Sota Construction Services Inc.
Ernest “Ernie” Sota has been in the construction industry since the 1970s, but he found his calling in 1993 when he started Sota Construction Services Inc. (SCS). The company, a general contracting firm whose client list includes medical, institutional, light industrial and multi-family residential developers, has since grown in size to 35 employees with revenue of $30 million a year. Pittsburgh-based SCS provides the western Pennsylvania region with the best options for sophisticated, cost-effective, environmentally responsible building and Total Quality Construction.
Despite the economy, Sota says the company is “having a great year.” The company has been able to achieve this by living by Sota’s motto: “You make money by doing the right thing rather than by trying to make money.” Following Sota’s lead, the business has been on the forefront of sustainable, or “green,” construction since its inception.
SCS not only offers clients its expertise in the field, but it leads by example. “We just constructed a new office building for our own use, and that will be certified LEED Platinum,” reports Sota, who has a degree in architecture from Penn State. “It combines mechanical heating and cooling with geothermal energy. The exterior walls are made of straw bale and the interior walls are made of low embodied energy high thermal and hygric mass adobe. It’s a really unique type of building.”
Along with these super-efficient natural building materials for the structure’s thermal envelope, the building combines state-of-the-art structural, mechanical and electrical systems to control humidity, provide supplemental heating, as well as exterior exhaust/fresh air intake. To top it all off, roof-mounted photovoltaic combines with the geothermal in an effort to make the office a net-zero energy building.
Total Quality Construction
SCS has made its name by being the region’s leader in such bleeding edge, complete life cycle-minded construction while maintaining a strong commitment to understanding and fulfilling the client’s needs. This approach holds the business to Sota’s motto of always doing the right thing and letting profits take care of themselves.
SCS has two main components to its operation, the first of which is Total Quality Construction. Total Quality Construction is a trademarked phrase that at its core is about team building, and its comprehensive influence from the pre-construction phase on. Paramount to quality on a project is maintaining open lines of communication among the contractor, the architect and the owner at all phases of construction.
There are six aspects to Total Quality Construction that SCS follows from concept to completion. They are client satisfaction, personal attention, open communication, continuous process improvement, dedication to sustainability and value engineering.
Green Building – LEEDing the Way
The other noteworthy characteristic of SCS is its constant commitment to sustainability. The company is proudly affiliated with the Green Building Alliance as well as the U.S. Green Building Council (as well as the American Institute of Architects, the Associated Builders and Contractors [ABC], the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and more). The firm’s approach results in reduced use of natural resources, less waste and pollution, enhanced health and an increase in profitability. In fact, studies have shown that constructing a building to these standards reduces employee absenteeism and increases productivity.
SCS is a registered LEED professional organization, and the business has been responsible for eight LEED-certified buildings. Sota makes green building a priority and has been doing so since 1977 when few others were taking it seriously. SCS achieves results of lower costs and sustainability through a process known as integrated design. This involves assembling a team of architects, engineers, cost estimators and constructability review professionals to oversee and help design the most effective approach, begin with the siting and taking into consideration cultural context as well as native materials.
The company has several notable projects in its portfolio, including the recently constructed Allegheny Hills Retirement Residence in East Brady, Pa. “It’s LEED Gold,” reports Sota, who helped renovate the building, originally constructed in the 1970s, and turned it into a model of sustainable building. Many of the mechanical systems were failing, and energy costs were going through the roof for the building’s management. SCS was called in, and it helped significantly improve the thermal envelope by adding more energy-efficient windows and insulation to the roof and walls. In addition, the company added a high-efficiency water source heat pump system and energy-efficient lighting. In total, SCS reduced the consumption of energy by 60 percent in the building.
Another project in which SCS became heavily involved, from start to finish, was the substantial renovation of the Felician Sisters Convent and Sacred Heart High School in Coraopolis, Pa. The project called for redesigned courtyard spaces, new residence rooms and a new layout for the high school. SCS’s efforts achieved a LEED Gold Certification through its significant reuse of existing materials, recycling of on-site construction waste and specification of sustainable furniture. SCS reused 300 doors, miles of wood trim and an acre of wood flooring. In fact, the sisters of the convent give tours of the reconstruction as a model of green renovation and call it the “Gospel of Green.”
For some companies sustainable building is a fad, but for SCS and Ernie Sota it is a staple to doing business. Even when no one was talking about green building, SCS was preaching its importance and consistently helping clients construct buildings in the most cost-effective and sustainable ways possible. The company has led the way in making sure that going green is not simply a catchy motto, but a way of life. Judging by Sota’s amassed experience and plans for expansion, even amidst a recession, Sota Construction Services Inc. will be leading the way for years to come.
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