Case Studies

O’Brien Construction Company Inc.

Celebrating 50 Years of Strengthening the Community

O’Brien Construction Company Inc. (OCC) has made a client-oriented approach the core of all aspects of business for over 50 years. OCC made a name for itself early on as Ed O’Brien, licensed engineer and founder of OCC, applied innovative value engineering concepts to wrangle over-budget projects back in line so clients could pursue a project and still sleep soundly at night. At the same time, OCC has always aimed to find a healthy balance between its professional endeavors and finding ways to give back to the community, which continues to define the company’s growth today.

OCC focused on municipal work for much of its early history, helping build many of the police stations, educational institutions and fire stations in communities across Michigan. When market conditions shifted, OCC expanded its focus to include more industrial projects, adding owners such as General Motors to its portfolio of clients. By the 1990s, the market changed again and OCC refocused its efforts to build many of the affordable housing projects popping up across the state, which today accounts for the majority of OCC’s business. “It just made sense for us to get into the affordable housing market, because it fits our mission of giving back to our communities while moving forward,” adds Tim O’Brien, president of OCC.

OCC is a family company through and through, as both clients and employees consider themselves part of the OCC family. OCC employs many long-tenured professionals amongst its staff, including O’Brien who joined at the ripe age of 16. “My father brought me to work at the Detroit Zoo, where he was rebuilding the Matilda Wilson Free-Flight Aviary, and he told me not to embarrass him,” chuckles O’Brien.

A Give-and-take Approach

OCC’s experienced professionals are an integral part of the company’s corporate culture. Experience and enthusiasm go hand in hand at OCC and employees continue the founder’s legacy of finding innovative approaches to projects mired in financial or logistical constraints. OCC’s approach only underscores its competitive advantage in the senior living market sector, as well as a fondness for working with nonprofit organizations, which account for roughly three-quarters of OCC’s total volume.

OCC’s team provides clients with the gamut of design-build, construction management and historical preservation services, though the majority of the trades are contracted out to a network of local contacts. More so than price, though, OCC looks to work with contractors that are equally invested in the success of the project, regardless of whether it is publicly or privately funded.

In turn, OCC hopes to help its contacts take away just as much as they contribute to every project. “We encourage the larger subcontractors we work with to include smaller and disadvantaged subcontractors in our projects,” says O’Brien. “But it’s about more than just hiring them; it’s about providing a sort of informal mentoring opportunity.” OCC also offers a handful of informational seminars every year that are open to any interested parties. The seminars cover everything from construction law to addressing bonding and insurance concerns and construction accounting.

Possibly the most widely attended seminar OCC offers is the session on prevailing wage requirements. OCC’s in-house accountants come prepared to address all the basic parts of the Davis-Bacon Act in addition to the procedures, documentation and requirements for contractors to be competitive in the public-bid market.

Shared Success

OCC has a long history of success and more than a few awards from its work in the public sector. Most recently, OCC took home the Phoenix Award for National Community Impact – the highest honor for brownfield redevelopment projects – for its work on Piquette Square Housing for Veterans. The four-story apartment complex provides a full 150 units to provide permanent housing to Detroit’s homeless veteran community. “It’s a really important project to the community because residents have on-site access to a variety of support services,” adds O’Brien.

Not only does Piquette Square deliver on the community service front, but also OCC was also able to tweak the project to also include a number of sustainable building features. For starters, OCC managed to turn a 3.28-acre site contaminated by petroleum and other harsh chemicals into an anchor of the Detroit community and the veteran care system. OCC installed a state-of-the-art sub-slab ventilation system and vapor barrier system to ensure the health of the building’s occupants. The building is heated and cooled by a geothermal system that almost eliminates the need for a natural gas connection. OCC also developed a system of insulated wall panels made to exceed insulation standards, as well as installing spray foam installation to minimize thermal losses. For these and other innovative features, the project was a finalist in the National Association of Home Builders Multi-Family Award in the category of Best Green Building Concepts.

OCC will focus its efforts through 2012 on building the new Gardenview Estates, also in Detroit. “This development was formerly known as the Herman Gardens project, but we’re in the middle of constructing roughly 500 new units at this site, including 166 senior living apartments, which just broke ground,” states O’Brien. OCC also formed O’Brien Energy Solutions to apply the company’s approach to help clients overcome energy inefficiencies economically.

Several more projects are already beginning to move forward as well, but OCC took a small amount of time to revel in its accomplishments and celebrate its 50-year anniversary in September 2012. OCC relocated to a newly renovated facility the same year as clients, strategic partners and employees alike gathered for a grand opening celebration. As O’Brien Construction Company Inc. turns the corner into its next half-century, the company team will continue building structures that contribute to a brighter Michigan in the future.

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Spring 2018



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