Q&A with C.W. Driver’s Andy Kirby



Andy Kirby is the vice president of the Northern California region for C.W. Driver. The firm announced his promotion to this role in February of this year. In this position, Kriby will oversee the office, client relations and all C.W. Driver projects within the region.

We sat down with Kirby to get his feedback on the firm’s operations in the Bay Area and what the firm is doing in its effort to garner more business in the region.

TR: C.W. Driver has been active in building California for almost 100 years, when did the firm engage in the Bay Area for the first time?

KIRBY: After successfully completing DreamWorks Glendale office building, the positive relationship extended up to Redwood City and lead to several other projects. C.W. Driver broke into the Bay Area market in 2011 with a 200,000 SF commercial office build-out for DreamWorks SKG as part of their Northern California expansion. This project was a four story 210,000-square-foot high end build out of an existing building. The tenant improvement included unique features such as a full commissary, state-of-the-art editing studio and real time video-teleconferencing.

TR: Do you see the Bay Area as an important part of your future growth? Why?

KIRBY: Yes, the Bay Area market is booming with growing corporate and tech industries who need new space, and lots of it. These demands create a great deal of opportunity for C.W. Driver, and we are enthusiastic about what’s to come. The expansion into the Bay Area was a result of multiple clients requesting repeat business in the Bay Area including DreamWorks SKG and Bloomingdales. This expansion in the Bay Area also allowed C.W. Driver to capitalize on our high end technology experience and continue this work in the Bay Area for local companies.

TR: What are some of your projects in which you are active in the Bay Area?

KIRBY: SFSU Student Recreation & Wellness Center; Bloomingdale’s at the Stanford Shopping Center; Kensington Assisted Living in Redwood City; a high-end Mixed Use Development in downtown Mountain View for private developer MPM Corporation; Foothill-De Anza CCD’s new Educational Center location on the former Onizuka Air Force Base; Shea Properties Ilara Apartments located in Milpitas; and the new athletic fields for Ohlone CCD.

The Bloomingdale’s in Palo Alto is a prime example of the influx of construction seen in the Bay Area. The 120,000-square-foot, three story project featured exterior floating glazing panels mixed with specialized Thermocromex exterior texture to make the project a signature piece for the Stanford Mall. The completion of this Bloomingdale’s marked the fourth project for Macy’s, Inc. that C.W. Driver has completed.

TR: Working in the Bay Area has its challenges, shortage of labor, escalating construction costs, how has C.W. Driver dealt with those locally, and how do you differentiate from other contractors in the region?

KIRBY: C.W. Driver’s strongest asset and most important differentiator is our people. Our employees, no matter what department, go the extra mile to complete their task at hand. Our dedicated, expert estimating team provides not only constant preconstruction feedback for our current clients, but also for prospective clients who need rough budgets and estimating support to keep their projects moving forward. C.W. Driver has employed multiple tactics to address the labor shortages in the Bay Area by working with owners to allow for early subcontractor involvement. This allows the subcontractors to schedule in the project to their workflow and allow for labor demand to be reserved for the project. This not only lowers the overall cost, but also enables the best tradesmen to be selected for the project for a higher quality finished product.

TR: How long have you been with the company, and what does this new role mean for you here locally?

KIRBY: I started in the construction industry over 16 years ago in the Navy as a Civil Engineer Corp Officer and Seabee. This construction knowledge carried over after I went in the Naval Reserves and joined the civilian sector. I wanted to transfer this knowledge base and use it towards commercial construction. I was referred to C.W. Driver by a previous colleague and discovered the close knit culture and team atmosphere. I relayed this type of culture to that of the Navy and felt like it was a great fit for me. I am now going on my fifth year with C.W. Driver and am very excited about my future here.

My new role allows me to carry out strategies to meet our goals and expand into a new marketplace. We plan to continue serving our clients with the highest quality and dedication, and growth will come from repeat clientele and referrals. We are excited about our five upcoming projects starting this year.

TR: Are there specific areas of expertise that C.W. Driver has, and what types of projects will the firm pursue in the Bay Area?

KIRBY: C.W. Driver specializes in commercial/office, technology, mixed-use, higher education, recreation centers, hospitality, retail, multi-family/type V residential, senior/assisted living and city/county work.

As a hub for the tech industry, the Bay Area continues to be a market of choice for many companies looking to expand, resulting in the need for new construction and an increase in rent growth throughout the region. With our experience in the technology industry, we will continue to make that type of project a focus moving forward to meet the growing market demands.

TR: How full is your pipeline into the next two or three years here locally?

KIRBY: We are at about 75 percent of our limit, which is a positive because we have the capacity to properly serve clients and staff projects. We are about to start five new projects in the Bay Area in the coming months. These projects are technology, multifamily and education related. With these new starts, we are able to leverage our subcontractor relationships and buying power throughout the region. We are trying to stay in the 75-80 percent pipeline strength to ensure we are properly serving our client’s needs, completing quality projects on time and within the budget constraints of the client. We feel that we can best serve our current and future clients this way by not becoming overwhelmed by too much work at any one time.

TR: What concerns you most about the Bay Area market, and what is C.W. Driver doing to mitigate those potential issues?

KIRBY: Because of our differentiation in several markets and the vast amount of opportunity in the Bay Area, there is not much to be concerned about. The main hurdle for us to jump over is developing relationships with the right companies and people at the necessary time. We have extensive experience with the product types being built in the Bay Area; however our limited knowledge of decision makers and owners limits our exposure to these opportunities. We are actively marketing ourselves and capabilities to target audiences to be careful that we grow at a sustainable rate and still be able to maintain the same level of service for each project. C.W. Driver is concerned about growing too fast in the Bay Area and would prefer measured growth with the right clients.

TR: What hurdles do you anticipate in the industry over the next 12 to 18 months?

KIRBY: As discussed earlier, the subcontractor, labor, materials, etc. will continue to become more and more competitive with all of the construction being started in the Bay Area. The concern is that skilled labor is at a premium in the area in order to respond to the demands of so many construction projects. The lack of skilled labor is affecting project completion dates as well as overall quality for projects and owners. It is imperative to get subcontractors involved and receive firm commitments from these subcontractors to help defray these concerns.

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