The case of the sinking building

Deep foundation stabilization saves recreation center

The neighborhood recreation center had developed an obvious and worsening problem.

After just 20 years of use, the Hillendale/Halstead PAL Center in Parkville began showing signs of severe settling. Baltimore County, the center’s owner, asked Plano-Coudon Construction to investigate the problem and propose a remedy.

“The building was essentially sinking,” said Blair Radney, Operations Manager of Plano-Coudon’s Small Projects Division. “It was differential settlement so the building was not sinking at the same rate all the way across the foundation and that was causing cracks in the building.”

“There were cracks in the slab in unusual places,” said Cheryl Zaron PE, a structural engineer with Columbia Engineering. “Where there was a column going up through the middle of the building’s interior, there were cracks all around it which meant that the column hadn’t moved, but the slab had sunk.” 

Those foundation cracks were also growing.

During visits to the site over the course of several months, “I could tell just by looking at them that the cracks were getting bigger, which is really rare. With some cracks, I could stick a pencil in them,” Zaron said.

Plano-Coudon, Columbia Engineering and geotechnical engineers from KCI Technologies, Inc. began investigating the source and the severity of the structural issue. Team members tracked down the original plans and specifications for the center.

“We were even able to dig up some field reports made during construction,” Radney said.

To stop the Hillendale/Halstead PAL center from sinking, Plano-Coudon Construction installed new foundation piers at 94 locations around the perimeter and interior of the building.

The team took borings both outside and inside the building to assess the condition of the soil, exposed some of the building’s footing to ensure it was installed according to the original plan, and established a monitoring system to determine if the structure was still moving and how fast. 

“It was still moving, but not at a catastrophic rate,” Radney said. “However, if you didn’t do something to stabilize it, you would eventually lose the building.”

Replacing the building would have burdened the county with a large expense and left the community without a recreation center for an extended period.

Instead, Plano-Coudon and project partners proposed to stabilize the building by installing 94 helical piles around the perimeter and within the interior of the building. Crews used a hydraulic drill to insert each pile into the ground between five feet and 12 feet until it reached a specified torque, ensuring that each pile could support sufficient weight. Workers – operating in trenches that exposed a limited portion of the building’s footing and piers at any one time – then bracketed each pile to the footing.

Work progressed smoothly, despite some challenges and unexpected complications, said Ed Wasilewski, Plano-Coudon’s Small Projects Foreman. At the outset of the project, crews had to spend considerable time hand digging around the building’s perimeter to expose every utility line and drain “because if we had started drilling without that precaution, we would have drilled right through them.”

Once drilling began, crews periodically hit especially hard soil and had to get revised specifications from project engineers for larger drill bits and different sized piles for those locations.

Each new helical pile was drilled 5-12 feet into the ground until it reached a specified torque, ensuring it could support enough weight. Workers then bracketed each pile to the building’s footing.

When operations moved inside, workers faced a new challenge. The space was too tight to accommodate standard equipment and, to save the county money, Plano-Coudon wanted to avoid tearing out any walls, ceilings or other interior components. Consequently, the company sourced specialized, hand-held equipment from the pile manufacturer. The interior machinery took three times as long to install a single pile – sometimes as long as half a day. The choice, however, saved money. And Plano-Coudon still completed the project on schedule.

“The guys wanted to work six days a week and I’m not going to stop anybody from working,” Wasilewski said with a chuckle. “These guys worked long days from sunup to sundown to get this project done.”

After installing the piles, crews drilled more than 300 holes in the building’s slab and pumped specialized concrete beneath the slab to fill any negative spaces and provide a completely solid foundation.

“That building isn’t going anywhere now,” Wasilewski said.

Workers then gave the center new interior finishes “so that it looks like a brand new building,” Radney said. 

Ultimately, the solution to the sinking building “was a reasonably easy fix from the owner’s point of view that cost much less than replacing the building,” Radney said. “This is an important community resource that gets used for a lot of after-school activities, so it was great to be able to fix the problem and let people start using the center again within four months.”

For more photos

Vision of library becomes reality through design-assist process

Plans for a four-story atrium made from glass panels set at irregular angles and supported by a slender steel frame convinced partners in the Langsdale Library project to embrace a less-conventional approach to construction.

Located on the corner of Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street, the redeveloped site will serve not only as a state-of-the-art academic library but also a striking, gateway building to the University of Baltimore campus. Designed by Behnishch Architeckten of Boston which also designed UB’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center, the rebuilt Langsdale Library will feature a modern facade of undulating, metal panels and large, irregular windows; open-concept interiors with an industrial style; and that soaring glass atrium.

“This is an amazing project in the heart of Baltimore and at the core of what we have always done – higher-ed work. And the design of one of a kind,” said Brett Plano, Founder.

That complex design and the need for builders to accurately execute its vision while remaining on budget convinced UB to make Langsdale Library atrium a design-assist project. It contracted Plano-Coudon to manage that process as well as complete the entire library renovation.

For a year, Plano-Coudon collaborated with the architect and TSI Exterior Wall Systems to develop a complete and constructible design for the library.

“It’s a great process. We’re an advocate for it,” Plano said. “If the project had gone a traditional path, the architect would have designed the glass for the atrium, then had a structural engineer design the steel and hoped those components would marry together. Then a subcontractor might come in and say my manufacturer doesn’t like the way you designed the glass, so I’m altering it to match what my manufacturer can do. Then you might have to tweak the structural steel. So you might end up with a different end result than what was envisioned. You can’t take that chance with the focal point of such a unique building.”

Detailed analysis of the atrium plan enabled Plano-Coudon, TSI and the architect to develop a final plan that meets the original vision and addresses both the structural limitations of the project and the desire to minimize the steel frame. It also averted a budget overrun.

“We were advised not to let the project price creep up,” said Cliff Milstead, Project Executive. “So we value engineered the entire building.”

That process identified multiple opportunities for savings, such as rehabilitating one staircase rather than replacing it, and those savings financed the cost of executing the full vision for the atrium.

Construction of the atrium is slated to begin later this spring. Meanwhile, renovation of the existing 58,000-square-foot building is already underway. Plano-Coudon and subcontractors have gutted the interior, removed the exterior veneer and demolished the previous auditorium. By the end of the year, crews will transform the space into a modern, high-tech library with an industrial feel, including large open spaces, glass partitions, polished concrete floors, and exposed ceilings.

“Coordinating the mechanical and electrical to work well in that space is challenging,” said Darryl Richardson, Project Manager. “We have to carefully route everything through bulkheads so that it works right and gives that industrial feel.”

Creating onsite mockups of items ranging from concrete walls and floors to millwork and paint colors has been essential to efficiently and accurately advancing the highly customized project, Richardson said.

“A lot of little details require mockups because nothing in this job is a standard, off-the-shelf item,” Milstead said. “By creating the mockups, we can make sure that we can actually build each component and in the way that the architect and the client are expecting.”

PC FAITH: A simple solution to a business challenge

Think of it as the power of simplicity.

For years, Plano-Coudon had described its company culture and values through thoughtful, extensive language developed through company-wide consultations.

“The concepts were good,” said Brett Plano, Founder. “But like typical engineers, we wanted to put everything in everything. The mission tied to the vision and both incorporated the core values and each value had a statement explaining it. It was too detailed – so detailed that it wasn’t memorable.”

So during their most recent strategic planning meetings, Plano-Coudon leaders discussed options to simplify those core statements of company culture.

At the fourth quarter company update meeting in February, Founders Ryan Coudon and Plano unveiled PC FAITH – the condensed expression of the company’s core values of Positivity, Community, Fire in the belly, Accountability, Integrity, Teamwork and Health.

Spending time identifying, distilling and clearly expressing core values delivers tangible benefits to a company, Plano said. Those values guide day-to-day decision making, prove vital to making particularly tough decisions and help individuals “do the right thing even when no one is looking.”

They ensure that clients, project partners and subcontractors consistently have the same kinds of interactions with Plano-Coudon staff and consistently see work completed in the same manner and to the same standards.

Simplifying the expression of company values helped company leaders better understand and reinforce certain values.

In PC FAITH, for example, company leaders selected the word Health to show that Plano-Coudon is committed to more than job safety. It is also committed to the overall wellness of employees, work-life balance and being a caring organization.

Clearly identified values has also helped Plano-Coudon with recruitment.

“We consciously look for people who demonstrate a cultural fit, who demonstrate our core values before they ever get here,” Plano said. “We have gotten much better in the past five to six years at hiring with those values in mind. Ultimately, we are a better company for it.”

Plano-Coudon in the Community

They call it community service but we think it is also great fun.

Recently, Plano-Coudon employees Nick Funk, Sue Radtke, Tim Shaw and Mike Junkin donned the coolest of hats and participated in Teach for America’s Dr. Seuss Day. They read Seuss classics to children at Baltimore County Public Schools’ Arlington Elementary/Middle School.

As part of our commitment to (and passion for) community service, Plano-Coudon staff members have participated in a variety of community activities recently. Those include rejuvenating a playground, garden and classrooms through a Day of Action at Epiphany Episcopal Church, a wreath-laying service on the graves of veterans, and a fundraiser for Catholic Charities.

On the Job Site

Recent Contract Wins

▪ JHU Levi Hall Biology Lab – CM services for renovations to the Levi Hall Biology Lab.
▪ 10 E Pratt Street – Preconstruction services for 10 E. Pratt Street.
▪ Helping Up Mission Kitchen Renovations – Renovation of existing kitchen and structural improvements.
▪ 100 S. Charles Street – 1st and 2nd floor lobby renovation at 100 S. Charles Street while building is occupied.
▪ Medstar Boxhill Pediatrics and Neuro Rehab – 5,500 SF medical office renovation.
▪ BGE EOB Renovation – $3,000,000 interior renovation of the entry level with stacked restroom renovations on the lower and upper level.
▪ Loyola University Maryland Garden Apartment Renovations – Dormitory improvements for The Gardens.

 
Projects in Preconstruction

▪ UMCP Eppley Center – Includes replacing three existing 28,000 cfm pool air handling units.
▪ Northbay Educational Building – Ground up 12,000 SF building for Northbay Adventure Camp.
▪ 10 E Pratt Street – Preconstruction services for 10 E. Pratt Street.

 
Projects in Progress

▪ ACRC National Aquarium – Renovation of an existing building into off site support facility for Aquarium operations.
▪ 706 + 712 Giddings Avenue Office Building – Renovation and expansion of existing three story commercial office building in West Annapolis.
▪ UB Langsdale Library Renovation – $17,000,000 renovation of existing library.
▪ UMB-MSTF HVAC Upgrades – HVAC upgrades of the MSTF building over a 4 phase project and 6 years.
▪ Stadium Square Office Building – 70,000 SF, 6 story, Class A office building in Federal Hill.
▪ Residence Tower Renovation – $24,000,000 full renovation of a 14 story multi-family building at Towson University.
▪ DMT New Warehouse 91C – Demolition and reconstruction of existing Building 91C warehouse.
▪ Howard County Conservancy – Addition of 1,500 SF to an existing building to provide accessible means of entry to lower level.
▪ COPT Alexander Bell Conference Center – Interior renovations of an existing office space to create a common conference area.
▪ Baltimore County Hillendale Fire Survey – Structural survey of damaged support columns.
▪ Baltimore County Galloway Avenue – Design of new site development and building additions for BC.
▪ Baltimore City Public Schools Westport Floor – Demolition and replacement of existing flooring.
▪ Vectorworks Training Expansion – Design/Build construction for 10,000 SF interior fit-out.
▪ Howard County R&P Office 2nd Floor – Office Fit-Out of 2nd floor space.
▪ Cardinal Shehan Plumbing – Furnish upgrades to existing plumbing.

After the Flood: Plano-Coudon devises novel solution for Ellicott City retaining wall

The devastating aftermath of the 1,000-year rainstorm that struck Ellicott City on July 30th was easy enough to see, but in no way easy to fix.

The flash flood that swept down Main Street severely damaged dozens of buildings, as well as roadways, utilities and personal property. The six-inch downpour, which pushed the height of the Patapsco River up 14 feet in just 90 minutes, also compromised a vital piece of infrastructure – a stone retaining wall that separated the Tiber River from the B&O Railroad Museum.

Floodwaters had rushed up to and over the top of the wall, washing away part of the wall’s foundation, dislodging granite blocks and causing a 14-foot by 6-foot section of wall to crash down into the river below.

Without a strong retaining wall in place, “eventually you would lose all of that river bank and undermine the footings of the B&O Railroad Museum, so it’s an important wall,” said Blair Radney, Operations Manager for the Small Projects Division of Plano-Coudon Construction.

For weeks, Howard County officials searched unsuccessfully for a viable plan to restore the century-old structure. The project posed several acute logistical challenges. Crews would have to retrieve the huge stones from the river – a task that would ordinarily be completed by a crane. The tight, Ellicott City site included overhead power lines and communication cables which didn’t leave enough room for a crane to operate.

Plano-Coudon’s Radney began working to develop a process to rebuild the stone wall. ellicott-city-1

“When Blair proposed his solution, I just listened in wonder,” said Ryan Coudon, Co-Founder. “I just love this aspect of Plano-Coudon. We have knowledgeable, experienced people who can tackle very unique problems. I am proud that our company was able to address this very difficult situation. We were able to be a problem solver and an effective contractor to Howard County.”

Plano-Coudon’s solution revolved around unique and unconventional uses of equipment, some highly skilled tradesmen and meticulous coordination.

Rather than bringing in a crane, Plano-Coudon proposed parking an excavator on the roadway above the retaining wall and outfitting the excavator with special equipment which would enable it to hoist the fallen stones from the river. Workers needed to get into the river to rig up the stones to be lifted. But by temporarily damming part of the river, Plano-Coudon could ensure that work was performed in safe, shallow water.

Once they retrieved the stones and deposited them in a lay-down area, crews would still need to overcome several challenges to reconstruct the wall.

“Of course, there weren’t any photographs or drawings of what the wall looked like before it collapsed so we had to refer to the portion of the wall that was still standing to figure out how to fit the puzzle pieces back together,” Radney said.

A dry-stack construction, the retaining wall had held together for more than a century due to the careful placement of granite blocks, which got progressively smaller as they neared the top of the wall, and by the addition of deadmen – longer stones that extended back into the embankment and anchored the wall.

Expert masons were able to decipher the puzzle, but they also needed to gain physical access to the wall to guide the excavator in placing the stones.

“Setting up scaffold was an issue because you just can’t set up scaffold in a river,” Radney said. “Instead, we had to build the scaffolding from above the wall and use a suspended system, almost like a platform that you ride on rails down the wall, so that the masons could work with the equipment to put the stones back in place.

“Executing the project required detailed collaboration and communication with subcontractors and county officials. It also required paying careful attention to secondary issues, such as traffic. The excavator occupied a full lane of a roadway, requiring traffic management throughout the project. At the same time, the project in the heart of Ellicott City attracted many curious onlookers and necessitated practices to safeguard pedestrians.

The restoration, however, was completed in just two weeks in October.

“This was a very strange situation,” Radney said. “But we got the work done ahead of schedule and under budget, so the county was very happy.”

Plano-Coudon names Janet Delaney as its first CFO

Fulfilling a key step in its strategic growth plan, Plano-Coudon Construction has expanded its leadership team to include a chief financial officer and hired Janet Delaney, CPA to serve as the company’s first CFO.

“To have a veteran like Janet on our side of the table is huge,” said Brett Plano, Co-Founder. “We feel fortunate that she has come on board. She brings a tremendous level of experience and expertise to our staff.”

Delaney formerly served as Vice President of Development Accounting and Financial Systems at Corporate janet-delaney-1Office Properties Trust, CFO for Charleston Homes, Assistant Controller for The Rouse Company, and Controller of Coakley & Williams, Inc. She also recently served as Chief Technology Officer for Realterm.

“Adding a CFO to our team is something we have discussed with our strategic advisors for the past couple of years,” said Ryan Coudon, Co-Founder. “Our company has now become big enough and complex enough that we need a forward-looking strategic partner in our finance department. We are excited to have someone like Janet who has such great experience in the construction and real estate industry, join us.”

Adding a CFO should enable Plano-Coudon to achieve other facets of its strategic growth plan.

Delaney will take over some operational responsibilities within the company, “freeing up Brett and I to focus more on strategic thinking, business development, looking far ahead to keep the pipeline full, and supporting all of our people as they work towards our strategic goals,” Coudon said.

Delaney is expected to both help Plano-Coudon hone its growth strategy and optimize company operations to handle growth.

“We are immediately looking forward,” she said. “I am jumping into forecasting 2017 and beyond.”

At the same time, Delaney will be reviewing company operations to identify opportunities to improve efficiencies. She will also be planning operational changes to meet the needs of a growing company.

“Whether it is technology or business systems or office space, all of these things can pose challenges as a company is preparing to enter its next phase,” Delaney said. “The challenge is how do you handle all those needs while still being a small, nimble company and not adding a lot of overhead costs. It’s important to operate in the most cost-effective ways you can.”

That challenge, Delaney added, is eased by the fact that Plano-Coudon has more sophisticated back-office operations than most construction companies its size.

“We don’t need to start over. We can just improve on what the team has already built,” she said. “This company is primed for growth and I am excited to be part of it. I love construction and I am impressed by the vision and passion Brett and Ryan have for this company.”

From subsea to high-rise: Plano-Coudon embarks on unique projects

While every construction project involves its own unique set of challenges, some projects stand out due to their extraordinary features or special requirements. Plano-Coudon Construction is proud to be involved in two projects currently that will require our people and our subcontractors to meet a distinctive set of challenges and deliver two unique products.

Towson Tower

In early October, crews began work on a total gut renovation of a 14-story, 110,000-sf  residence hall on the campus of Towson University.

In addition to completely replacing the building’s interiors and installing all new electrical, mechanical, plumbing, sprinkler, elevator and IT systems, crews will make several, large structural changes to the concrete, cast-in-place high rise.

In four places, crews will extend the building’s footprint. Shaped roughly like a four-leaf clover, the building consists of quads that connect to a center core. Crews will bump out a portion of each quad in order to add square footage and an architectural feature that includes window walls which echo the design of other campus buildings.

Crews will remove portions of the first and second floors, reinforce structural columns and install two-story curtain walls to create an inviting, two-story entry space.

In addition to installing all new windows and a new roof, crews will completely re-skin the building by coating the exterior shell with a fresh air barrier, layering on rock wool and installing an Equitone facade – large, fiber-cement panels from Germany that will give the building a modern look and color scheme.

The project which must be completed in 14 months, also involves a unique challenge.9592b8ed-113d-49ab-afe7-8830a47033bb

“There is an antennae system on top of that building, on top of the elevator penthouse,” said Thomas Koch, Project Manager at Plano-Coudon. “It operates Maryland State Police radios, a 911 call center, emergency communications for Baltimore County and Towson University. That antennae system cannot go down.”

Consequently, Plano-Coudon is planning to install temporary power to support the system and carefully coordinate with emergency response officials to ensure there is no interruption in service.

National Aquarium Care & Rescue Center

In a former printing plant, Plano-Coudon Construction is about to create a refuge for sharks, fish, reptiles, exotic birds and the occasional poisonous frog.

For years, the National Aquarium has maintained a secondary facility in Fells Point to support animal care and provide storage, office and other work space. As the end of the lease on that facility neared, however, the aquarium acquired an industrial building near the Shot Tower and contracted Plano-Coudon to handle its transformation into a marine facility.

Artist renderings of the new ACRC | August 9, 2016“The innovative design calls for the creation of multiple, customized holding facilities to house and quarantine various species, including 40-foot round tanks for sharks,” said Craig Pool, Project Manager at Plano-Coudon. “There will be tanks holding different types and temperatures of salt water, bird enclosures and a sealed reptile room that will be equipped with specialty alarms and a venom kit in case someone gets bit by a poisonous frog or snake.”

Meanwhile, elaborate lighting systems will mimic the daytime and nighttime lighting conditions in the animals’ natural habitats.

The facility will include offices, a newly created mezzanine and public space for ‘behind the scenes’ tours of National Aquarium operations. Since Aquarium staff fabricate artificial coral and many other elements for their displays, the building will also include a woodworking shop, fiberglass shop, paint booth and other facilities for craftsmen.

Consequently, the 12-month, complete-gut renovation will include a few challenges, Pool said. Crews will be installing sophisticated air-handling equipment to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels, and contain dust from the workshops. The project will utilize some specialty materials, such as fiberglass-reinforced concrete, to resist corrosion. It will also involve removing and replacing the concrete floor to ensure the new floor is precisely sloped to drain properly.

 

Growth triggers new hires at Plano-Coudon

Plano-Coudon Construction is pleased to welcome eight new members to our team.

Healthy and strategic growth in multiple market segments has necessitated expanding the Plano-Coudon staff by nearly 20 percent in 2016.

“Fortunately, we have a really great culture, a low attrition rate and we have been able to attract really impressive candidates,” said Brett Plano, Co-Founder. “We are attracting people who have deep experience, great skills, great attitude and a desire to go above and beyond in their work. We are excited to add them to our team.”
todd-marcin-5A 17-year veteran of the construction industry, Stephen Todd Marcin joins Plano-Coudon as a senior project manager. Marcin is highly experienced in commercial and residential construction, and is an expert in fast-track projects. His previous projects include the City Garage development for Plank Industries, the 434,000-square-foot Potomac Yards Marriott Renaissance and Residence Inn in Arlington, several medical facilities, and numerous commercial, government and warehouse projects.

merissa-detwiler-5A 15-year veteran of the construction industry, Merissa Detwiler joins Plano-Coudon as a project manager. Detwiler who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Penn State, has managed a range of renovation and new-build projects. Those include a 17,000-square-foot data center at Baltimore Technology Park; a 12-story parking garage; and an interior demo and build-out of the Under Armour Contact Center.

An experienced construction superintendent and stone mason, Ted LaPierre has developed theodore-lapierre-2
special expertise in building biomedical laboratories, university facilities and casino/entertainment complexes. His previous projects include the 24-story, 300-suite MGM Casino and Hotel at National Harbor, a 190,000-square-foot research facility at SAIC Frederick and a five-story, 265,000-square-foot neuroscience research center at the National Institutes of Health. LaPierre joins Plano-Coudon as a superintendent.

elizabeth-wilkins-3Since completing a Bachelor of Science in business management, Elizabeth Wilkins has served as superintendent or assistant project manager on a range of projects. They include an 11-story trophy office building five blocks from the White House, a 117,000-square-foot hospital expansion, a complex MRI suite development at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and assorted infrastructure projects. She joins Plano-Coudon as a superintendent.

With two decades of experience as a skilled carpenter, John Doyle joins Plano-Coudon as a carpenter foreman in the Small Projects Division. Doyle’s previous work ranges from serving as a foreman for a custom home contractor to leading his own home-improvement contractor business to overseeing large commercial projects in the Baltimore region.

A former student at Patterson High School in Baltimore City, Royer Zamora previously worked as a carpenter and foreman for a small, family-operated construction company, a major drywall/masonry contractor and one of the largest specialty builders in the United States. He joins Plano-Coudon as a carpenter foreman in the Small Projects Division.

zachary-moorhead-1Active in the construction industry since he graduated from high school in 2009, Zachary Moorhead also joins Plano-Coudon as a carpenter foreman in the Small Projects Division. He previously worked as a supervisor for a fence and deck contractor, and assistant superintendent for a general contractor, overseeing commercial projects. Moorhead is also a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

nettie-case-6Nettie Case joins Plano-Coudon as an accounts payable specialist. Case previously worked as an accounts payable specialist for Boxwood Technology and an accounts payable manager with Papa Auto Parts Warehouse, handling payables and receivables for nine locations.

Steamed crabs and volleyball scores: Annual picnic blends business with lots of pleasure

It was a company meeting dominated by crabs, volleyball, waterfront views and a fierce corn-hole tournament.

In late September, Plano-Coudon employees put down their tools and pushed back from their computers for an afternoon to attend the annual company picnic at Conrad’s Ruth Villa in Middle River.

One of the company’s quarterly update meetings, the picnic included a brief discussion of new projects, new hires and the company’s progress towards its annual goals. But the the afternoon’s focus soon switched to other things – sports, beverages, casual conversations and crabs.

“Marylanders are serious about their crabs,” said Milan Devon, Project Manager and a Michigan native.

As chair of Plano-Coudon’s Boost Committee, Devon was responsible for planning the picnic. To ensure the event included great crabs, Devon got recommendations from several crab enthusiasts on staff, including one employee who has his own crabbing boat, about the best crab suppliers and how many to order.

“At the end of the picnic, some people went home with extra crabs too. That was sort of intentional,” he said.    picnic-2-web

The afternoon included marathon volleyball games and corn hole matches. 

“There are a lot of very good athletes in the company so the volleyball got competitive,” he said. “The corn hole got pretty competitive too. There are some Type A personalities here and some people were obviously playing for bragging rights.”

But most importantly, the afternoon was filled with conversation. The Boost Committee tailored the activities and venue to create easy opportunities for staff members to talk with each other – to meet a new hire, sit face-to-face with a co-worker they typically only encounter through e-mail, or catch up with a superintendent, foreman or project manager whom they worked with on a project years ago.

“It’s important to encourage that kind of comfortable, casual conversation,” Devon said. “Maybe you talk about a project, maybe you talk about your personal life, maybe you figure out if you want that person as your corn hole partner next year. But you get to make a real connection with a co-worker.”

The annual picnic and similar events have become increasingly important to Plano-Coudon Construction as the company has grown.

“In a company of this size, it is more difficult for Brett and Ryan to interact with everybody, and it’s tougher for employees to get to know everyone,” Devon said. “At the picnic and the holiday party, everyone gets together and has time to talk. It reinforces the family feeling that Brett and Ryan have always wanted in this company.”