Direct Steel News & Blog

State & Federal Minority Contractor Requirements
  • Navigating the State & Federal Minority Contractor Requirements – MBE / WBE participation goals tied to federal and state funded projects.

    Often general contractors working on government funded projects must meet requirements to utilize a certain amount of the budget employing disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) that are owned by more than 51% minorities or women. These include projects those from Federal agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, and U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as certain states’ individual requirements. Knowing how to meet the requirements, and finding a suitable Minority Business Enterprise, or Women Business Enterprise can seem daunting without having a reputable commercial contractor experienced with the requirements.

    What are federal minority contractor requirements?
    Minority contractor requirements for federal agencies vary from agency to agency as well as specific funding programs as well. For instance, the EPA has 8 – 10% minority participation goals tied to many of their projects, and the USDOT also requires 10% of project funds to employ DBE’s. Disadvantaged Business Enterprises must qualify with a state agency or certified third-party non-profits that specialize in this qualification. The requirements are typically that the business is owned and operated by more than 51% disadvantaged, minority individuals and sometimes stipulate that the individual’s net worth not exceed a certain amount.


    Direct Steel can help you navigate the complex Federal and State minority contractor requirements.

    What are the State minority contractor requirements?
    State minority contractor requirements vary significantly from state to state, as well as certain larger cities having their own requirements for their building department projects. For Instance, Illinois has a 19% participation goal, and California has a similar 25% “small business goal”. Many states have their own MBE specialized economic development offices that help act as a liaison between the program requirements, contractors, and certified businesses seeking to comply with the state requirements.


    What are Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) participation goals?
    When no suitable contractor can fulfill the requirements of the project, documentation of efforts to hire a MBE / WBE contractor must be documented. (Sometimes, there may not be a qualifying contractor for a specific project that comes forth to bid on government projects). This may range from having to document the sending of emails and faxes to lists of known minority business enterprises as well as publishing in local newspapers.

    Meeting MBE requirements with a qualified contractor
    If you are unsure about meeting requirements for a project, it is best to check if the specific federal agency or state body has literature or an office specializing in these projects. Further, having a short list of companies that fully understand and have experience with these qualifications is paramount to complying with the requirements of federally funded projects. Direct Steel is a certified WOSB (Women Owned Small Business) and has worked on several government-funded construction projects.

    If you have a project you are struggling with compliance with, get in touch with us and we can help take the headache out of the many legal requirements.

8 Hidden Costs of Commercial Construction Projects to Avoid
  • 8 Hidden Costs of Commercial Construction Projects to Avoid

    1: Existing Condition adding to Commercial Construction Costs (Skeletons in the closet)
    When working with an existing structure, a host of problems can arise - from problems with HVAC, electrical wiring to asbestos. Development of a former industrial site can uncover hazardous contaminants on the property or in the soil.

    2: Building Code errors: Architects and Designers inexperienced with local building codes
    Using an inexperienced designer / architect that lacks a thorough knowledge of complying with the design can create costly headaches and modifications during construction.

    3: CHANGE ORDERS: Property Owners can add to the cost
    The person or business paying for the project can cause significant cost increases when they find out about additional features or needs they want from the building. These revisions create costly change orders.

    4: Poor Timelines: Unrealistic completion times and projections
    It can be tempting to want a project delivered by a certain date, and to agree to work that may or may not be completed by that date. Budgeting extra time or planning for unexpected delays is important when designing a project.

    5: Biased Specifications: Designer preferences and connections
    An architect may specify a brand for a building component that they have a preference for, but it may add to the cost. You may be wanting basic functionality and they use an expensive brand which adds to the cost of the project unnecessarily.

    6: Communication Problems: Communication and Management
    Lack of proper communication procedures and ongoing meetings between administrative, design, and field crew can create costly headaches. Miscommunications between vendors can create delays in material delivery as well.

    7: Jurisdictional Legal Fees, Permits and Prerequisites
    All projects require permits and fees paid to the local jurisdictions. Often times, some of these costs may be minimized by excluding construction of features with expensive fees or legal and insurance prerequisites.

    8: Accidents, Jobsite Management: Slips and Falls, Damage to Existing Property
    Injuries to workers or occupants, as well as damage to physical property can be avoided with proper planning for safety and having sufficient insurance for a project.

    Work with a Comprehensive Construction Management Company
    Direct Steel prides itself on impeccable project management, design and preventing and minimizing construction cost overruns. We have worked on extensive commercial and governement development projects in the retail, office, industrial, military, manufacturing and recreational verticals. Our years of experience and knowledge of local code requirements saves customers headaches and money. Contact us today to discuss concerns or needs of your next construction project.

Direct Steel – Olmsted Locks and Dams Project
  • August 2018 - Direct Steel proud to participate in construction of key piece of Nation’s waterway infrastructure – Olmsted Locks and Dams
    a barge makes its way through the Olmsted Locks and Dams

    Replacing a key piece of national infrastructure

    Direct Steel and Construction of Crystal Lake, IL proudly participated in the largest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project since the Panama Canal.  The project replaces an aging set of locks and dams that had previously caused delays and headaches for many of the nation’s water freight transportation companies.  Situated at the southern tip of Illinois, where the Mississippi, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers connect, the project involved two 110-foot by 1,200 foot locks and an extensive dam to replace the aging Ohio River locks and dams completed in 1929. Known as the Olmsted Locks and Dams, the waterway system will provide reliable navigation for commerce, offering millions of dollars of economic gains annually. 

    Direct Steel Constructs Steel Buildings for the Olmsted Locks and Dams Project
    Following a competitive bid process, Direct Steel and Construction was awarded the contract to construct a 16,500 square foot maintenance building, a 3,000 square foot lockmaster building, a fire pump house and associated site work.  (Photo attached) These buildings support the transportation activities and storage needs at the site. The contract value exceeds $13.19M and is scheduled for timely completion in October 2018.

    Direct Steel uniquely qualifies for project as a Women-Owned Service Business (WOSB)
    Rosemary Swierk, President of Direct Steel and Construction, is particularly honored with her team’s efforts since it represents successful completion of a federal government award set-aside for Woman-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs).  Direct Steel’s strong project management team places the company among a select group of WOSBs that can provide General Contracting services for substantial federal government construction projects. 

    Celebration and Ribbon Cutting for the Olmsted Locks and Dams

    Celebration and Ribbon Cutting for the Olmsted Locks and Dams - Prime Contractor, Direct Steel
    The Louisville District of the USACE hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for over 1,000 attendees at the Olmsted site on August 30, 2018. Honored guests included Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Dick Durbin. (Photo attached) Speeches given by top USACE officials cited the importance of this viable commercial waterway to the nation’s economic security.

Why Metal Buildings are Better
  • The Benefits of Metal Buildings: Why Metal buildings are Better, More versatile, and Have Longer Durability
    Direct Steel specializes in pre-engineered steel metal buildings.

    The one thing all customers are looking for in a construction job is durability. They want to know that investment in their respective space will last for an extended period and that they will not have to sink unnecessary funds into upkeep and maintenance. More important than cost itself, is the knowledge that something will last. This is why metal buildings have gained popularity in recent years. However, there are more advantages to metal buildings than just durability: metal buildings add long term value to a project, are a long-term sustainable option, have aesthetic appeal and provide building design flexibility.

    Metal Building Construction: Adding Long Term Value
    Metal Building construction is misunderstood to be more “expensive” In some cases, the cost of using metal is more than other materials upfront. However, with this cost comes the guarantee that your building will last. Thus, there is “bang for your buck” factor at play here. Other materials such as wood and concrete may require upkeep as time goes on, forcing the customer to put more money into a previously completed job. Modifications to the building will be more costly, additionally. Wise property owners and facility managers realize the value of metal buildings over the life-cycle of the building, the adage “when you buy cheap, you buy twice” applies here as with many long-term investments.

    Metal Buildings and Sustainability 
    Metal buildings provide added “sustainability”. With metal’s durability comes sustainability as fewer resources are needed to make repairs and/or update a space. Metal buildings also offer the added benefit of using recyclable materials. Simply put, metal buildings last and require less maintenance than other types. The lack of upkeep also helps to ensure that fewer toxins are put into our environment.

    Metal Buildings and Versatility
    Metal building construction provides flexibility in the design phase, as well as later on in the building’s lifecycle when new uses and plans for buildings call for additions, or when building components and technology needs to updated to meet modern standards. Metal buildings save money and headaches down the road and are versatile even during the initial design.

    Metal Buildings and Aesthetic Appeal
    Metal, as a material, is malleable, meaning that a designer has more freedom than they might with another material. There is an inherent aesthetic flexibility in steel that allows for a client/customer to customize a build to their exact specifications. The adaptability of the material also makes expansion considerably more achievable. This is why metal buildings make a logical choice for allowing designers to maximize the value of a space and design buildings that are modern, appealing, and suitable to multiple uses.

Women Owned Small Business - WOSB
  • How a Women Owned Small Business Defies the Odds – The Direct Steel Story

    Direct Steel is a WOSB

    Direct Steel: A Women Owned Small Business that Defies the Odds
    Direct Steel has it’s roots in the early 2000’s, when founder Rosemary Swierk, now winner of many Women Owned Small Business and Influencer awards and recognitions, began buying and rehabbing buildings and learned the nuances of the commercial construction industry and managing construction projects.

    “I kept buying buildings and remodeling them. I would rent them or sell them. The projects got larger. Eventually, I was building shopping centers. The work was very rewarding. In 2004 I was asked to general contract for other developers and clients. That was the beginning of Direct Steel.” Rosemary Swierk, Medium.com

    The path for her new company was not easy, having to strategically compete during the construction recession of the late 2000’s that stagnated area commercial construction developments, Rosemary leveraged her skill in navigating the strict requirements of government projects and requirements of government funded projects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

    “I learned that getting federal-government work is kind of like getting your first job. You can get the work as long as you have the experience, but you can’t get the experience until you get the work. Winning your first prime contract or subcontract is difficult.”

    The Great Recession drove a lot of construction companies out of business, but Direct Steel beat the odds by pursuing and winning contracts with the federal government. Today, Direct Steel is a successful commercial contractor, construction manager, and owner’s representation company. We have completed several government projects, including Air Force, Army Corps of Engineers, Navy, and Veteran’s Administration projects. Beyond this Direct Steel regularly works in the construction of commercial retail, medical, office, restaurant, and recreation facilities.

    Women Owned Business Awards: Direct Steel and Rosemary as Influencers in the Industry
    Direct Steel is honored to be a part of a small group of companies to receive a WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) certification. This illustrious honor is only available to companies wherein 51 percent of the business is owned, operated, and managed by women. As a WOSB (Women-Owned Small Business), Rosemary has had the honor of attending a multitude of conferences and serving on various panels over the past several years, and has been the recipient of many recognitions and women owned business awards. Rosemary’s work in the field has been featured in magazines among the likes of Chicago Women Magazine, Enterprising Women Magazine, and Women Impacting Public Policy. In addition to these features, Rosemary was also recognized with the Women of Influence Award in March of 2017.

    Direct Steel’s Customer-First Approach and Successes. Going Beyond Commercial Construction Management
    Direct Steel’s success and impact goes beyond delivering several successful government construction projects. Rosemary and her team pride themselves by going above and beyond expectations. Direct Steel’s focus on delivering on client expectations and being proactive to solve potential development problems ensures projects get completed on-time and within budget. Construction management processes and communication, including Budget Analysis, preliminary scheduling, and maintaining oversight through final construction regularly meet and exceed client’s expectations.

Sustainable & Green Construction Practices
  • Direct Steel specializes in sustainable building practices - pre-engineered metal buildings.
    Sustainable Construction

    Sustainability has a multitude of meanings with respect to various fields and industries. When discussing sustainability in construction, we are referring to projects that do not deplete resources, nor do they have harmful effects on the environment. Throughout the past decade, sustainability has become something of a “buzz word” in the industry, as, societally, we’ve all become more aware and invested in preserving our planet. 

    Importance of Sustainable Development in the Construction Industry 
    When working on a construction project, a team should always consider how what they are doing might affect the community on the micro level and the environment on a more macro level. A temptation has long existed (within certain companies) in the construction field to choose should the most inexpensive and efficient method when completing a job. Sustainable construction companies keep the environmental impact at the forefront of their business decisions.

    Green Construction
    Many construction companies have gone “green,” or committed to using materials that are sustainable for an elongated period and that operate using renewable energy sources. Green construction is, undoubtedly, the way of the future for the construction field as whole. Each day, more and more clients are requesting that their projects align with this initiative and are “green.”

    "Triple Bottom Line" Approach to Construction Managament
    While profits and growth will always be the bottomline for some construction companies, many, including Direct Steel, have committed to using sustainable resources that are eco-friendly and employ green initiatives. We view our projects in terms of "triple bottom line" thinking that considers a development's impact on people, profits, and planet. Regardless of who you are or what field you are in, we only have one earth and it is our responsibility to treat it right.

Safety In Construction
  • Safety in ConstructionDirect Steel and Construction takes the safety of its clients and employees very seriously. By following a rigid set of established principles, Direct works to effectively ensure that people, property, communities, and the environment are safe at all times. Construction companies must always remember that safety is paramount. More important than profits or keeping a schedule, following protocol in all cases is a Direct promise to its customers.

    Direct’s aforementioned principles all work in conjunction with state, federal, and USACE, safety, health and environmental regulations. A construction company should always align their procedures said regulations so as to ensure safety.

    Direct’s core safety principles include:

    • The belief that all occupational injuries and illnesses can be prevented
    • The belief that every employee has the right and duty to question the safety on a jobsite
    • The belief that each employee is responsible for complying with company safety and health requirements as a condition of employment
    • The belief that all safety events must be investigated to understand what could have been done to prevent the occurence
    • The belief that by only employing contractors who are committed to safety that we can help ensure that safety is always maintained on a jobsite.
    • The belief that by proactively identifying workplace deficiencies that we can help ensure a safe workplace

     
     All employee decisions at Direct are all always guided by these principles. We believe that safety is not something to strive for, but a foundational pillar that we aim to ensure to our clients. 

7 Things You Need to Know About Comminications in Construction
  • Communication in Construction: A key factor in successful projects
    Have you ever had a project delayed from a miscommunication? Communication in construction projects is critical to the overall successful completion of a development or addition. Often on this blog site, we’ll talk about the characteristics of a successful construction project. Previous posts have discussed the importance of a well-defined scope statement, proactive budgeting, and proper scheduling. While all of these attributes are undeniably important, they would not be possible without strong communication.

    How to Delay a Project: Common Communication Problems in Construction Projects
    Communication is integral to meeting deadlines, solving problems and building trust, confidence and rapport. Decisions should be made collectively and the knowledge and opinions of others on a team should be sought after and valued. In addition to that, communicating effectively and building relationships will help foster honesty and promote innovation. Unfortunately, things don’t always go so well in this area. There are a host of common communication problems in construction projects that can derail progress and stall projects, from communication on the job site, to issues with documentation and knowledge, as well as communication gaps between different levels of leadership.

    Direct Steel has seen through many successful projects and have learned a few things along the way. Effective communication in construction is the number one predictor of success on a project.

    Read about our top tips for effective communication and mistakes to avoid:

    Communication Problems in construction projects: Miscommunications between people
    Construction communication problems can occur due to preventable mistakes in interpersonal communications. Good communication requires clear, concise communication between people, yet it is not uncommon for people to leave out important details when utilizing technology such as phone messages or email. Site managers need to make sure workers have fully heard and understand their instruction, for instance, miscommunicating how a safety zone needs to be set up can cause a potential worksite injury and delays.

    Slang, short spoken communication, and mumbled directions can cause delays when work gets done incorrectly because of a lack of clear instruction.
    A miscommunication may occur on paper as well, including not clearly ordered quantities of supplies for a project, or poorly communicated field measurements. 
    Like documents, technology can introduce a new opportunity for missed information and construction communication problems: a hasty voicemail without a callback number, or a name left, a quickly typed email on a phone, or even a long, drawn-out message can cause communication problems.

    Communication problems between people are easily preventable, as long as standards for how instructions are delivered and what level of detail they need to provide are universally understood. Re-iterating these standards at kick-off meetings can reinforce good communication and prevent problems.

    Communication problems in Construction: Knowledge gaps and availability of information 
    Many hands are involved in a construction project, with different levels of experience and knowledge of the types of work being done. False presumptions about the knowledge of others. From proper installation methods, to safety requirements or changes in code requirements, assumptions about what a person may know based on their area of expertise can lead to costly mistakes. Project managers, and on-site supervisors aware of the particular mistakes that can be made should take the effort to meet and communicate with the team to ensure everyone is aware and there is no knowledge gap. Design firms should strive to provide the highest level of detail possible in their plans and project documentations, as well as any supporting documentation. Construction managers should assure their on-site team is fully versed in requirements for the project to be successful. 

    Communication in Construction: Documentation
    Communication problems in construction projects don’t just happened when people attempt to communicate directly, they also happen through mistakes and missed information in drawings, documents, and orders. Communication problems can arise when not everyone involved in the project has the latest drawing update, or do not understand the conventions used in the drawing and make erroneous assumptions. Levels of detail thought to be unimportant to the completion of a project can be missing, that would otherwise prevent a mistake. A field measurement could be conveyed as “East of Main Rd.” without specifying, for instance if the measurement was from centerline, the curb, or the property line. This may be an extreme example but highlights one of many opportunities to miss a level of detail needed to quickly and accurately complete work.

    Communication in Construction: Roles and Responsibilities
    Sometimes, it is unclear who is responsible for a certain activity in the field. Communication problems can arise in construction projects when roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined. Although roles may be delegated to different contractors, managers, and designers at the outset of a project, problems may arise on the job and it may be unclear who should deal with them, or how to deal with them. Simple issues like who should accept and check deliveries of materials, to higher level problems such as who is in charge of certain subcontractors, or who is the point of contact between the field and designers may seem to be logically in place at the outset of the project but come apart in a field situation. Establishing these responsibilities and roles in advance and reinforcing them throughout a project is key to preventing miscommunications and misdirection that could cause project delays.

Comprehensive Construction Management
  • August  2018 - A Comprehensive Approach to Construction Project Management

    Before, During, and After a Construction Project: A Strategic Approach to Commercial Construction Management

    If you’re approaching a new development, renovation, or expansion project for a commercial facility, you know there are more questions than answers, and more companies claiming to provide a high level of project support, but what does this really mean? How much assistance do different companies provide within the scope of their work? Direct Steel has the experience and knowledge to provide assistance throughout the entire commercial construction management process.

    A customer-focused approach to Construction Project Management
    Direct Steel has learned that the number one priority a commercial construction project management company should focus on is to deliver on customer’s expectations. “The most important thing is to know what your company does best and the value it provides your clients.” says Direct Steel CEO Rosemary Swierk, “What is the pain-point you are solving that is different from the competition?” Direct Steel’s unique approach to commercial construction management is to provide comprehensive assistance and guidance throughout the life cycle of a project, from preliminary property research, owner’s representation, to general contracting and construction project management, Direct Steel is uniquely positioned to help realize even the most challenging construction projects, on time, within budget and scope.

     "It is always a great experience to work with Direct Steel on projects. They are very competitive and their proposals are detailed. They go the extra mile to assist when opportunities arise. With their knowledgeable Project Managers, I know the project will be completed right. I would highly recommend Direct Steel."
    ~ Marc Gilman, JJ Henderson

Quality In Construction Projects
  • June 2018 - Quality in Construction Projects

    Safety in Construction

    Quality, while being highly subjective, is integral to any major construction project. Quality can be defined as meeting the legal, aesthetic, and functional requirements of a project. The specifics of the projects may vary depending on the primary goals, but quality is obtained when the pre-established requirements of the job are met. Inefficiencies on the job site, whether they stem from human or material issues, are a major detractor when pursuing quality during a job. More recently, an influx of competition and a crowded market have forced construction companies to raise their standards and provide quality work.

    Obtaining quality standards ensures that the customer is satisfied and that their project will allow them to remain competitive and achieve their personal goals with regards to the structure. A construction team is responsible for establishing the means, methods, and procedures that will yield a quality finished product. While quality may come with a cost, the price of poor quality and the various inefficiencies that go along with it, will often supersede the cost of actual quality.

    Introducing quality standards early on in the process and revisiting as each phase begins and concludes will promote higher standards for the team and project. It seems as though the old adage of quality over quantity is invariably true in today’s construction industry.

Stakeholders in Projects
  • July 2018 - Stakeholders: The Personal Side of Construction

    Rosemary Swierk, President of Direct Steel, presiding over a project meeting with prime stakeholders

    Stakeholders are best defined as individuals who actively participate in a construction project and/or are affected as a result of the finished product. A construction project may have multiple stakeholders who fall under a broad spectrum of functions and tasks. Identifying the key stakeholders and assessing their needs are important aspects of any major construction job.

    The primary stakeholders of a commercial construction project are the owner, employees and customers of the business.  Listening to their needs and designing the project around them is critical.  Roles that are innately tied to the jobsite, such as the Construction Manager and Subcontractors, are secondary stakeholders.  Financial institutions that fund projects and government agencies that regulate building procedures also have a stake in a project’s success.

    Among these parties, the size and scope of the job does not deem who is more/less important. All stakeholders should fulfill their function(s) in a timely manner, track deadlines without major oversight, and communicate effectively with other stakeholders or members of a team.

    At the onset of a construction process, take the time to identify the key stakeholders and ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities. Doing so will save time and also help ensure that the finished product is of a high quality

Will Chicago's Building Boom boost Women in Construction? 
  • August 2018 - A worker shortage, if coupled with oversight on hiring goals, has the potential to boost female representation in the building trades.

    The growth in local construction work stands to benefit women, who have been largely frozen out of the industry for decades.

    Construction is booming in metro Chicago: Employment has risen 17 percent since 2013, and wages have grown just under 12 percent. Read more.

Budgeting Proactively
  • June 2018 - The Importance of Budgeting Your Construction Project Proactively

    Direct Steel proactively manages your projects budget to stay on target and on time

    If you’re a business owner beginning a construction project, there is a multitude of moving parts to navigate. However, no decision is more important than the choice to take a proactive role in budgeting your construction project. Doing so could save time and future headaches down the road.

    A budget is more than just a number. To those beginning major projects, it is best viewed as a plan expressed in dollars. With regards to construction, this plan could revolve around developing an entirely new building or renovating an existing one. However, it is integral that whatever your planned project is that it be viewed simply as a plan. A budget should serve more as a roadmap than a guardrail that’s rigidity prevents alterations or future changes from being made.

    When discussing budget, it is beneficial to formulate a decision making process that will be followed as the construction phase begins. Select a contractor who has the authority to provide answers and make changes on the job site. The ability to make decisions and streamline communication will promote promptness, eliminate confusion and save money.

    It is essential that individuals who are part of the decision making team are familiar with the organization’s available funds and cost structure. An awareness of the goals and requirements of the project will help all members of the team stay on the same page. Appointing an experienced contractor and architect/engineer to your team will help to define both the scope of the project and the cost implications of each decision as well.

    Construction projects are every bit as exciting as they can be complicated and expensive. By budgeting proactively early on in the construction process, you can help ensure that the process goes smoothly and help to alleviate potential difficulties down the road.

Meet Direct Steel's President, Rosemary Swierk
  • October 2017 - Meet Direct Steel's President

    The road to success is rarely straightforward and can take unexpected detours. Ms. Rosemary Swierk started a construction business after she decided to renovate a commercial building. Read more.