Case Studies

Catalyst Houston – Pepper Lawson Construction

Combining high-end living with commercial and retail space in downtown Houston

With completion projected for February 2017, Catalyst Houston combines high-end living with commercial, office and retail space, as well as an Irma’s Mexican Food restaurant. The development is a joint venture between Marquette Cos., Hunt Cos. and Ares Management. Modeled after a facility in Chicago, Catalyst Houston is Marquette’s second Catalyst project and its first development in Houston.

Catalyst Houston will include 361 luxury apartment homes with one-two- and three-bedroom units that feature hardwood flooring, quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, 10 to 13-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony that opens to views of downtown and Minute Maid Park. High-end amenities include an outdoor dog run, a residents’ outdoor lounge with panoramic views of the city and a resort-style outdoor infinity edge pool deck, complete with cabanas.

Marquette Cos. has turned to Pepper Lawson Construction for general contracting duties on Catalyst Houston. As a subsidiary of Pepper Construction, Pepper Lawson completes numerous projects throughout multiple industries, including residential, industrial, commercial and institutional.

Downtown challenges

Bill Taylor, senior project manager for Pepper Lawson, says that the company has faced the same top three challenges that other developers and construction companies face when building in downtown Houston. The biggest priority when building on a small site in an active downtown community that encompasses vehicle and pedestrian traffic, is maintaining public safety. The second concern is maintaining a clean and safe working environment for all workers on-site.

“We have 300-plus people working on the job six to seven days a week,” says Taylor. “It is a challenge to constantly monitor everyone, but we have a program in place with our field staff that watches over all who are working on the project.”

The third major challenge is the project schedule, which is sometimes delayed by events happening in the downtown area, such as parades and sporting events. “Some bad weather in 2015 caused a three-month delay,” shares Taylor. “Everybody who is building in downtown shares the same goal of having projects completed by the time the Super Bowl comes to Houston in February 2017.”

Catalyst Houston remains a relatively small project for the area. The site contains one crane tower with two additional portable cranes. “There’s only so much space that you can stage material and have people working in and still continue to keep a safe project site,” says Taylor. “There’s one street on the south side of the project that sees 2,200 cars per hour between 8:00 and 10 a.m.”

In dealing with logistical issues, Pepper Lawson has coordinated with its vendors and suppliers to make deliveries only at night. Construction crews are divided between two shifts and the cranes operate from 3:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. “Fortunately we have a really great general superintendent and several superintendents under him,” says Taylor. “We also have a really good project manager.”

While Pepper Lawson primarily manages the construction of Catalyst Houston, the company does provide a crew of approximately eight to 10 workers that supervise the safety and cleanliness of the site. “Everything else is subcontracted out,” Taylor explains. “We primarily use local people for the trades.”

Over the years, Pepper Lawson has built up a strong network of highly-qualified subcontractors that the company tends to favor when accepting bids. “A big reason for that is because they know how we work and we know how they work,” shares Taylor. “Most of the companies that we work with on a regular basis are people who we have worked with for 20-plus years. We know the owners, project managers and who they will put out in the field.”

Years of experience

Taylor has been with Pepper Lawson for two years but has been working on high-rise projects similar to Catalyst Houston for close to 30. Graduating from college with a degree in architecture in 1988, his first job was with an architectural firm doing residential and commercial projects. “I really had to cut my teeth coming up through the field,” he shares. “It was a struggle getting started but I’ve been very fortunate to have had a great career.”

Upon completion of each project, Taylor and his team review certain criteria when measuring the success of a job. The first priority is customer satisfaction. Pepper Lawson aims to establish a relationship with each client so that they will do repeat business with the company in the future. Financial success and safety of the project are the additional factors considered in company satisfaction with the job. “Those are all the most important things to me on a project,” says Taylor. “If you do all those things correctly you will continue to have work.”

With safety and customer satisfaction as the top priority for Pepper Lawson Construction, the company will maintain strong relationships with all clients. The successful completion of Catalyst Houston will add to the company’s expanding portfolio of high-end commercial projects.

Published on: September 29, 2016


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