Springer-Peterson Roofing & Sheet Metal prides itself on being able to handle any type of project. The company, headquartered in Lakeland, Fla., is predominantly known for commercial re-roofing, but it does all types of roof installation and roof maintenance work. It also does sheet metal fabrication, including not only roof panels, gutters, and downspouts but structural steel on rooftops and specialty items like custom sinks, countertops and tables. “We go above and beyond when it comes to fabrication,” said Rob Springer, the company’s president. “But our niche is commercial renovation, and the harder the project, the better.”
It doesn’t get much harder that LEGOLAND® Florida, a 150-acre interactive theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions based on the colorful toy bricks that give the park its name. The fast-track design build project would involve repair, replacement and new construction of more than 40 roofs in less than nine months in an environment that would put any company to the test. But Springer-Peterson has been preparing for projects like this for more than 30 years.
Rob Springer owns the company along with his father, Don Springer, the company’s CEO, who formed the company in 1981 along with Brooke Peterson. Rob Springer came on board in 1985.
Growing up, Rob’s passion was baseball. He pitched in junior college, but after undergoing shoulder surgery in college he decided to choose building as a career. He entered the University of Florida and earned a degree in construction management from the university’s Rinker School of Building Construction. After graduating, he took a job with another general contractor. He hadn’t planned on joining his dad’s company, but when the opportunity arose he jumped at the chance. “It was the greatest opportunity of my life, looking back,” he said.
According to Rob Springer, what makes the company special is its emphasis on customer service. “The thing my father has always preached is that the most important person is the customer,” he said. “Whenever he talks to people at the company, he talks about the importance of the customer. No matter what the time of day or what day of the week, if there’s a problem, it’s critical that you be there. On the day of his 50th birthday, my dad and I took care of a problem with a leaking roof at a shopping center. Nothing sends a message like the owner being there.”
Springer-Peterson also tries to give back to the community through service work. “We do 20-25 homes a year for Habitat for Humanity,” said Springer. The company will be working on two homes in conjunction with the NBA in Orlando, the site of both the NBA All-Star game and the International Roofing Expo.
Springer-Peterson is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), the Florida Roofing Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FRSA), the Tri-County Roofing Contractor’s Association (TCRCA), Associated Builders and Contractors Association (ABC), the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lakeland Lions Club. In 2006, it also became a founding member of National Roofing Partners, a group of affiliated independent contractors that services accounts across the country.
According to Peterson, NRP provides two key benefits: access to national accounts and advice from peers who share best practices. “NRP has been a big help to us,” said Springer. “It’s brought us a range of national accounts, and we get advice from contractors from around the country on everything from marketing to billing to project management. That has been priceless. And, we’re in the best market in the world for that type of work — every big chain has a branch in Orlando, Florida.”
High-profile projects include the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, Macy’s Florida Distribution Center, Coca-Cola’s Central Florida distribution center, and the Publix Supermarkets stores.
A Complex Project
The LEGOLAND project was competitively bid, and Springer-Peterson got the job. The park was constructed at the former site of Cypress Gardens, and the first task was surveying the existing roofs. The survey work took months to complete, but the information would prove invaluable once the project was under way.
All told, Springer-Peterson handled roof repairs on 15 buildings, re-roofing on 10 more, and roof installation 16 new construction projects. Another roofing contractor handled a few more new construction projects. Roofing work involved built-up roofs, modifieds, TPO, metal standing seam, imitation slate and heavyweight shingles, among others. Manufacturers whose products were used on the project included Firestone, TAMKO, GAF, Johns Manville and TAMCO Metals. “We did almost every type of roof imaginable,” said Springer. “Some were as small as a concession stand that sold ice cream and some as big as stadiums, restaurants and theaters.”
Springer served as senior project manager on the job, and others on the project included estimator Eric Wanner, project manager Jared Contat, and foremen Will Martin and Victor Hernandez. Wanner is an 11-year industry veteran with a construction management degree form Fresno State, but when the project began Contat had just graduated from college just one year earlier. Like Springer, he earned a construction management degree from the University of Florida.
“We threw him into the lions’ den on this one,” said Wanner. “He hit the ground running, that’s for sure.”
“Jared did a tremendous job handling the flow,” said Springer. “The pressure he was under was amazing.”
Challenges on the project included not only the amount and diversity of work but a brutal schedule. “They awarded the project in February and our completion date was September 15,” said Springer.
Logistics were also a nightmare, as all of the underground electrical, water and sewer lines were dug up and replaced during the project. “Getting around the park was also a challenge,” said Springer. “When we showed up to work at the site, the concrete walkways were gone. It looked like a bomb went off.”
They used ATVs and four-wheel-drive forklifts to deliver roofing material and rented an all-terrain golf cart to get around the site. In some areas even the four-wheel-drive vehicles couldn’t access the buildings, so they had to get the general contractor to flatten out the terrain. “You had to get the material up there any way you could,” said Springer. “We did a lot of it at night.”
Making things even worse was the congestion of the site, with all types of trades working at the same time. “You’d think you had a good spot to load materials or park your truck, and 10 minutes later another contractor would be there saying they needed the space,” said Wanner.
Once they returned to pick up a load of materials only to find an electrical contractor had dug trenches around it. “That was just a day-to-day thing with LEGOLAND, challenges like that,” said Contat.
The Florida weather was also problematic. It rained almost every day, often thunderstorms with several inches of rain in a matter of hours and 40-60 mph winds. “Everything had to be not only covered up, but tied down,” said Wanner.
To make matters even more complicated, the schedule was frequently changed. Priorities shifted as the project went along, and sometimes bids that had been initially rejected were suddenly accepted and became rush jobs.
“There were constant changes on the project — adding and deleting buildings and changing the scope of work,” said Wanner. “From an estimating standpoint, all I did was work on LEGOLAND.”
“In some cases we had finished repairs and they would add penetrations or make other changes to the roof,” Contat said. “Prior to making changes, approvals need to be made.” The use of an electronic submittal system helped expedite the paperwork.
The folks at Springer-Peterson had high praise for the general contractor on the project, PCL, which had a lot of experience working for Disney. “The general contractor was great to work with,” Springer said. “Their emphasis on safety was the best I’ve ever seen, and working with them made us a better company when it comes to safety.”
To help meet safety requirements and avoid making unnecessary penetrations, the crew invested in special equipment for the project, including an AES Safety Gator, a water-filled mobile fall protection cart from AES Raptor that rests on the ground and features six tie-off points.
After the project was wrapped up ahead of schedule and the park was open and hosting record crowds, Springer, Wanner and Contat looked back on a solid team effort. “Our team is close-knit,” said Contat. “We have each other’s backs, and we pull together to solve problems.”
“The whole job was really schedule driven,” said Wanner. “Even with all of those difficulties, we were still able to bring it all in ahead of schedule. That’s why we were selected for the project. They knew we could handle it.”
“We like challenges,” said Wanner.
“And they like us, too,” added Contat. “That’s what we were trained for.”