rand* construction corporation
- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Ryan Fecteau
- Estimated reading time: 7 mins
At a time when very few women were in the general contracting business, Linda Rabbitt founded rand* construction corporation. What started as a small interiors firm in 1989 has grown into a national multimarket commercial construction company specializing in tenant interiors, building renovations, retail, restaurant, and ground-up construction. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, rand* now manages offices in Denver, Atlanta, and Austin and operates as a general contractor in 26 states. Rabbitt became an active leader as owner and CEO at rand*. Rabbitt’s skill in providing executive direction, managing client services and overseeing all aspects of corporate and financial operations has built rand* construction into one of the top general contractors in the D.C. metro area. “She’s one of a kind,” says Beth Giltner, sustainability coordinator for rand* construction. “She has transformed the industry in the way that she leads the company.”
Since 2004 rand*construction has been named a “Best Places to Work” by multiple publications, and has also been recognized annually by the Washington Building Congress, the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties with over 150 award-winning projects demonstrating excellence in craftsmanship. “Linda has created a company with an entrepreneurial environment,” says Giltner. “She influences executive management to listen to employees in all departments about how the company can improve and grow.”
Sustainability has always been a driving force for rand* construction. Sustainable efforts combined with a conservative financial approach were major factors in the company not only surviving but thriving through the recession. “Luckily, we made a strategic decision to incorporate sustainable construction into our business plan,” says Rabbitt. “The market continues to evolve with sustainable design and construction at the forefront of the industry, and more and more of our clients are incorporating green elements into their workplaces for a number of reasons such as corporate responsibility, environmental awareness, cost savings, and currently to meet the requirements of various municipal green building codes and guidelines.”
rand* mitigated recessional challenges by seizing the opportunity to create new lines of business and develop new markets. The company strategically established an in-house sustainability department dedicated to streamlining an approach to green building, education, and the LEED certification process. With more than 70 LEED-certified projects completed at all levels and LEED Accredited Professionals making up more than two thirds of their staff, rand*’s steadfast commitment to providing sustainable design and construction solutions is a strong part of their identity as a premier contractor among the D.C. metro client base, where demand for these services is high and continues to grow.
A green portfolio
rand*’s sustainable initiative began in 2001, when USGBC invited the company to pilot the new LEED certification program for Commercial Interiors in Washington, D.C. for the Environmental Defense Fund project.
Partnering with Envision Design (now Perkins + Will) and Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), rand* pioneered this program at a time when education on green materials, design and building was not a focal point in the market as it is today. Through tireless research, communication and coordination, rand* helped lead the team to achieve a groundbreaking LEED Silver certification for the EDF project. The 16,000-square-foot office project utilized a minimalist design and layout, as well as “green” materials that were both uncommon and costly at the time, to pursue the progressive goals of the client. Subcontractors on site were generally not trained on the LEED process or sustainable building, which caused many conflicts both on and off site in regards to the construction management plan and the selection, sourcing and procurement of materials. rand* assumed the exhaustive responsibility of educating the subcontractors on site and working with manufacturers and suppliers to track materials, and in the end the entire team pulled together and kept morale high for the punchlist and turnover. In 2011, rand* was invited back by EDF and Perkins + Will to deliver their new office renovations.
More recently, rand* collaborated as the general contractor with longtime partner Gensler, a world-renowned global architecture and design firm, to complete Gensler’s 60,000-square-foot D.C. office renovation. With intent to showcase Gensler’s design philosophy and capabilities, the construction of the company’s D.C. office was enhanced with local and regional themes as well as innovative technologies. In utilizing Gensler’s own diverse design language, the project team was able to materialize the many channels of design themes within in the workspace all while interweaving sustainable features and principles throughout it. rand* construction has completed or is currently involved in more than 30 LEED-certified projects with Gensler.
Another large-scale LEED-certified project was the relocation of Choice Hotels International Headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. Transitioning from a traditional office to a more contemporary, modern workspace in terms of design and sustainability suited the strategic direction of this world-renowned corporate client. The new office location would provide alternate transportation options to the staff, with a short 5-minute walk from the Shady Grove Metro station, several bus routes, and bike-friendly routes. Several construction challenges, as well as those surrounding the LEED tracking and certification process, mandated early collaboration between the client team, the LEED consultant, AtSite, the architect, VOA Associates, and rand*. The proactive behaviors and early discussions held between the extended team enabled the project to achieve LEED Platinum certification, surpassing the client’s original goal of LEED Silver, at no extra cost to the client. The end product promotes the employee-centered perspective, granting a contemporary environment for staff to work in individual workstations or collaborative spaces; to walk, ride, or bike to work; and to gather and socialize in employee lounges and kitchen/pantry spaces. Ultimately, the incorporation of sustainable, flexible design and construction elements surpassed the expectations of the client in terms of functionality and aesthetics and made for a very satisfied client.
The most recent and challenging endeavor undertaken by rand* is with client Summit Foundation, which is currently under construction and pursuing the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification, in addition to LEED Platinum for Commercial Interiors v4. The Living Building Challenge is the most progressive of the green building certifications on a global scale, and it has been a longtime dream of the executive leadership at Summit Foundation to build such a workspace for their organization. For the new 5,000-square-foot office, the goal of achieving such a remarkable and forward-thinking certification has required immense coordination and extensive collaboration during preconstruction and throughout construction with the client, the architect, Perkins + Will, the MEP engineer, Integral Group and rand*. To answer the complex and stringent certification requirements, the team has been working diligently to disclose the ingredients and percentages of each individual product, finish, and feature in the space to ensure all materials align with the International Living Future Institute’s Red List Free initiative, all while balancing the other sustainability goals for the project. The Summit Foundation’s dedication to sustainability, backed by rand*’s encouragement and attention to detail, has been the driving force behind the project’s progress.
Educating the building community
With sustainability as a focal point of its mission, rand* construction is dedicated to educating the community in green design and construction and has spearheaded this initiative by providing free in-house classes to rand* construction employees, clients and subcontractors. “The classes prepare them for their LEED certification and projects they will encounter in their careers,” says Giltner. “In order for green building to continue to grow and expand, it’s important to educate the community, and rand* has embraced this model of advocacy.” Rabbitt echoes this sentiment, stating, “rand*’s steadfast commitment to sustainable best practices has been advantageous to our corporate development, to the caliber of our field and project management staff, to the health and benefit of our clients, and to the advancement of our relationships with industry partners.”
In 2012, rand* was the first organization invited by GBCI to pilot the LEED Proven Provider program, a new designation that streamlines the LEED project review process for experienced organizations that demonstrate consistent excellence in administering LEED projects. With access to an enhanced and expedited certification process as well as direct engagement with GBCI review teams, rand* is able to provide the highest quality LEED certification process experience to their clients.
With the local construction industry continuing to strengthen post-recession, Giltner believes that the industry will continue to witness a growing presence in green building on a national scale, and that rand* will remain at the forefront. “The industry of sustainable design and construction is on a steady trajectory that in my opinion will continue on its current path,” says Rabbitt. “Organizations such as USGBC will continue to educate communities and spread awareness, and rand* will continue to partner with USGBC in its mission, working diligently across the U.S. to develop sustainable building practices and promote the development of green building standards. rand* has never gotten ahead by standing in line. We have thrived by taking risks and constantly innovating the way we do business. And that is what we will do for years to come.”
View the US Builders Review interview with Beth Giltner at Greenbuild 2015 here: https://youtu.be/aJ3D1ZjDVo0
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