Transforming interiors from start to finish
Written By: Cheryl Long
Produced By: Laura Longmead
It isn’t surprising to find Chris Sloan on site at his clients’ business locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Being hands-on is key to the services that he provides as president of Style Construction Management, which specializes in transforming spaces into efficient and attractive office environments.
Founded in 1980 by Chris’ father, Frank Sloan, the company was launched in response to a need for a first-class construction contractor who could oversee the installation of business interiors and office renovations from beginning to end. The younger Sloan joined the business in 1999 and then took over in 2004, continuing the tradition of quality workmanship, commitment to deadlines and cost-effective solutions.
“It’s reassuring for clients to see us on the job site every day,” Sloan said. “We hold regularly scheduled site meetings with clients, the relevant trades and consultants as needed. Communication is a huge thing … clients like to know what’s happening day to day. That’s a big contributor to why people like working with us.”
Assisted by two project managers, Sloan offers a range of services that turn ideas into reality. Construction management involves three phases: design, which can include the overall concept, preparing a budget and schedule, and establishing a cost breakdown; construction, which covers insurance, permits, working with various trades and keeping the project on track; and post-construction, the final step that ensures all of the work is completed to the client’s satisfaction and that the move into the finished space goes smoothly.
Checking site conditions part of process
But that’s just the beginning. Style Construction will complete site condition reports on the existing structure and systems of a building, which is crucial when renovating an older office. Space planning involves designers and architects in the creation of a functional, efficient, and dynamic workplace that takes into account the culture and character of the company and its employees.
There’s a huge benefit in having Style Construction involved in the process, even before the lease is signed or purchase is finalized. “That’s the benefit of having us there; we can see things that somebody who’s not in construction necessarily wouldn’t think about,” Sloan said. “I can tell them approximately what it’s going to cost … if we can’t make the numbers work on the deal, then they look elsewhere.”
That’s where the budget costing part of the business come s into play. Style Construction provides accurate, no-obligation quotes for all jobs, and then prepares working drawings that allow clients to fully understand the extent of the work involved.
Advice offered before the lease is signed
Many of Sloan’s referrals come from real estate agents, which provides an opportunity to see the project’s potential from as early as the first tour of the building. That allows him to develop a relationship with the client, formulate a pre-construction budget, offer suggestions for space planning, and then move on to full construction and engineering drawings. Permit applications, tendering to trades, managing and administrating the project, final inspections and the move-in all fall under Style Construction’s careful management.
Sloan is first to admit that he’s “not the cheapest guy out there” and doesn’t compete on price as much as offers a distinctively higher level of service. The goal is to make the construction process as seamless and as headache-free as possible, he said.
Maintaining a small team allows Style Construction to run a “lean and mean” operation, Sloan said. By keeping overhead low, the business is easily scalable and allows Sloan to take on smaller projects that many contractors wouldn’t consider. Larger jobs are just as easily accommodated by hiring additional project managers as needed. This fall, he plans to hire a full-time site supervisor to help keep eyes and ears on each job site; a practice that separates Style Construction from some of their competitors.
Being in the professional interiors business for 35 years means that Style Construction has seen the industry go through a substantial evolution. Creating efficiencies has had a major impact, Sloan said, with the introduction of business tools such as smartphones and their applications. Communication is faster than ever, and that impacts how quickly project changes and approvals are made. Office systems and project management tools have been refined, and staying in contact with team members and trades at each job site is much easier than in the past.
Glass is a popular design feature
What hasn’t changed as significantly are the materials used in the industry, Sloan said. Though the appearance may shift with varying trends, the basic materials haven’t strayed too far from earlier days. Glass is growing in popularity, both as a way to bring natural light into the office space and incorporate an attractive design element. Many offices are opting for open concept configurations, along with larger lunch rooms, lounge areas outfitted with comfortable furniture, televisions and recreational items like pool tables, and innovative lighting systems that promote a healthier work environment.
“A lot of people are trying to make the space as inviting as possible for employees so you can attract and retain talent,” Sloan said.
Sustainability is still a popular term in the interior construction industry and that means using environmentally friendly or recycled products where possible, particularly for businesses that make green efforts part of their mandate. Others want to go as far as LEED certification, Sloan said, but don’t have the budget to complete the process. Instead, he’ll accommodate their needs by building to LEED standards.
Style Construction works on a wide range of projects, both in scope and budget, and some pose greater challenges than others. The company is currently working with a business in the agricultural sector that is situated in an older building with a wooden roof deck. Their laboratory requires a top-notch fire suppression system and safe storage for chemicals, but they also need an upscale office space to host visitors and house employees. Style Construction also recently worked on a warehouse transformation for an IT company that gave the space a high-tech look with new exterior glass windows, glass-walled offices, high-end fixtures, upgraded ceiling tiles and sliding glass doors.
One of his favourite projects wrapped up earlier this year. Callaway Golf decided to consolidate their facilities and build out a new space in Markham, Ont. that would encompass approximately 10,000 square feet of office space, more than 40,000 square feet for warehousing and distribution, a fitting studio and space to showcase products, Sloan said.
At the end of the day, customer satisfaction and maintaining their solid reputation in the industry is what fuels Style Construction. “We’re very good at what we do,” Sloan said. “We always ask for a referral letter and nine times out of 10, we get them. Service is my main selling feature.”
To learn more about Style Construction Management and view their gallery of past projects, visit www.styleconstruction.ca.