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Brian Ficzeri

Relentless Ally

At the Intersection of Design and Risk Reduction

Chief Estimator Brian Ficzeri approaches every project like a three-dimensional puzzle. But unlike a conventional jigsaw project, building critical infrastructure involves a level of complexity that requires the industry’s best problem solvers.

Over his nearly 30-year career, Brian has estimated some of Balfour Beatty’s most impactful bridge, highway and water projects. He has seen the industry change and adapt to an ever-evolving variety of supply chain disruptions and project risk scenarios. Through it all, Brian’s expertise has empowered client decision-making and forever improved the way our communities live and move.

Driving Down Risk

Estimators are integral to driving successful project outcomes from the earliest stages of preconstruction by identifying innovative and practical solutions that drive down costs. But far from simply crunching numbers, Brian knows that expert networking and well-cultivated industry savvy is essential to navigating a landscape of escalating risks.

“As estimators, we’re always looking for the best, most cost-effective way to do something,” Brian says. “That often requires some back-and-forth collaboration with our client and designers to arrive at the right intersection of design features, supply chain management and budget considerations.”

Brian maintains a revolving roster of suppliers, manufacturers and trade partners and a near-encyclopedic knowledge of common industry costs, but every component is less predictable than it’s ever been. To ensure our project stakeholders see the best outcomes, Brian keeps a particularly close eye on the prices of steel, concrete and other ubiquitous materials, as well as the strained labor market. Every advantage counts in the pursuit of reducing risk, and Brian finds them at every opportunity.

“In some ways, my role is now more complex, but understanding and facing each new challenge is part of the fun,” Brian says. “I combine my past project experience, knowledge of industry trends and strategic market analysis to determine which escalations are real and lasting, which are temporary and which path works for our client’s and trade partners schedules and budgets.”

Bridges to Success

Brian’s 27 years of estimating experience has touched countless landmark infrastructure projects in Texas. He still has favorites, however, and most are community-connecting bridges. From Houston’s I-10 to the Margaret McDermott Bridge and Skillman Bridge in Dallas, Brian’s preconstruction expertise powers later construction success.

Whatever the project, Brian likes to think of estimating in terms of what he colloquially calls “widgets” – discrete, modular and repeatable packages of design elements that create both cost reliability and eventual efficient constructability. Of course, Brian’s many widgets require constant re-evaluation according to market conditions. They nevertheless provide our estimating teams and the clients they serve with an endlessly useful toolbox of building blocks from which any infrastructure project can emerge.

“Finding opportunities for efficiency during the estimating process is as much an analytical task as it is a creative one,” Brian says. “Balfour Beatty’s estimating teams excel at creative project sequencing, procurement solutions and design revisions that can save our clients money and reduce risk.”

For example, a highway project may require the excavation and construction of a water retention pond. That design element may have a generally reliable set cost based on size and depth, but Brian identifies ways to reduce risk for all project stakeholders. Properly sequencing the pond within the larger project, repurposing excavated material and even strategic over-digging and using the excess to offset backfill costs elsewhere are just some possible opportunities to create savings on any front.

Brian’s project experience has also included a range of contracting models, including smaller hard bid projects and massive, multi-year design-build behemoths like the Horseshoe Interchange and its constituent Margaret McDermott Bridge, now a landmark feature of the Dallas skyline.

No matter a project’s contracting model, Brian strives to understand local municipalities, their construction regulations, project site conditions and how each factor might affect risk. Especially on large-scale design-build projects, many of which span many miles of highway, managing traffic redirection and utility relocation are critical considerations.

Brian and Balfour Beatty’s team of expert infrastructure estimators manage these risks – and so many more – through a matrix of common issues and a risk register, comprising even more movable widgets in their toolbox.

“No matter how complex a project is, we collaborate with all stakeholders to proactively seek out, evaluate and mitigate risks,” Brian says. “If something happens, do we have a half-a-million dollar problem, a $5 million problem or $50,000 problem? By planning for these contingencies in advance, our clients and trade partners are equipped to make the best decisions.”

By simultaneously satisfying local regulations, creating end-user-friendliness and meeting clients’ design and budget goals, Brian sets up projects for success.

Answering the “Why?”

Interstate highways and landmark bridges transport thousands of drivers every day, providing essential channels of connection for our communities. The design choices and cost considerations that inform these projects matter, not just to direct stakeholders but also the people who utilize them every day. Estimators like Brian can explain the “Why?” behind each such choice made at the strategic intersection of savings and design intent.

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Michelle Clark

Relentless Ally

Problem-Solving With a Personal Touch

Project Executive Michelle Clark began her construction career on large projects with budgets in the hundreds of millions. By the time she reached Balfour Beatty in 2010, she had discovered her true passion for the industry’s polar opposite: fast-paced, high-touch and complex special projects.

In the decade since, Michelle has refined her problem-solving skills and earned a reputation as an enthusiastic advocate for Mid-Atlantic clients with unique project needs. In occupied buildings and on accelerated schedules, through night work and more, Michelle and her teammates leverage their years of special project experience to solve problems no one else can, delivering beautiful renovations and additions suited to each client’s needs.

Tackling Complex Logistics

Balfour Beatty experts like Michelle excel at special projects with truly unique challenges. Converting a mid-level tower floor into parking space or renovating a busy lobby with minimal disruption present a Gordian Knot of logistical considerations, but one that our teams are uniquely suited to untangle and overcome.

“Owners and clients come to us because they know we can see even the most complicated jobs through to success,” Michelle says. “Our clients trust us to solve problems that no one else can with design assistance, complicated or accelerated scheduling and innovative solutions – it’s where we thrive.”

On a current project in Washington, D.C., Balfour Beatty’s Mid-Atlantic special projects team has been tasked with adding an elevator to the interior of a historic downtown building. Beyond the aesthetic considerations of building an appropriately styled addition, the project site logistics are especially complex.

In addition to providing design input to help the elevator mesh with the surrounding structure, Michelle and her teammates are delivering construction solutions tailored to the site’s challenges, including limited space for material laydown, equipment and selective demolition. Backed by years of creative problem-solving experience, the team is performing complex shaft drilling, hydraulic installations and more within a narrow footprint.

Security Clearance: Granted

The Mid-Atlantic construction market, especially near historic Washington, D.C. is such that Balfour Beatty’s special projects teams often perform work for the federal government. Such projects can involve stringent security measures that Michelle loves to approach as another opportunity to solve a complex puzzle of logistical challenges.

“Federal special projects, just like special projects for private clients, are often located in occupied and secure office buildings where you must be a U.S. citizen, you can’t bring in any mobile devices and you can’t interact with surrounding offices in any way,” Michelle says. “It requires more planning and coordination than others in the industry may want to tackle, but we have the experience to ensure success. Every challenge is an opportunity to excel.”

Project coordination in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) also requires a unique approach to project management and Building Information Modeling (BIM) coordination.

When our teams can’t bring smartphones or tablets onto a project site, they rely on paper plans, intensive and intentional day-to-day planning and strategically timed communication with off-site personnel. Our special projects teams adapt to and overcome these unique constraints, carefully coordinating operations to maintain accelerated schedules and reliable budgets.

Making the Impossible Personal

When faced with challenging special projects, Michelle takes a personal, high-touch approach. By getting to know a client and understanding their project goals, she and her teammates can overcome any hurdle through innovative planning solutions, enhanced trade partner engagement and simply thinking outside the box.

Two back-to-back projects in the Warner Building in Washington, D.C. showcased Balfour Beatty’s ability to bring a client’s vision to life, first while converting an office floor into additional parking space. The team needed to avoid disrupting the existing parking structure above the floor and the offices above that, but the added complication of doorway-sized access points to the space precluded any large demolition equipment.

To effectively execute the garage conversion, including pouring a concrete ramp down to the new garage level, the team transported small loads of concrete in buggies that could navigate the space. Avoiding larger equipment also meant they could keep the rest of the garage open, which greatly benefited traffic to the rest of the building.

Impressed with the team’s work on the garage conversion, client JBG SMITH engaged Balfour Beatty to build a fitness center and renovate the Warner Building lobby. The client desired a green space despite the limited natural light, so Michelle and the team found a film set design specialist in California who could construct a 10-foot-tall artificial tree inside the lobby.

All the while, the team worked closely with JBG SMITH and the Warner Theater, a major occupant of the building, to coordinate work around live theater performances and peak activity hours in the lobby.

Near project completion, the team navigated even more complex logistics with the client and the city to deliver, assemble and install massive steel trellises, a key design feature of the renovated lobby. Though prefabricated in pieces off-site, each trellis component was large enough that the team worked with our delivery partners and the city of Washington, D.C. to coordinate lane closures during low-traffic hours.

The team needed to deliver the trellis components through the lobby’s front door, so constant communication with the client and its tenants was critical to mitigating disruptions to the Warner Building’s daily business.

Chasing the Next Challenge

Like many Balfour Beatty special projects experts across the U.S., Michelle feels uniquely suited for the fast-paced nature of these projects and loves what she does.

Every project has at least one especially unique, challenging or interesting feature. Whether she’s tackling an accelerated schedule, the challenge of delivering massive steel beams down a crowded city street or performing a complete lobby renovation without disturbing stage performances, Michelle is a passionate and respected Relentless Ally for our clients and communities.

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Chuck Chapman

Relentless Ally

Right on Track

Whether they carry commercial goods, raw materials or people, trains rarely have the luxury of stopping for long. That’s rarely an issue on an active rail line, but when railways require new construction, renovation and modernization, you need a hands-on expert who can keep things on track.

As one of Balfour Beatty’s leading rail experts, Commercial Director Chuck Chapman understands the importance of solutions-driven rail construction. Throughout his impressive 35-year career, Chuck has honed his skills as an innovative problem-solver, a master communicator and a creative project scheduler for public and private clients alike. Every dollar and every hour saved counts, and Balfour Beatty’s forward-thinking rail professionals like Chuck skillfully identify them at every turn.

Hands-On Problem Solving

Project leaders must display innovative problem-solving and the willingness to roll up one’s sleeves, take a personal role in the project plan and execute the best path forward.

Chuck’s storied career is replete with such situations, both as an estimator and as a project manager, and where the two disciplines converge. On a former employer’s bridge project, Chuck and his team were faced with a dilemma: the project required the creation of a dewatered area to facilitate bridgework, but traditional methods of sinking a cofferdam using sheet piles wouldn’t be adequate.

The approach spans of the bridge offered too little clearance to install cofferdams, and splicing sheet piles to handle the task would have increased project costs. So Chuck and his team got creative. They combined the strengths of each method by securing sheet piles to the cofferdam base using bulb seals.

“On each phase of the bridge, our solution probably saved four to six months,” Chuck recalls. “You multiply that across 36 segments, and the time and cost savings made an incredible difference for our client.”

While that level of creative problem-solving can come with the territory of complex infrastructure construction, it remains one of Chuck’s favorite aspects of his job and something he sees as wise stewardship of clients’ valuable time and money.

“There’s always an opportunity to partner with our clients, develop solutions and proactively prevent problems,” Chuck adds. “We get the right people together to create solutions that serve a project technically, fiscally and safely.”

Complete Communication

From the earliest planning phases to the completion of a project’s lifecycle, project leaders must be master communicators with every stakeholder. Direct, constant communication with clients, owners and trade partners can help prevent costly delays and any unnecessary impacts to the traveling public or vital supply chains that rely on rail infrastructure.

On Chuck’s most recent project, the electrification of Caltrain in San Jose, California, he prioritizes clear and consistent communication with project leaders, the client and local municipal authorities, ensuring Balfour Beatty adheres to all standards and procedures for working in and around critical infrastructure. Chuck understands that early and proactive team alignment enables the collaborative development of solutions that enhance critical logistics and safety planning. 

Impact-Sensitive Scheduling

Chuck and his fellow rail experts at Balfour Beatty cultivate a shared team understanding our client’s vision and target turnover dates, enabling strategic and successful project schedules.

“Traffic impacts and utility relocation are at the forefront of our minds on any rail project, because we know how mission critical both can be,” Chuck says. “By identifying these constraints early, we’re actually empowered to plan the most effective solutions such as nighttime closures and utility relocations that avoid interference with rail tracks and any permitting necessary to accomplish both.”

Balfour Beatty’s rail leaders can also leverage the many advantages of prefabrication where it can accelerate the schedule, save money and mitigate a project’s public impact. Railway replacements are a prime example.

“Prefabrication is another powerful tool in our planning toolbox,” Chuck says. “If we can build 1,000 feet of rail next to its final location, we can keep trains moving during that process, take the line out of service for a shorter outage period and install the new rail all at once.”

United in Vision

For Chuck, understanding a client’s vision is just par for the course. By communicating that vision to all stakeholders, then planning, designing and scheduling projects accordingly, the entire team stays on track.

Rail is one of our oldest modes of motorized travel but still plays a crucial role in the way we move people and goods around our communities and around the country. We’re proud to serve our clients by making rail construction and renovation as efficient, expedient and economical as possible and empowering leaders like Chuck who can make it happen.

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Kelsey Beaty

Relentless Ally

Embracing Every Opportunity

In her 16 years with Balfour Beatty, Project Business Manager Kelsey Beaty has enthusiastically sought out new challenges. From her time as an intern in Georgia to serving as a project accountant in the Carolinas and taking on the role of project business manager in Texas, Kelsey has been committed to expanding her skillsets since day one. Her willingness to evolve with the needs of the business has broadened her knowledge of every area of our work, making her an invaluable teammate with a deep understanding of the industry.

Building on a Legacy

Kelsey comes by her interest in construction administration naturally. Her father spent several years as a human resources executive at Balfour Beatty, imparting his passion for the industry and the many opportunities available within it.

In December 2007, an opportunity to become the first accounting intern within Balfour Beatty’s U.S civils business opened in Atlanta, Georgia, and Kelsey jumped at the chance. Though she was nervous to begin the internship, having only taken one accounting class in school, her nerves were quickly eased.  

“No one expected me to be the CEO on my first day,” Kelsey laughs. “My supervisors were clear with me: they wanted someone interested in the business who was willing to jump in and learn.”

Kelsey continued interning within the shared services team throughout her time in college, building rewarding relationships, learning about the industry and maximizing every opportunity. When she graduated, she was eager to begin her career with Balfour Beatty.

Field Transitions

After several years of working in an office environment in Atlanta and in a regional office in Wilmington, North Carolina, Kelsey began to feel that field work was the next step in her career evolution. She had supported field teams extensively and participated in jobsite tours that broadened her perspective of how the accounting function supports our work.

Kelsey soon made the move to Jacksonville, North Carolina, to work on the Camp Lejeune base entry project. For the first time, Kelsey was fully immersed in a project, experiencing her accounting work in action right outside her window.

Her time amid active work allowed her to build relationships with field and craft teams in a way she hadn’t before. “It opened my world up a bit,” she says. “I gained an understanding of operational processes that I’ve carried with me ever since.”

(South)Westward Expansion

After a year on the Camp Lejeune job, Kelsey was tapped to make a major transition: moving to Dallas, Texas, to begin work on the Dallas Horseshoe project. The project spanned 73 miles of roadway and included the construction of 37 bridges, well beyond the scope of any project in which Kelsey had been involved.

“It was quite an undertaking,” Kelsey reflects. “I very quickly learned the importance of teamwork on a job of that scale.”

After completing the Dallas Horseshoe, Kelsey moved to the Southern Gateway project and, currently, the I-635 East project. As project business manager, Kelsey and her teams are responsible for all things finance, including processing payroll for hundreds of employees, managing payments to trade partners and more.

Her most important role, she says, is supporting our field teams. “My job only exists because of the teams working on the project site,” Kelsey explains.

A Powerful Mentor

During her time on the Dallas Horseshoe project, Kelsey developed a mentoring relationship with Director of Construction Dan Young. In the decade since, the pair have been an unstoppable force, and Dan has been pivotal in Kelsey’s career development.

“Kelsey is an invaluable asset to our team,” Dan says. “Her time in the southeast and the Horseshoe and Southern Gateway projects has given her a great breadth of experience that allows her to understand and support her teammates, and she’s always seeking out new ways to learn.”

Throughout her time with Balfour Beatty, Kelsey has demonstrated that she is not only capable of adapting to new environments but thrives in the face of change. She enthusiastically adapts with the ever-changing needs of the industry, giving her a broad knowledge of operations and making her a well-rounded leader and passionate advocate for her teammates.