By Margaret Jackson | Nov 30, 2020
Electrical contracting services
Prefabrication helps set Encore Electric apart from its competition. The electrical contractor also uses its virtual design construction and building information modeling software to find efficiencies that will lower costs for its clients.
The goal? Getting as much as possible done before the first crew of electricians sets foot on the site
Samantha Hamilton, Encore's director of prefabrication and virtual design and construction, says it can be a win/win, but it's not on every builder's radar yet. "We really need for owners to get on board and really take some time to understand the value of design-build and the upfront costs it saves them in the end," she says.
Hamilton heads up a team of 53 employees at the company's prefabrication facility in Englewood. The company also has locations in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Basalt, and Eagle, Colorado; as well as Big Sky, Montana, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The company has embraced the design-build philosophy as it worked on projects ranging from office buildings such as the Re/Max International headquarters to marquee hotel and healthcare projects like the Gaylord Rockies Resort and the Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital.
Encore Electric has also worked on high-security projects for Lockheed Martin and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "You can't just drill a hole and put an outlet in the wall because that compromises the wall, and they don't want people listening in on their top-secret stuff," Hamilton says.
The company's six founders worked together at a national electrical contractor. They tried to buy the company, but the competition had deeper pockets, so they ended up starting from scratch in 2003, says Vice President Jeff Thompson, one of the original founders.
"We had a lot of faith in our processes and our team," Thompson says. "One of the wives said, 'Leap and the net will appear,' so we did."
Challenges: Being able to build relationships with its customers and vendors is one of the big struggles the pandemic has created for Encore. "When you remove the face-to-face piece of the business, it makes the relationship part hard to maintain no matter how good you look on Zoom," Hamilton says. "This is a customer-driven company and those relationships are really important."
The pandemic also has made it difficult to procure some of the products Encore needs to build its systems because many plants shut down.
Hurricanes off the Gulf of Mexico also have impacted the supply chain. For example, the PVC conduit Encore uses requires resin that is a byproduct from the oil refineries operating in the Gulf, prompting the company's PVC supplier to claim force majeure -- an unforeseeable circumstance that prevents it fulfilling its contract, Thompson says. "The PVC guys are claiming that now because the factories aren't getting the resin," Thompson says. "It's a worse mess now than it was two months ago."
Opportunities: Despite the pandemic and the fact that it's an election year, which typically would see developers pull back on some projects, Thompson is optimistic about the opportunities that lie before Encore Electric. "It's a little scary with the election coming up and COVID not fully behind us, but we're budgeting about the same as last year," Thompson says.
The pandemic also has given the company the opportunity to rethink some of its practices. "We have realized through this that not everybody needs to be in the office every day, but we like to have everybody around us because we lose the culture if we don't -- you lose those hallway conversations," Thompson says. "But there are certain people who are more effective not working in the office. Maybe we should have had a little more social distancing going on even when it's just flu season. We're trying to keep our people safe and secure, so we're thinking about how the office spaces are laid out."
Needs: The end of the uncertainty being caused by the pandemic and the election would help stabilize the economy and ensure construction projects keep moving forward, Thompson says.
The company also may need to catch up to companies that are providing renewable energy options for new construction projects. "We're not in solar and wind, so if the whole country goes solar, we have to get caught up to that," Thompson says. "The only place solar makes sense is where the price of electricity is really high like in California."