INVEST: CHARLOTTE 2022 – Interview with N. Eric Laster

What is the landscape for the construction sector in Charlotte?

Construction is booming in Charlotte, I have lived here for over 40 years and it is the best market for construction I have ever seen. We are busy in every segment we work in. On the flip side, the demand has caused a tremendous strain on the subcontractor community. We have learned to get in front of the problems by knowing where our materials are located and communicating with our subcontractors to ensure they understand when they are needed. Good communication and planning has been key for getting the nuts and bolts into the building. We have learned to get upstream of potential delays so we can communicate with the team to find possible solutions.

Where have you seen the most changes in demand?

We pursue seven building types, with distribution and light manufacturing facilities experiencing the largest growth in the Southeast region. Medical continues to grow, as well as any market that is sensitive to population growth, such as schools, both private and public. We had a dip in senior living facilities, as COVID increased people’s uncertainty related to moving into a facility, but it has started to ease as we have a greater understanding of the virus. Overall, the most common trend we are seeing is that clients want certainty. We have gotten to a place where owners are not as concerned with the pricing as much as they are with the product delivery. I have seen a transition occur, where the main goal is to do business with a company that can deliver a quality project on time as promised.

How does Edifice differentiate itself from other players in the region?

Our clients choose us because of our people. We have increased our staff size to keep up with the demand and build more projects. Even though we are relatively small, we can compete against every multimillion-dollar contractor in the country, at least in the Southeast. We can do so because we have the best mix of professionalism, maturity, and technology. We have a rich history, with over 40 years of successfully completing projects on time and within budget. Our clients rely on our ability to continue to provide quality service.

How do you see construction evolving over the next few years?

The use of technology is improving the construction business. For example, Charlotte is at a point where there is a huge amount of reuse of buildings and we have the technology to scan the interior and laser scan every surface, which is very useful to develop budgets when determining how to reuse these types of facilities. We are also using technology to increase the communication between everybody on the team, where the owner, architect and subcontractors have access to all files immediately. Online meetings are here to stay, as we can increase efficiency without having everyone drive to a particular site, which is very helpful to the industry. Another trend we are seeing is the use of prefabrication pieces, which are becoming more prevalent as it is more convenient to make them off-site and transport them. I’m not sure if it is currently more economical but I’m sure it will eventually become a better value alternative.

Reprinted from Invest: Charlotte 2022

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