Dallas/Fort Worth has been home to the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) International Office for more than 25 years since relocating from Chicago in 1992. However, the building was in disrepair, and it became evident to the International Board of Directors and Association staff that a change had to be made.
According to IAEI News, the 12,000-square-foot brick office building in Texas was chosen because it had the best property value and was in a suitable location with good weather for staff to easily travel year-round from DFW Airport.
Phase-one renovations took place in 2008 to bring the facility up to building code and update the restrooms, but this work did not address other growing issues and needs.
In 2010, the Board of Directors considered many options and began a capital campaign in 2012 to raise the money. However, in that same year, the foundation of the building had to be repaired, and these corrections caused plumbing problems that also had to be mended.
The Board of Directors assembled a facilities task group in 2015 to research viable options for the deteriorating office building. Michal Hofkin, chairman of this committee, said that during the extended fundraising period the real estate market rose significantly in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area—in some cases, prices increased 70 to 80 percent.
After putting the building on the market for more than a year with no serious buyers, the committee explored every option, including relocating to another city.
“The Board had no stomach for putting the Association and its membership into debt,” Hofkin said. “So, the mortgage option was immediately set aside. Out-of-state properties that met our criteria did provide savings, which we had to weigh against the cost of losing 95 percent of the staff with a move and the associated costs of severance packages, loss of institutional knowledge and organization history, loss of productivity while hiring and training new staff, and the cost of moving the office. While a move to another state would have provided a good deal on the face, these other costs put the costs back up to the cost of staying in the same area.”
Due to the continued deterioration of the building, in 2016 the Board decided to renovate the existing facility and avoid debt.
The transformation begins
The renovation goal was to have a safe, clean, modern office with plenty of training and meeting space, upgraded technology, and a brighter, more workable environment. The facility was expected to house expanded meeting space to accommodate staff meetings, Board meetings, more in-house trainings, and to provide opportunity for other groups to use the training and meeting space.
The design was approved by the Board of Directors in June 2018 and construction started almost immediately.
Staff members continued to provide customer service, membership support, Board support, education programs, and more throughout the office upheaval. For a short time, this included squeezing staff into downstairs offices while the upstairs remodel began to avoid the expense of temporary office space.
Even with downstairs work area doors closed and the entry to that space curtained off, renovations produced more dust and other airborne issues than expected, and the decision was made for staff to work remotely except shipping and warehouse manager Jeff Phillips.
“I’m grateful that everybody on staff helped to make the physical transitions happen and kept on keeping the [International Office] responsibilities covered during construction,” said CEO David Clements. “From what I heard at the 2018 Section Meetings, our members felt that they received very good service from the office during this time period.”
Office Manager Cathy Higgs provided project support throughout the renovation period. She not only juggled interactions with the contractors and subcontractors when Clements was traveling, but facilitated staffs’ transition to remote work environments.
“Thanks to the mobility provided by cloud network and telecom services and our local IT support team at Preferred Technologies, our staff was able to keep the office running remotely during construction and during the transition back into the office,” she said.
Once all the construction dust cleared and the building passed its occupancy checks, the staff officially moved in on September 26, 2018. Long-time employees noticed the difference right away.
“It’s the difference between night and day,” said Amber Pena, order processing clerk. “Before, it was out-of-date and dark, with roof leaks, mold, and uneven flooring. Now, it is bright, open, and a safer work environment.”
Jonnie Vallar, director of Membership and Services, noticed the transformation also. “Before the renovation, the small, separated office areas made communication across departments more difficult. Having the offices on one floor together has already helped.”
Clements was able to manage the renovation to come in on budget. In addition to current costs, it is anticipated the electrical bills will decrease significantly due to the new heating and air-conditioning systems, new roofing and insulation, and new lighting fixtures.
“When you undertake a construction project like this, you always assume it will come in over budget due to things you can’t foresee,” Hofkin said. “So, even with those things that came up during construction, Dave brought it in on time and on budget, and that deserves a major thanks.”
Grand opening celebration
The finished product was revealed during an open house and reception gala on November 7, 2018. The Board of Directors, renovation vendors, and some capital campaign donors toured the building and enjoyed a Texas barbeque dinner.
“We appreciate your loyalty and support and thank everyone who contributed—the members and other individuals, sections, chapters, divisions, and companies large and small,” said Larry Chan, IAEI International President. “I especially want to call out our major donors, who have been generous with IAEI over the long run and made a difference, not just with this project, but when chapters like mine needed it too.”
Contributions were carefully monitored during this project. Clements attributes much of the success to the selected vendors.
“It’s been a pleasure working with local companies Entos Design, Abstract Construction, and Preferred Technologies,” he said. “They helped move us from our redesign concept to workable detailed plans, then managed the project to be completed on time and within budget. The staff is very thankful to be back together in our updated offices.”
“Everyone on the committee is thrilled with how the building turned out. Now, the staff has a better place to work, which should help with doing their jobs and with employee morale,” Hofkin said.
Lisa Bascom is the IAEI Marketing Manager and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .