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An uphill battle: Federal Building Light Court Roof Replacement

Federal roof project faces security, economic challenges

Federal Building Light Court Roof Replacement

Photos submitted by KPH Construction Corp.

Getting contractors approved to work on a light court roof replacement at the Federal Building in Milwaukee was difficult due to security clearance concerns, but keeping subcontractors proved even harder.

The project’s original roofing subcontractor, The Penebaker Enterprises LLC, Milwaukee, went out of business when it was about 90 percent done with its portion of the project, and general contractor KPH Construction Corp., Milwaukee, had to find a replacement subcontractor to step in and finish the job.

“In this economy, nothing is really unexpected,” said Keith Harenda, president and CEO of KPH Construction.

“Companies were falling like flies.”

While Milwaukee-based Langer Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc. finished the work, KPH worked directly with subcontractors’ employees and suppliers to ensure everyone on the project was receiving payment as Penebaker Enterprises was folding.

Adding to the challenge of finding a last-minute replacement was the tight security involved in working on a federal project.

“In order to work in a federal building, everyone had to have extensive background checks and clearance,” Harenda said. “It usually takes one year per person.”

With expedited clearance checks, it took three to six months for every person working on the project to be processed, Harenda said.

“If you’re not cleared, you’re not on site,” he said. “Those are some of the barriers of working with the federal government.”

One of the bonuses of working on a government project was the availability of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money. The light court replacement was one of an initial list of 120 buildings announced in July 2009 to receive stimulus dollars.

The influx of government money put the project on an aggressive timeline, however, because it was deemed “shovel ready,” said GSA Acting Administrator Paul Prouty.

And the downtown site was nearly as tight as the project’s deadline, Harenda said. Due to space constraints, a crane was used to hoist all materials on and off the roof for the project, which included the demolition and replacement of two small structure roofs on the second story.

When lead paint was identified in existing materials, abatement techniques were followed to remove the beams, windows and exhaust louvers in the buildings, as well, Harenda said.

Though the project’s many issues were a challenge, Harenda said, working through them helped KPH develop a stronger relationship with the U.S. General Services Administration, the building’s owner.

“We didn’t miss a deadline or a beat,” Harenda said.

— Melissa Rigney Baxter

Location: Milwaukee

Submitting company: KPH Construction Corp., Milwaukee

General contractor: KPH Construction

Architect: The Kubala Washatko Architects Inc., Cedarburg

Engineer: Graef-USA Inc., Milwaukee (structural)

Owner: U.S. General Services Administration, Chicago

Project size: 10,000 square feet

Project cost: $1.16 million

Start date: April 26, 2010

Completion date: Oct. 26, 2010

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