Insights into Building Award-Winning Projects

By Mike Ortiz, Project Executive, AP Gulf States

When it comes to creating award-winning projects, we’re always trying to accomplish a handful of goals. In my role as a project executive at AP, I’m responsible for the overall performance and outcome of projects. That means I’m focusing on strategic planning, scheduling, risk management and supporting the team in making smart operational decisions.

We’re proud of what we do, especially when it comes to building award-winning projects that meet tough award submission criteria such as:

  • Challenging construction due to design, location, materials, etc.
  • Unique or unusual building methods
  • Quality of the final project
  • Project completion time

Truly, we couldn’t tackle these projects without the dedication of each team member and trade partner. Our leadership team and project teams strive for a commitment to quality, reliability and integrity in every project we do. We follow the lead of our executive team, led by Regional President Will Pender, on exceeding industry standards. We’ve often heard Will ask what can we do “even better if” questions. It’s a wonderful approach to look at improving every aspect of our work and how we execute every one of our projects.

Recently, AP earned accolades on three projects. Here’s a quick look at them and how we got there.

Recreational Fitness Center

It’s all about teamwork. Our preconstruction and operation teams joined together to provide the client with a collaborative services approach that streamlined the project by developing detailed estimates, scopes, and a schedule to execute the project efficiently. AP’s early involvement gave the client critical planning and constructability reviews, which helped us understand the owner’s business goals while ensuring our approach aligned with their plan. This included building a new cast-in-place three-story 56,352-square-foot fitness center on an occupied campus, in addition to a 29,650-square-foot below-grade parking garage, a rooftop tennis facility with four courts and a 200-foot-long pedestrian bridge across a major East/West thoroughfare in Dallas.

AP’s support and early engagement helped set up the project for success months before mobilization. Specifically, our preconstruction team worked with the client, city and the design team at Marsh & Associates for nearly three years before work commenced. Not only did our team focus on budgets, schedules and constructability, but we also concentrated on the owner’s membership and their needs.

The project’s theme was conflict avoidance. Expectations around construction activities and avoiding disruption to its members and surrounding neighbors around the existing facilities required an abundance of planning scenarios and schedules to showcase options well in advance. Our top goal was minimizing member impact, which we knew from the start. Ultimately, planning and preparation led to minimal interruption, resulting in positive feedback from the owner.

Despite challenges and unique construction requirements outside of the original plan, the project team delivered an absolutely beautiful facility on time and within budget. This project brought home two awards, a First Place TEXO Distinguished Building Award and the AGC-TBB (Texas Building Branch) Outstanding Construction Award. The project team even received recognition from former U.S. President George W. Bush when he visited the high-profile project in Dallas stating, “Your work is beautiful.”

Southwest Transplant Alliance

A second project to highlight focuses on Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA) in which we constructed a 77,000-square-foot three-story build-to-suit medical office building and parking garage, in partnership with Corgan.

When selecting the STA project team, not only did we consider recent relevant experience, team cohesion, and best talent for that specific project, but we selected a team that would be committed to providing service to a client that mirrored our team values and culture. The team was not just building a building; they were invested in and aligned with what STA was bringing to the community of saving lives. Our teams hold themselves accountable and are passionate about what they do – it also helps that they care about each other and our clients.

From the project’s inception, the city was overwhelmed with a high volume of project submissions. The project team recognized this could possibly delay the start of construction and decided to expedite the review process by holding numerous face-to-face meetings with the city’s plan review team. With 112,000 individuals nationwide awaiting organ transplants, the team knew this facility was going to save more lives and support countless individuals if it could just stay on schedule. In the end, the strategy with the city paid off, and AP obtained a building permit months ahead of the city’s standard plan-review schedule.


To further expedite the schedule, the team utilized a “top-down” rather than a “bottom-up” approach – topping out the building structure, pouring the elevated decks, and installing the basement sub-grade utilities. Overall, this method helped the project team complete the project nearly seven weeks in advance of the deadline even though the COVID-19 pandemic began halfway through this project.

It was a true team effort. AP and on-site trade partners adapted to these new COVID-19 safety protocols quickly and did an outstanding job adhering to the guidelines, keeping the project on track and team members healthy.

Christina Paraliticci, Assistant Project Manager for AP on this project, said it best “One of my proudest moments is knowing when the first transplant there was performed, I just built something that helped save a life.”

AP received a first-place TEXO Distinguished Building Award in the healthcare category for the STA project.

Park Cities Presbyterian Church

And, the third project I want to discuss illustrates the importance of consistent and effective communication in the construction industry. This cannot be exaggerated; it is one of the main indicators of a project’s success. The Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCPC) project was unique and exciting and in one of the DFW Metroplex’s highest-profile areas.

The client had a specific vision in mind when it came to their mission, EXTEND. PCPC extended its religious center to more than just a church, focusing on a design from OMNIPLAN catering to the surrounding area and neighborhood. PCPC acquired nearly two acres of directly connected land to enlarge the church campus, which included 66,982 square feet of renovations and an addition of 67,000 square feet to its existing church space.

Before we made their vision come to life, the church faced a challenge with parking, nestled between two major Dallas intersections. This EXTEND campus design helped combat traffic disturbances by including a lower-level underground parking garage, providing direct access to the nursery and childcare area, administration area and adult education space through two entrances.

This historical building’s exterior consisted of a neo-gothic architectural style, which was preserved in both the new construction and renovation aspects of this design.

Keeping the client abreast of the ever-changing supply chain while coordinating with the design team to offer options to keep design intent with the use of alternate materials was key in providing a successful preconstruction plan. Additionally, the team coordinated with client trade partners specializing in children’s space equipment and multi-media performances to provide PCPC with unique spaces to fit their needs.

Coordination also played a key role because of the logistics complications of having an active construction site in an occupied church facility. AP coordinated construction staging areas, construction traffic controls, a hoisting plan, construction separation means and methods, renovation phasing and sound/dust mitigation to create a smooth-running construction process for this occupied church. We maintained consistent communication with PCPC regarding high-end finishes to ensure everything was built to specifications.

The PCPC project was recognized as a TEXO Distinguished Building Award Merit Winner in the Historic Renovation category and an Eagle Award Winner with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)’s National Excellence in Construction Awards.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Our end goal is to become a better team, strengthen relationships and trust and establish a collaborative approach. Everything AP does centers on communication, planning and having thorough industry knowledge combined with the commitment of teamwork to deliver quality work to our clients. Strategy guides everything we do, and it is all done with our client’s success in mind.

Mike has generated nearly $400 million in work throughout his career and has been the recipient of several awards based on his passion for excellence. His most memorable awards include the ABC Excellence in Construction Eagle Award, ABC Pyramid Award and multiple Distinguished Building Awards. His focus on urgency, dedication to the project and commitment to clients has helped his teams execute work efficiently and safely. His favorite project to date was with Southwest Transplant Alliance located in Dallas, Texas, as it was meaningful to be part of the organization’s mission of saving lives and helping communities throughout Texas.  The complexity of the project, and overall commitment and execution by the project team produced a state-of-the-art facility that will save lives for years to come.

Mike is LEED AP, Construction Quality Management certified and holds a bachelor’s degree in Construction Science from Texas A&M University in College Station.

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