Balancing Culture, Engineering, and Architecture

E & S Construction Engineers, Inc.

What do you do if you have towering trees revered by the locals growing in the middle of your construction site?

One of the most unique shopping spots in Hawaii is the International Market Place in Honolulu, with about 75 retailers, including the island’s first Saks Fifth Avenue, the Grand Lanai restaurants, and the evening lighting of the tiki torches with a traditional dance performance.

The culture of Waikiki and its people are showcased in the architecture of the market with its flowing water features, beautiful landscaping, and iconic banyan trees that are centuries old. Travel + Leisure magazine calls it the “Go-to spot for a rainy day in Honolulu.” If you can’t be out surfing or lounging on the beach, this is a scenic destination.

And the engineering team behind this award-winning redevelopment had to work around the heritage trees on the property – with a lot of care and respect.

“Most importantly, the banyan trees at International Market Place have been there for hundreds of years and have cultural significance to the Hawaiian people on Oahu,” says Kevin Braughton, Project Director for E & S Construction Engineers, an MEP design and build firm out of Pasadena, Maryland.

“There was also an existing open-air marketplace, so we had to take great care when working around the trees through the demolition and construction processes. Arborists were hired to watch over the trees; they ran irrigation tubes up every branch so that the trees were washed and watered throughout development. They not only survived, but they had a greater rate of growth during construction than they did over the previous years.”

Striking that balance of culture, engineering and architectural design is what E & S Construction Engineers has brought to its wide-ranging portfolio of retail and mixed-use complexes, hotels, restaurants, sports facilities, data centers, senior living facilities and more throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, along with a commitment to going the extra mile on each and every job. Services include system evaluations, system upgrades or replacements, and full mechanical, electrical, and plumbing consultation from project conception to turnkey opening. The benefit is one team working on all facets of a building.

Part of E & S’ company culture is recognizing the impact these builds have on the community and getting local input and support from the get-go. It’s a real team effort and when projects are completed, the whole team celebrates.

“Even for smaller projects, the whole company gets excited about the grand opening. It’s like the Super Bowl where they don’t just give the winning team rings; they give the whole organization rings. We celebrate the whole company and not just those who were directly involved in the project.”

Among its many innovative projects, E & S designed and built the only indoor ski slope in the western hemisphere in 2008, the 800-foot-slope (16 stories!) called Xanadu Snow Dome at the 4.8 Million Square Foot Xanadu Mall in Meadowlands, New Jersey (renamed American Dream in 2011). At the time, there were two other operational indoor ski slopes in Dubai and the UK. E & S worked with a company in England with a patent on the snow-making equipment to create fresh powder for an ideal two-foot base.

Another recent and memorable build highlights just how well E & S collaborates with clients and the community. The company worked closely with local resources in Puerto Rico to understand the island’s capabilities and complete the Caribbean’s only luxury mall – the 650,000 square foot Mall of San Juan.

Through the vetting process and interviewing all the resources in the Caribbean, E & S helped steer the client away from trouble in trying to stick-build the required chiller plant. Instead, the company worked with a manufacturer in Arizona to build a seven-unit modular chiller plant that was shipped to Puerto Rico and assembled onsite with the local workforce.

“It was a real accomplishment for us and for the Caribbean,” Braughton says. “It served as a model for all of the islands. And it was a great design. The construction of the project took about 24 months and the offsite fabrication of the chiller plant was a 22-week build.”

That’s the kind of track record the company founders Erwin Everett and Robert Stearns – the E & S – set out to establish back in 1982. They expanded from a regional consulting firm (named E & S Mechanical Services, Inc.) to the current national consulting firm in 1992 with about 30 employees. “We can work on big multimillion-dollar projects comfortably, but at the same time, we have a personal touch that bigger conglomerates can’t offer,” Braughton says.

“On all our projects, we will share our project team and that roster won’t change every week like other companies. Your team is your team with us. We like to keep the same people there because they know the project.” Indeed, the fact that E & S is both engineer and contractor streamlines all processes and saves its clients time and money while avoiding the many restraints associated with the conventional arrangement.

Braughton himself has been with the company 26 years, witnessing the industry in full growth mode in the 90s, with dozens of new regional malls built every year. The rapid rise of technology and ecommerce in the early 2000s drove a different kind of need – for data centers to support all the new tech. E & S was an early adopter of the trend, building data centers, many regional malls, and other builds for large clients.

Braughton sees E & S’ agility and extensive expertise as important advantages. He explains that, as ecommerce continues to gain market share, retail clients have to change what they are offering at their centers. “Many are getting away from the retail-only focused concepts and offering high-end fast-casual restaurants to retain clients. There are a lot more entertainment elements, movie theaters, bowling alleys, gyms. I think the psychology of shopping is extremely interesting, from how shoppers think to how our clients influence the process of buying.”

Beyond retail, E & S is leading in facility design for cannabis agriculture, attending cannabis conferences, and travelling the country to visit manufacturers of equipment dedicated to the industry. Now the firm has a growing base of customers with facilities in California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Ohio, Washington, and Maryland.

“We really made an investment to understand the needs and challenges of indoor cannabis cultivation. We are excited to see the progress of legislation in non-medical states and the duration from medical to recreational legalization shortening for the current 33 medical only states. We saw it first in Colorado and California with other states soon to follow. So, it’s a fast-moving market that we are very much aligned with. And we know it has a lot of growth potential.”

Getting the design and facility build right the first time is paramount; E & S has seen the consequences of cultivators who rushed to market and are now living with deficiencies in their operations. “Often, we are engaged to evaluate and propose ways to correct those deficiencies.”

One of the most common mistakes is hiring consultants who try to apply fundamentals from a comfort cooling application like a commercial building. But what makes a cannabis grow facility unique is the load profile is 180 degrees opposite of a comfort cooling system for a commercial building.

“The indoor cannabis cultivation facility is dominated by the latent load. Tons of moisture and tons of transpiration by the plants results in lots of humidity. It’s all about controlling the VPD (Vapor Pressure Deficit) and maintaining the indoor environment during the critical lights on/off transitional periods. So, there are a lot of design challenges that exist with indoor cannabis cultivation facilities. And we have that knowledge.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 16, 2019, 11:26 PM EST