Virtual planning aids healthcare renovation project

Parkridge Health System is getting an upgrade, thanks to support from HCA’s FacilitiGroup. The hospital kicked off a $3.1 million chiller and cooling tower replacement project last month in partnership with the EMJ Construction team.

According to Parkridge, “This significant upgrade will improve the facility’s ability to manage its interior climate controls and overall utility efficiency.”


The new structure is being built within a mechanical “bull-pen” full of multiple utilities and services, leaving little to no room to spare. This complexity, combined with the need to continue operations at the hospital without disruption, required extensive planning and critical analysis before construction began.

“After reviewing the drawings, Lee Company and EMJ Superintendent David Taylor had concerns that the new chiller equipment wouldn’t fit into the roll-up door considering the adjacent air-cooled chiller located only a few feet away,” said Lance Truett, EMJ Project Manager.

If the equipment could not fit through the roll-up door, the team would need to identify an alternative method for installing the new equipment. To test the installation scenario, the project team enlisted the help of EMJ’s Construction Technology Department, which specializes in building information modeling (BIM) and other virtual imaging techniques.

“Employing laser scanning for existing conditions was the perfect solution for the Parkridge project since we were dealing with a high degree of complexity and congestion,” said Jonathan Deming, EMJ Director of Construction Technology. “This process has enabled our team to move forward with complete confidence and certainty.”

A “scan” is a powerful laser recording that captures a site’s shape and appearance and converts those conditions into 3D models and structural drawings at sub-millimeter accuracy.

“Roger Aasheim and Will Callery laser scanned the existing conditions and overlaid the new construction along with a 3D model of the chiller equipment provided by the chiller manufacturer to see how it was all going to go together,” said Truett. “With their help we were able to demonstrate that moving the building 18” east would eliminate all concerns and site constraints. Moving the structure also makes the installation safer and the future maintenance possible.”

With a modified construction plan approved and in place, the team and its trade partners kicked off the Parkridge renovation in late August. Demolition of the existing cooling tower is complete, and temporary towers are fully operational.

Working in conjunction with the technology team at HVAC company Lee Company, the EMJ team is currently modeling the pumps, piping, and control panels of the new space to fully understand the structure and ensure smooth and efficient construction continues throughout the project’s duration.

The Parkridge project is on track for early 2019 completion.  Congrats to the EMJ Construction Healthcare team on a job well done!

Roger Aasheim, Virtual Construction Engineer II
Will Callery, Virtual Construction Manager
Zach Klassen, Project Engineer
Lance Truett, Project Manager
Sam Marks, Preconstruction Manager
Cody Stubblefield, Project Engineer
David Taylor, Superintendent

Saluting Our Heroes

On the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, EMJ Construction, led by Co-Op Rashard Minnis, participated in “11 Hours of Remembrance,” a run/walk at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Sponsored by the UTC Army ROTC/SVO, the event honors those killed and injured on Sept. 11, 2001, and those whose heroic actions prevented more deaths. Participants carry an American flag or a flag of one of the U.S. Armed Services around a track and take at least one lap around the field with the goal of having at least one of the flags circulating throughout the day.
Photo by UTC


Minnis served the Marine Corps for 15 years prior to attending The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he is pursuing a second degree in civil engineering with a minor in construction management while serving EMJ as a co-op. He reached out to his EMJ colleagues and asked them to join him in honoring the heroes of 9/11, and they answered the call.

Among those joining Minnis at the event was EMJ Project Engineer and military veteran Evan Rector, who served more than 11 years in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.

Thank you Rashard, Evan, and all of the military veterans at EMJ who served our nation. You exemplify our purpose to be people serving people.

Pictured are Kami Clark, Office Manager, EMJ Construction Special Projects; Evan Rector, EMJ Project Engineer; Rashard Minnis, EMJ Co-Op; and Cody Stubblefield, EMJ Project Engineer.


Read more about the event and see additional photos on the UTC blog.

High Point Climbing and Fitness Takes Shape in Memphis

High Point Climbing and Fitness will soon arrive in Memphis, Tenn. The EMJ Construction Special Projects team began work on the project in late 2017 and is on schedule to deliver the project to the client in early 2019.

Designed by PV Design, Inc., the unique, 32,000-square-foot facility will include several indoor climbing walls up to 50 feet tall, a 40-foot outdoor wall, a kids climbing area, a cardio room, weight room, and spaces for yoga and spin classes.

Drone flyover footage captured in August 2018.

The design includes a specialized exterior wall panel system that provides water tightness and insulation and required extensive coordination with various stakeholders to ensure the project stayed on track.

“It’s a very complex system that took the entire team working together to overcome the hurdles, to keep our original schedule,” said Jon-Michael Davis, EMJ Project Manager.

“On top of that, we had  multiple meetings involving every subcontractor that touched or penetrated the system to ensure water tightness per the manufacture recommendation.”

Having successfully installed the exterior wall system, the team began constructing the exterior climbing wall earlier this week.

“Working and coordinating with Walltopia, who provides and installs all the  interior and exterior climbing walls, has been the most interesting part of this project,” said Davis. “This group is out of Bulgaria, so coordination has been extremely important.”

High Point’s leadership team recently commended the project team on a job well done, and the EMJ project team attributes this to weekly collaboration meetings and excellent communication.

“We’ve worked hard to earn their trust,” said Davis. “The High Point team has been great to work with.”

Look for more updates on High Point Memphis in the coming weeks, and thank you to the project team for delivering an exceptional client experience.

Project team members include:

Mark Stepansky, Lead Superintendent
Marty Nielsen, Superintendent
David Lindsey, Level 1 Superintendent
Jon-Michael Davis, Project Manager
Evan Rector, Project Engineer
Jerry Campbell, Senior Preconstruction Manager
Craig Skidmore, Preconstruction Manager
David Haley, Senior Preconstruction Manager
Travis Darwent, Preconstruction Manager

Special Projects to build High Point Climbing in Memphis


Influence v. Authority: Building Teams to Get the Job Done

When tasked with building a school in time for the new academic year, while knowing the project was already behind, what did EMJ Superintendent Nestor Praniuk do? He was honest.

“This is where we are; this is where we need to be. We’re a team. Together, we’re going to do this,” Praniuk said referring to his conversation with the owner. And, together, they did. Through collaboration and Nestor’s leadership, the team delivered a new lower school addition at Chattanooga Christian School (CCS) just in time for the school year.

“As a parent, I know the importance of starting the new year off right,” said Praniuk. “I didn’t want our work to impact the parents and teachers. To me, there was only one option and that was to open on time.”

On paper, getting the school completed by the August 13, 2018, deadline did not look feasible as various setbacks had already placed it 10 days behind. Through diligent efforts and consistent communication, Praniuk and his team, including Senior Preconstruction Manager Kyle Tippens and Project Engineer Devin Munczenski, aligned all trade partners with their goal and empowered them to make it happen.

Praniuk recalls challenging his trade partners and workers on site to understand the progress CCS is trying to make and the experience the school is aiming to deliver its clients. “I told them, ‘Think like a parent and what their needs are. What happens with their day if construction doesn’t come through on time?’”

Communicating an end goal is one thing. Getting all stakeholders to follow through on their commitment is another feat, one that requires thoughtful leadership and influence.

“It’s all about trust,” said Praniuk. “The key is creating healthy relationships with all involved. Get to know the other person and what’s important to them and why. Determine what you need to do to please them and then do it. You do what you say you’ll do, and you solidify that mutual trust.”

“In my many years of organizational leadership, [Nestor] is in a small group of unique leaders who I believe are critical to the ability of an organization to meet its goals and execute its mission,” writes Chad Dirkse, President of CCS, about Praniuk in a letter to EMJ.

“The core values EMJ espouses are embodied well in Nestor’s leadership. I know he cares deeply for CCS and for EMJ,” Dirkse continued. “He is not afraid to tell me no or challenge something he doesn’t agree with but works hard to meet my needs and expectations. He is also extraordinary at building healthy sub relationships.”

Praniuk’s approach to building great relationships with the trade partners, or subcontractors, on his construction jobs is simple: “Be a leader your subs want to follow, and treat them like you would like to be treated. We are only as good as our subs are. If they succeed, we succeed.”

At EMJ, we talk a lot about our project teams and how they extend far beyond our own employees to include the owner, designers, engineers, and all of the subcontractors that deliver a piece of the intricate puzzle that results in a building. Praniuk lives this. He manages each partner on the site as he does members of the EMJ team, with respect and as a valuable contributor.

“I get to know the workers as people and try to tap into their potential. 99% of their life is work. They’re sharing it with you on this project. Show them you care,” said Praniuk. “My goal is for them to take ownership and pride in the project, just like me. It’s much more than a task to be completed that day.”

Pictured are Director of Construction Gabe Thompson, EVP Chas Torrence, Nestor Praniuk, Kyle Tippens, Devin Munczenski, and VP of Construction Howard Smith.


The team’s hard work and strength of character shone brightly on the site.

The lower school at CCS was phase III of ongoing work the EMJ Construction Special Projects team is completing for the school. Praniuk and his team are now constructing an outdoor pavilion on the campus.

“The most rewarding part of our team’s work is meeting the client’s expectations and needs and creating great impact on the life of subs and our clients,” said Praniuk. “It’s more than a project. It’s personal.”

Nestor Praniuk joined the EMJ team in 2015. He has more than 18 years of construction experience, working at all levels from trade partner to site supervision. Earlier this year, he was honored with the Edgar M. Jolley Award for Outstanding Performance.


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Digital mock-ups streamline Brookhaven Village construction

EMJ’s Construction Technology (CT) team recently created a digital mock-up for EMJ Construction Special Projects’ Brookhaven Village retail project in Addison, Texas.

A digital mock-up is a 3D visual representation of proposed construction that allows a team to see how their current methods and materials will come to life on a project. Typically the architect designs the mock-up, but this can be complex when coordinating between owner, contractor and subcontractors.

Brian Tiehen, Quality Manager, saw an opportunity to utilize construction technology on the project. At the project kick-off meeting, Tiehen proposed that the CT team design a digital mock-up to submit to the architect to avoid delays.

EMJ Construction Special Projects Superintendent Tom Rue jumped at the opportunity. Within only a few days, Roger Aasheim, EMJ Virtual Construction Engineer II, had coordinated with him to create the mock-up.

“It’s a little bit like a Tetris puzzle,” Aasheim said. “We had to look at all the materials and possible situations and make them fit together in a small space. All the conditions need to be met for it to be useful.”

The digital mock-up allowed all parties to make necessary design adjustments before performing the full-scale structural mock-up.

“The beauty of this is being able to give the entire team a visual of how the mock-up should look,” said Rue. “You take that to the architect, they make several changes to their plans, and it simplifies the entire process before you’ve even started construction.”

“We sent it to the architect, and he approved it with minimal changes, which expedited the whole process,” Aasheim added.

The team then moved forward with the structural mock-up wall, giving the entire project team peace of mind to move forward efficiently into construction.

“I spoke with the architect after the fact, and he was absolutely thrilled,” Tiehen said. “Helping him get a visual representation together took something off his plate, made his job a lot easier, and set expectations for the project.”

The team’s efforts constructing this digital mock-up in only a few days served the team, the architect and ultimately the client to deliver an exceptional construction experience. Congratulations to the Brookhaven Village team on their proactive behavior!

Special Projects celebrates grand opening of Starbucks

EMJ Construction Special Projects celebrated the grand opening of its first Starbucks in Port St. Lucie, Fla., last month.

A development by Equitas Management Group, the project was completed on time and within the requested budget, despite challenges with municipality regulations. In addition, the team proactively tackled a clay cap within a retention pond on-site to turn the project over to a highly-satisfied client.

“Any time we had any kind of blip on the radar, our entire team went after it head-on,” said Ray Alamo, EMJ Superintendent, who led the project. “The project wasn’t easy, but all of us worked hand-in-hand from the beginning and exceeded the client’s expectations in the end.”


The Starbucks representative wrote, “This project has been nice for me to manage because I know I am in good hands. I have built and managed projects in 30-35 states, so when it comes to talent, I can see it a mile away. I hope to have more projects with Ray as the superintendent.”

The project also received a Sunshine Safety Award during construction for the team’s consistent dedication to safe practices on site.

Congratulations to the team:

Ray Alamo, Superintendent
Stephen Anderson, Project Engineer
Jerry Campbell, Preconstruction Manager
Sam Marks, Project Engineer
Devin Munczenski, Project Engineer
Brian Pemberton, Preconstruction Manager
Tom Zylstra, Project Engineer

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Port St. Lucie Starbucks team awarded Sunshine Safety Award

Signal Mill named among 2017’s Outstanding Projects

In 2016, EMJ launched the Edgar M. Jolley Awards for Excellence to recognize exceptional work within the family of companies. The “Jolleys,” named in memory of EMJ’s founder, are presented in three categories: Outstanding Performance, Outstanding Servant Leadership and Outstanding Project.


In this five-part blog series, EMJ highlights our Outstanding Project recipients and why they were selected for these awards. Directors and Vice Presidents of the corporation nominate for Outstanding Project, which is given to a project team that delivered an exceptional client experience, added value, overcame challenges, demonstrated exemplary planning and execution, and built client relationships.

This year, EMJ recognized five projects with this award:

Signal Mill, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Tranquillity 8 Solar, Fresno County, Calif.
West Towne Marketplace, El Paso, Texas
Market City Center, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Wegmans, Medford, Mass.

In the coming weeks, we will highlight each project and the team that brought it to life on the blog. This week, we’re featuring EMJ Construction Special Project’s historic renovation at Signal Mill.

Originally constructed in 1916 as a textile manufacturing facility, Signal Mill is a two-and-a-half-story, 34,560-square-foot structure in Chattanooga’s sought-after North Shore District.

EMJ Construction Special Projects partnered with North Shore Project, LLC, the Woodbery Group and Hefferlin & Kronenberg Architects to renovate the building in 2016. In 2017, the high-end, mixed-use development opened to the public, featuring space for boutiques, specialty food shops and offices as well as Edley’s restaurant at the opposite end from a second restaurant, Food Works, which remained in operation during the renovation.

Together, the team navigated and overcame challenges including weather delays, considerations for an operating tenant, late changes to finishes, and tight deadlines to complete a beautiful historic renovation.

“Our team kept the client relationship and the client’s goals at the forefront throughout the duration of the project,” said Chas Torrence, Executive Vice President, EMJ Construction Special Projects. “They effectively collaborated with the engineers, architect and owner to resolve conflicts and keep the project moving with a keen eye for quality and long-term maintainability.”

The resulting client experience has opened the door for EMJ to perform work for this client in other cities across the Southeast.

Congratulations to the Signal Mill team from EMJ Construction Special Projects:

Gabe Thompson, Director of Construction
Matthew Schaller, Project Manager
Bert Carden, Superintendent II

signal mill

Pictured, from left to right, are Gabe Thompson, Bert Carden, Matthew Schaller and Chas Torrence.


Port St. Lucie Starbucks team awarded Sunshine Safety Award

Congratulations to the EMJ Special Projects team on receiving the Sunshine State Safety Recognition Award for the Starbucks project in Port St. Lucie, Fla., a development by Equitas Management Group.

This award, given by the University of South Florida’s Safety Consultation Program, was developed to motivate and support employers who emphasize safety through the implementation and maintenance of effective injury and illness-prevention programs.

Ray Alamo, Superintendent, and Jared Erwin, Project Manager, have managed all team members to ensure that they work safely and efficiently on the job site. As a result, on Nov. 9, 2017, Pat M. Stark of the University of South Florida’s Safety Consultation Program presented the award to Alamo for his team’s commitment to workplace safety and health.

Congratulations to all members of the Special Projects team for their commitment to ensuring a safe work environment for all involved and continuing to positively represent EMJ Corporation.

This is the third Sunshine State Safety Recognition on a job managed by Ray Alamo in the past two years. Read more about Ray’s previous recognitions here:

7-Eleven team awarded Florida safety recognition

Accent Construction awarded Sunshine State Safety Recognition

Accent Construction is now EMJ Special Projects

Business Unit Continues Focus on Quick-Build, Specialty Projects

As of April 15, 2017, Accent Construction Services will become EMJ Special Projects.

EMJ Special Projects will continue to operate as a separate member of the EMJ family, led by Senior Vice President Chas Torrence.

Employees, clients, subcontractors and other partners will continue to receive the same day-to-day experience and interact with the same operations team.

Founded in 2007, EMJ Special Projects is a specialized business unit that focuses on short-term, specialty projects and programmatic work. The name Special Projects was chosen to convey the wide-ranging capabilities of the team; their focus is not solely small, single tenant retail, but rather unique and innovative work of all sizes in a variety of sectors.

“Taking advantage of EMJ’s brand recognition and reputation will increase our business opportunities and improve on our ability to perform our long-term goals,” says Torrence. “Having a special unit under the EMJ umbrella aids in building trust and recognition and opportunity between clients and colleagues that are otherwise diffused between two separate brands.”

EMJ Special Projects aims to deliver unique value through servant leadership and its Concept-to-Completion (C2C®) approach, helping clients maximize their long-term growth on a variety of construction projects, ranging from innovative office spaces and single tenant retail to medical facilities and historic renovations.

For more information, click here or contact EMJ Special Projects at 423.643.2050.

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