Build Better Podcast

Mariner Wealth Advisors builds to win!

February 06, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
Build Better Podcast
Mariner Wealth Advisors builds to win!
Chapters
Build Better Podcast
Mariner Wealth Advisors builds to win!
Feb 06, 2019 Season 1 Episode 4
Julie Pithers
This top independent wealth advisory firm attributes its success to the people they attract. So, they built a headquarters to help their people be happy and productive.
Show Notes Transcript

Mariner chose passive optical networks (PON) as the IT backbone for the company. It’s unlimited bandwidth and 12-mile radius made them steer away from a conventional copper implementation. It also opened more real estate for extra employee perks.

Watch the video case study following the build-out of Mariner Wealth Advisors' HQ.

Speaker 1:
0:01
Mariner is one of the top independent financial services firms in the country. We have grown pretty significantly over the last 12 years that we've been in existence.
Speaker 2:
0:10
Hello and welcome to build better. I'm long-time DIRTTbag. Julie Pithers. Today we're hearing from the team at Mariner, a DIRTT client in Kansas City. They built a two storey 60,000 square foot headquarters,
Speaker 1:
0:24
Kara Stoecklein, senior vice president of human resources. We have a pretty long list of people who would love to come in and see the space. It's an area of interest. The construction is interesting to people. The actual design, the use of glass, and for this industry, is flipping the construction so we don't have offices for most of our people. Almost everybody's in open space. It has been intriguing to many. But all of it's come together as a beautiful space. A lot of people are interested in taking a look at it. And rave reviews from our people as well as anybody who's come in from the outside.
Speaker 2:
0:56
Now, usually a facilities or real estate executive heads up the building of a new space, but Mariner got to where they are by attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry. Since human happiness and productivity were the top priorities, the head of HR was tagged to head up the design and construction of their new headquarters.
Speaker 1:
1:16
Well, the physical space for us, we're all about innovation. We want to be top in our industry. Having a space that facilitates a lot of collaboration and innovative thinking, problem solving, significant amounts of communication is really important. And designing a space that would facilitate all of that was key and when we built this particular office,
Speaker 3:
1:35
I'm Chris Cook, I am the VP of IT. I handle all infrastructure and the core business services for Mariner. Mariner needs world-class it. We have people from east coast, to west coast. We have companies from 50 to 150 to five, and so we need the best of the best when it comes to something that could scale very small and something that can scale very large very easily. The building was originally architected and designed to have four switch closets to go on each floor and traditional copper runs to each one. Basically splitting each floor and half. There was considerable amount of cable. It's a considerable amount of install and the complexity obviously was, was much more than what it, what we ended up with.
Speaker 1:
2:19
My name is Peggy Bennett and I was a senior interior designer on the project. Mariner is a very progressive client. They are very big on making it a great space for their employees.
:
2:30
When we decided to go with DIRTT most people were pretty intrigued and interested, but I think there was a lot of trust and that we had done our homework - that I had done my homework. I went to the manufacturing facility in Phoenix. I spent a lot of time researching the various products that are pre-manufactured materials to make sure we selected what would be most supportive of our environment.
Speaker 3:
2:50
Being a tech guy, I'm very interested in the latest and greatest in new and definitely anything that makes it easier for us. Looking at the wall systems. I found, even before knowing the networking, it was going to be easy to pull cable and make changes, which is what we do on a constant basis at all of our various firms. Once they added in the ability to run, networking in the wall, made it that much better
Speaker 4:
3:13
DIRTT plug and play copper networks would give Mariner exactly what they needed. The system arrives pre-assembled and pre-tested for a fast implementation and easy downstream changes, but as a forward thinking innovative company, Mariner wanted even better. It was PON or a passive optical network that would mean Mariner could have the flexible it system with unlimited bandwidth. As they explored the option, they discovered bandwidth was just one of the benefits they'd see.
Speaker 1:
3:42
We were introduced to the idea of using fiber optic, the passive optical network and being the person who is influencing the future direction and trying to make sure we were innovative. I brought that to our technology team initially and they hadn't heard a lot about it, so we did some homework. We had several meetings decided. Again, we want to be ahead of where where people are building and not behind, and so we decided we were going to go forward and to try the new PON system.
Speaker 3:
4:09
Originally we were kind of skeptical. Going away from copper cabling is something that's not very easy to do. It's been connecting everything for decades and so looking at something that was new and cutting edge, it was like what? What kind of gains or what kind of positives are we going to get out of making the switch.
Speaker 4:
4:27
The real estate savings from having a PON system can be pretty surprising. Unlike copper, which only runs as far as 330 feet, PON fiber cables can run 12 miles without a loss of signal. That means fewer data closets eating up hundreds of square feet and fewer closets to make secure and keep cool. Twenty four slash seven
Speaker 3:
4:48
We removed three rooms completely. That was probably one of the biggest things that made up the cost. I mean, obviously it costs a little bit more than traditional copper cabling. However, we were able to consolidate all four of those into one single closet. We removed three cooling units, three battery backups, and were able to consolidate all that into one rack in our data room. Now
Speaker 1:
5:09
we're able to utilize one more as a storage closet now and one more as a mother's room.
Speaker 4:
5:14
It also means the IT team has fewer places to investigate when something goes down.
Speaker 3:
5:20
We've been working with some consultants to kind of get us trained up and get it configured correctly and get all the kinks worked out and all that kind of stuff and overall they love the resiliency and they love that. It's so localized. If someone's having a problem, it's probably a device in a wall right next to them and we don't have to do troubleshooting across the network from switch closet to switch closet to see what's going on. Fixing it, so far, has been been fairly easy. Finding what's going wrong, it's usually a configuration misstep and not a hardware misstep, which means we hope once the configuration's solid, It will be set it and forget it type networking is what we're after.
:
5:55
Those guys came in and blew it out of the water. They're very efficient.
Speaker 2:
5:59
That's Kyle Loeber. He's a project engineer with Titan built construction. The general contractor on the project. He intimately knows how much effort goes into traditional home run data cabling.
Speaker 5:
6:11
Typically there's a lot of testing and troubleshooting at the end. When everyone's making the cables onsite and pulling all the cables onsite, nine out of 10 times you have an issue or two with them. With the data system that you guys have installed. It came all pretested the issues were, were minimal and if there were any, were remediated quickly.
Speaker 2:
6:34
This is my first project using PON, so it was a bit of a learning experience for myself as well and couldn't believe the amount of technology that went into that.
Speaker 3:
6:41
It went together very, very quickly. And I was very surprised at that. They give us the initial estimates they were going to be here for a few days to do a half a floor. I was pretty skeptical, but once they got here, I mean it's all plug and play comes all pre-configured. The cores are cut the length from the factory and it was basically just hook here, fish it through a wall and plug it into here. It was very straightforward and went together very, very quickly.
Speaker 5:
7:07
You just hang the zone boxes up above the ceiling and then once the walls come in, it's pretty plug and play.
Speaker 3:
7:14
We hope to be here,at least 10 years. Who knows how much longer with the technology evolution and cabling changes and speed changes and stuff like that. The ability to offer a faster speed to a small amount of people is a large upgrade for us and this system allowed us to do, to upgrade on a four port, eight port basis to get that speed to individuals who need it, like graphic designers and that kind of thing without swapping physical switches out of a data closet and running new cat seven, eight, whatever it takes to make it work.
Speaker 2:
7:49
Aside from price. The biggest question about PON is security. No amount of real estate or extra bandwidth can make up for jeopardizing privacy and intellectual property. The fiber cables make the network more secure. So much so. The US military exclusively uses PON in their facilities.
Speaker 3:
8:08
Security obviously becoming a growing concern. It's really nice to have all the fibers encrypted from end to end, so there's no eavesdropping, that kind of thing. And it's all passive. There's no electricity crossing it, which is really huge. It'd be very, very, complex to try to patch into the middle of one of those cables And get any kind of usable data off of it. So that's huge. We've been more than happy with the way it's been performing.
Speaker 2:
8:32
The IT team is onboard with PON now. They accepted the fact they needed to be trained on it at first, but they immediately saw that the most tedious part of their job was minimized,
Speaker 3:
8:43
cut down on the complexity of what's plugged in where, and who's plugged into what. And uh, all of the back hauls to, the Internet connections and stuff like that in a single room. So now we know it's either the end point or it's in the single rooms that helps complexity wise for sure.
Speaker 5:
8:57
Those guys came in and within a couple, or 3 days to a week got the system in and tested and ready to close up the walls and get the space complete with the furniture.
Speaker 3:
9:06
Just the size of it, helped sell it a lot for us and trying to just plan and work around getting the sheer amount of cable that we needed. The, the original Spec for the building, I think had 550 individual ports throughout the building, running a single line back to switches. I mean, that's a lot of real estate in the ceiling and a lot of labor to get it in there. Now our audio visual that's installed in the building takes up more conduit space than our PON system does.
Speaker 4:
9:33
The PON installation wasn't the only thing that pleased the Mariner team ICE software was vital. In insuring the outcome was what they wanted.
Speaker 6:
9:41
The client was able to understand very easily. I mean the ICE program. Being able to see those changes right upfront. Seeing it in 3d, seeing the monetary change, you know, if we were adding a Willow glass panel versus just a regular painted panel, they are able to see the ramifications right away. So they were just able to make quick decisions
Speaker 1:
10:00
for people who can't visualize space and design. It's a really great advantage to have a tool that we can share and then it gives them a picture of, okay, I understand now what this looks like. Is it as opposed to a concept that some people just have never seen before, especially in Kansas City
Speaker 6:
10:16
by having the ICE program with the 3D and everything, you know, and let's say we were to make a wall blue for example. It built my confidence because now the client is agreeing to something that perhaps down the road if they had they not seen it right away in 3D, they could be changing their mind and saying, I didn't know that wall was going to be blue, but I mean we had a meeting right before the sign off for all the DIRTT walls where we went through literally every single wall, every single elevation. We actually flew through the space in 3D and so there was a full understanding, both from my point of view and the client's point of view as to what accent colors we're going, where, where TV's were going, which walls would have a special Willow glass finish. There were zero changes. We got everything installed and it was, as we had seen in the fly through. That saved a lot of time, lot of money,
Speaker 4:
11:05
When everyone's signed off, the clean and fast construction made for surprisingly pleasant experience
Speaker 1:
11:11
as the space was being constructed. I think every time I came in I was like a kid in the candy store. It was really fun to see first how it comes together. How quickly it comes together. I mean, just between one day to the next. So you know, an entire section can be built. I think that's again, the benefit of having, a pre manufactured wall system. It was very interesting to see how it comes together. But the vision, having the vision and then seeing the ICE fly through and then it actually being constructed. Everything looked exactly as we expected, so there were no surprises, which was great. It was very easy. We didn't have any issues whatsoever.
Speaker 5:
11:46
It's hard for our subcontractors to find Labor. It's hard for us. And so, the fact that this can be done offsite and brought in and thrown together quite quickly and simply helps out a lot when it comes to your hourly Labor rates.
Speaker 1:
12:00
I definitely felt in control of the entire project. I was core with all of the teams. We had regular meetings. We had a great general contractor who collaborated and brought all of the teams together to make sure everything was coordinated. So I definitely felt completely in control of the entire project up to speed every time there was a change or what the status of the construction. So again, it was a very, for me a smooth project given it was kind of my second job for the last two years.
Speaker 5:
12:28
Everybody was mindful of the finished space and the finishes around them and everybody was real team players and kept a schedule. And it was, it made my job much easier. I was glad to be a part of the team.
Speaker 6:
12:41
They also gave us AutoCAD drawings, so I was able to review those myself and go through review which walls we're getting, accent paints, which walls we're getting, tvs, willow, glass marker board where outlets were going. That was another thing. Sometimes an outlet will end up on the wrong side, you know, of course that never happens. But, and just making sure that it was on the correct side as the furniture as well as any data outlet. So, I mean it was fantastic to be able to review all that both in AutoCAD and 3D,
Speaker 2:
13:10
Peggy mentioned willow. Willow is glass developed by Corning. It is zero point two millimeters thick, lightweight and virtually free of defects typically found in glass. So what does ultra thin glass do for the built environment? Well, Corning came to DIRTT in 2015 to find out the answer to that question. After thousands of hours of testing and millions of pieces of broken glass, it was Eureka time. Willow turned out to be the perfect solution for bringing vivid graphics and artwork into interior spaces. Any image can be printed on the back of willow glass. It's then adhered to a DIRTT wall tile. It's cost effective and lightweight for shipping, making it environmentally sustainable and it is durable. Once the willow is on the DIRTT wall substrate, which is a material 20 times denser. The drywall, the substrate will break before the willow if it's hit hard enough. Willow glass is even able to trick the eye into thinking of photo of a piece of marble printed onto it is actually marble. I've seen designers have to reach out and touch it to determine what the material is. The reason this wouldn't work with other glass types is they're filled with impurities and the thickness distorts any image printed on the back of it. Willow allows colors to pop and lines to stay sharp. Plus, Willow makes the walls writable and just as important cleanable
Speaker 1:
14:36
So when we built the space and we had the staircase that connects the two floors, I wanted to make sure we brought something really special to that, that space. Otherwise, it would be a massive wall of blank light colored stone, which was the initial design and I was inspired when I went to the Phoenix, the DIRTT plant, and there was a beautiful image of willow glass and I stood there and I really looked at it for a long period of time and I thought about how do I incorporate something that striking into our space? So decided I wanted to create a custom wall that connected the two floors that would be the center of our space. And to really personalize it for Mariner we engaged our own graphic designers in a design challenge, gave them some parameters on what we're looking for. It had to be true to the heart of Mariner, had to represent our culture, had to fit aesthetically with the design. But other than that, one of them to come up with ideas. And so we had, I think 12 designs that were submitted. We asked our associates to vote on their top three and then the executive committee and I selected the design that we are using today because it was the most representative of our culture. And fit the design of the entire space.
Speaker 2:
15:42
The winning design stops visitors in their tracks with its abstracts of warm reds and blues. The willow glass staircase has become a focal point for the entire headquarters. DIRTT is brought to clients like Mariner by a distribution partner in each city around North America. Built interior construction is the local DIRTT partner who provided design assist, pre construction and installation, and they'll stand by Mariner offering ongoing service for any future changes or maintenance. For Titan Construction and Hoefer Wysocki architecture, this was their first time building with DIRTT and working with Built
Speaker 6:
16:22
DIRTT instilled so much confidence and as did Built Interiors. Having people here that I can just readily call up immediately and say, hey, we need to move that wall two feet and having them jump right on was awesome. They were just right here. We can meet any time. Another thing is is they have a space downtown which has DIRTT in it. When we needed to see an example of something, it was right there for us to see.
Speaker 5:
16:46
I was completely new to it. I had not done any projects that had the DIRTT wall system or quite frankly anything related to that, so it was a surprising to see how fast and smooth it went up.
Speaker 6:
16:58
This was my first project working with DIRTT in a environment that was using almost 90 percent DIRTT walls. I'd use DIRTT walls here and there, but we had Megan using the ICE program and she was always there when we needed her. When we called her, she was there. She actually, when we would meet together, would bring her computer with her. She would get in the ICE program as we were sitting together and make changes while we were in the meeting, so a meeting that could have taken place over a course of a couple of weeks because she perhaps had to go back and make changes. Took place within, let's say a two hour time span where we just sat down and made the changes right there in the meeting.
Speaker 2:
17:35
One of the biggest reasons for people to choose DIRTT adaptability is the insane speed at which technology changes, TV monitors, security, conference devices... These things are constantly being updated and organizations trying keep the
Speaker 4:
17:51
physical space able to respond without losing money and time. To say nothing of the material waste to the landfill, the carbon footprint of all the trades coming to the site to do the work.
Speaker 5:
18:02
Your standard drywall walls create a large mess and noisy and all that type of stuff. Say Mariner needed an office moved. It can be done simply over a weekend or a couple evenings.
Speaker 6:
18:15
I sat with Megan from Built Interiors in order to really design a lot of these walls and how they were going to look. We got down to where the actual seams we're going to be, how big each panel was, but we kept with a modular size so that should Mariner decide to relocate some of their offices or meeting rooms or whatever. In the future. It's going to be very simple to just take down each module and essentially put them back up. There are only a few walls that were not modules, but those were great because they were used in rooms that were probably most likely permanently going to stay. There was just a lot of design flexibility.
Speaker 4:
18:50
Rather than looking temporary. The Mariner space looks and feels solid and permanent. Even the technology seems like it's physically part of the space and that's because DIRTT integrates technology like tvs right inside the walls. It keeps the equipment safe and secure while looking much more elegant.
Speaker 6:
19:07
A lot of time we have to be very careful because TVs can protrude into the space more than four inches, which affects ADA to have it in the wall actually made for just a very clean environment and we didn't have to worry about anything sticking out. We didn't have to worry about cords dangling down to an outlet.
Speaker 1:
19:23
When we were thinking about the technology for the space, we wanted to make sure that we were also looking at innovation and trying to be forward thinking and creating a space that could flex as we grow. And so as we looked at that, integrating all the technology into the wall systems made a lot of sense for us is previously we had constructed walls, tore down walls, reconstructed walls. We were limited a lot of times by the space because of the hard construction. So having integrated technology was was a differentiator for us in selecting DIRTT, but it's also already been put into play. We've been here a month and we've already had to reconfigure a couple of things. And so that's been a huge advantage that we made that decision.
Speaker 6:
19:59
What this means for our firm is that, first of all, as a designer, we are always looking for ways to be more progressive and more green. And here we are. We had a client that allowed us to be that. A lot of times people are just looking for the, the most inexpensive solution. This client wanted the, the most green solution, the most flexible solution that they could use to move walls around in the future. I'm certain that if they were to use gyp board and studs, that would be way more expensive to have to reconfigure in the future. So this really allowed them to be more flexible also for our firm, it just puts us in the upper echelon of firms that know how to be green and sustainable as well as finding solutions for their clients that allow them to have that flexibility that most companies are needing now.
Speaker 4:
20:43
Another benefit the design team found with DIRTT was based on the fact it's produced in a controlled manufacturing environment, it instilled new confidence in them when choosing the materials to create the aesthetic look and feel of Mariner.
Speaker 6:
20:56
I had selected paint colors for the project and when I select paint colors, a lot of times some contractors are not able to match them. Exactly, and that can be a frustrating experience. I have to say that I've never seen a better color match to my paints. When they came in, I laid my samples over the submittals. You couldn't see the submittal from the paint sample. It was that close of a match. We had a lot of wood veneer cabinetry. They were able to match our wood veneer to the tee. You couldn't tell the difference between the samples.
Speaker 4:
21:25
As you now know, Mariner is a forward thinking company. That approach has put them at the top of their industry, but they know how much effort it takes to stay cutting edge. It's very easy to fall back into doing things like everyone else because you will get push-back from those who aren't familiar or comfortable with trying new things.
Speaker 1:
21:44
Well first we had to partner with really innovative and flexible contractors and architects and designers and people who weren't set and doing things in a traditional way. So for us we're all about kind of breaking the norm and doing something that's a little bit different. So finding great partners was number one, most important. Secondly was engaging our people to make sure they had a voice in designing the space. We did that with surveys. We also had all kinds of committees and groups which people could come and share their opinions and ideas. And then we built that into the design,
Speaker 6:
22:14
In my firm, there's been really nobody who has done a project with this much DIRTT. We actually had a little tour where we brought about 20 people over from my architecture firm and we tour the space and people were floored by the quality of the DIRTT systems as well as how tall they could get. Some of the doors, some of our doors on this project or 10 feet high and glass and they don't wobble as you open the door and close it. As well as it has a catch. So, you know, you're scared to let go of it, but there's actually a catch that catches the door. As I mentioned, the quality is outstanding. Also the edge details that something I wanted to mention, they're very slick looking and, and actually the edge detail that we use was not one of the more expensive ones. So it was actually one of the less expensive and the look is very high end.
Speaker 3:
23:01
I could see it being a way of the future as opposed to the conventional. The best advice I could give is to, to not be close minded. The initial gut reaction for a project like this is to go, you know, that's the way we've always done it and to look at methods that you've solved the same problem with over and over and build in different buildings that you've opened or built.
Speaker 1:
23:23
I think people were more intrigued and interested to see how it was going to come together and now that they're in the space, they're really shocked one by how flexible it is. Also how quiet the space can be even though you're using manufactured wall systems and all the glass that we've used and it just gave us the ability to create a space that we can grow with over time. I feel like it's. It's a little bit timeless, which is hard to do with construction.
Speaker 6:
23:47
I will admit that at first when I was first approached with using the system, I was a little timid only because I hadn't done a project this large with DIRTT. Now that I've done one, I want to do all my projects, with the DIRTT wall system. I mean, really it has been such a positive experience. The look, the quality, the people I worked with, the whole experience has been so positive given that I am responsible for human resources. It was interesting that I was selected to manage the project, but I think that speaks to our culture of that the people are at the center of the space, but we wanted to make sure that we had a space people can be really proud of that they could come in and they feel energized or excited. They have all the tools that they need, but there's a lot of human interaction. It was a very, very enjoyable process and a lot of people can't say that when they've built a building of this size.
Speaker 2:
24:42
I hope you enjoyed hearing Mariner's story. If you'd like to see the project, check out their video case study on our projects page at DIRTT with two t's website, and if you have ideas for future shows, just send them to. Hello at DIRTT dot net. I'm Julie Pithers. Thanks for listening. To Build Better.