Demonstrating the Value of Self-Perform and One Webcor at Mission Rock, Shattuck Projects

Two project teams recently demonstrated the value of self-perform as a point of differentiation between Webcor and most of our competitors.

January 12, 2024

Strategy / Planning

With the basics of building remaining mostly unchanged over the years, how do you compress schedules to get work done faster? The answer, it turns out, is not unlike "diet and exercise" as the way to lose weight:

To speed up the process, you need trust and communication.

Trust and communication were in ample supply on two Webcor projects, Mission Rock Parcel F in San Francisco and 1951 Shattuck in Berkeley. Both projects demonstrated the value of self-perform as a point of differentiation between Webcor and most of our competitors. (Differentiating our delivery is one of the Strategic Plan's four primary initiatives.)

The evolution of Webcor's self-perform operations has been a long one. Webcor Craft companies initially behave like any other subcontractor that happens to be owned by a general contractor. At Mission Rock and Shattuck, the evolution from those beginnings has been clear, with the self-performing teams focused on what's best for the project, leading to some remarkable outcomes, including compressed schedules.

Mission Rock was the first project at which this more integrated approach to building took shape. "Before work even started, Derek and I met with (Webcor Craft Executive Vice President) Chris Plue and talked about developing a better model," says Construction Manager Jim Tomaszewski.

Traditionally, Derek explains, Drywall would present the dates it planned to do framing on a floor, which meant that everyone else needed to be off of the floor, regardless of the core and shell team's efforts to manage the schedules of other subcontractors.

"Instead, at Mission Rock, we talked to all the subs to find out what they needed," Derek says. "Once we knew what was important to them, the Mission Rock team discussed how they could fulfill those needs. That made them super productive. We got fewer back charges, and the other subs were completing their work way out ahead of us.

"We might not always be able to give every sub what they wanted, but we listened, and we believed what they told us," Derek says.


Weekly meetings were at the heart of communication among subcontractors and between subcontractors and the core and shell teams. "These meetings are step one," Jim says, noting that they're not like any of the other meetings he has experienced in his career. "Forget names and titles. They're not important. What matters is that the people in the room are decision-makers. They're contributing participants. Nobody has to leave the meeting and find the right person to find out if a decision made in the meeting works for them. Everyone involved is in the meeting. We come with a list of problems and questions and leave with a plan everyone understands and can implement.

Who attends the meeting depends on the project's current and upcoming activities. For example, when Carpentry's work is about to begin, a Carpentry decision-maker starts attending, along with Drywall's representative, whose work is winding down. "That lets the entire group address overlapping issues," Jim explains.

"By bringing Carpentry in, we can figure out how to help them as they come in behind Drywall, what we can do to alleviate their struggles and improve productivity," Derek adds. "The more we sit down and talk, the easier it is to figure out what they need, how quickly, and how we can get it to them in the right sequence."

At these meetings, as trust grows, participants bring up contentious issues that are typically hidden. "A few weeks of this, and now you're in the best meetings you've ever sat in on," Jim says. "A problem comes up, and everyone talks about it like it's all of our problem to solve, not just one trade partner's. Then you can see that problem get solved and the schedule pulled in or LDR numbers go up, and it's very satisfying"

The meetings are supplemented with a lot of one-to-one communication. "A few years ago, if Concrete needed something from Drywall, a Concrete team member would ask someone from core and shell, and they would go to Drywall," Jim recalls. "Now there's direct interaction between Concrete and Drywall, and a lot more between Carpentry and Drywall, too." These regular meetings not only foster communication, but they also build trust. In these meetings, disagreements come up regularly, and heated words are occasionally exchanged, and that’s a good thing because issues get resolved then and don’t fester.

While all that sounds simple enough, the fact that everyone has an interest in the sequence makes it hard. "It's bigger than mapping out a sequence on a piece of paper," Jim says. "We created a culture of communication and trust that's hard to describe, but it worked."

It worked so well that Derek and Jim worked to transfer much of the concept to the Shattuck project. "There's nothing to stop us from adopting this on other projects," Jim says.


The elevators at Mission Rock provide an example of how Drywall's adoption of this philosophy -- instead of focusing solely on its own scope -- led to scheduling innovation.

"What normally happens is that Concrete pours a deck with an opening where the elevator will go. When Concrete leaves, they build a handrail around the hole, so nobody falls in. Then Drywall comes in, removes the handrail, and builds some walls in its place. At Mission Rock, we basically skipped the handrail. Drywall, just put the walls up with the concrete team."

Typically, the elevator contractor builds a portal to the elevator, and Drywall frames the wall in between. "This time, we went in ahead of time and put the front wall up first, making it safer for the elevator team to work in the hoistway."

That's not to suggest the transition was easy since the projects had crucial differences. Still, when the Shattuck project was in its formative stages, Derek suggested building 80 percent of the walls on the first pass. "Everybody bought into it," he says, leading to an expedited schedule and highly productive MEP trades. "We held multiple sessions with the MEP trades in the beginning, which evolved into the weekly meeting.”

Overhead MEPS rough-in installed ahead of production wall framing

"Every trade knows what they need, core and shell knows what they want, and our meetings let us develop a plan that lets us be as efficient as possible."

Point of Differentiation

Jim and Derek's process makes so much sense that it's easy to wonder why it isn't the standard. "Not many GCs are self-performing," Derek explains. "If I'm not self-performing for a GC, then it's normal to be territorial. The builders build the way they build and demand that trade partners do things their way, and it leads to problems. Now, we're integrated and way beyond that.

"Expanding these practices will help Webcor achieve its goal of standing out from the rest of the construction pack. "We have a system with sequence and flow," Derek says. "Webcor Builders superintendents trust what we say. We don't commit to things we can't do. It's a philosophy of talking about what's best for the project, even though it may not be best for Drywall. We don't go into these meetings looking for favors from Core and Shell. We'll talk directly with the MEP trades about the schedule, then take that schedule to core and shell to get it figured out."

It was also replicated at the Contra Costa Administration Building, demonstrating that the process works. "It was a tight schedule, but we brought it in in five weeks because we went to the MEP trades, understood what they needed, and developed a plan to get it to them. All three projects have beaten schedules and been more productive than ever," according to Derek.

The more projects that adopt the process, the more wrinkles can be ironed out, and compressed schedules become routine.

Elevators before temporary fronts were installed
Completed temporary elevator fronts