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Jim Bognet and Jeff Kaiser, owners of the $50 million firm, Bognet Construction, are relentless about delivering high quality, on-time, on-budget solutions for our customers

By Hope Katz Gibbs
February 1, 2010
Be Inkandescent Magazine
Photos by Steve Barrett

Little did Bognet Construction founders Jim Bognet and Jeff Kaiser know when they leased their first office in 1998 for $500 per month in the basement of a Starbucks on MacArthur Boulevard that 12 years later they would be manning a $50 million firm that employs 45 people.

“We love construction, and are relentless about delivering high quality, on-time, on-budget solutions for our customers,” the owners say. “Our goal is to continue to build this firm into a $150 million company in the next five years.”

WHY THEY DO IT: Construction is in their blood

Jim Bognet’s father thought maybe his son would become a doctor. The lad was so good in math and science, it seemed a natural fit. The young Bognet thought differently. The family business was construction, and since he was 7 he had snapped on his little tool belt and headed out on jobs with his dad, Rocco, owner of the general and mechanical contracting firm Bognet, Inc.

As he grew, Jim spent his summers as a laborer and estimator and operated heavy equipment until he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1988 from Pennsylvania State University. One of his professors was a vice president at the George Hyman Construction Company and helped him land a job with Tiber Construction. By 1991, Jim was working for Oliver Carr, and by 1996 he was the director of the DC office for The Leapley Company. That’s where Jim met Jeff Kaiser.

A local kid who also grew up in the construction business, Jeff’s dad worked as an architectural engineer for the federal government. After serving in the U.S. Navy on the USS John F. Kennedy, he began his career in construction as a carpenter while attending Montgomery College in Rockville.

Jeff was an estimator at Leapley when he and Jim started meeting for dinner at Murphy’s Irish Bar and Kilroy’s to talk about how they might go out on their own. After three months of discussions, they went in to talk to Dennis Leapley, “and by the end of the conversation, he wished us luck.” The next day, Jim and Jeff opened their office on MacArthur Boulevard.

WHAT THEY DO: Rebuilding existing spaces — and making them “green”

Rebuilding interiors at corporations such as Freddie Mac, Chemonics International, and General Dynamics has long been a staple for Bognet Construction. The firm has built George Washington University’s Alexandria Graduate Center, the offices for Visa International, ManTech International, and multiple projects for the General Services Administration.

Bognet Construction also has an agreement with the local carpenters’ union that enables them to perform Union projects in the Washington metropolitan area.

And in recent years, Jim and Jeff have focused on bidding on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects, a standard for “green” building design. Several of the company’s project managers have completed their LEED accreditation — something the owners believe is critical as they move forward.

“We created an incentive for our staff to get the accreditation, for it enables us to provide expertise and guidance throughout the LEED building process and helps us ensure that a project meets the highest green building and performance measures,” Jeff explains. “This is important to us because we understand the environmental impact of construction, and want to do everything we can to be part of the solution.”

A sample of the LEED projects completed to date include: Unite Here Local 25, the Metro Park Conference Center, Brookfield Properties, the Independent Sector, and the Arlington Free Clinic, which has received four prestigious design awards because it fosters a healthy environment and reduces energy use.

FIVE STEPS TO FOLLOW WHEN REBUILDING and/or relocating your office

1. Involve your general contractor early in the selection process. We can help real estate brokers and tenants with negotiating tenant improvement allowances with the landlord. Take into consideration plumbing riser locations, HVAC equipment, electrical service and building accessibility — it’s costly to move those elements.

2. Review space plans. Your architect will create drawings that best utilize the space, determine which existing lighting fixtures can be used, and identify plumbing locations and ceiling systems.

3. Approve construction budgets and documents. A good general contractor will outline an initial budget and modify the scope of work to meet your desired budget without losing the overall intent of the design. This step takes 6 to 8 weeks.

4. Apply for a building permit. Once construction documents are completed, plans will be submitted to the local jurisdiction for review and issuance of a permit — which takes 4 to 6 weeks.

5. Participate in weekly meetings. Once the job begins, the general contractor will host weekly meetings to coordinate with the subcontractors, tenant vendors, and suppliers. Sit in on these meetings to track the progress of your project.

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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