By Karen Hawthorne
Not many companies can take on a construction project from start to finish. Denham-Blythe has been doing just that for more than 40 years across a wide range of industries. The secret? An excellent team of designers and builders under one roof.
Take a walk through the streets in any American city and you will see impressive buildings – from office towers to hospitals to factories. What you don’t see is the all the vision, time, planning and work that goes into the construction of these buildings.
Raising these structures takes hundreds of people. You’ve got architects, engineers, contractors, equipment operators and more, so often the biggest challenge becomes managing the people and their competing voices to keep the timelines moving and on budget.
That is the hard work that takes place even before one shovel goes in the ground. Then, when construction does start, different factors such as safety, logistics and other unexpected issues must be managed. Few companies are able to take their clients through all these steps of a construction project without having to subcontract work out.
Denham-Blythe is one company that can.
With its 40 years of design and build history, this company knows how to get it all done. The “Design-Build” delivery method is really about covering all the steps in a construction project from the point of sketching out what a building may look like to designing it, and ultimately building it from the ground up.
Denham-Blythe got its start from two engineers out of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where the company is headquartered, who saw the value of having all people working on a project sit down at the same table to prevent obstacles before they crop up. Now, Denham-Blythe has two additional offices in Nashville, Tennessee and Greenville, South Carolina, boasts 200 employees, and has handled more than 10,000 projects for clients across diverse industries, including manufacturing, automotive, food, pharma and healthcare. It also takes on different sizes of projects from small startups to Fortune 500 companies.
“We do work on buildings associated with everything from bananas to Post-It Notes,” says Michael Patterson, Executive Vice President of Construction and Business Development for Denham-Blythe.
“Our relationships are so well established because the customer has one person to talk to. It’s a single point of communication and responsibility,” Patterson says. “Having all the forces in house is actually very uncommon. You will see people and companies that offer ‘design-build’ but realistically, there are very few in the industry that have all of those design disciplines and construction capabilities employed full-time in their company.”
The company takes pride in being able to tackle the more complicated projects because of its diverse and specialized staff. About 85 percent of all the work the company does is turnkey with Denham-Blythe handling the entire end-to-end design and construction.
“We have a saying here that if it’s a difficult, challenging project then that’s a perfect Denham-Blythe job,” Patterson says. “We have the whole package for design and build elements, including architects, civil and structural engineers, mechanical, electrical – all of those disciplines along with the construction forces as well. So we enjoy those projects and it sets us apart from the competition.”
And some of the projects can be incredibly complex. For example, one of Denham-Blythe’s clients required a major processing line renovation in its factory. “That’s not anything abnormal for us in general; but we ended up working in the middle of a functioning facility. So we had to rebuild the line while not interrupting production on either side of it.” Oh and by the way, the factory was producing specialized glass, the kind that you see on an iPhone, so the margin of error during all this work was zero.
So, with two glass production lines working on either side, the Denham-Blythe team carved out the middle of the plant and made the new part of the building deeper by taking it down 20 feet into the rock to create the height needed for the production line. “Just logistically putting that in the bullseye or center of a functioning glass manufacturing facility was very interesting, very challenging. It involved some very major cranes and a lot of planning,” says Patterson.
To accomplish all this, the company had six teams work continuously, seven days a week for about six months. “It was very high-risk work but we didn’t have an accident either, so we are very proud of our safety record on that one.”
Other significant projects the company is currently working on include a 29,000-square-foot, three-floor expansion of cable manufacturer Okonite Company’s logistics building in Orangeburg, South Carolina. This involved expanding the dock area of the facility as well as creating 75,000 square feet of paved parking for trucks. Denham-Blythe was also chosen to design and build a 270,000-square-foot plant for DAE-IL Corporation, a powertrain and parts manufacturer for the automotive industry.
What is even more impressive is that during the work on all of these large-scale and complex projects, Denham-Blythe has more than 1 million safe man hours of work – that is the equivalent of about 35 months of work. The company has been recognized with Governor’s awards in both Kentucky and Tennessee for its work excellence as well as its safety record.
“Safety for us is a value and a cultural element,” Patterson says. “The numbers are more than just numbers; it’s really what we value and we take it very seriously. We start each meeting with a safety topic, and all of our projects have a job hazard analysis.”
These high safety standards qualify the company to bid on projects for larger, more robust companies. It’s these larger companies that actually pre-screen potential contractors to ensure that they have a solid safety track record.
Along with all the success Denham-Blythe has achieved, the challenge to continue to recruit and hire the best talent is firmly on the radar. “We are seeing a turning of the tide now to more interest in vocational programs and construction trades, because people are realizing you can make a good wage.” To scout out future talent, Denham-Blythe has established a co-op program where high school students have the chance to get a real-world view of how things work at the company.
But there’s more to what the company does than steel and concrete. Certain jobs stand out for their impact on the lives of people and the environment, which is an important legacy for the company.
For example, “We will be working to build a game-changing plastics recycling facility,” shares Patterson. “It will be brand new in the industry and we are very proud to be part of that opportunity. It should be under construction in the last quarter of the year. We also work in healthcare building so we know that we are doing work that helps people directly.”
The Denham-Blythe Tennessee office hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening reception to celebrate the completion of the new office building on August 17, 2018.
Family, friends, clients, and partners came out to tour the new space while enjoying drinks and refreshments. The office features a modern industrial aesthetic that includes exposed steel, polished concrete, and exterior aluminum panels.
As Denham-Blythe continues to grow, the new space will enable the company to further advance its service capabilities for current and future clients. This move marks a huge milestone for the company, and specifically for Denham-Blythe’s Tennessee Operations President, Vance Hohn, who spearheaded the founding of the Nashville office in 1999.
“It is such a blessing to have a nice building that we call our work place,” said Vance. “We are proud of our new home that is not only for us, but also for the future employees of Denham-Blythe.”
Thank you to all who came to out to celebrate the Goodlettsville office grand opening! Denham-Blythe is grateful for your support and looks forward to opportunities ahead as the Tennessee team begins a new chapter.
By Kat Zeman, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
When it comes to design/build, Denham-Blythe Company is in its element. The Lexington, K.Y.-based design/builder specializes in industrial construction from the initial concept of a project through completion, taking on the role of both designer and constructor.
“That gives us a significant competitive edge,” CEO Bill Quenemoen says. ”We have architects, engineers, designers and construction managers all under one umbrella. Frequently, many companies will call themselves design/build but in reality they are a design firm or contractor that has to partner with other companies to be able to provide a complete design/build package.”
Denham-Blythe has a number of projects under construction in Tennessee and Kentucky, its main operating market. However, the company has worked on projects in other states as well. “We started as a Kentucky-based company but our customers have taken us all over the country. I consider us to be a regional design/builder but with a national capacity.”
Denham-Blythe has enjoyed healthy growth over the past few years. To accommodate the growth, it is constructing a new office building in Nashville. The company has had a presence in Nashville for almost two decades through a small satellite office it has been leasing, but it has outgrown it.
“This new building is necessary for us to sustain our growth in Nashville and the southern design/build markets,” Quenemoen says. “We are really booming in that whole southeastern market.”
The new two-story, 13,800-square-foot building broke ground in fall 2017. Roughly 50 employees are expected to move into the building’s top floor by the end of June. “We plan to lease out the lower level to others initially but will expand into that space down the line as we continue to grow,” Quenemoen says.
Bread And Butter
Since it specializes in industrial construction, Denham-Blythe tackles many projects for manufacturers that need custom-built facilities and warehouses. “Industrial design/build is our bread and butter, accounting for more than 80 percent of our business,” Quenemoen says. “But we do some light commercial and office buildings as well.”
The company has a unique project under construction in Ironton, Ohio. It is building a $140 million recycling facility that will take recycling to a new level.
“They will be using waste polypropylene plastics and recycling them into a high-quality reusable plastic material,” Quenemoen says. “It’s the first of its kind, especially in our region. So it’s a big deal for the overall market. It will change the recycling market here.”
At more than 100,000 square feet, the project broke ground in December and is targeted for completion in 2020. Another high-profile project, completed in October 2017, is a $85 million, 350,000-square-foot aluminum casting facility in Russellville, Ky.
“They recycle cans, shred and melt them and turn them into aluminum coils that are turned back into cans,” Quenemoen says. “One of the challenging things about this project was that they wanted to supply their own aluminum for the siding and the facility was being built on a sinkhole site. So we had to remediate a number of sinkholes below the building.”
Doing It In-House
Denham-Blythe has been providing architectural, engineering, construction management, general contracting and start-up services since 1976. Its clients include healthcare, education, religious institutions, Fortune 500 manufacturers, multinationals and a number of large private companies. The design/build contractor has offices in Nashville, Lexington, Ky., and Greenville, S.C.
Design/build is an alternative to the traditional design/bid/build project delivery method. Under the latter approach, design and construction services are split into separate entities, separate contracts and separate work.
Denham-Blythe credits its success in the design/build construction industry to its staff. Its in-house design team of registered architects and engineers focuses on creating functional, flexible and cost-effective solutions.
“Our people are our greatest asset,” Quenemoen says. “We have the best in-house personnel across the board. This includes carpenters and project managers as well as architects and engineers.”
The company’s in-house engineers prepare preliminary design analysis, design calculations and project documents. The team can make quick adjustments in design, scope and methods that affect scheduling. “We can control the design and schedule and expedite projects to keep them on schedule and within budget,” Quenemoen says.
The Denham-Blythe construction management method focuses on components that allow the customer to remain involved with the design team and construction crew throughout the process. “At the end of the day, we live and die by our customer services,” Quenemoen says. “More than 90 percent of our business is repeat clients. If we did not treat every project as the most important one, we would not have that kind of return customer statistic.”