Knutson Construction – The Nexus at Gray’s Landing

Knutson picKnutson Construction applies its philosophy of teamwork to two apartment projects in Iowa.
By Jim Harris

At the beginning of all its jobs, Knutson Construction’s project managers ask their clients to tell them the top five things “that keep them up at night” regarding a project. “This could include price, subcontractor management or a tight schedule,” says Wade Hiner, director of business development for the Iowa City branch of Knutson Construction.

Knutson then asks its clients to rate the company based on how it responds to those factors. “We want to know what the most important things to our clients are and how we are doing when it comes to those items,” Hiner adds, noting the company will take corrective action if necessary to keep a project on track.

The company’s ability to understand its clients’ goals and honor its commitments exemplifies what it calls “The Knutson Experience.” The term was coined in 2005 after Knutson commissioned extensive research with its clients to understand how they view the construction process. The research was expanded to include architects, subcontractors and employees.

Knutson provides extensive training to its employees based on input received through internal surveys. This training helps it better deliver a positive experience to clients, Hiner says.

The Edge and the Nexus

A recent beneficiary of the “Knutson Experience” is Minneapolis-based real estate developer Sherman Associates. Last December, Knutson completed work on the Edge at Gray’s Landing, a 90-unit, $12 million apartment building in Des Moines, Iowa. Work on the project started in September 2015.

The Edge is a four-story, wood-frame building with a concrete slab-on-grade parking deck and cement board siding exterior. The 90,000-square-foot building is now fully occupied, Project Manager Brett Krantz notes.

In August 2016, Knutson began work on The Nexus at Gray’s Landing, a $22 million, four-story, wood-frame building, built over the top of a parking garage. The building’s exterior features a mixture of brick and metal panels. Drywall and finishing work is underway in the 142-unit, 195,000-square-foot Nexus, which is slated for completion in January. Knutson box

Each building is targeted toward a different renter base. As a workforce housing development, units in the Nexus building feature high-end finishes and are geared toward the luxury market.

Both buildings include amenity areas. The Edge has a community room and fitness center, while the Nexus includes an outdoor pool, an outdoor plaza with grilling areas, a yoga studio and first-floor retail space.

The Nexus at Gray’s Landing is being built to LEED for Homes certification. Each unit will include energy-efficient air-handling units. Unused building materials were recycled, and several of the materials used contain recycled content, Superintendent Richard Mills says.

Sherman Associates’ plans for the Gray’s Landing development include a Holiday Inn Express hotel and an office building.

Overcoming Challenges

In addition to the two apartment buildings, Knutson also built a road extension leading into the Gray’s Landing property. The 75-acre site formerly housed a Pittsburgh Steel plant.

The site’s former use, as well its location within a floodplain, posed challenges for Knutson. During excavation, the company needed to dispose of excess waste and footings from the former steel plant. In addition, the company needed to replace much of the soil on the site with a new rock base, Mills notes.

Another challenge the project faced, was framing the building during winter weather. Knutson rose to each of the project’s challenges with the help of its subcontractors, which included electrical contractor, Baker Electric, Ladco Heating and Cooling, A.J. Plumbing, and Mid-Iowa Drywall. In addition, Corell Contractors performed sitework, earthwork and utility work on the project, and the concrete contractor was Cameron Mitchell.

All workers on the site followed the guidelines of Master Builders of Iowa and Iowa OSHA’s WORKSAFE safety program. The program includes regular site walkthroughs and safety checks from the agency and organization. “They are there to help out and provide advice on safety issues and challenges we might be facing instead of just looking for issues and reasons to fine us,” Krantz says.

Future Opportunities

Founded in 1911, Knutson works in a variety of sectors. “We are a multifaceted company that can perform a wide spectrum of jobs,” Hiner says. “We don’t have a particular specialty.”

Knutson’s self-performance capabilities include concrete work, carpentry, masonry and demolition. The company’s other services include construction management, design/build, preconstruction and virtual design and construction. The latter capability was recently enhanced when the company hired building information modeling (BIM) manager, Katie Montag. “We will see a marked improvement and increased usage of virtual reality and BIM with our owners moving forward,” Hiner adds.

In addition to its residential sector work, the company also performs healthcare, commercial and institutional construction. The company is pursuing work in building senior housing projects, which Hiner expects will be a lucrative market for Knutson.

“We are partnering with developers who are trying to fill the needs of an aging population,” he adds. “That is a sector that will be a huge growth opportunity for us.”

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