Mike Stapf is helping to usher in a new era of design-build in the Midwest.
While growing up on his family farm in Millstadt, Illinois, Mike Stapf learned the importance of teamwork, diligence and thinking on his feet.
As it turns out, these are the same foundational skills that drive successful design-build construction projects.
Since stepping into his current role as vice president, design integration in 2014, Stapf has helped guide a series of large-scale design-build projects in McCarthy’s Central Region.
After a Mercy fundraiser, Mike stopped by the future site to grab a photo.
Unlike the traditional method of completing projects through individual contracts with an architect and a builder, design-build combines design and construction services as a single entity. The goal is to harness the expertise of all team members to maximize efficiency, reduce waste and optimize outcomes through all phases of a project.
Stapf credits an unsuccessful BJC project pursuit in 2012 for fueling his mission. “That was my first experience leading a contractor-led design-build team,” he recalls. “We didn’t win the job, but learned important lessons.”
To expand his design-build knowledge base, he tapped into the expertise of his McCarthy colleagues on the West Coast, where design-build project delivery is more common. “I soaked it all up,” he says. “I'd ask for organizational charts, RFPs and RFQs so I could understand how our West Coast teams were approaching projects. I took what I learned and passed those insights on to our local project teams. There’s no way we’d be where we are today without the information shared by our partners out west.”
Stapf’s commitment has equipped McCarthy to pursue and win several landmark design-build projects across multiple market sectors, including healthcare, office, government, higher education and water/wastewater.
He credits two major projects for elevating the Central Region’s design-build resume and capabilities:
The first assignment came in 2015: a $75 million seismic renovation of the Robert A. Young Federal Building—one of downtown St. Louis’ largest office buildings—to improve the historic structure’s resilience in the event of an earthquake. Completed in 2019, the project earned a national Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) Project Award.
Robert A. Young Federal Building
Building on that success, in 2019, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) selected a McCarthy HITT joint venture to lead the design-build team for the Next NGA West campus in north St. Louis. Expected to wrap up construction in 2024, the $1.7 billion project represents the largest federal investment in St. Louis history.
“What stands out the most were the McCarthy team members who were willing to take on some really complex projects and deliver them in an entirely new way,” he notes.
The Advent of Progressive Design-Build
With the recent emergence of progressive design-build, building owners can engage a design-build team early in the project and progress toward a design and contract price together. “The progressive design-build model continues to gain momentum, particularly on complex healthcare and research buildings,” says Stapf.
In 2021, BJC HealthCare tapped McCarthy to oversee the design and construction of a new 16-story patient tower at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. A signature element of BJC Campus Renewal phase 3, it’s the health system’s first major progressive design-build project. “BJC was looking for a single source of accountability through one entity, and we convinced them our team was the right partner,” says Stapf. “Our tagline was ‘The Right Team at the Right Time.’”
And McCarthy has delivered on its promise. “We’ve hit every target date and held the budget even while facing the challenges of COVID, cost escalation and supply chain issues,” he says.
BJC rewarded that performance by accelerating phase 4 of the project and incorporating it into McCarthy’s project scope. Not only did that shave two years from BJC’s 15-year master plan schedule, but it also saves $30 million in potential future cost escalation.
Most recently, McCarthy convinced SSM Health to choose a progressive design-build model for the new Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, a 14-story pediatric academic hospital scheduled to break ground in March 2024. “They were originally planning to follow a more traditional delivery method, but our team helped them recognize the benefits of collaborative design-build,” says Stapf.
As a young boy, he remembers helping his dad build pole barns—and eventually the family home—on their property. “When you live on a farm, you learn to do everything yourself, so we were all involved in that project,” he says.
Mike baling and stacking hay on his family farm.
While he enjoyed farm work, Stapf didn’t aspire to become a full-time farmer. Instead, he enrolled in the engineering program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE).
Early into his college experience, however, Stapf ran into a stumbling block: Calculus II. “I really liked numbers and math, but I sucked at calculus,” he admits. “So my advisor asked if I’d be interested in the construction management program. I didn't even know that program existed, but it turned out to be a nice fit for me.”
His first hands-on commercial construction experience came as an intern at Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, a family-owned general contractor in Highland, Illinois. “It was a great experience, but I wanted to try working for a larger company without losing that family feel,” he recalls.
As fate would have it, Stapf noticed a flyer posted outside one of his classrooms advertising an estimating internship at McCarthy. “I jumped at the opportunity, came in for an interview and got hired,” he says.
That internship led to a full-time gig that turned into a 23+-year career.
One of his initial job assignments involved estimating the enclosure of a high-containment laboratory building for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. “I had never been on an airplane before, and I remember flying down to Atlanta to meet with the CDC,” he says. “I felt like the whole world was opened up to me.”
Children's Hospital Colorado
Stapf earned a promotion to preconstruction director while working on the construction of a new 10-story tower at Children's Hospital Colorado.
And he developed expertise in disaster recovery preconstruction through his leadership on the construction of Mercy Hospital Joplin after an EF-5 tornado demolished the previous facility in 2011. He also played a pivotal role in the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System's new medical center in New Orleans, which replaced critical medical infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System's medical center in New Orleans
Since ascending to his current position as vice president, design integration in 2014, Stapf has bolstered McCarthy’s in-house capabilities by launching the Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) and Design Integration groups.
He currently serves on McCarthy’s Design Phase Leadership group, a national team that works together to advance the company’s expertise during the earliest parts of construction projects.
Get to Know Mike Stapf
Mike and his wife, Hillary, celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2023.
Daughters Tatum (17) and Taylor (14) are students at Notre Dame High School in St. Louis.
Mike and his family live about a half-mile from the farm where he grew up, and he still actively works on the farm in his spare time.
On Thursday nights, he participates in a trap shooting league at the Edwardsville Gun Club. He has shot 6,026 out of 7,300 clay pigeons over 12 years.
He also plays hockey with some of his McCarthy friends on Sundays.