Multifamily Momentum: Q&A with Eric Donnelly, Vice President of Multifamily

Kristy Eudy

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, the KPRS Multifamily division has experienced record growth and currently accounts for roughly one third of the overall volume of work at KPRS. With a focus on relationships and client service, the group is overseen by Eric Donnelly, Vice President of Construction for Multifamily and includes all market-rate, senior living, senior assisted and affordable residential. Here we get an inside view on Eric’s leadership perspective and what the future holds.

What do you attribute to the growth of the KPRS Multi Family group in the past several years?

I think our growth is mostly accredited to KPRS' ability to deliver on time and on budget, and provide the client with an enjoyable experience. This leads to satisfied and repeat clients. In the multifamily industry, these clients are very busy. I believe our adding of team members who have a depth of experience and come from multifamily-specific backgrounds has enabled us to do more, as these individuals were already leaders in this field.

How have you adjusted your focus due to this growth?

We've continued to increase our market share and really work to improve and expand our relationships with owners, architects and subcontractors. We've been working continuously to get ahead of market changes in the multifamily industry, working around cost escalations and hedging costs wherever possible.

What overall industry changes do you anticipate in the next 5+ years and beyond?

We anticipate an even larger shift to energy efficient buildings, particularly in California as new legislation will take hold in December of this year. We've also seen a greater shift to more amenities offerings in this market, and the desire for more flexible space options within individual units.

You’ve worked in multifamily construction for over 35 years. What are some key differences or major changes in building methods + turnaround time are you seeing from now vs then?

From my observance the technical and leadership abilities of the average workman has decreased, and therefore the management and project oversight has had to increase. The complexity of the code has also shifted, where energy efficiency and smart buildings have added another layer of involvement. Since my youth, how we build in this market is basically the same, and it's with the same construction goods and methods. The advent of newer materials has started to take hold, but it's a slow process.

How has technology and some of the tech applications used by KPRS played a role in these changes?

Our ability to overlay field conditions captured by drone photo analysis to the original plans has aided our efforts significantly. Drone scanning has become a consequential tool for our field supervision team, where issues and conflicts can be found very early on. It has increased the capacity of our scheduling and quality control. BIM technology has assisted in finding clashes in building components and in identifying issues before the work even commences. 

What type of shifts have you seen with clients and how to best meet their needs?

We see how our clients face a lot of pressures both financially and with regulatory requirements, and these areas demand a lot of their focus during the development and construction process. This is why it's ideal for our team to step in at the preconstruction phase to start working early with architectural and engineering efforts. There are also more people in the development business with smaller staffs, and we are able to step in to support with any areas they're not able to sustain. Both myself and our multifamily team enjoy the role of supporting our clients from the outset. We feel we can serve a vital role in partnering with them and helping guide the process very early on.  

What has kept you working in multifamily for the entirety of your career?

It's true I have only completed one non-multifamily building. To me the challenge of multi family construction was always attractive; with at least 50-70 subcontractors involved, there are more complex components as one is literally building a series of individual homes connected together. In the case of Senior Assisted Living, this is even more so-- these buildings contain not only living units but also large square footage dedicated to restaurants, hair salons and fitness facilities. These amenities lend themselves to being their own separate projects.

How do ensure your teams have the right subcontractors?

We maintain relationships with the ownership of all subcontractors that work with us. I've found this to be both necessary and most important for producing successful outcomes. We see our relationships with subcontractors as a fundamental partnership and the key to success.

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