BF: My sense is that owners are going to start realizing they�ve given contracts to contractors that aren�t necessarily the most qualified for the job. Sometimes they tend to focus on price instead of quality and safety and I think that�s going to bite those owners in the butt. We want to be the best value provider on all levels � schedule, safety, cost, minimal disruptions. All of those issues fall into our decision to bid a project not to bid a project. Not just, �can we be low?�
NYC: But is Skanska doing the same thing? Are you guys looking into areas that haven�t necessarily been the kind of jobs you would have bid two or three years ago?
RC: Well, I think a couple things have been happening. When we had all these different companies, they had a number of different list-of-services. So one of the things we�re trying to do is take all of those lists and make one big list, which we think would give us the ability to do anything. We call it doing �everything we do everywhere we are.� We have a big marine business down south, for instance. But we don�t do any marine work here or out in California. So that�s one strategy we have. We can take more market share by using all of our services everywhere, and that really just boils down to the moving of people.
NYC: So what sectors have you found yourself bidding in that are new for you guys?
RC: Well a lot of it is geography. Like I said, we�re taking on new geography. We did tons of transit work here in New York, now we�re chasing big transit jobs on the West Coast. We�re looking that way.
MM: Water/wastewater, too. We�re big with that here so we�re looking to move that out west. On the building side, we�re getting bigger and bigger into data centers, especially as it relates to green. We just finished a big one for E-bay in Utah, we�re chasing another one out there for the NSA. We�ve done a lot of that kind of work around here, too. We�d to like to keep expanding the data center business, actually. They�re such energy hogs and we have so many sharp people who understand how to make them less energy-intensive and that business is really taking off.
NYC:Speaking of green, what is Skanska�s corporate agenda with regards to sustainability? I know you did a huge retrofit of your own offices at the Empire State Building this year.
MM: Yes, and that was a [LEED] platinum job. One of the things the Building division is trying to do with green is retrofitting and refurbishment. We�re going into buildings and telling customers we�ll do a survey of your building and here�s where we think you can green it up and see energy savings. Much like we did on our own floor there at the Empire State Building. We�d like to do that for entire buildings and show building owners the kind of money they could save by going green.
NYC: So was your own job at the Empire State Building a test of sorts to determine what exactly you can go out and offer building owners?
MM: Definitely, and to show them what we can do. What paid for the Empire State Building fit-out was the energy savings. And we�re telling that to developers, now. We�re telling them, �We can get you Gold or Platinum and your savings pays for itself in just a few years. So we�re looking to do that everywhere.
BF: We have a goal to be sustainable as possible. So, I think we wanted to not only showcase for the marketplace that we can achieve a LEED platinum space but internally we wanted to do it ourselves. It�s part of who we are. We didn�t say we were going to do this just so we could run around telling people we did it. We have an obligation as a company to practice what we preach.
NYC: Sticking with the technology theme, Skanska has been very aggressive in terms of its use of Virtual Design and Construction and other Integrated Project Delivery methods. How important are these technologies for the industry and for Skanska, specifically?
MM: We looked at it like, we�ve been building the way we�ve been building for fifty-something years. But this is one tool that can make us much more productive. So we jumped on it. It�s going to give us the productivity gains that we�re going to need to make the difference with all the competition out there. The frustration we�ve had with BIM, especially early on, is that it was like being the first person with a telephone. Who are you going to call? You have this tool, but if all the designers and all the subs aren�t on the same platform, it doesn�t work. So you�ve got to get in early, it has to be a design-build, lump-sum job, and then you can dictate and say, �We�re using this program, so if you�re going to get involved with this project, you have to be on this platform.� And when you get to that point, it�s amazing.
BF: If you make things optional in the constructional business people take the easy way out and don�t force change. For instance, we�ve been using tablet computers on projects for the last 10 years. We take the information electronically and we can tie that into the web and e-mail problems with projects directly to architects. That technology is pretty standard on our projects now. We�ve done a lot to be a leader in that area. But we had to do it. We didn�t look at it as an option.
NYC: So how does the future look for Skanska in this region? Our forecasters are starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. Do you feel that way?
MM: Just by weathering this economic storm we think we�ll gain market share. But we also still think there�s plenty of opportunity in this region to grow. We want to do more work in Connecticut. We want to do more work in Boston. And there�s plenty of big work here in New York. There�s definitely less than there was, but it�s there. And it�s the stuff we like to do � complicated, tough, high-profile work. We�re really excited about what we can do even in the short term.