As any relationship counselor will tell you, communication is key. In construction, clear communication between builders and clients is essential to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.
Senate Construction Corporation has engaged in quality design/build construction in central Massachusetts for close to thirty years. The company has a varied portfolio and stellar reputation and is poised to reach even grander heights in the coming years.
Senate Construction Corporation Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Robert France grew acquainted with construction as a co-op education student at Northeastern University. “I got the opportunity to get exposed to different aspects of civil engineering through various cooperative education jobs,” he recalls fondly. After graduating, he entered the industry in 1976.
As he worked his way up, he realized that “if I wanted to design things, I ought to be able to build them, because as an engineer, we don’t necessarily learn how things are built. We learn how to design them.” He also learned of the disconnect between engineering and construction and that how a building is designed bears little resemblance to how it might be constructed. “That revelation got me into the construction business.”
He then gained vital experience in the design/build sector. Armed with this knowledge, he decided to found his own company in 1990. “I decided that it was my time to go out and show the world how construction should be done.”
France wanted his new business to focus on making building more efficient – reducing schedules and lowering building costs. As Senate expanded, it acquired a name for high-quality, efficient design and construction. France notes that the company has experienced industry fluctuations, “and we’ve enjoyed the benefit of a number of repeat clients over the years, which we embrace and look forward to.”
While certainly striving for quality over quantity, Senate is not above taking small jobs to keep afloat during lean times, a lesson it took to heart during the 2008 recession. “One thing we recognized was that our clients have big and small projects,” France says. The company launched its small projects division to provide this necessary service.
France sees this as dual-purpose, helping to secure the company’s survival during downturns and ensuring that it maintains its obligations to its clients. “We’re continually and constantly taking on small projects, simply to allow us to maintain our client base and satisfy their needs.”
Today, Senate is the design/build firm in central Massachusetts. The company has built an impressive body of work over its twenty-nine-year tenure, with developments in the commercial, warehouse, and hospitality sectors among several others. The company has many achievements in pre-engineered building, having engaged in the practice since 1994 and is now shifting the core of the business toward this method.
It has grown from a skeleton crew to now employing project managers and estimators; however, the company does not keep architects on staff, preferring to outsource as needed. France explains that different architects have experience in specific forms of design, so Senate hires architects to bring a unique perspective to each project, whether in hospitality, distribution, residential, or commercial.
“We wanted the flexibility of being able to hire folks that had that background and that experience. It’s to provide our clients with the best product for their particular type of project.”
Thanks to its experience in engineering and construction, Senate can work closely with its clients through every step of the building process, including working with local and regional authorities to secure required permits, a rarity among many of its peers. In a few cases, the company has even helped its clients secure financing.
“Those are things that not a lot of contractors will do,” France says proudly. “We’ll take a concept – a back-of-a-napkin ‘Here’s what I would like to do.’ We’ll take that concept through all the regulatory approval process on behalf of the client. We’ll complete the design, and we will deliver the product turnkey.”
What France calls ‘value engineering’ begins right at the project’s inception. “We’re advising our clients and the engineers who are involved as to how to most effectively accomplish things and, in doing so, making the project viable and something they can achieve financially.”
Rather than selecting from the existing market, Senate uses made-to-order steel specifically designed to meet the engineering parameters of each project. Existing steel may exceed engineering specifications by up to thirty percent, according to France. He says this method is not only more efficient but more economical. “You just aren’t getting the surplus that you don’t need.”
Senate began a new chapter in 2015 when highly respected national builder Butler Manufacturing asked the company to become a certified Butler Builder. Construction industry giant Butler has the capacity to perform its own research and development, which allows it to set warranties and create the benchmark for pre-engineered building quality. Butler and Senate’s relationship is well-founded; Butler has retained the company as a preferred client since 1994, and after over twenty years of this working relationship, Butler reached out to ask it to join this exclusive group of companies. “I’m honored to be a Butler builder,” France states.
“Butler is very particular about who they work with because they want to make sure that their brand is honored and respected,” France says. “It was clearly a good decision for us.”
A recent project is a 50,000-square-foot building in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts which is to serve as a state-of-the-art headquarters for the Mass Crane and Hoist Service, Inc. “We were honored to be selected from three different contractors to do the design and build of their facility,” France remarks with professional pride.
He elaborates that this project was typical example of the company’s close collaboration with its clients, with Senate handling as many minor details as possible. “It’s part of our philosophy to help the client save as much of his time so he can dedicate that to their business, as opposed to being involved in things that we can handle for them.”
Another fresh addition to the company portfolio is a 615,000-square-foot distribution center completed in 2017 in Worcester. It was its first work as a certified Butler Builder and went from blueprints to opening in just sixteen months. “We were delighted to perform it in that timeframe. It was fairly quick,” France reports.
The building is in a prime area close to several freight corridors and showcases Senate’s efficiency as well as its engineering and construction expertise. The center has approximately half the space occupied by non-food supermarket supplier Imperial Distributors and is capable of handling additional logistics, administration, and light manufacturing
Another recently completed development project was for fluid handler Integra, a repeat customer as Senate built its first 30,000-square-foot distribution center. Having outgrown that facility, Integra returned for an additional 40,000 square feet of storage and office space. France is proud of this repeat business, considering it proof of Senate’s quality. “Whenever we have repeat projects, it’s an indication to me and to our company that we did a great job the first time, and the client wanted to stay with us. We’re always thrilled about that.”
As it looks to the future, the company is concentrating almost exclusively on pre-engineered building and sees new development in decentralized distribution networks. The ‘Buy Local’ movement is gaining more traction from many American consumers, and the company intends to be part of this trend.
“We see that the distribution of goods and the creation of local distribution centers is something that’s going to be occurring over the next five to ten years, and these pre-engineered buildings in the clear span spaces lend themselves to that type of buildings,” France comments.
Senate also sees great potential growth in America’s revitalized manufacturing sector, and the company plans to use its proficiency to design and build greenfield manufacturing facilities to meet this need. France personally applauds this development and says Senate accepts the challenge of building the new infrastructure for the next generation of American manufacturing.
“We’re looking forward to partnering with manufacturing clients to help improve the efficiency of their space by using clear span buildings and help them increase the size of their facilities to help improve their ability to produce products and distribute to their clients.”