Construction Certification Coming

February 3, 2003
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WYOMING — At D&D Building, professional certification is important.

Just a few months ago, D&D earned the Constructor Certification Company of the Year Award from the American Institute of Constructors (AIC).

At the time, the Wyoming-based builder had five members gain Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) status from the AIC Constructor Certification Committee. Also at that time, D&D led the state with five CPCs on board and was the only contractor in Michigan to have that many.

But since D&D won the award in October, two members that held CPCs have moved on. Still, Vice President Scott Gibson, Director of Construction Operations Kurt Kemme and Director of Retail Construction Steve Sikma remain, and that trio more than likely makes D&D the local firm with the most CPCs.

“Constructors really don’t have a professional organization where they can be certified like, say, an engineer or a CPA. It is a 16-week course and you have to have so many years of practical experience in the construction industry — I think it’s 10 — before you can apply,” said Gibson.

By the way, a CPC formally recognizes the education and experience that a contractor has attained throughout a career. It also means he or she has passed a rigorous exam, one that reveals a builder’s strengths and weaknesses.

The test lasts a whole day. The morning session is a multiple-choice exam that takes from four to five hours to complete. In the afternoon, a hypothetical project is presented and offers questions on blueprints, insurance coverage and contracts.

“That tests your level of knowledge as it pertains to construction,” said Gibson.

The AIC offers two professional designations: Associate Constructor (AC) and the CPC. College graduates from programs such as those offered at Ferris State and Michigan State universities can take the AC certification exam. But they’ll have to spend about a decade in the field gaining experience in various segments of the industry before they can tackle the CPC.

“If someone was hired as an accountant and just did accounting, that wouldn’t give them enough in their documentation when they applied for the exam. You have to have so much time in project management, pre-construction services and contracts,” said Gibson.

“They look to see that someone has covered the whole spectrum of construction.”

The institute has been certifying contractors since 1971. But in 1994, AIC created a special group called the Constructor Certification Commission and gave it the responsibility to set the standards and run the program. Non-AIC members can also be certified.

Most industry organizations recognize and support the program. Just a few that do include the American Council for Construction Education, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the American Society of Professional Estimators and the Associated General Contractors of America.

Gibson told the Business Journal that D&D has been marketing its CPCs to potential clients, and that the certification is something that is relatively new to the West Michigan market but already big in the metro Detroit area. He said the automakers now expect a firm to have CPCs on staff if it wants to manage one of their building projects.

“So you’re seeing some of the larger corporations starting to require it. It hasn’t hit West Michigan as much as it has in some of the larger cities around the nation,” he said.

But Gibson feels that more clients will make the certification a mandatory part of a bid application here in the not-too-distant future.

“I think so. And I think that as more and more people graduate from universities with professional construction management degrees, in time they’re going to go for their CPC. We’re going to see that happen more and more for project management level and above,” he said. “In a construction firm, you’re going to see people being required to be certified.”

Besides gaining the CPCs, D&D also picked up two awards of excellence from the West Michigan Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors last year.

One was for the $2.1 million renovation of Catholic Social Services, a design-build type project on Jefferson Avenue. The other was for institutional construction, as D&D built the $1.3 million Grandville Arts Academy. Both buildings are in downtown Grand Rapids.

All in all, despite a weakened economy, Gibson said 2002 was a good year for D&D.

“Yes, it was,” he said. “The total size of the projects was down. We just did more projects, smaller projects.”           

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