The Executive Minute Nick Francis, Construction Division Director

Q) What are the most critical issues facing the construction industry today?

A) In addition to Covid-19, drastic increases in lumber prices have resulted in established budgets being revisited, and higher-than-usual bidding on potential projects. The resultant increases may directly impact the viability of future work.

 

Q) How has Covid-19 changed how you build projects on a day-to-day basis?

A) Yes, daily sign-ins with temperature checks is just one implemented change. PPE now includes face masks.  And, GIS International has to stay up to date with federal and regional regulations related to the pandemic. In addition, due to Covid-19, communicating, implementing and policing best practices has been an unforeseen draw on company resources.

 

Q) What did you learn from your time working in Alaska?

A) While there are plenty of commonalities wherever a building is built, there are also significant regional differences. Viewing projects strictly through a macro lens is a recipe for failure. Taking the time to understand the unique challenges and opportunities of a given area can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful project. As it relates to Alaska, remote work is much more common (there). Developing a system to efficiently use labor without jeopardizing the labor pool’s company commitment is a balancing act.

 

Q) What job skills are the most critical for success in the construction-management business?

A) The importance of different skill sets varies between each position. However, the one skill set every member of the construction management team should hone is multitasking.

 

Q) How would you describe your leadership style?

A) Servant leadership. As a leader you need to establish clear goals and put the team in a position to achieve said goals. I think listening to employees is the backbone of successful management.

The Executive Minute

Nick Francis, Construction Division Director

 

 

 

GIS in the News

New 6-Story Mixed-Use Development on 109th, GIS Plaza, Breaks Ground

Bellevue Downtown Network, Aug. 3, 2020

New GIS Headquarters in Bellevue Includes Housing in 6-Story Complex

Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, July 28, 2020

Seattle’s March Toward Legacy City

Urban Development Special Issue, Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, July 30, 2020

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Project Site Tour Grand Ridge Drive Villa – Issaquah

GIS International Group finished construction on a custom-built single-family home on Grand Ridge Drive, just a stone’s throw from the celebrated Issaquah Highlands neighborhood. The 10,000-square-foot luxury home — offering convenient access to I-90 and a host of urban amenities, yet immersed in nature near Squak Mountain State Park and Tiger Mountain State Forest — is a modern-day mansion that’s part of one of the most elite private communities in the region.

The home features an 8-car garage perfect for collectors or auto enthusiasts, a custom-built entry fountain, a serene private garden and a state-of-the-art entertainment and security system, not to mention 5 spacious bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms to meet the needs of most every discerning homeowner. The villa, designed by renowned residential architect Scott Hommas of Gelotte Hommas Drivdahl, was developed and custom-built by GIS’s expert team.

GIS expects to construct a number of other luxury homes along Grand Ridge Drive in the near future.

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Market Perspectives – Design + Development During a Global Pandemic

The global pandemic has  disrupted most every facet of our lives — from how we maintain health and wellness to ways in which we safely navigate the physical space. For the past 7 months, the real estate industry has been reassessing how commercial and residential buildings are planned and developed. It represents a wholesale shift in thinking about life during Covid-19, something that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

As such, at GIS, we’re constantly looking for innovative ways to support our homeowners and residential tenants during this momentous time. That means rethinking individual and communal spaces to ensure they’re accommodating our changing lifestyles.

 

With so many people working from home these days, it’s important our multi-family residents have the space they need to operate business from home. Oftentimes, that means creative design solutions for living- and bedroom space that supports daily-work needs. And, with less time being spent with neighbors, we’re redesigning many of our common areas – sometimes, during construction at projects like Madison Plaza in Kent – to provide for the appropriate social distancing. The same goes for single-family homeowners, too, who suddenly find themselves needing a home office, or a home gym, due to the associated risks of heading downtown or working out at the local health club.

Our space-planning efforts go well beyond these logistical changes, however. Covid-19 is requiring GIS and other real estate companies to reconsider every area of the home. So, we’re designing many of our next-generation residential buildings with sanitization stations at lobby entries, and powder rooms at the front entrances of our apartments and single-family homes.

 

We’re putting in place operational systems to clean our common areas every hour, if not more frequently, to ensure our residents and their guests stay healthy and well. GIS is also employing Covid-sensitive residential amenities programs — both a la carte and subscription-based — featuring safe and secure package access and retrieval, home maid services, and in-home mobile salon services, to name just a few.

For the future, GIS and our design partners are looking at ways to improve internal air quality with state-of-the-art equipment that purifies — beyond industry requirements — the air we breathe, whether at home or in shared community spaces. With such a premium being put on space due to the pandemic and rising construction costs, we’re also getting the most out of our residential buildings by creating flexible work/live spaces, redistributing cabinetry and other storage, and even employing some apartments with Murphy beds.

Covid-19 has completely changed our work and lifestyle environments, and it’s an issue we’ll likely be dealing with for years to come. At GIS, we’re employing best-in-class design and construction methods to meet the pandemic head-on, with the goal of addressing the ever-changing needs of our residents and homeowners.

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Market Perspectives – Complex Site Development

Demand for centrally located property in Seattle remains high, despite health and economic concerns from the Covid-19 global pandemic. But geographic constraints, in addition to the waning supply of developable parcels, makes new development increasing difficult.

GIS views these market obstacles more like opportunities — for specialization. We have a long history of developing and constructing buildings on highly complex urban parcels characterized by the following conditions:

  • Environment clean-up
  • Tight urban parcels
  • Steep slope sites

Project Site Tour

Madison Plaza in Kent

GIS recently started construction on Madison Plaza, a 7-story mixed-use residential building with 157 market-rate units over a 2-floor retail podium. The site is unbeatable — just steps away from Kent Station, the ShoWare Center, and a host of other local service and lifestyle amenities.

Designed by IHB Architects, Madison Plaza features a robust on-site amenities program – 1,200 SF of ground-floor retail, secure entry lobby, water features, fitness center, game-room lounge area, bike storage and washing, turf and dog run, BBQs and a 12,000-SF rooftop gathering space, to name just a few. The building will also have 157 parking stalls for residents and their guests.

The TOD is perfect working professionals, particularly those in the tech space. And, there’s tremendous demand for upscale apartment homes in the area, with most existing projects at least 3 years old. Construction will be complete in approximately 24 months.

custom home
Q:  What are the most critical issues facing the future health of our industry?

A: There are several, for sure, with a couple that immediately come to mind. First, the regulatory climate has become a major issue for new project development and permitting, especially with the complexity of commercial projects, evolving infrastructure, and the recent pandemic. The barriers to entry are now so high that the separation between giant projects and infill developments is becoming wider and wider every year.The other issue, which is related, that I think about frequently these days is the remote-work environment. Its adoption in construction and real estate has been pretty seamless, in fact. But as industry professionals become used to remote working, it’s getting harder to convince them that real, one-to-one face time remains critical for problem resolution, team cohesion and collaboration. In addition, measuring employee performance remains a significant issue — and sometimes, a challenge — in today’s remote work environment.

Read More from Our CEO Here
Eugene Gershman

The Executive Minute

Eugene Gershman, CEO, GIS International Group

 

 

 

GIS in the News

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The Executive Minute


Eugene Gershman
Eugene Gershman, CEO, GIS International Group
Q:  What are the most critical issues facing the future health of our industry?

A: There are several, for sure, with a couple that immediately come to mind. First, the regulatory climate has become a major issue for new project development and permitting, especially with the complexity of commercial projects, evolving infrastructure, and the recent pandemic. The barriers to entry are now so high that the separation between giant projects and infill developments is becoming wider and wider every year.The other issue, which is related, that I think about frequently these days is the remote-work environment. Its adoption in construction and real estate has been pretty seamless, in fact. But as industry professionals become used to remote working, it’s getting harder to convince them that real, one-to-one face time remains critical for problem resolution, team cohesion and collaboration. In addition, measuring employee performance remains a significant issue — and sometimes, a challenge — in today’s remote work environment.

Q:  What are our most profound obstacles to growth in this region?

A: Overregulation is by far the most profound obstacle to growth in our region. Real estate development is such a complicated process, requiring such a lengthy approval process, that it sometimes can create unnecessary barriers. These barriers limit supply, which in turn causes indefinite cost escalation. A typical commercial project takes between 18 to 24 months to permit, on average. Inconsistencies in review process, and uncertainty in jurisdictional interpretation of certain codes can increase the cost of new projects — therefore, causing an ultimate increase in housing prices. A more streamlined approval and permitting process for single- and multi-family residential projects could help significantly reduce housing costs, an outcome that we can all embrace.

Q:  How has Covid-19 had a positive change on the way you conduct business on a daily basis?
A: GIS was able to set up a reliable remote work environment to allow our office to perform most of their required tasks from home (excluding construction field operations). In the beginning of lockdown, we introduced company-wide weekly “virtual happy hours,” which have become important team-building exercises. These meetings are optional, but most team members do sign in for some social interaction every Friday afternoon. We play virtual games, share stories, and tell jokes, which is very important for people who do not normally interact on a daily basis.
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Home Office Design Trends to Maximize Remote Working Productivity

If the COVID-19 pandemic has you working from home for the first time, you’re likely encountering some issues with productivity. Making the shift to a remote work environment can be a difficult task.

There’s plenty of distractions at home, and holding yourself accountable can be a tough feat. If you add children, dogs, Netflix, or neighborhood noises to the mix, it can seem like it’s impossible to remain focused while working from home.

Thankfully, there are several things you can do to improve your focus and increase your productivity. It all begins by ensuring that your home office is designed with productivity in mind.

Here are a few office design trends to get you started on the right track. With a little ingenuity and forward-thinking, it’s entirely possible to maximize productivity while working remotely.

Trend #1: Embrace Minimalism

Minimalism isn’t just a trendy word for nomadic, tiny house owners and housewives. No, the minimalist movement has taken a foothold in virtually every facet of the design world, including the home office.

There’s a good reason for it, too. Minimalism is all about eliminating clutter and getting rid of the things you don’t need. Doing so allows you to focus on what matters. Think of it this way, if you have to work in your remote office amongst stacks of paper, and busy decoration, you’re liable to get distracted.

Instead, focus on only keeping what you need in your home office. Minimalism also focuses on space-saving techniques. So, in the home office, that could mean built-in desks, sliding pocket doors, or hidden storage solutions.

Ultimately, minimalism allows you to free up your brainwaves so that you can focus on the work at hand and maximize your productivity.

Trend #2: Add in Natural Features

Natural elements are a huge trend in home design this year. Natural features are also making waves in offices and other commercial properties, too. So, it’s not a leap to include them in your home office’s design. Aside from the fact that natural elements are trendy, these features also promote a wide range of benefits.

Adding plants and natural sunlight is scientifically-proven to increase organization and improve job satisfaction. Moreover, exposure to plants and sunlight reduces depression and anxiety levels.

So, add a plant to your desk or the corner of your office. Succulents, cacti, and bonsai trees are a few charming low-maintenance options. If you have a window in your home office, keep it open during the workday.

Trend #3: Enclose Yourself and Reduce Distractions

If your home office is in the living room or is in a guest bedroom, getting focused and staying productive can be even more challenging. You not only have to battle your own attention level, but you have to worry about being interrupted. Since more people are unexpectedly working from home these days, there’s a new trend emerging.

Rather than accepting the living room as a viable working space, people are turning to solutions like screen wall panels or other separation panels. This allows them to create an enclosed space for working. If this is your situation, you should consider jumping on this trend so that you can close yourself off from the distractions around the house.

Trend #4: Go Blue

When it comes to colors for your home office, the only real rule is to choose a color that you love. However, if you really want to activate the productivity, there’s some science to color selection.

The color blue increases focus and promotes relaxation, all the while boosting productivity. You can paint your entire office blue, paint one wall of your office blue, or just decorate the office with blue décor.

The benefits of blue don’t stop there. There’s been a lot of studies done on the best lighting for increasing workflow. Natural sunlight ranks number one, but blue-enriched light bulbs are an excellent second choice. Research suggests that blue-enriched light bulbs increase happiness, improve alertness, and reduce overall eye strain.

(As a side note, blue-enriched light bulbs are not the same as the blue light that emanates from your computer and phone screens. That type of blue light can have the opposite effect. So, be sure to take plenty of screen breaks during your workdays).

Trend #5: Think About Comfort

While working remotely presents many hurdles, there are also a lot of benefits. One of those is that you can control your environment and maximize comfort.

We all have images of ornately decorated “studies,” with large bookshelves, and bullishly large desks permanently etched in our brains as the standard for home office design. However, this aesthetic isn’t practical anymore.

Nowadays, the trend for the home office can be surmised in one word: comfort. Your office should be catered to you. From the chair to the lighting to the color scheme, it’s about designing your office space to cater to your productivity needs.

This makes sense because if you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to focus on anything except how uncomfortable you are. When you eliminate that distraction, your productivity soars. This sort of benefit doesn’t exist in traditional office settings, which is why more people are taking advantage of the power to craft their home office designs around their unique needs.

Maximize Your Remote Working Productivity

These five trends are all centered around maximizing your productivity while working remotely. If you design your home office with these trends in mind, you’ll maximize your productivity in no time.

 

Jordan Swift is a contributor to the Innovative Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Jordan is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.

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The DIY-er

We have had the pleasure in recent years to mostly get our business through referrals. We consider referrals the highest compliment we can receive. We do get several inquiries from folks via our website or that call us up to get us to “bid” on a project. We are always humbled with these opportunities to ‘compete’ for business. It seems in a majority of the cases that we are being used or “shopped” to keep someone else honest, and in many cases we are being asked what is the difference between us and them, in terms of how we charge for our services and structure our fees.

Somewhere about 80% of people we talk to seem as if they never intend to use us or even one of our competitors when we meet and speak to them. Their first question invariably is, “What is your price per foot?” which we always compliment our potential clients by acknowledging that that is a question smart people should be asking. A lot of times this price per foot conversation happens before there are even designs in mind. While this is good from a budgeting perspective its impossible to predict the price of a home without a design. Let say we discuss price, after a design is realized, but before we have had a chance to truly conduct a ‘Pre-Con’ or pre-construction service… we are only guessing. This type of guessing is only worth in direct proportion to the amount of time we spend. And we do not work for free, otherwise you probably wouldn’t want our work product. So be wary of anyone in this biz that can quickly give you an estimate or bid.

If you have had success is your respective field and feel like it transfers to real estate development and construction, we can only caution you. The most accurate way we can warn you is to frankly say, “you do not know the correct questions to ask to get the kind of answers you require” meaning you can go down to the city, talk to a broker and have a few high level chats with consultants, but that doesn’t make you an expert. And none of these people (professionals) have an agreement in place designed to save you from yourself. It’s what you do not know that will cost you $50k, $100k maybe even $250-500k. In short, we are here to help, pride the value we add and charge accordingly for it. Please stay in your lane “Do It Yourselfers” unless you want to make building your home your full-time job and prepared to take on these risks yourself.

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