are still very much driving what they used to be about, if not more so now, which is about culture, collaboration, and succeeding through this together.”

Halik says that there will certainly be a return to the office as companies have learned of some major caveats of having entire teams and staff working from home exclusively, including lower employee satisfaction, retention issues, and a sense of being disconnected or disengaged from colleagues, as well as the company’s mission and culture.

And regardless of office location, type, or layout, the big question that employers and office designers need to spend more time thinking about is what the office offers that working from home doesn’t.

“I’ve heard a lot of people forecast that lower density buildings or build-to-suit single occupier situations are going to be the hottest office properties out there, and I do think that demand for those types of buildings will go up,” Halik says. “But the reality has more to do with answering the question: What does the office provide that working from home does not? The buildings and the neighborhoods that answer that the best will be the ones to provide the most opportunities for people to be together, period.”

Afterall, there is an element to working in an office downtown that’s maybe not as easily defined — the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself.

Just the simple act of going into the office over the next couple of months may be enough for many workers to feel better about the changing world and workplace.

“I’ve been going downtown more, and every time I do, the anxiety wears off a bit of what it’s going to be like,” says Eric Gannon about heading into Gensler’s office in The Loop. “So I think that there is a very emotional, human piece of just doing it and getting used to it again.”

This article originally published in the April 2021 issue of Illinois Real Estate Journal.

Skender Completes Construction of 45,000 SF Office, Retail Project for Herman Miller in Chicago

CHICAGO — Skender has completed construction of a 45,000-square-foot office and retail building for furniture company Herman Miller in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood. Located at 1100 W. Fulton St., the build-to-suit project preserved the existing building’s historical masonry while incorporating a new concrete structure to support the 100-year-old exterior.

Read the full article at >

Skender wraps up Bank of America buildout at 110 N. Wacker

Skender recently completed interior construction of the 536,000-square-foot office relocation for Bank of America’s (BofA) downtown Chicago offices. Bank of America, one of the world’s leading financial institutions, relocated to the Bank of America Tower at 110 N. Wacker, a new Class A+, 56-story high-rise that was concurrently under construction.

Encompassing 17 floors, approximately one third of the building, BofA’s new space includes private offices, open workstation areas, conference rooms, work cafés, support space and other modern workplace amenities. Unique features include a trading floor with supplemental cooling and uninterrupted power supply, critical-systems infrastructure, custom two-story trellises, a barista bar and market café, and two dedicated outdoor terraces. In addition, the interior includes a monument staircase connecting a two-floor conference center and executive suite.

Read the full article at >

Construction sector showing signs of life despite COVID

When Rahm Emanuel was mayor, he would tout a simple metric as evidence Chicago was on the path of progress: the number of construction cranes on the city’s skyline.

By 2017, the count had risen to 33. Today’s tally? Just 12, according to the Chicago Department of Buildings.

Attribute the decline to the coronavirus pandemic, which interrupted a building boom that transformed the skyline and urban life in Chicago with new luxury apartment towers and trendy hotel and office projects. Construction starts in the Chicago area fell 25 percent in 2020, representing $10.1 billion in projects, according to Dodge Data & Analytics, a Hamilton, N.J.-based research firm.

But after being knocked down last year, the local construction industry is starting to get back on its feet. Some developers have shelved plans for big projects, unable to secure financing. But the pandemic merely delayed other developments. Construction executives are feeling a mix of relief that the worst is over and hope that a nascent recovery is already underway.

Read the full article, featuring commentary from Skender President & CEO Justin Brown, at >

Skender Completes Interior Construction of 200,000 SF Walgreens Technology Center at Chicago Old Post Office

CHICAGO — Skender has completed the interior construction of the 200,000-square-foot Walgreens Technology Center of Excellence within Chicago’s Old Post Office. The office will eventually welcome hundreds of employees, including e-commerce, mobile, pharmacy technology and digital team members as well as Walgreens Boots Alliance information technology personnel. The office space spans multiple levels and features a staircase, open and private offices, collaboration and conferencing spaces, data rooms, lounge spaces and a kitchen.

Read the full article at > 

609 W Randolph Begins Construction in Chicago’s West Loop Gate

A new 15-story office building has begun construction at 609 W. Randolph in Chicago’s West Loop Gate neighborhood.

The project will span over 100,000 sf and is being developed on a surface parking lot adjacent to an existing five-story building. The facade will keep in line with the neighborhood feel and consist primarily of masonry with complementary steel, metal panel, and exterior glazing. It will also include a granite base.

The building will be a four-minute walk from the Clinton CTA station and a three-minute walk from Ogilvie Transportation Center. Skender is building the project, which is being developed by Vista Property Group.

Read the full article at Building Design & Construction > 

Redevelopment of Space for Booming Life Sciences Firms

As the race for a vaccine or widely available treatment for COVID-19 kicks into high gear, many life sciences firms are looking to ramp up their production capacity — for this and future public health crises. With this anticipated growth in production volume comes the need for more lab space. But when looking for space to expand, life sciences firms may need to look beyond space specifically built for life sciences and identify sites that have been redeveloped into lab space.

Developers are taking note that some markets that have the assets of a life science cluster — such as proximity to large medical and university campuses and quality-of-life benefits for a growing workforce — haven’t yet actualized into a cluster, and they have an opportunity to seize the moment. Such developers are building new offices and research facilities and converting old structures into labs. Economic development commissions also have the opportunity to partner with developers to help bring the pieces together to draw life sciences companies and create these new clusters.

An Eye to Distinct Requirements
When looking for the right space, life sciences firms should partner with developers, designers, and a construction team that will redevelop the space with an eye to the nuances and distinct requirements of labs, such as ceiling height, mechanical and HVAC systems, and space for lab equipment. Since each type of lab — chemistry, biology, pharmacological, etc. — looks different and requires unique equipment, a first-time lab developer that goes with a one-size-fits-all approach probably won’t appease its lab tenants.

Specific improvements for different lab users could include more fume hoods and sinks for chemical labs; extra room for negative air pressure chambers and changing rooms to keep parasites from escaping the lab for biology researchers; and more specialized temperature and humidity controls to keep samples safe for pharmaceutical scientists.

But labs aren’t the only part of life sciences workspace — researchers spend a surprising amount of time at their desks or in conference rooms. Some developers think that the only focus should be the lab — which is certainly important — but savvy developers know the office space is just as much of a priority for researchers. Life sciences firms should look for development and construction teams that know how to balance lab and office space to bring to life a full workplace.

Read the full article, authored by Skender’s Jeff Janicek, at > 

Construction wraps up on Sarah’s Circle’s six-story supportive housing facility for women on Chicago’s North Side

Skender recently completed construction on the new 36,000-square-foot, six-story supportive housing facility in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for Sarah’s Circle. This nonprofit organization serves women who are homeless or in need of a safe space by providing housing, life necessities and supportive services to permanently end their homelessness.

Skender collaborated with design firm Perkins+Will and owner’s representative Brinshore Development to successfully complete the project.

Following a groundbreaking in September 2019, the project stayed on schedule with delivery in 15 months. The new Sarah’s Circle facility, known as Sarah’s on Sheridan, has 38 units of permanent supportive housing for women who are homeless, as well as 50 beds for the Interim Housing Program. With the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating homelessness in Chicago, this facility will undoubtedly help an underserved community in the city.

Read the full article at >

Developing Life Sciences Real Estate At The Speed Of Innovation

Speed always has been a hallmark of the life sciences sector, with first movers standing to gain considerable market share while delivering much-needed medical devices and pharmaceuticals to the public.

But the race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine and related therapies is unlike anything that has come before, with a dozen potential vaccines already entering Phase 3 clinical trials only months after the virus was identified.

While we don’t know exactly when a COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available, research and development has advanced to combat this global threat at a pace that can only be described as “breakneck.” In contrast to today’s day-to-day progress, the mumps vaccine — considered the fastest ever approved — took four years to advance from collecting viral samples to administering a licensed drug.

Read the complete article, co-authored by Skender’s Jeff Janicek, at Life Science Leader > 

Chicago Is A Lab Sciences Desert. But What Kinds Of Labs Does It Need?

Chicago is no slouch when it comes to lab sciences. The Chicago region boasts the headquarters of pharma giants Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie and Baxter International. But with lab spaces scattered across the suburbs and spread around the city’s research universities in Evanston and Hyde Park, the city lacks a centralized laboratory cluster like those in Cambridge and San Francisco.

Developers have recognized the void in the market and are pouring money into building new offices and research facilities and converting old structures into labs, said Skender Vice President Jeff Janicek, who focuses on healthcare and lab construction.

But creating a lab space isn’t as easy as bringing a few microscopes into a corporate office. Without the right guidance, first-time lab developers may end up building a kind of lab entirely different than what tenants are asking for.

“People tend to say ‘life sciences,’ when they really mean ‘lab sciences,’” Janicek said. “A chemistry lab looks entirely different from a biology lab, which looks different from a pharma lab. If developers go in with a one-size-fits-all mindset, they are not going to make it far with their lab tenants.”

Because the Chicago development market does not have much experience building labs, developers will sometimes propose sites that don’t make sense for the lab tenant market, or which aren’t appropriate for labs.

Janicek described how one client arrived with a landlord, a broker and what they thought was a bulletproof plan to put a chemistry lab on an upper floor of a building in the Loop. Janicek had to inform them that because of the volume of chemicals it would handle, the lab could only be on the first or second floor of the building. Plus, the building did not have the mechanical systems or vertical access shafts in place the tenant would need to retrofit the space.

After finding the right space, developers also have to be knowledgeable about what sorts of improvements each type of lab user will need. Chemical researchers usually require more fume hoods and sinks, while life sciences researchers may need more specialized temperature and humidity controls to keep samples safe. Biology researchers often need extra room for negative air pressure chambers and changing rooms to keep nasty parasites and spores from escaping the lab.

The key to successful lab construction and renovation projects, Janicek said, is to consult very early with the intended tenant about what their needs are and to consult with an engineer and contractor that can make those needs a reality. When it comes to retrofits, pre-construction will likely begin even before a property has been sourced.

“Sometimes the victory is in not wasting money,” Janicek said. “When developers involve us in the process early enough, we can steer clients away from poor choices, and we can propose other choices that will create a better, more affordable project.”

While researchers typically spend between 20% and 40% of their time in the lab, they also spend a surprising amount of time at their desks or in conference rooms, Janicek said, and developers that don’t set enough room aside for traditional workspaces may not see many nibbles for leases.

Sourcing a location for a new lab space is also a challenge. More and more, Janicek said, potential tenants in Chicago are former grad students looking for lab space to continue their research or launch a startup and they don’t want to have to commute out to the suburbs to go to work. For that reason, more developers are looking for potential lab renovation spaces in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, the West Loop and Fulton Market.

Most of the buildings in these neighborhoods will have trouble being converted to lab space, Janicek said, but there are a select number of sites that could be promising. Former healthcare facilities and even warehouses that were previously built for cold storage often have the infrastructure they need to be renovated into lab spaces, including piping systems, low ceilings and thick walls.

Janicek pointed to 2430 North Halsted St., a 120K SF commercial lab space and the first project in Sterling Bay’s life sciences initiative, The Labs. Exicure, the first tenant for the lab space, was growing rapidly and needed space to expand. The team at Skender was able to reposition some of the building’s existing infrastructure, delivering the lab space a mere four months from the initial idea to relocate and expand.

As the race for coronavirus therapies and a vaccine continues, Chicago is feeling the immediate crunch for lab space, but Janicek said an investment in more research facilities would also ensure Chicago remains a destination for lab sciences in the long term.

“The need for research space has been emphasized by the pandemic, but it’s always been there,” Janicek said. “The real estate community needs to try to give young scientific talent from Chicago a reason to stay close to home.”


This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and Skender, and was first published by Bisnow.

Lessons Learned from Chicago’s Landmark Old Post Office Redevelopment

Even as many Chicago companies have delayed reopening offices until the threat of coronavirus has lessened, eventually companies will return to their workplaces for collaboration, to boost company culture, and to regain a separation between work and home for their employees. In the meantime, work continues on one of Chicago’s most talked-about office developments of the past few years: the Old Post Office redevelopment.

Inside this gigantic 1921 Art Deco structure, tenant representatives, architects, interior designers and general contractors have the unique opportunity to create the next era of office space in Chicago – one that honors the building’s historic integrity while delivering design, technology and amenities that will propel work into the future. But doing so is not without its challenges, even pre-pandemic.

As one of the early contractors to work inside the Old Post Office with two completed projects and three in progress, our Skender interior construction team has learned the unique nuances of building out in this adaptive reuse development.

Lesson 1: Merging old with new begins with care and planning.

The Old Post Office actually comprises three buildings and 2.5 million square feet: The original six-story building and two nine-story buildings from the 1930s. The north and south additions have floor-to-floor heights as high as 19 feet, and they are connected to the original east building with corridors that have 16-foot ceilings. In addition to the varying ceiling heights, each of the buildings has unique requirements to maintain the historic designation. Some tenants are only in one of the structures, while others span all three.

All of these factors add up to challenges that are critical to understand and plan for from the outset, ideally using building information modeling. Once the client and project team are in alignment, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and National Park Service (NPS) review all drawings for tenants building in the space, as well as all the finishes selected, to ensure they comply with restoration guidelines.

In the last few months due to COVID-induced supply chain challenges, Skender has worked with the design team early to get a list of finishes to check on availability before they’re submitted to the SHPO and NPS for approval, eliminating the need for multiple revisions.

Lesson 2: Understand the constraints of historic preservation – and the impact on your timeline.

The art deco elements that proffer the Old Post Office’s historic status can be difficult and expensive to source. Before beginning work, the team needs to observe the structure’s marble base, wood and wire molding, and wainscoting to see what needs to be repaired, and then source it to match. For example, there’s only one vendor in the U.S. that is able to replicate the mosaic tile that runs through the corridor and is required to be included in the design by the SHPO and NPS. To avoid costly delays and reorders, Skender does a floor survey early to order the right quantity of tile and plan for its production in the project timeline.

Placing updated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in a historic building can present issues as well. For example, the north building has a polished, non-industrial design, which means exposed data cabling for tech systems must either run in conduit or cable tray that is painted and finished to blend with the building’s elegant, pristine look.

AbelsonTaylor Lobby

Lesson 3: Responsiveness may be our greatest design tool.

The pandemic has taught us that the ability to be responsive to challenges is necessary. What works for your company in this moment may need to be changed. When it does, being able to turn to a firm that understands not only the unusual requirements of the space, but also your company culture and the demands of your work is essential.

While office spaces that are currently under construction may be more focused on separating coworkers and decreasing density, once a widespread treatment or vaccine is available for COVID-19, companies may want to reorganize to encourage collaboration or allow colleagues to gather again.

Pandemics are not the only event that require a company’s space needs to evolve: resizing the workforce, undergoing a major rebrand, merging with or acquiring another firm, adding new technology, or simply realizing that the realities of workflow mean different departments or colleagues need to be closer together can all require reconfiguring an office.

AbelsonTaylor Staircase 

Lesson 4: Experience counts.

Most project leads choose to work with general contractors that have an established reputation and plenty of successful projects in their portfolio. For a redevelopment with as many specific considerations as the Old Post Office, it can be beneficial to work with a contractor that has experience in the space and can carry information about maintaining preservation and addressing design challenges from one job to the next.

Our work on a current project is informed by issues we worked through in our past project. We know that the clay tile that is part of the deck construction requires special anchoring. We understand how to work with the high ceilings to maximize natural light by building walls that don’t reach all the way to the deck. We’ve sourced the correct metal caps for the exposed columns in two of the buildings. These examples are just some pieces of the knowledge we bring to each project.

Being part of a large-scale redevelopment of a landmark building offers a unique opportunity to learn on the job. The project team can honor the surviving historical features, while ensuring that what’s built around them is high-quality and balances longevity and flexibility. Building today may be uniquely complicated because of the pandemic, but adaptive reuse presents added complexity that can be lessened through experience.


This article, authored by Skender’s Lauren Torres, was first published by NAIOP.

Living history: The Old Post Office bridges Chicago’s past and future

Chicago is well known for its architectural heritage, though our actions sometimes belie this. In a city that has demolished more notable structures than others have even erected, we revere some of our gems while allowing others to decay.

The Old Post Office has existed in both of those states. Sitting fallow for years, its 2.8 million square feet long sat empty, serving no greater purpose than as the occasional backdrop for a Christopher Nolan Batman movie. Previous attempts to renovate the Art Deco gem fell through until New-York-based 601W Companies acquired the property in 2016.

Since then, a massive, $800 million repositioning has been underway. And though much of the building’s interior is still not quite ready for occupancy, these efforts have already paid off, attracting tenants such as Walgreens, Uber, Ferrara Candy and Cboe, among others.

One tenant who has moved in is AbelsonTaylor, a Chicago-based health and wellness advertising agency. Skender collaborated with HED and Syska Hennessy Group to deliver their 85,000-square-foot space in February. Before this client could occupy this space, an immense level of pre-planning and cooperation was involved.

A big portion of what the design-build team needed to do up front was survey the in-place materials, especially in the northern portion of the space. The north building, designed by the legendary Chicago studio of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, was constructed first in 1921, before later additions to the south in the 1930s. As such, standards governing the preservation of historical features are more stringent in this section of the building.

Read more at REJournals >

4 next-gen technologies that are changing construction today

For most of the last decade, emerging technologies designed to transform the built environment weren’t much more than fun toys to play with. They lacked sophistication and the ability to promote true efficiency and accountability or analyze data.

Not anymore. Yesterday’s toys have become today’s tools.

New, data-driven technology has finally given rise to construction efficiencies. New software and gadgets are advancing timelines, improving project team integration and collaboration, reducing costs and enhancing overall building quality.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, when technology permeates construction, there’s an almost 20% reduction in a project’s total life cycle cost as well as substantial improvements in completion time, quality and safety. The study estimates that the use of technology cuts construction costs for commercial office buildings by 12%, lifetime operations costs by 18% and reduces the construction timeline by 30%.

Take a look at the top four technologies Skender is currently using to break down industry productivity barriers and push the envelope beyond what construction was capable of just yesterday.

+ Laser scanning.

Attached to a tripod, a laser scanner looks like most land survey equipment – except it doesn’t just measure a single point at a time. It collects 28 million points in three minutes, with accuracy within 1/16 of an inch.

The laser scanner creates a point cloud for each measurement to be used as the base model for BIM coordination. Laser scanning is useful for project measurements that require precise detail, like floor leveling. Human error and guessing are eliminated, and costs are reduced when flooring subcontractors use the laser scanner to determine slope and elevation, and therefore, the amount of preparation and materials that are actually required for the job.

A point cloud created by the laser scanner can be analyzed to create a heat map of the floor plan, where cooler colors are the floor’s higher elevation points and hotter colors represent the lower points.

Case in point: On a recent project, a quick laser scan revealed that the architectural drawings were slightly off in measurement compared to the physical space. The laser scan was uploaded to the project BIM model, and the architect was able to correct the CAD model. When glass fronts were ordered for offices, we were confident they would fit the space. Had the materials been ordered when the offices were measured at difference of four inches, we would have waited an extra six weeks for new glass, installation and completion of offices. Together, these seemingly small changes shaved off significant time and money from the project.

+ 360-degree photo documentation. 

A small piece of consumer equipment typically used by YouTubers and Instagrammers, the 360-degree camera is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive. Most importantly, it captures an entire room in a single image. Add software like StructionSite and now you can place these photos directly into a facility’s 2D digital floorplan and client communication.

Instead of having to take eight to 10 photos to capture a room, 360-degree photo documentation allows contractors to capture more data in one photo, providing a significant time savings and comprehensive visual update. As with laser scanning, sharing the 360-degree images with subcontractors is another more efficient way to determine the amount of materials required.



TIP: Capturing 360-degree photos once a week during construction can provide a lifecycle view of the facility for a remote owner.

+ Drones.

Taking images of a job site from the ground up (no matter which iPhone you’ve got!) can’t compare to what a flying drone can capture in a three-minute land survey. Employed ideally on large site surveys, drones can easily capture progress photos and videos from 400 feet in the air. With the ability to pre-plan the route and desired documentation of the site via software, drone automation promotes ease of use and time savings.

Case in point: A recent job had a batch of soil that needed to be removed from the site, but it was impossible to determine how much until the team actually arrived to dig. Deploying Skender’s drone provided a precise measurement of soil on the ground, which allowed the team to plan for and accurately price out its removal.



+ Augmented/mixed reality. 

While augmented or mixed reality has been around for a couple of years, Microsoft’s second iteration of the HoloLens propelled the technology from a toy to a useful construction tool. A headset device worn like glasses, the HoloLens 2 provides an immersive experience for its users.

Uploading a project’s BIM model into the HoloLens 2 makes it possible for owners, end users and other stakeholders to strap on the device and physically walk through the job site, “feel” the final finishes, and view them in real time as digital objects on top the existing building structure. HoloLens 2 provides users with the ability to touch and even “move” building elements and furnishings while walking through the physical core and shell space. A self-contained computer with Wi-Fi connectivity, the HoloLens 2 is a game changer for construction.



Efficiency, data-driven analysis and productivity are paramount to the financial success of any construction project. New technologies like these streamline project management and the construction timeline, reducing waste and ultimately delivering a more precise project to the owner—every time.


This article, authored by Skender’s Clay Edwards and Ben Stocker, was first published by Building Design+Construction.

10 Renovations To Consider Before Reopening Your Office

This summer, as offices are starting to reopen across the country, many companies are considering all their options to make a safe and healthy return to work for employees. Even as states have begun their reopening process, the threat of COVID-19 is still present, and it will require a careful, vigilant and ongoing plan to ensure a workplace that’s the safest it can be. Companies will need to do more than put hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere and rearrange desks to put employees’ minds at ease.

Some safety measures may require a company to consult their architect and general contractor to implement renovations, ranging from small face-lifts to more significant structural updates. Companies looking for worry-free, low-risk and high-quality renovations should partner with contractors with proven project delivery processes and commitment to clean and safe construction sites. GCs with healthcare construction experience often carry over the high standards practiced at healthcare job sites to their other projects – which is especially important now when rigorous measures need to be taken to keep on-site employees safe, and reduce the risk when office employees return to the space, too.

Regardless of whether your company is heading back into the office ASAP or still managing a remote workforce, there’s still time to make updates with no or little disruption to your return-to-work timeline. Here are 10 recommended office updates to support a healthy return to work:

1. Dedicate separate rooms for deliveries and visitors.

By designating or creating distinct spaces – one for packages and deliveries and another for visitors – employees can limit contact with people coming into the office. Keeping deliveries as contactless as possible by using applications to manage them can also reduce transmission from outside the office.

2. Make the most out of reception.

Turn the reception area into a multipurpose space for employees to sanitize their hands, have their temperatures taken, and pick up safety equipment like face masks and sanitizing wipes. It can also be the checkpoint and physical reminder for where the “new normal” starts, with prominently placed signs featuring instructions and directions on how employees should interact with each other.

3. Install signage and floor graphics to demonstrate where and how employees should move through the office.

While most employees know they should be keeping distance between each other, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly how far apart that is – and the regular reminder doesn’t hurt. Placing stickers on the floor to indicate this distance, or arrows in hallways to determine which way people should be flowing through, can help employees maintain proper distance and avoid crowding in tight areas.

4. Add keycard-operated automatic doors to reduce touch-shared surfaces.

Limiting the number of high-touch surfaces is a key tactic of containment, and door handles are one of the most touched surfaces in an office. Automatic doors activated by keycards or ID badges can eliminate the need for those risky surfaces. This is a bigger financial lift, but is worth considering for longer-term health and safety of the office.

5. Divide break areas and spread out pantries.

The central kitchen and eating area of yesterday’s open office will need to be broken up to curb virus spread. By installing smaller pantry areas around the office, employees can still access these spots without gathering in large groups. Spreading out smaller kitchenettes with sinks provides more handwashing stations, too. You don’t have to close off lounge-type spaces, but spread the seating to encourage distancing or smaller pods rather than gatherings. Similarly, maximizing your company’s use of any outdoor space, which many health experts consider safer, by making them tech-ready is another away-from-the-desk option.

6. Upgrade HVAC systems.

Since coronavirus particles travel through the air, HVAC systems should be a major focus of reopening efforts. Upgrading HVAC systems with the ability to more carefully filter air and limit widespread circulation can reduce disease spread. This will likely be controlled by the building owner when leasing or subleasing space in a multi-unit building, so it’s worth bringing up when coordinating the reopen.

7. Separate benching systems or add dividers between desks.

Breaking up current benching systems and spacing them out six feet apart and/or adding dividers between desks that can’t be spaced out can ensure employees are adequately spread out. Adding dividers can be a quick installation or require a heavier lift to build more substantial partitions, depending on the route you want to take.

8. Add wall-mounted monitors and cameras in conference rooms.

Even when offices reopen, many firms won’t bring back all employees or will institute alternating on-site and at-home schedules – so collaborating with the remote workers will require enhanced digital collaboration. Installing tools to promote digital work can naturally facilitate that collaboration.

9. Build out new rows of phone booths.

Creating new enclosed spaces for employees to take calls can serve the dual purpose of promoting virtual collaboration with remote teams and boosting office health. Placing hand sanitizer and wipes near these booths encourages employees to keep them clean, too.

10. Rearrange existing or install new furniture.

Outside of rearranging desks, other office furniture can be spaced out to provide additional seating for employees while promoting social distancing. New furniture with resilient and easy-to-clean materials and surfaces can also improve cleanliness. As comfort has become a key element to working from home, furniture with comfortable materials can ease employees’ transition back to the office.

While the immediate impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have quickly disrupted all aspects of daily life – including the office environment – the long-term effects are still forming. Plus, the threat of COVID-19 will likely exist for an indefinite period of time, even as business must go on. We anticipate that these healthy return to work considerations won’t just be temporary fixes, but rather will last past this crisis and transform the workplace for the healthier and better. Investing in these office renovations now will demonstrate to employees that their health and safety is important not just for the near term, but for the long haul.


This article, authored by Skender’s Clay Edwards, was first published by Work Design Magazine.

Skender Begins Buildout for Upwork Expansion

Skender has started construction on a 34,000-square-foot expansion to Upwork’s current space at AEW Capital Management’s 525 W. Van Buren in the West Loop. The initial buildout of Upwork’s space for roughly half the 67,730 square feet it leased from AEW was completed in December 2018.

Read the full story at Connect Chicago.

Skender Begins AbelsonTaylor’s Chicago HQ

Skender has started interior construction for AbelsonTaylor at their new headquarters within the Old Post Office building in Chicago. The health and wellness advertising agency plans to move from its current space at 33 W. Monroe St. to the 85,000-square-foot office at 433 W. Van Buren St. by March 2020. The company closed the lease at the beginning of this year in a deal arranged by Cushman & Wakefield. To bring the project to fruition, Skender partnered with HED, Syska Hennessy Group and Cushman & Wakefield.

Pilsen Nonprofit’s $20 Million Affordable Housing Development Approved By City Committee

A Pilsen nonprofit’s plan to build a $20 million affordable housing development in the neighborhood was approved by a key city committee Tuesday.

The city’s Committee on Zoning unanimously approved the Resurrection Project’s plans to build a five-story affordable housing building at 1850 S. Racine Ave. The Skender-designed building will include 37 apartments, 31 parking spaces and a ground floor amenity space for residents.

The value catalyst for building advantage

Isn’t it interesting when we talk about getting more out of something we say we need to ‘extract’ value? It’s a bit of an oxymoron when what we’re trying to do is infuse value into our work, our processes and our products and ultimately deliver it to our customers.

The practice of value engineering has traditionally equated value with cutting costs, making it cheaper, reducing the investment needed to complete a project. The concept of lean construction on the other hand pits value as the opposite of waste, not expense. It speaks to a proactive process of redefining what waste is – throughout the construction process – in planning, design, and build.

Creating a Contemporary, Collaborative Place for HERE Technologies’ Future

When a company builds location technologies, it only makes sense for its office locations to represent the company culture. In 2018, HERE Technologies, or just “HERE” – a global leader in mapping and location intelligence, autonomous driving and “smart city” technology – needed to bring two offices together to create a new Americas headquarters.

After negotiating a lease extension at 425 West Randolph Street in the Chicago Loop, the company called upon three other pioneering Chicago companies to help: Gensler Design, to visualize the transformation; Skender, to build it and bring the new headquarters to life; and JLL, to provide guidance and overall project management.

It’s a given that innovative firms such as tech companies offer their employees modern and exciting offices. These spaces are designed to convey brands, inspire people, and become a physical representation of the firm’s forward-thinking business model. What isn’t a given is the time, money, design skill and technical knowledge it takes to achieve these offices.

For the HERE project, two particular challenges confronted the design and construction teams:

  1. balancing the investment in the space in a way that maximized the benefit to employees, and
  2. minimizing workforce disruption while enhancing productivity. The final design had to reflect the company’s vision, brand, and history of innovation, while also bringing together employees from across multiple departments.

HERE leadership chose to expand its presence at 425 West Randolph, making room for employees from another Chicago location to unify in one headquarters. The project’s aim was to reuse or repurpose existing elements and cohesively integrate the company’s new branding elements across all floors.

Extensive interviews of key HERE stakeholders were conducted to best understand ways of working; the understanding formed the basis for the design plan.

For 10 months, the eight floors comprising the HERE office were transformed into a contemporary environment, including space for more than 1,400 employees in an open-floorplan seating arrangement that facilitates better and faster collaboration.

Skender Breaks Ground on Supportive Housing in Uptown

Skender has broken ground on a new 42,000-square-foot supportive housing facility for women in the North Side’s Uptown neighborhood. The construction management firm is working in collaboration with design firm Perkins+Will and owner’s representative Brinshore Development to complete the project in 14 months on behalf of nonprofit Sarah’s Circle.

Skender completes construction of LinkedIn Chicago HQ expansion

Skender, serving as interior construction manager, has completed construction of LinkedIn’s new 46,000-square-foot Chicago headquarters expansion project at 525 W. Monroe Street. LinkedIn, a global business and employment-oriented service that operates via websites and mobile apps, expanded its office footprint with a communicating stair connecting the existing space to two floors and various other new elements.

Skender starts interior construction of Paragon HQ

Skender recently launched the interior renovation of the future 23,000-square-foot headquarters for Paragon Biosciences LLC, a life science innovator that invests in, builds and advises bioscience companies.

Paragon will be relocating to the 35th floor of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed 330 N. Wabash from its current office space in Northbrook.

Skender wraps up interior work on new Vital Proteins HQ in Fulton Market

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed the interior renovation of the 40,000-square-foot headquarters of Vital Proteins, a fast-growing private retailer of health supplement products. Vital Proteins has assumed full occupancy of the four-story 939 W. Fulton Street, one block from Google’s Midwest headquarters in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood.

Who’s got their finger on the pulse of healthcare real estate?

The healthcare real estate sector has changed strikingly in the last decade, driven by aging demographics and increased ambition to deliver services outside of acute care settings. Over the next 10 years, the asset class will likely see even more drastic changes.

More than 120 Chicago CRE professionals came out to the 6th annual Healthcare & Medical Office Conference yesterday, hosted by REjournals. There were two panel discussions: the first gave the view from 30,000 feet at the state of the healthcare market while the second panel dove in on segmented solutions in healthcare and medical office buildings.

Skender Completes Expansion of Assisted Living Facility in Northbrook, Illinois

Skender, serving as base building and interior construction manager, has completed an expansion project at North Shore Place in Northbrook, approximately 20 miles north of Chicago.

Senior Lifestyle Corp. owns the assisted living facility. This is the second expansion project at the property that Skender has completed.

Chicago-Area Assisted Living Community Gets New Building

Skender has completed construction on the 40-unit memory care building of North Shore Place, a 156-unit luxury assisted living community in Northbrook, Ill. The development team also included design firm SAS Architects & Planners, civil engineering firm Manhard Consulting and structural engineering firm Bowman, Barrett & Associates. The owner, Senior Lifestyle, also assigned Skender to convert the former memory care wing into 32 assisted living units.

Chicago’s Garfield Green development proposal wins global design competition

On Wednesday, the mayor’s office announced Chicago’s Garfield Green housing proposal was selected as a winner in C40’s global Reinventing Cities competition. Now, the design team will take steps to make it a reality.

The contest invited cities to propose projects that turned vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and parking lots into innovative, sustainable development that could mitigate climate change. There were 14 cities that submitted 31 infrastructure and housing projects back in 2017.

Garfield Green was designed by architecture firm Perkins+Will for a 1.5-acre vacant site at the corners of Kedzie and Fifth avenues. It’s near the Garfield Park Conservatory and Kedzie Green Line station. The $22.3 million project has plans for 77 apartments: 32 affordable-rate units, 31 cooperative housing units, and 14 market-rate units. There’s 20,000 square feet of public space and a 12,000-square-foot public plaza.

Skender breaks ground on independent senior living facility in Crystal Lake

Skender, serving as base building and interior construction manager, has broken ground on Residences of Crystal Lake, a Turnstone Development-owned senior living facility located in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Turnstone Development, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), has developed over 1,680 affordable housing units for low-income families and seniors in Illinois and Florida since 1998.

The three-story, 63,000-square-foot facility will offer 60 affordable living units for seniors, and includes five ADA-accessible units, 12 adaptable units and two sensory units.

Robots have an increasingly important role in construction

Imagine if the entire population of Oakland, Calif., suddenly needed a new place to live. You’d have to find a way to build housing and infrastructure for nearly half a million people.

As dramatic as this scenario might seem, something comparable is happening daily. According to the United Nations, 400,000 new people enter the middle class every day. To accommodate this growing population, it is estimated that the construction industry will need to build an average of 13,000 buildings every day through 2050.

Skender starts interior construction of coworking firm Spaces’ Chicago HQ

The months-long redevelopment of the former Sports Authority building at LaSalle and Ontario has achieved a significant milestone with an affiliate of Next Realty, the building’s owner, completing the base building renovations. Skender, serving as general contractor, will soon start the interior renovation of the future eight-story, 80,000-square-foot space that will serve as the Chicago headquarters of Spaces, a fast-growing coworking office provider.

Factory-based construction with no siloes starts with a single source of truth

What you see is not always what you get in the design and construction industry. This lack of transparency can be especially true when it comes to taking a development project from plans to groundbreaking.

Architect’s renderings and 3D models are just the beginning. The designs are then translated by contractors on site, who have to deal with the reality of material availability, budgets, weather, and human fallibility, among other real-time challenges. Using traditional industry practices, the final product may look different or cost more—or both—than what a client sees on the proverbial drawing board.

At Skender, we are using technology to streamline and bring transparency to the entire building process—designing a building, manufacturing it in a new factory, delivering it to a site where it will be assembled into a building, and finishing the construction. The combination of new software and our unified product manufacturing approach is allowing us to break down inefficient siloes. The technology that makes the most difference is our digital single source of truth.

Women Have Created Paths For Upward Growth In Construction. Now They’re Working On The Next Step

The world of commercial real estate underwent a revolution in the past decade. Although much progress is still needed to reach equality, the overwhelmingly male-dominated profession made room for women to join as project developers, brokers, property managers and other positions, and many women seized the opportunities presented to ascend to the C-suite.

But men still completely dominate outside the office. On construction sites, men constitute more than 90% of the labor force, working a set of high-paying, unionized jobs, ones that can provide a middle-class lifestyle without requiring a college degree.

Office Wellness Has To Begin Long Before Move-In

Articles on office wellness are filled with tips and tricks on how to plan corporate outings, the benefits of yoga or whether to offer pretzels or fruit. While wellness initiatives like these may increase job satisfaction somewhat, many fail to address one sticking point. Employees can’t just be happy while exercising at a company-subsidized gym or having a snack — they need to be happy while hard at work.

Skender Completes Office Headquarters for ShopRunner in Chicago

Skender has completed construction of ShopRunner’s new 25,000-square-foot headquarters in Chicago. The e-commerce start-up company has relocated to 350 N. Orleans St. from 350 N. LaSalle St. The new office has full Wi-Fi capabilities, eliminating the need for data cabling.

A Tour of Skender’s Elegant Chicago Office

Skender, a construction company that offers design, construction, and manufacturing services, hired architecture and interior design firm Perkins+Will to design their new office in Chicago, Illinois.

Skender promotes five to leadership board

Underscoring its commitment to an award-winning employee culture that fosters talent and innovation, Skender announced the promotions of five key leaders. Jeff Janicek was named vice president and partner while Brian Bukowski, Joe Pecoraro, Tim Rogers and Brian Simons, CHC have been elevated to project executive and partner.

The Future of Fulton Market Lies in New Office Towers, Not Renovated Industrial Lofts

The first wave of major development in the Fulton Market neighborhood is coming to an end, but a new one is just beginning.

Sterling Bay set off the development explosion when it bought 1000 West Fulton, a cold storage building that towered over the once-industrial area west of the Loop, in 2012 for $12M and by 2015 transformed it into 1KFulton, the regional headquarters of Google. The influential tech firm’s arrival signaled that Fulton Market had become a true office submarket.

“That gave everyone the green light,” Skender Vice President Clayton Edwards said.

Skender chairman, Joseph Skender, to retire after 40 years

Joseph Skender, chairman of the board of directors at Chicago-based Skender, has announced his retirement and will take on the title of chairman emeritus at the design-build-manufacturing firm. Mark Skender will remain CEO and Cheryl Skender will continue as chair and president of Skender Foundation.

“There’s no way I could’ve imagined what this company would become when my father and I started the company decades ago,” said Joseph Skender. “I’ve always thought that as you’re climbing a ladder you shouldn’t look down. However, I am taking a moment to stop and be thankful for the journey that went into making Skender what it is today. It’s been an amazing ride.”

Skender Completes AZEK HQ in Fulton Market

Skender recently completed interior construction of the new 24,000-square-foot headquarters for The AZEK Company, which recently relocated to the Fulton Market District from suburban Skokie, IL.

Deciphering the Fine Print of Tenant Improvement Clauses

Take a close look at that “generous” tenant improvement (TI) allowance that the owner of a new building has offered. What, exactly, is covered? While the amount may be larger than that offered by the landlord of an older building, a careful analysis might reveal that you will barely break even — and you may even have to pay out of pocket.

Healthcare Developers Need Flexibility to Succeed

The world of healthcare real estate has experienced more profound change in the past few years than perhaps any other sector. Along with advances in medical technology, the transformation of healthcare delivery by the introduction of Obamacare has led providers to demand different types of facilities. And that means opportunities for developers and investors, if they understand the marketplace’s new realities.

Rising Costs Make Pre-Construction Planning More Essential in Senior Housing

Value engineering is an accepted inevitability in construction, and it’s become increasingly important as construction costs have been on the rise in senior living. But while smart value engineering will identify the best ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality, too much value engineering can compromise the vision and integrity of a project, and cause a developer to deliver a building that may be practically obsolete upon arrival.

Skender begins interior construction for Vital Proteins’ new Fulton Market HQ

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently launched the interior renovation of the future 40,000-square-foot headquarters of Vital Proteins, a private retailer of health supplement products. Vital Proteins is assuming full occupancy of the four-story 939 W. Fulton Street, one block from Google’s Midwest headquarters in Chicago’s lively Fulton Market neighborhood.

Sprout Social Maintains Rapid Growth With A Sleek And On-Trend Office Space

After previously completing its 7th-floor space in Chicago’s Citadel Center, the rapidly growing social media management company wanted their office environment to be an investment in their people. In adding more amenity spaces that catered to their needs, Sprout called on their general contractor, Skender, and architect, Partners by Design to create a 64,000-square-foot open, collaborative, and tech-driven space that will keep employees excited about their work and the space they do it in.

Skender employees take part in volunteer day

On Saturday, October 13, nearly 100 volunteers gathered at Skender’s new manufacturing facility for the firm’s annual volunteer day. Volunteers built wood wall panels for two homes that will be delivered to families in need via Skender’s partners for the event, Appalachia Service Project and Solid Rock Carpenters.

Skender completes independent living facility rehabilitation

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed a 50,000-square-foot full-building rehabilitation of Lake Merritt Apartments, an affordable housing development located at 1417 1st Avenue in Oakland, California. The four-story independent living facility is owned by Preservation Partners, a privately-held real estate company (and repeat Skender client) that specializes in the rehabilitation and permanent preservation of existing affordable housing assets.

Three Ways to Shatter Construction Silos and Win Efficiencies

Visionary design firm and ace construction crew: check and check. These are key personnel ingredients to a successful building process, and typically require multiple players, subcontractors, consultants, vendors, and contracts to get the job done. But what happens when you can use technological innovation and a product-based building processes to check all the boxes at once?

At Skender, we have a habit of asking new questions. The more our team pondered this one, the more we realized the potential value of bringing traditionally disparate pieces under one umbrella, using advanced manufacturing and technology.

Angela Spadoni Joins Skender

Angela Spadoni, AIA, has joined Skender as director of residential architecture, where she will oversee multifamily design projects, including the design of housing modules produced in Skender’s new Chicago manufacturing facility.


Confronting the challenge of affordable housing

Financing for and development of affordable housing has long been a critical issue in the U.S. In Chicago, over 440,000 households pay more than half of their income on housing, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While the need hasn’t gone away, creating workforce housing continues to be a challenge. From sourcing the money to back a project to sidestepping NIMBY and gentrification landmines, the situation hasn’t gotten any easier over the years. So what is the current state of affordable housing and what might be its prognosis?

Skender Completes 225K-SF Restack for HERE’s Americas HQ

Skender recently completed a 225,000-square-foot restack for location intelligence provider HERE Technologies at 475 N. Randolph St. Amsterdam-based HERE recently designated the Chicago office, now totaling more than 275,000 square feet, as the company’s Americas headquarters.


Skender Wraps Up Work on Flex Lab for Loyola

Skender has completed the construction of Loyola University Chicago’s new 10,000-square-foot engineering science flex laboratory. The new single-story building is intended to provide open space, movable furniture and equipment, and a collaborative environment for the university’s engineering science program.

Along with meeting the needs of engineering and other STEM students at Loyola, the new facility will allow the public to observe through the front of the building’s large glass façade.

Skender’s Healthcare Portfolio Growing as Firm Completes Several Projects for Major Chicago Health System

Skender’s healthcare team has won construction management assignments for several projects throughout Chicago. Among the projects recently started or nearing completion:

  • NM Immediate Care Clinic (West Loop, Chicago) – 5,500-SF build-out in new core and shell building at 171 N. Aberdeen featuring six exam rooms, an x-ray room, infusion treatment areas, laboratory space, staff lounge and work areas, and internal mechanical room with standalone air handling unit.


Skender Completes Prezi’s 3-story, 20,000-SQFT Office in San Francisco

Skender, serving as general contractor, has completed the renovation of Prezi’s three-floor, 20,000-square-foot office suite in San Francisco’s growing SoMa (South of Market) District. Skender completed the renovations for this innovative presentation software technology company in partnership with architect Gensler.

Skender completes affordable TOD on Chicago’s South Side

Skender, serving as base building and interior construction manager, recently completed Woodlawn Station, a transit-oriented affordable housing development in Chicago. Located just under the Cottage Grove Green Line CTA terminus station in Chicago South Side neighborhood Woodlawn, the mixed-use development features a main building that contains 55 units and two additional nearby buildings containing 12 and 3 units respectively. Occupation has begun in the 55-unit building and the 3- and 12-unit buildings will be completed at the end of this month.

The owner, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), hired Skender to complete its fifth new construction project along Cottage Grove Avenue, regenerating acres of blighted sites with affordable housing. Woodlawn Station returned a blighted sight back to use and also will provide much needed affordable housing for the neighborhood. According to POAH, its investments and partnerships are having a dramatic impact on Woodlawn—the population has grown 15 percent (the first increase in decades), new jobs are being created, the number of vacant properties has plummeted and violent crime has fallen by 40 percent.

Read more at REJournals > 

Elgin Tower Building Wins Preservation Award

The recent rehabilitation of the Tower Building in Elgin is being recognized with “one of the most prestigious preservation awards in the state,” as one Elgin historic preservation planner put it.

The 1929, 15-story former office building at 100 E. Chicago St. reopened in late January after being converted into 44 apartments. It is the recipient of the 2018 Landmark Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation preservation award for adaptive use. The awards ceremony is Sept. 15 in Chicago.

City staff members submitted the nomination recognizing developer Capstone Development Group and architect Webster Design, both of St. Louis, and Skender Construction of Chicago, historic preservation planner Christen Sundquist told the city council Wednesday.

Read more at the Daily Herald >

Skender breaks ground on senior lifestyle assisted living in Northbrook

Skender, serving as base building and interior construction manager, has broken ground on North Shore Place, a Senior Lifestyle-owned assisted living facility located in Northbrook, Illinois. This marks the second new construction project Skender has completed for Senior Lifestyle on this property after a 175,000-square foot, five-story, 157-unit assisted living facility located adjacent to current construction.

7 Ideas for Containing Construction Costs

Though the real estate industry has seen a development rebound over the past decade, rising construction costs are weighing down the buoyant market. The persistent skilled labor shortage makes staffing and maintaining sites expensive. Materials are pricier, and now tariffs on steel, aluminum and lumber imports may only make the problem worse. At the same time, interest rate growth is converging with all these issues, making project financing more difficult to obtain and more costly.

A recent survey of top construction lenders conducted by Construction Lender Risk Management Roundtable found that almost two-thirds said they saw projects running over budget either more often or much more often, and 87 percent said they saw projects running behind schedule, driving up the risk of project defaults and unfinished sites.

Everyone involved in the built environment — including real estate investors, developers, lenders, contractors and architects — is looking for ways to keep costs down without sacrificing quality, as well as eliminate the delays, mistakes and course corrections that bust budgets.

The future of healthcare design and construction? It’s factory made.

What if we could make patient care better and more accessible by applying intelligent design and manufacturing principles to build healthcare spaces?

Rising costs and complexity across healthcare and construction have made it more challenging to enhance patient experiences through new healthcare facilities. One solution: deliver customization via intelligent design. Technological advancements make it possible to manufacture many healthcare building components — think complete patient and treatment rooms — offsite, to be assembled onsite for higher quality, yet more-efficient construction.

At the same time, these added efficiencies allow providers and their teams access to better options at lower prices—ultimately making healthcare more accessible to the communities that need it the most.

Read more at Healthcare Facilities Today.

Skender Launches Interior Construction for 207,000-SF Chicago Office

Skender has begun interior construction on a 207,000-square-foot office in Lincoln Park, Ill., which will serve as the new Chicagoland home of C.H. Robinson.

Developed by Sterling Bay, the property is within the first Sterling Bay riverfront property in its Lincoln Yards development, which also happens to be a contender for the Amazon HQ2 bid.

“It’s a great space, brand new building, and kicks off the Lincoln Yards development,” Michael Andre, Skender’s project manager, told Commercial Property Executive“For C.H., the space they are in right now is a big space with a lot of bodies. The new space has a design with an open atrium concept that splits right down the middle, so it should be a very lively building.”

The top floor alone will feature approximately 1,200 workstation benches.


Skender and Sterling Bay have collaborated numerous times in the office, hotel and retail sectors throughout Chicago, with much of their partnering helping to shape the popular Fulton Market corridor.

Last month, Skender broke ground on a 14-story, 200-key Hyatt House hotel in Chicago’s West Loop. When completed, the 167,000-square-foot hotel will be the first extended-stay lodging in the city’s Fulton Market neighborhood.

Read more at Commercial Property Executive magazine.

5 Ways To Make Affordable Housing Development Feasible

U.S. cities continue to swell in population. But for people looking to live in urban areas, limited affordable options are the new normal.

The U.S. needs an additional 4.6 million apartments to meet demand by 2030, the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association estimate. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordability as housing for which the occupants pay no more than 30% of their household income on rent. But across all renter households, nearly half allocate more than 30% of their income toward housing.

Despite high demand, affordable housing inventory continues to decline while luxury development experiences oversupply across major markets. Discouraged by rising construction costs, land restraints and zoning regulations, developers favor market-rate housing. Apartment completions in the 150 largest U.S. cities increased to nearly 400,000 units in 2017, but luxury buildings accounted for almost 80% of the new supply in the current cycle.

“Recent developments in the tax credit arena have affected how developers are able to make new affordable housing projects viable,” Skender project executive Joe Pecoraro said. “The old formula just doesn’t work as well, if at all, in today’s new reality. Developers and their construction partners will have to explore new ways of financing deals and new ways of building to keep affordable housing deals cost-effective.”

The push for more affordable development has led some developers to look beyond government incentives. From working with nonprofits to partnering with a contractor specializing in lean construction, here are five ways to make affordable housing more cost-effective.

Continue reading this article on Bisnow.

Skender Breaks Ground on 14-Story Hyatt House Hotel in Chicago’s Fulton Market

Construction firm Skender has broken ground on a 14-story Hyatt House hotel in Chicago’s Fulton Market district. The 167,000-square-foot, 200-room development is located at 105 N. May St. The Hyatt House will be the first hotel in the Fulton Market district to cater to extended-stay corporate travelers. Amenities will include an indoor pool, green roof, fitness center and bar and lounge. Sterling Bay is the project developer, and Eckenhoff Saunders Architects is the architect. Completion is slated for summer 2019.


Movers + Shapers: Lean and Mean

Skender Executive Vice President Afshan Barshan identifies some payoffs of adopting Lean principles into Skender’s business practices.

Hack the Office: Turning Underperforming Spaces Into Workplaces of the Future

Towering glass office buildings are becoming obsolete.

As creative space gains traction among companies beyond the tech industry, opulent lobbies and renovated elevator bays no longer attract young workers like they used to. Professionals crave space designed around user experience. Office workers want a balanced place with room to collaborate, socialize and concentrate on heads-down work.

Spaces like converted warehouses pioneered the push toward customization. This replaced button-up environments with the collegial and modern feel companies have sought to adopt. These offices have become scarce in the market, and many are too small to support large companies. But traditional Class-A spaces, which used to accommodate these businesses, have experienced a market slowdown. In the Chicago Metro Area, vacancies fell 40 basis points to 17.4% in Q4.

Rather than build a new office from scratch and drive up vacancy rates further, design firms are exploring how underperforming assets can be remade into attractive creative space scaled to meet the needs of each individual. Gensler was among the first to pioneer the idea of hackable buildings, but the concept has since grown in popularity.

“Every company wants an office that is their own,” Skender Vice President Clay Edwards said. “‘Hacking’ the office allows users to build on an existing design, to take it from something impersonal and informal to a space that truly defines their brand and corporate culture. ”

A Personalized Welcome

Gensler’s plan for hackable office space adapts existing buildings through a series of project-based renovations. At the Latitude 34 office complex in Playa Vista, Los Angeles, one project included personal entry doors for each tenant. Rather than have every company in the building shuffle staff through the main lobby, individual front doors offer a connection between interior office space and the exterior facade. The design mimics comparable entry design in warehouse conversions and gives employees a sense of place and brand identity from the moment they arrive at the office.

Latitude 34’s makeover paid off. Video media company Fullscreen and media investment company GroupM both signed leases in the revamped office space in 2014.

Manipulating the volume of the interior space is another form of placemaking and personalization. At Latitude 34, one office space renovation called for the creation of two connecting floors, creating an open, loft-style environment. When Gensler moved into a former banking hall in Downtown Los Angeles, it followed a similar design philosophy, adding skylights and multilevel office space.  Erik Drost/Flickr The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C.

Optimizing Underutilized Space

The rise of mobile computing and remote work has changed the way workers use office space. Employees can work from coffee shops, on couches or even from home. Companies now have emptier offices. Some estimates placed 2015 office space levels at 30% of what they were in 1970.

By hacking office space, businesses transform underutilized desk space into new areas for collaboration or social activity. A well-lit corner of the floor can become a lounge space while kitchens and dining areas act as impromptu meeting spaces.

Areas of the office that were once overlooked have also entered the conversation. In its proposed remodel of the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., Gensler suggested adding a rooftop soccer field to the FBI HQ. The field would not only provide office users with an additional fitness space but also improve the urban landscape by becoming a public park.

Promoting Flexibility

Co-working made flexible work environments a possibility for emerging startups. Businesses can pick and choose the number of desks they need and adjust as the company grows or consolidates its workforce. Large companies have adopted the practice within their own spaces to accommodate shifting employee headcounts and various working styles. The conference room in demand today might not be necessary tomorrow.

Taking a cue from pop-up retail, hackable office design uses construction practices like movable walls and multipurpose spaces to deliver offices quickly, efficiently and with an emphasis on people. Employees retain the ability to adjust the space as their needs evolve.

At the 1871 tech center at the historic Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Skender worked alongside Gensler and JLL to deliver a collaborative tech incubator space in four months. After touring entrepreneurial work sites to learn about what tech workers needed, the design and construction team transformed the existing showroom space into an open office floor plan. Most of the space is designed for flexible use. The large common area can transform from 100 workspaces to a 275-seat auditorium.

Like a living, breathing organism, the Class-A office buildings of today have the potential to become the dynamic, attractive workplaces of tomorrow.

This article, authored by Travis Gonzalez with commentary by Skender’s Clay Edwards, originally appeared on

Heads Up: The 5 Hidden Expenses of Open Ceilings

Open ceilings, with their exposed ductwork and industrial vibe have become popular – but trendy rarely equals inexpensive. For many years, omitting the traditional drop ceiling was assumed to be not just cooler but also to cost less. Common sense seemed to be that by choosing open ceilings, the cost of the drop ceiling was simply avoided, saving on labor, materials and time.

2008 study of retail and office interior construction in five cities seemed to back up that assumption. Sponsored by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), the study found that initial construction costs for suspended ceilings were 15-22 percent higher than for open plenums in offices, and 4-11 percent higher in retail spaces.

Great news! Or was it? It appeared this popular feature that conveys a sense

of spaciousness and casual charm also saved money. Unfortunately, the news was premature.

Our years of experience have shown that open plenum ceilings have many benefits, but being cheaper isn’t one of them. It’s important to consider the hidden costs of open ceilings, which almost always make them more expensive, particularly over a building’s life cycle.

Hidden expense #1: Open does not mean unfinished

At first glance, it might seem contradictory to think that an open ceiling would cost more than installing a suspended ceiling system and infrastructure. The catch: there’s work required in both cases. Even when ductwork is exposed, it’s anything but unfinished. Hidden ductwork is typically blocky, dirty, oily and generally not aesthetically pleasing. Round or oval ducts deliver a more “finished” look but are significantly more expensive.

Hidden expense #2: Higher labor costs

As commercial construction has ramped up in recent years, developers are seeing a shortage of skilled labor in many trades, driving up construction costs. Open ceilings may involve lower material costs than suspended ceilings, but any savings is more than offset by the cost of labor-intensive tasks required for open plenum. For instance, this may include running all electrical distribution conduit tight to the deck above with the associated additional bends in the runs, rather than running all of the conduit that crosses paths at different elevations.

Hidden expense #3: Making it pretty

At a minimum, space users want everything painted, from the exposed ceiling to the ductwork and plumbing — a job that’s more complicated than simply painting walls. More significantly, existing infrastructure that’s been hiding behind suspended ceilings is often unsightly, requiring major work to make it attractive to employees or customers. In other words, the casual look of an open plenum is actually the result of substantial work.

Hidden expense #4: Sound considerations

In addition to visual considerations, open plenum plans come with a need for acoustical treatments. The panels in suspended ceilings are called acoustical tiles for a reason: they absorb sound to keep ambient noise levels from being disruptive. The hard surfaces of an exposed ceiling can create an echo effect that gets amplified as people talk louder to be heard over ambient noise.

Avoiding noise problems in open plenum plans comes at a cost. Office and retail users may install acoustical panels directly onto the deck, or suspend baffles to absorb sound in critical areas. Another solution: spray-on acoustical material on the ceiling’s hard, reflective surfaces. These products soften the surfaces to absorb some of the noise, and typically have other benefits such as thermal insulation and fire protection.

Hidden expense #5: Skyrocketing energy bills

Even if open plenum ceilings can be installed cost-effectively, there are operational cost considerations that can change the equation somewhat. A major trend in construction cost estimation is to look at the entire life-cycle cost of different solutions, including the cost of energy consumption and maintenance over time, as well as the initial materials and labor.

The CISCA study mentioned previously noted that energy costs were found to be lower in suspended ceilings than in open plenum ceilings. The savings ranged from 9 percent to 10.3 percent in offices, and from 12.7 percent to 17 percent in retail spaces studied. In addition, CISCA noted that open ceilings required frequent cleaning and periodic repainting. “Considering both first-time and operating costs, suspended ceilings are extremely cost effective,” the study concluded.

Weighing the pros and cons

The additional cost of open plenum ceilings shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Office and retail space should be designed and built to maximize its appeal to employees or customers and to enable productive use of the space; incurring an incrementally higher cost structure is a secondary concern. But users who are getting ready to build out space should be aware of the true cost of different alternatives to avoid surprises during construction. It’s natural to make the assumption that an informal, exposed ceiling is less expensive than a suspended ceiling — but the reality is often quite different.

This is the first in a two-part series on pros and cons of on-trend office and retail design elements. Stay tuned to Market Share for the second part of the series.

New Year, New Job

A new year signals fresh beginnings and, for many of you, finding a new job may be at the top of your list of resolutions.

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Lean Construction: Reducing Waste And Enhancing Value

Many designers, architects, engineers and contractors have discovered methods, collectively known as “Lean Construction,” to improve the overall process of creating a new project, along with cutting construction costs.

Medical Campuses Are Becoming Mixed-Use Hubs

At a growing number of hospitals across the country, it is now possible to have a cappuccino with your CAT scan. Mixed-use real estate is coming to healthcare, and more hospitals are integrating shops and appealing public spaces into their designs.

Skender Completes 52,000-SF Office Build-out for Glassdoor

Skender Construction recently completed a 52,000-square-foot office build-out for Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest and fastest growing job sites.

Located at 1330 W. Fulton Market in Chicago, the new open office workspace spans one and a half floors and features curved glass and drywall throughout, metal and wood integrated millwork, a curved operable partition, as well as two kitchens and a café.

Skender collaborated with design firm Valerio Dewalt Train Associates and owner’s representative Project Management Advisors, Inc. to complete the two-story build-out. Click here to watch a video of Glassdoor’s new space.

How Building Occupants And Construction Can Co-Exist

Contractors and end users need to decide on a construction method that fits budget, timing and safety concerns. For Skender, that means devising a plan that combines flexibility, creativity and regular communication.

Sixth Annual Summer Eclipse to Benefit Chicago Youth Programs

Skender Foundation will host its annual fundraiser, Summer Eclipse, on Thursday, July 20 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. This year’s event will help raise funds for Chicago Youth Programs (CYP), an award-winning organization that serves children across the entire city with a simple philosophy—to impact the long-term outcome of a child’s life, you must serve the child long-term. To that end, CYP shepherds youth at each stage of their journey to a life outside of poverty.

CYP provides over 40 comprehensive programs to at-risk youth, from birth through 25 years of age, living in the Washington Park, Near North / Cabrini Green, North Lawndale and Uptown  /Rogers Park neighborhoods. CYP is dedicated to serving those least likely to have access to support. These neighborhoods have some of the highest rates of youth living in poverty out of all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods. In Washington Park, CYP’s largest community program, 86% of children below the age of 18 are growing up in poverty. The need and isolation poverty creates, combined with underfunded schools and a lack of affordable after school or summer programs, feed into a cycle of poverty that is difficult to escape.

CYP Deputy Executive Director Cinaiya Stubbs said, “Chicago Youth Programs is thrilled to partner with the Skender Foundation and is extremely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Summer Eclipse as we both work toward our common goal of providing access and eliminating barriers.”

Since its 2012 inception, Skender Foundation has raised over $1,500,000 for more than 100 charitable organizations. Foundation Chair and President Cheryl Skender shared the motivation behind Summer Eclipse, “Everyone deserves a chance to achieve and succeed. It is our mission to help those who help break down barriers and build opportunities.”

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Skender Construction Named as a Best Place to Work in Illinois for Eighth Consecutive Year

Skender Construction was recently named as one of the 2016 Best Places to Work in Illinois. The awards program began in 2006 and is promoted by The Daily Herald Business Ledger in partnership with the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC), the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, MRA-The Management Association, the Small Business Advocacy Council, the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce and Best Companies Group.

This statewide survey and awards program was designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Illinois, benefiting the state’s economy, workforce and businesses. Skender Construction has been named one of the Best Places to Work in Illinois in the medium category.

“We’re thrilled to be recognized as a best place to work again this year. Our people play a big role in shaping our culture, and so many of our team members are passionate about making sure our culture evolves as we grow,” said Lisa Latronico, vice president of people & culture at Skender Construction.

The company has continued to evolve its culture by adding reverse reviews and enhancing formal training programs for all employees. Skender has also added Team Leaders, a select group of managers who are devoted to reinforcing culture initiatives by engaging a select group of managers to implement a variety of programs designed to connect executive goals with everyone throughout the organization.

“These individuals are enthusiastic about employee growth potential and the direction of the company as a whole,” Latronico added.

Companies from across the state entered the two-part process to determine the Best Places to Work in Illinois. Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process in Illinois and also analyzed the data and used their expertise to determine the final rankings.

Skender Construction will be recognized and honored at the Best Places to Work in Illinois awards ceremony coordinated by The Daily Herald Business Ledger on May 26 and will be profiled in a special publication on June 27. The final rankings will be announced at the event and announced on the Business Ledger website (

Skender Completes Construction of Bunker Labs at 1871

Skender Construction has completed construction of Bunker Labs, a veteran-owned business incubator within 1871 that supports fellow veteran entrepreneurs. Skender worked in collaboration with the Chicago office of global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will and multiple like-minded trade partners, volunteering services and donating materials to complete the buildout in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

With headquarters in Chicago and chapters in seven other cities, Bunker Labs is a program built by veteran entrepreneurs for veteran entrepreneurs. Their objective is to launch and accelerate veteran-owned businesses and create a new forum for high-performing veterans to meet and collaborate. To date, Bunker Labs has helped veterans start 120 different businesses across the United States.

“Our relationship with Perkins+Will and Skender Construction was critical, and it proves what can be achieved when like minds meet,” said Todd Connor, CEO of Bunker Labs. “Skender was our first partner in construction during the redesign. Without their support, we wouldn’t have known where to turn for what we really needed. Because of their care and excellent work, we have an accommodating, inspiring location for U.S. veterans to pursue their dream of owning and running a business.”

Perkins+Will designed the space to fulfill the need for current veterans to have a bold and flexible workspace to meet, interact and share ideas and experiences much like past generations have at their local VFW hall. From the graphic walls to the wood features, the notion of military verse tech begins to illustrate that of a mission control comprised of a hospitality and situation zone.

An interactive coin wall allows veterans to leave their mark by contributing their Challenge Coin as a symbol of their support for fellow entrepreneurs going through the Bunker Labs’ program. The abstraction of George Washington was chosen as he was the first General of the Armies of the United States, similarly in that this space serves as the flagship location and inspiration for future Bunker Labs locations across America.

“The more I got to know Todd, the more I realized how much Bunker Labs genuinely cares about U.S. veterans,” said Brian Skender, a project manager at Skender Construction. “That commitment inspired us to make the buildout one they would take pride in. By working together, we knew we would help empower people to reach their potential.”

4 Experts Share What’s Hot – and What’s Not – for Tech Office Trends

Having a killer office space in today’s tech-minded workplace is of utmost importance. More often than not, tech startups attract savvy workers with zero interest in working at your pop’s cubicled nine-to-five.

But what factors actually go into making an office hot or not? From paint color, desk size, and layout all the way to what neighborhood your office lives in, there are a ton of elements that can weigh in on your office’s hipness rating.

To help your office stay on fleek, we sat down with four experts to hear their thoughts on current office trends. With their help, you can keep your office as chic as they come.

Skender Construction on Office Layout: 

Is the open office trend still going strong?

The open office trend is still going strong in Chicago for two reasons. One: tech is using open office design to collaborate in real time and develop innovative products. Two: Corporate clients are taking cues from the tech sector and want to emulate their culture, so many organizations want open office layouts. They’re using it to attract top young talent, reduce square footage and be more efficient with their real estate.

But the open office is not for everyone, and the pendulum in many corporate environments is swinging a little too far. Employees who have to sit and focus for most of their day find it noisy and disruptive. Those who jumped on board early are now opting to add private space into the mix.

What are the most commonly requested build out features you are seeing?  

I think our clients want to be open, but they’re recognizing the need for greater balance. They’re looking for ways to increase collaboration and spontaneous interaction, and use their physical space to extend their brand. All of these strategies tie in to recruitment, retention and business development.

Focus rooms — small rooms with a table, chairs and writable surfaces — are gaining popularity. These rooms give employees the opportunity to get away from noise when needed and concentrate in a quiet environment.

Cafes used to be very utilitarian, but now people see value in creating a communal environment filled with natural daylight and higher-end finishes. Cafes are great for culture, and it’s a place where people interact with coworkers outside of their department.

Almost everyone is integrating their brand into their physical environment. We recently completed Enova’s new office space at 175 West Jackson, and they integrated their logo into the elevator bank so clients and employees experience their brand as soon as they stepped off the elevator. I’m seeing branding on walls, glass and even flooring.

And of course, exterior terraces or patios are a sought after amenity. But if a patio doesn’t logistically fit into the floor plan, it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. Some of our clients have brought the outdoors inside – they’ve used sunny corners, fake grass and plant walls to create an outdoor room inside their office.

Responses from Clayton Edwards, Vice President and Partner, Skender Construction. Photo via Skender.

Reprinted with permission from Built In Chicago. Read more on their website: 

Skender Completes Construction of Breakthrough FamilyPlex Facility

Skender Construction has completed construction on the $11.4 million Breakthrough FamilyPlex, a community center built to empower Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood and combat the area’s disadvantages. The 42,500-square-foot facility provides youth and preschool classrooms, a gymnasium, medical clinic with 10 exam rooms, art studio, community café, technology center, fitness center and playground for local residents. The new building is one of three operated by Breakthrough, a four-star urban ministries charity partnering with those affected by poverty to build connections, develop skills and open doors of opportunity.

“The Breakthrough FamilyPlex is quickly becoming a beacon of hope for the East Garfield Park community. Residents view it as a place where they can find support, inspiration and wellness,” says a Breakthrough spokesperson. “The FamilyPlex has enabled Breakthrough to increase its impact by expanding our youth development, early childhood education and community outreach programs. It is improving the lives of residents by providing them with technology resources, access to health care, a local fitness option and communal meeting spaces like the cafe. Once the ramp up plan is complete, it will also add an estimated 46 permanent jobs (30 full-time, 16 part-time) to the community. Breakthrough believes the FamilyPlex is more than just a building, it is a hub that connects the community.”

Skender served as general contractor in a joint venture with Ujamaa Construction for the Built Form-designed, LEED Silver certified project. Unique elements of the project included a precast gymnasium, commercial kitchen, and an architecturally modern atrium with skylights and custom steel stair and handrail system. Skender subcontracted local MBE/WBE/DBE firms to perform more than 50% of the work.


About Breakthrough Urban Ministries

Breakthrough is a community organization that serves as an anchor in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. Breakthrough provides a myriad of services in the community focusing on homeless intervention, youth development and neighborhood transformation. Since its foundation in 1992, Breakthrough has provided shelter for over 12,000 homeless Chicagoans, 1.8 million meals to homeless adults and supported over 890 youth through achievement-based programs and a network of caring adults.

Fourth Annual Summer Eclipse Raises More Than $325,000 For Local Charities

Skender Foundation hosted its annual fundraiser, Summer Eclipse, on July 16 at The Underground Chicago. This year’s charity partner and primary benefactor was OneGoal, the nation’s only teacher-led college enrollment and persistence organization. $25,000 of the money raised by sponsors and attendees will be donated to OneGoal, while the rest will be dispersed to various other charities dedicated to education and wellness throughout the course of the year. In the past, Summer Eclipse donations have gone to more than 70 different charity organizations.

Founded in 2003, OneGoal identifies, trains and supports our nation’s most effective teachers to lead underserved high school students to reach their full potential and graduate from college. Funds raised at Summer Eclipse will enable OneGoal to serve nearly 4,000 students in Chicago during the 2015-2016 school year.

“We are so grateful to be this year’s recipient and can’t thank Skender Foundation enough for its generosity and all that it means for our Fellows!” says OneGoal Director of Corporate & Individual Giving, Caitlin Jones. “This donation will allow us to continue expanding our program to more deserving Chicago students and will help empower them to reach the finish line of college.”

“We have been buzzing about this event for days! We met so many incredible people that will make a significant impact on the students that we serve” says OneGoal Chicago Executive Director, Sarah Berghorst. “Thank you to Skender Foundation for the opportunity, and moreover for being the type of partners that truly get involved with our work.”

“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s Summer Eclipse,” says Skender Foundation’s President, Cheryl Skender. “It has truly been a great partnership with OneGoal, and we are so impressed with the organization’s entrepreneurial mission and programmatic success. Many thanks go to our sponsors for their generous donations and to attendees for participating in such a wonderful evening.”

Skender Foundation’s next event, Harvesting Hope, will take place on October 15 at House of Blues Chicago. Hosted by the Builders’ Board, a committee of Skender Foundation, Harvesting Hope will benefit Foundations of Music, a nonprofit organization that provides programs designed to implement culturally relevant, hands-on music education for children in Chicago. For event announcements and photos, follow Skender Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

Skender Construction Announces Two New Executive Appointments

Skender Construction has announced two new appointments to its executive leadership team.

Lisa Latronico has been promoted from Human Resources Director to Vice President, People and Culture at Skender Construction. Latronico has been a vital member of the Skender team since 2001 and has since pioneered a number of acclaimed employee enrichment and recruiting programs, leading the firm to be consistently recognized as a best place to work in Illinois and Chicago. In her new role, Latronico will continue to lead Skender’s human resources team and cultivate the next generation of unrivaled talent and superior culture.

“The people at Skender are the fundamental force behind our success,” says CEO Mark Skender. “Lisa has more than embraced this ideology; she has guided our entire team to realize our vision. We are honored to have her as a part of our executive team.”

Jeffrey Janicek has joined Skender Construction as Vice President. A 29-year construction veteran, Janicek brings a diverse background to the firm, with specific expertise in the healthcare, higher education and commercial market sectors. Janicek has managed the construction of large, highly-technical ground-up facilities for projects throughout the Midwest, including the Silver Cross Replacement Hospital in New Lenox, Ill. and The University of Chicago’s North Residence Hall and Dining Pavilion in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Janicek is a trustee for the Illinois Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff to our team,” says President Justin Brown. “His collaborative mindset and client-focused management approach make him a great fit for our organization and our continued growth.”

Skender Construction, Eastlake Studio, JLL complete Cision’s new global headquarters in Chicago

Construction is complete on Cision’s new 50,000-square-foot global headquarters at One Prudential Plaza in Chicago, Illinois. The buildout was completed by general contractor Skender Construction, architect Eastlake Studio and project manager JLL.

Cision and similar public relations software firm Vocus merged in 2014 and operate under the Cision banner. The new Cision, boasting 1,500 employees and revenues of $315 million worldwide, relocated their combined global headquarters to Chicago. Prior to the merger, Cision was based in Stockholm, Sweden and Vocus in Beltsville, Maryland and. The new headquarters houses more than 300 Chicago-based employees, including the executive leadership team, and leaves room for growth to 400.

Cision’s Swedish roots influenced the space’s clean, open design. Reclaimed barn wood accents the elevator lobby, reception area and walls throughout. Movable partitions and a central kitchen/town hall space keep the office inviting and versatile. Open ceilings, shared work stations, collaborative hubs and glass-doored conference rooms augment the firm’s culture of open communication, innovation and story-telling.

Skender Completes Construction of American Society of Anesthesiologists Headquarters

Skender Construction completed construction of the new corporate headquarters for the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), an educational, research and scientific society to raise and maintain the standards of anesthesiology. Located in Schaumburg, IL, the new 77,000-square-foot, three-story, highly custom headquarters houses ASA’s more than 200 local employees and supports the organization’s membership functions, education and communication departments, an anesthesiology library/museum and various other services. Development Resources, Inc. was the project manager, and Tilton, Kelly + Bell was the architect.

The new headquarters is a glass and steel façade structure with an open, inviting interior, which nearly doubles ASA’s previous offices in Park Ridge, IL. The space’s dramatic atrium with a monumental staircase is capped with a skylight, clerestory windows and LED lights. Located on the first floor are a 250-seat conference room/auditorium equipped with advanced communications technology, cafeteria and climate-controlled, moisture-resistant Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology. The upper floors house staff offices.

Construction of ASA’s headquarters began in April 2012, but several weeks of pre-planning preceded the groundbreaking. The team used Building Information Modeling (BIM) to lay out the critical systems and infrastructure of the building and collaborative schedule planning to ensure that every detail would be covered and the job progressed smoothly. Unique requirements of the project included determining what specific materials should clad the building and how the curtainwall would be installed. To address these challenges considering the exact location of the building and surrouning elements, the team built a ten-feet wide, 30-feet high, on-site mock-up. Two months of testing numerous materials and constructions on the mock-up resulted in a strong, visually stunning exterior, that still minimized costs and maximized value for ASA. The project was completed in 12 months.

“How the building turned out exceeded everybody’s expectations,” says ASA’s previous chief human resource officer Karen Buehring. “I can’t say enough about Skender Construction and how well they worked and kept all the other vendors on track.”

Motorola Mobility Wins ENR Midwest Best Project and CoreNet Chicago Project of the Year

The Motorola Mobility Headquarters Relocation project has been recognized with two regional project of the year awards: ENR Midwest Best Interior Design/Tenant Improvement Project and CoreNet Chicago Project of the Year. The new headquarters, located in Chicago’s historic Merchandise Mart, was completed by project manager CBRE, architect Gensler, general contractor Skender Construction, MEP engineer Environmental Systems Design and structural engineer Klein and Hoffman.

Both awards solidify Motorola Mobility and the project team as local leaders in design, engineering, construction and innovation. One of the largest tenant build-outs to take place in Chicago and the city’s single largest leasehold since 2005, the project encompasses four floors and more than 670,000 square feet, including general office space, R&D laboratories and a rooftop terrace. The project also includes a 65,000-square-foot off-site manufacturing and production facility, Motorola Global New Product Operations (GNPO). With nearly 500 construction workers on site at any given time and over 2,000 employees relocated, the project was completed within an astonishing timeframe of 10 months. Motorola Mobility and Motorola GNPO were awarded LEED Platinum and LEED Gold Certification, respectively.

“Recognition from our industry really memorializes the team’s achievements in a time when other great projects are being completed in and around Chicago,” says Stephen Monaco, Head of Global Real Estate & Workplace Services, Motorola Mobility. “But some of the most rewarding moments have been from the Motorola employees who realize we did this for them and our company’s future.”

ENR Midwest’s Best Projects annual competition recognizes outstanding design and construction in a range of categories. ENR recognized Motorola Mobility as best interior project on the basis of quality, innovation, safety, contribution to the community and the ability of their project team to overcome unique challenges. The project team was celebrated and honored at an awards breakfast on November 20 and was profiled in the November 17 edition of ENR Midwest. The project will go on to compete in ENR’s National Best of the Best Projects Competition.

CoreNet Chicago recognized Motorola Mobility as a project in the Chicagoland area that demonstrated innovation in design, use of real estate, functionality and technology that has supported the end user’s mission and contributed to its successful position in its market. The Motorola project team was recognized at the CoreNet Chicago REAL Awards Dinner on November 13.

Skender Completes Construction of North Shore Place

Skender Construction has completed construction of North Shore Place, a new 156-unit assisted living and memory care community for seniors in Northbrook, IL. The new five-story community is located at 1000 Sunset Ridge Road and consists of luxury retirement apartments as well as state-of-the-art memory care accommodations. Senior Lifestyle Corporation is the owner and operator.

Construction of North Shore Place, a cast-in-place structure set on 7.2 acres, began in February 2013. SAS Architects and Planners was the project architect. The design and construction team utilized Lean Project Delivery methods and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to maximize collaboration and increase quality and speed of delivery. The community  was open for occupancy in August 2014.

The completed community features large, private one- and two-bedroom apartments with high-end finishes. The second floor is devoted to memory care services, with 24/7 nursing staff and secure spaces that allow residents with Alzheimer’s or other forms of age-related dementia to thrive. The community also includes a variety of  amenities, including a salon and spa, café, formal dining areas, fitness center and recreation rooms.

Summer Eclipse raises over $320,000 for local charities

Skender Foundation hosted its third annual Summer Eclipse on July 17. Over 400 people attended the fundraiser, held at The Underground Chicago, raising over $320,000 for charity partner ChiArts and various other local organizations impacting education and wellness.

This year’s highlighted cause and primary benefactor was ChiArts, Chicago’s first public high school for the performing and visual arts. Funds raised at Summer Eclipse will support the school’s privately-funded arts curriculum, from space and supplies to pre-professional classroom training and external performance opportunities.

“The level of training our school provides would not be possible without these types of private contributions to underwrite the Arts Conservatories at ChiArts” says ChiArts executive and artistic director José Ochoa. “The donation from Skender Foundation will help support our programs in creative writing, dance, music, theatre and visual arts, as well as the transition into our new permanent home in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.”

“This was our most successful Summer Eclipse yet,” says Skender Foundation president Cheryl Skender. “But even more importantly, as our ticket sales and contributions continue to grow, our cost of operations stays well below industry standard.” This year the Foundation spent less than 11% on event expenses. Skender continues, “I couldn’t be more proud to turn over such a substantial portion of proceeds to those who truly deserve it.”

Skender Foundation’s next event, Harvesting Hope, will take place October 16 at Rockit Bar & Grill. Hosted by the Builders’ Board, Harvesting Hope will benefit Urban Initiatives, a nonprofit organization that runs health, education, and character development programming for kids in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). For event announcements and photos, follow Skender Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

Skender Construction Named One of Chicago’s “Best & Brightest” 2014

Skender Construction was named one of Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For for the seventh consecutive year. The regional competition, sponsored by the National Association for Business Resources, honors organizations that display a commitment to excellence in their human resources practices and employee enrichment. Organizations are assesed based on categories such as communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, recognition retention and more.

Skender was recognized with fellow winning companies at an awards luncheon at Oak Brook Marriott on July 21. A consistent leader in employee satisfaction, Skender has also been recognized as the No. 1 Best Place to Work in Illinois and a Crain’s Chicago Business Best Place to Work.

Brett Opie joins Skender Construction as Vice President

Skender Construction has announced a new executive appointment to strengthen the company’s business development initiatives.

Brett Opie has joined Skender as Vice President. A 20-year commercial real estate veteran, Opie brings a range of multifaceted industry experience to the growing company, including brokerage, development, landlord / tenant representation and sales management. Opie will work in tandem with Skender’s executive leadership team to help expand existing markets, explore new business territories and continue to foster mutually prosperous partnerships.

“We could not be more thrilled to welcome Brett to our team,” says Justin Brown, President of Skender Construction. “I have worked with Brett extensively in the past, and his ability to bring people together is remarkable. His relationship-driven work style complements our culture, and as we build our team and our presence throughout Chicago, his fresh perspective will be that next step in the right direction.”

Prior to joining Skender, Opie was Regional Sales Director for Arcestra, a company specializing in software solutions for the commercial real estate industry. He also served as Executive Vice President at Development Resources, Inc. (DRI), as well as Senior Vice President at CBRE.

Skender Construction named No. 1 Best Place to Work in Illinois 2014

Skender Construction has been named the No. 1 Best Place to Work in Illinois for the second consecutive year. In 2014, Skender, last year’s leader of the small employer category, joined the ranks and made the top of the list of medium-sized companies.

The awards program, promoted by The Daily Herald Business Ledger, was designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Illinois, benefiting the state’s economy, workforce and businesses. Companies from across the state entered into the survey program to determine the Best Places to Work in Illinois. A total of 65 area businesses were then recognized at an awards ceremony on Monday, May 12 for providing employees with a successful work environment.

Human resources director Lisa Latronico accepted the award on Skender Construction’s behalf. “We are going through a growth spurt and expect more growth for 2015,” says Latronico. “Our employee-centric culture and benefits programs help attract the best talent.”

Consistently leading the construction industry for its outstanding commitment to employee satisfaction, Skender offers its staff company sponsored health insurance, a 401(k) profit sharing plan, continued education reimbursement, health and wellness packages, paid vacation and holidays, service awards for multiple years of service, innovation awards, a mentoring program and regular company activities and outings. The company has also been named one of the Best Places to Work by Crain’s Chicago Business and Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for.

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About the Best Places to Work in Illinois program
The Best Places to Work in Illinois program began in 2006 and is promoted by The Daily Herald Business Ledger in partnership with the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC), the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Boards of Metropolitan Chicago and managed by Best Companies Group. For more information on the Best Places to Work in Illinois program, visit or contact Katie Smith at 877-455-2159.

Dan Marijan Promoted to Partner at Skender Construction

Skender Construction has announced the promotion of Senior Superintendent Dan Marijan to Partner at the firm.

Dan Marijan has been a Senior Superintendent at Skender Construction for over ten years and has 30 years’ experience managing construction sites throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. He has managed some of the largest and most complex projects in the city, including Motorola Mobility Headquarters Relocation, NAVTEQ Headquarters Relocation and CVS Caremark Advanced Technology Pharmacy. He is currently overseeing the field operations of Google at 1K Fulton and Braintree at the Merchandise Mart.

As Senior Superintendent and Partner, Dan will continue to lead the superintendent team and focus his operational efforts on process improvement and field integration. He joins his colleagues Joseph Skender (Chairman of the Board), Justin Brown (President), Mark Skender (Chief Executive Officer), Afshan Barshan (Vice President), Andrew MacGregor (Vice President) and Clay Edwards (Vice President) on Skender’s leadership board.

“Dan has always been a leader at Skender,” says Justin Brown. “I have worked with him personally for over 14 years, and he has always been admired for his ability to build personal connections and ignite a spirit of camaraderie on all jobsites. Our team cannot thank Dan enough for his contributions and service over the past decade.”

Skender Construction Announces a New Generation of Leadership and Partners

Skender Construction, a general contractor headquartered in downtown Chicago, announced today that it has promoted a number of executives to new levels of leadership. This change will allow the company to build an exciting corporate culture unparalleled in the construction industry and poise itself for continued growth.

Joseph Skender, currently president of Skender Construction, has been named chairman and will lead the company’s newly-established Board of Directors. As a leader who has served as president for 35 years, his continuous focus on the future aided in transforming a company that was once known only for building multi-family housing developments. Today, the company builds in the healthcare, corporate interiors, senior housing, multi-unit housing, retail, commercial and technology market sectors.

“Over the years strategic planning has guided our growth, but the people who make up Skender Construction are really the guiding force behind our success. They reinforce that building a company and any construction project begins and ends with building strong relationships,” said Skender.

Executive Vice Presidents Mark Skender and Justin Brown will provide the next level of leadership. Mark Skender joined the company in 1989 and has been instrumental in innovating the company’s operational processes. He will take over as Chief Executive Officer. Brown joined the company in 2005 and played a key role in expanding the firm’s market sector expertise. Brown has been named president and partner. Chief Financial Officer Jerry Ball has also been named partner.

Three project executives have also been promoted to vice president and partner. Afshan Barshan, Andrew MacGregor and Clayton Edwards have all played a long-term role in the company’s success.

“Our world is constantly changing, and we recognize that in order to stay at the forefront, we must continually listen and create a structure that focuses on agility, fosters opportunity and maximizes value for our clients,” said (Mark) Skender.



Joseph Skender is Chairman of Skender Construction. Under his direction, the company has become one of the largest general contractors in the country, achieving revenues of over $250 million. Joseph is the driving force behind establishing Skender Construction’s entrepreneurial culture, setting a long-term vision and ensuring stable growth through strategic market diversification. He is an avid supporter of charitable and community organizations, including SOS Children’s Villages. In 2012, he took his passion for philanthropy one step further and established Skender Foundation, a private foundation that supports numerous education and wellness causes throughout Chicago. He is a member of the DePaul University Driehaus College of Business Advisory Council, the Executives’ Club of Chicago, and the Economic Club of Chicago. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from DePaul University.



Mark Skender joined the company in 1989 and managed operations and business development of the company’s housing, healthcare and institutional market sectors. As Executive Vice President and Partner, Mark played a key role in establishing the firm’s culture, strategic direction and innovating operational best practices. Mark is a founding member of the Lean Construction Institute Chicago Community of Practice.



Justin Brown joined the company in 2005. Under his direction, the company diversified and expanded market sector expertise. His progressive leadership has played an essential role in developing the company’s culture of long-term relationships, partnership and loyalty.



Jerry Ball joined Skender Construction in 2003. As Chief Financial Officer, he manages the successful growth of the company and ensures that Skender’s financial stability is sound. He has served in the United States Army and is a member of the Construction Financial Management Association.



Afshan Barshan joined Skender Construction in 2005. With nearly 20 years’ experience, Barshan has overseen projects in the healthcare, senior housing and multi-unit housing market sectors. He is widely recognized as one of Chicago’s experts in Lean Project Delivery, and was a founding member of the Lean Construction Institute Chicago Community of Practice. Barshan has managed projects for Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Sunrise Senior Living and the University of Chicago. He holds a Master of Science in Construction Management from Michigan State University.



Since joining the company in 2006, Andrew MacGregor has managed large-scale, complex interior tenant improvement and ground-up commercial projects throughout Chicago and on the West Coast. Over the years he has built a reputation for being an upfront collaborator, helping owners and architects work through undefined project scopes. MacGregor has overseen the construction of Motorola Mobility’s new Chicago headquarters. He also managed the construction of Chicago’s high-profile tech incubator, 1871.



Clayton Edwards joined Skender Construction in 2006, and has managed millions of square feet of interior tenant improvement projects throughout Chicago. A client-centric and results-oriented leader, Edwards is adept in developing comprehensive pre-construction plans to achieve clients’ specialized project goals. He has managed countless projects in the corporate, non-profit and high tech-market sectors, among others. Some of Edwards’ notable projects include United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, Fresenius Kabi, Nokia and ACCO Brands’ corporate headquarters. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering from Purdue University.