Seamans Adds Design To Its Building Work

April 16, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — A new notion emerging in the heating, air conditioning and refrigeration business entails both designing and building HVAC systems, and it is taking hold in Grand Rapids at Seamans Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Inc.

President Randy Seaman told the Business Journal that design/build is a method of project delivery in which the owner executes a single agreement/contract with one entity … to provide design and construction services.

He explained that Seaman's works with the architect, the general contractor, the owner of the building, electricians, plumbers, masons, and anyone else involved in the construction and planning of a new building.

We need to work with everyone, as a team, added Dean Anderson, the firms sales manager who also designs and engineers projects for Seamans.

And not only that, we all need to understand the others business so we can make sure that all of the systems are integrated and are able to work together to give the customer the most efficient, cost-saving building.

The significance of the design and build process, he said, is a savings on building time and cost, maintenance time and cost, as well as a savings on repair time and cost.

In a routine project, where we would maybe design our own system and then install it in a building, we would be contracted through the general contractor to take a look at the site, draw up some plans, present ideas and quotes to the owner, and then compete with several other companies for the same job, Seaman said.

The problem with that is that the owner is paying for each time someone gives them a quote and an idea, and that can get very costly.

The architect also must insure all of the different sub-contractors to make sure that they perform up to current codes and standards and also stay in contact and stand behind their work.

With the design/build process, he said, all of those costs are diverted, because we are the only company vying for that operation and there is a trust system that goes along with that.

He explained that when Seamans comes in at the beginning of the construction, the engineers have an opportunity to look at the plans for the building and find out what the customer is looking for in regards to specific needs, such as cooling for computers, refrigeration systems, heating or air conditioning, specific warehouse needs or simple office requirements.

From there, together with experts in other areas, he said, Seamans is able to devise a plan for what will fit into the building to meet the customers needs.

We also need to think in constraints of a budget, said Anderson.

When talking with the customer it is important to know what their budget is so that we aren't showing them plans for a $10,000 project when they only have the money for a $5,000 project.

We want to be able to accommodate the customer in every sense of the project.

Four decades ago, when Seamans dad started the small air conditioning and refrigeration repair business, the company only worked on existing machines and systems that belonged to other companies.

Then the company worked its way into the small scale design/build arena by designing its own systems and installing them, while still performing replacements and add-ons.

It wasnt until Anderson joined the company that Seamans began employing the concept of design/build as starting from the ground up on a project.

With Anderson performing nearly 90 percent of the projects, Seaman said that nearly all of the design/build projects the company is currently working on are new building projects.

We aren't doing too many quote and spec projects now, Anderson said. We feel better about working with a new building and designing as a team, because we know that is the better way to go. And we are going to be able to give that customer the best environmental quality, savings on energy bills and the quality assurance that we stand behind with our name.

Seaman said his firm also is able to offer customers a wider variety of control system options and innovations that might not be as viable or cost-effective if the company was brought into a project in a later stage of construction.

Recent projects in which Seamans has worked from a design/build standpoint are the Berkey & Gay building, Union Station project, Mercantile Bank, Grand Rapids Gravel, Taps Sports bar, the City of Wyoming, CSX Railroad and Simpson Industries.

It takes four things to be a design/build contractor: character, commitment, competition and competency, Seaman said.

We stand behind each one of those 4Cs, and also, our family reputation is on the line. We have established a line of trust and integrity with our customers and we are very proud of our staff for working to keep that up through everyday operations.

And the work doesnt stop once the system is installed.

Seamans also offers a planned maintenance program for all design/build projects. The IPPM program (Individually Prescribed Planned Maintenance) helps customers avoid the breakdowns that always seem to occur at the worst time — the hottest day of the summer or the coldest night of the winter.

Seaman said that with regularly scheduled IPPM inspections — inspections which he said are not just a cursory look, but based on type of facility, type of system and type of use — Seaman's hopes to assist customers in avoiding those business-interrupting breakdowns. We develop a prescription based on the age, type and usage of your equipment, then regularly service your equipment during non-peak hours, said Seaman.

Besides servicing the design/build projects, he said Seamans will also train the end user on the technology of the new systems. We cant expect to put a brand new system that we have designed in a warehouse and say Figure it out,Anderson said.

So we will go into the business and train them how to work with it and then also leave ourselves available 24 hours a day for any questions they may have.

This is a trend that is really becoming very popular, and we know that with our experience and reputation that we can bring it to our customers here, said Seaman. We know the value and we want to express that to our customers.

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