Case Studies

The NEOMED Research Expansion – The Ruhlin Company

Building a High-performance Facility

John G. Ruhlin founded his construction management company in 1915, and it has remained in business for an impressive 98 years. In 1948 the company incorporated as the John G. Ruhlin Construction Company, operating under this identity until 1980 when it simplified to The Ruhlin Company (Ruhlin). But a simplified name did not mean less comprehensive capabilities.

Initially, Ruhlin offered general contracting services to commercial and industrial markets in northeast Ohio. Eventually the company expanded into the infrastructure market, constructing bridges, roads, dams, sewers and water treatment and alternative energy generation facilities throughout the state, and it also holds a large portfolio of education, healthcare, governmental and historical renovation projects. Today Ruhlin is headquartered in Sharon Center, Ohio, but serves a wide region beyond its home state, including Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Operating with a full-time staff of 100 and, on average, 250 seasonal employees spread out across four main divisions – building, civil, industrial and structural – Ruhlin executes a wide range of services.

One of the factors that assure the quality, consistency and cooperative relationships emphasized throughout the Ruhlin divisions is the deep personal investment of the company’s employees. In 1977 Ruhlin began an employee stock ownership plan (an ESOP), resulting in 82 percent of company stock being held by current employees. According to Ruhlin’s website, employee ownership contributes to everyone’s overall success, stating, “Our employees have a stake in the profitability of the company. They are empowered to make decisions that will benefit the company and our clients.”

Employees like David Krutz, a project manager, believe in Ruhlin. “It’s a good company to work for,” shares Krutz. Krutz has been in the industry for over 30 years, 16 of them with Ruhlin. Drawing on this deep experience, combined with the entire company’s commitment to productivity and profitability for Ruhlin and client alike, Krutz is heading up one of the largest projects the firm currently has in the works: the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) Research and Graduate Education Building in Rootstown, Ohio.

Surpassing Expectations

NEOMED was in need of a change. To accommodate growing class sizes and increased enrollment, the university wanted to transform the 450,000-square foot campus in order to provide better education and research facilities, increase student amenities and open doors to the surrounding community. It was shaping up to be a big job, so NEOMED and the state of Ohio called on a proven company that is up to any challenge to complete the $40 million to $50 million Research and Graduate Education Building portion of the venture.

Ruhlin was selected by the state architect’s office to be the construction manager for this large-scale operation. The company began the groundwork for the university in January 2012, with sights set on June 2013 for completion.

The site consists of two new structures. One is a four-story, 80,000-square foot research facility. This building features brand new labs and office space that will provide the space for up to 90 high-paying research scientist and research support jobs for the citizens of northeast Ohio.

In addition to a new research building, Ruhlin is adding approximately 20,000 square feet onto the university’s comparative medical unit (CMU). Once the addition is complete the older portion of the medical unit will be remodeled, a phase estimated to take place around August 2013.

Krutz attributes success on the job to quality construction. “It’s our goal to provide a building that’s sturdy and performs to the standard the client expects,” explains Krutz. A working, professional relationship with various subcontractors is also important to a project. “We’ve been in the industry long enough to have worked with some of the best mechanical and electrical contractors in the area,” says Krutz.

Professional Managers of Construction

According to Krutz, operations are fully underway, with the steel frame erection, poured concrete floors, brick and curtain wall all underway, and the project is close to being on schedule, but an operation of this size doesn’t go off without some challenges. “This is a functioning medical university,” says Krutz. “Many other projects are in the works in the area, a residential housing village is going up as well.”

Krutz explains most issues the crews have experienced involve working near occupied spaces. The site is tight, constrained by a nearby cell tower. Extra excavating is necessary to penetrate a ground of near solid rock.

The number of individuals involved in this project has also presented a challenge, with multiple bid events meaning different contractors coming on board at staggered intervals and the need for ongoing approvals from the state of Ohio. Multiple job meetings are conducted every week with 19 prime contractors. “It’s a fast-paced project,” says Krutz. Two outside agencies are deeply involved, one being the architectural firm Ellenzsweig out of Boston and the other the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), the contracting authority helping to facilitate the NEOMED construction.

Even with all activity having to take into consideration a functioning university setting alongside other topography and permitting issues, Ruhlin maintains the proven management skills to assure a safe, healthy, efficient site. “We do our best to make sure the path is paved for seamless construction without any hiccups,” mentions Krutz.

Ruhlin offers a wealth of knowledge to customers, encompassing all facets of construction including general contracting, management and design-build services. The company’s clients represent a broad spectrum of industry sectors, but Ruhlin provides each with the same dedication to innovation and customer satisfaction. The Northeast Ohio Medical University Research and Graduate Education Building will provide invaluable services to its region of Ohio, and stands as yet another example of how The Ruhlin Company maintains the means and capacity to partner with clients who desire exceptional service and projects that have a positive impact on their communities.

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