Silicon Valley Firm Thinks Beyond Tech
Devcon Construction has built some of Silicon Valley’s most innovative structures, but its work extends far beyond the tech industry, with a diverse portfolio of nonprofit, institutional and large-scale development projects.
The Milpitas, Calif.-based firm is on pace for about $1.6 billion in revenue this year, a number bolstered by a half-dozen megaprojects underway across the state that are worth upward of $1 billion and cover roughly 4 million sq ft, says Gary Filizetti, Devcon president.
Founded in 1976, Devcon has five locations in Northern California and one in Reno, Nev. The firm focuses on high-density residential for nonprofits; work for large developers like Sobrato Organization or Hunter Storm; institutional projects for universities such as Stanford and Santa Clara; and big tech jobs for the likes of Apple, Google and LinkedIn.
“If the market slows down, one or two of these areas is still going to have some construction requirements going on, so staying up to speed in these four areas is pretty important,” says Filizetti, who purchased the company in 1980.
One of Devcon’s most exciting current projects is the $800-million Nvidia corporate campus in Santa Clara, Calif. For the first phase of this project, which was completed in September, Devcon built a complicated, triangular-shaped structure with 500,000 sq ft of below-grade parking and 500,000 sq ft of above-grade office space.
“Normally we build typical rectangular office buildings, but this is a big triangular structure, with a heart shape in the middle and hard cladding that is solid aluminum with perforated panels over a huge, steel megaframe with triangles everywhere,” says Daisy Pereira, Devcon project manager for Nvidia. She says they used Trimble software and BIM extensively to accurately construct the myriad angles on the design-build job.
Pereira, who is also Devcon vice president of construction, says the relationships her company builds are so powerful that she has had some of the same developer clients for more than 20 years. And 95% of the firm’s clients are repeat customers.
Devcon builds from an owner’s perspective, looking for ways to save time and money, says John O’Brien, owner’s representative for Nvidia.
“They are very conscientious about the spend, even though it reduces their fee when you lower overall cost,” says O’Brien. “But that is not important to them; it’s more about building a strong relationship and representing (the owner’s) interests.”
On Nvidia Phase 1, he says, Devcon saved about 75 days at the beginning of the project on the mass excavation and concreting for the underground parking. Crews worked long hours and Saturdays to dig the five-acre hole and pour the concrete. “If we would have gone on a normal construction cycle, it would have left us pretty wide open in the rainy season,” O’Brien says.
In addition, Nvidia made significant mid-construction changes such as adding a 14,000-sq-ft employee space, he says. Devcon was able to help entitle it through the city and got the whole structure finished at the same time.
“That was a pretty significant challenge for them that we inserted into the process,” O’Brien says. “That could have been a three- to four-month delay to the delivery of the building.”
Attention to Detail
Craig Almeleh, owner and senior principal with San Jose, Calif.-based ARCTEC, says Devcon is his company’s preferred general contractor on mid-rise and high-rise building projects. He says Devcon is different because the firm actually reviews the construction documents and asks questions.
“They go through a very thorough preconstruction process which helps all of our liabilities later on through construction because so many general contractors simply pass through drawings from their subs without looking at them,” says Almeleh, whose company works with Devcon on about half dozen projects per year.
Almeleh says Devcon’s attention to detail helped on the 353 Julian–River Corporate Center III, a six-story, structural steel office building being developed by Sobrato Organization. The 204,000-sq-ft project is currently under construction in San Jose and is scheduled for completion in October 2019.
“Through their due diligence it was determined that one of the sixth-story stairwells had some dimensional issues on it and it was caught by Devcon prior to the submittal process of the steel fabricator,” says Almeleh. “If it hadn’t been caught, it might have been a $300,000 oops.”
Another regular Devcon project partner is Santa Clara-based J.J. Albanese, which served as the earthwork, shotcrete, site concrete and demolition subcontractor on Phase 1 of Nvidia and is the site concrete contractor on Stanford University’s $568-million Redwood City office campus.
“Devcon is very good at what they do, and they build off their experience and use that to improve the next project,” says Phil Albanese, vice president and COO, adding that his company has worked with Devcon on hundreds of projects since the 1970s. “There is no finger-pointing on a Devcon job; all the trade partners know what they are responsible for, and this leads to faster schedules and tighter budgets.”
The 1.5-million-sq-ft Stanford project is the university’s first major expansion outside the main campus in more than 125 years. Construction began in 2016 and is aiming for a 2019 completion. Work includes four office buildings, a glass-atrium fitness center, parking garage, landscaped greenway, a 2.4-acre park and a sustainable central energy facility.