Whitepaper: 06.15.2015

Meet an Employee-Owner: Richard Peebles

Things are busy in the Southeast, and this experienced builder is looking excited about the future. 

Meet McCarthy Project Director Richard Peebles

Richard Peebles recently joined McCarthy as a project director in the firm’s Southeast Division and is working on the new Kaiser Permanente IT campus in Atlanta and a project for Elanco in Augusta, Ga. Peebles brings nearly 30 years of experience in construction management in multiple markets, including hi-rise office and condos, corporate headquarters, retail and mixed-use properties, hotels, higher education, and healthcare facilities. We recently sat down with Richard to learn more about his background and outlook for the industry in the Southeast.

What initially drew you to the construction industry? How did you break into the field?
My father and grandfather were homebuilders, but my dad actually discouraged me from getting into the construction, due to the ups and downs in this industry, i.e. the Great Recession. In high school, I took drafting classes and intended to attend Georgia Tech and become an architect. However, after my first two quarters at Tech, in a rare moment of maturity, I realized this is not where I belonged. I switched to engineering, which anyone who has worked with me would say is a better fit for how I am “wired.” I graduated with a civil engineering degree and went to work for a large commercial contractor here in Atlanta.

What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed in your career in relation to how buildings are constructed?
What I think is interesting is how much the construction of buildings has not changed. We of course have seen dramatic technological changes in the tools and processes of construction (I remember our first fax machine and when emails were a new invention that would save us a tremendous amount of time). In recent years, BIM has made a large difference in our processes of preconstruction, coordination and clash detection, as has the prefabrication of many building components before hitting the jobsite.

However, ours is an industry that can never be fully ‘automated’ or ‘telecommuted,’ because it still takes a large number of qualified tradespeople, working all hours and in all forms of weather, to actually build the building, just as it did 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago. We still must rely on these skilled workmen along with supervisors and managers and our designers and clients to work together as teams to be successful – communication, collaboration, mutual respect and trust.

What is one challenge in our industry that has remained constant over the course of your career?
Finding and training the tradespeople has always been a concern, especially during the ‘high’ market periods such as we are in now (and which I hope goes for several years). Related to this is finding/utilizing qualified subcontractors. This will always be an issue, as many factors go into “qualified.”

The other constant has been the low fees in this industry. Considering the risks that construction firms face daily, it is critical for us to strive for and adhere to McCarthy’s Core Values and Strategic Anchors – these encompass all facets of what it takes to be successful, from a relationships standpoint with our clients and industry partners, operationally and ultimately as a successful business.

What trends or areas of growth are you noticing in the commercial construction field?
Fortunately at this period in time there are several areas of growth – multi-family (which is a bubble, but for how long?), hospitality, and of course segments related to us aging baby boomers, such as healthcare and senior living. We are also seeing growth in emerging markets such as solar.

Trend-wise, BIM will continue to become more prevalent in all facets of design and construction, as will sustainability, whether formally being called LEED or not. Due to the issues of securing qualified trades people, I believe new and more efficient ways of prefabbing components in shops before shipping to the jobsite will grow.

We are also seeing more clients in varied market segments go with Construction Manager-at-Risk (CM@R) or Design-Build delivery methods, rather than Hard Bid. At the end of the day, the project costs will be comparable, or less, and the experience through the design and construction phases for all parties is greatly enhanced. Creating/constructing a building can and should be an exciting experience!

What changes in this field do you expect to see in the future?
We are about to see a major shift in sustainability. While it is often thought to be too expensive, more people are realizing its ROI makes it quite affordable, not to mention it is becoming more of a standard of practice. It's easier to weigh the up-front costs against the long-term costs.              

I believe we will continue to see more and more “mixed use,” where previously defined market types will be blurred and combined. Much of this will center around live-work-play (shop and eat), a common phrase these days, but will also center around ‘destination’ healthcare, hospitality, senior living, etc.

Beyond this, there will continue to be advances in technology, but coming full circle, we will still need qualified personnel to actually build the buildings.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from work?
Golf. When asked if I am a good golfer, my response is that I am a frequent golfer. I also enjoy hiking. Spending two winters in northeast Ohio, this was a necessity if I wanted to get outdoors. I am an avid reader and usually have two or three books going at the same time -- a novel, a historical or biographical book, and a faith-based book.

What is your favorite TV show?
This changes over the years as programs come and go. Currently Bluebloods is my favorite drama, and Big Bang Theory my favorite comedy -- with the reruns on every evening, I’ve seen most episodes 3 or 4 times but still think they’re hilarious. Over the years, favorites have included shows such as LA Law, Gray’s Anatomy, and Boston Legal; who wouldn’t want to have a Denny Crane balcony to retire to after a long day?

Want to continue this conversation? Contact Richard at RPeebles@mccarthy.com.

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