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Serving the Community, At Home and Abroad

Serving the Community, At Home and Abroad

August 11, 2010
This article first appeared in the 200905 issue of BD+C.

The Beck Group was founded in Houston in 1912 by Henry C. Beck, as a general contractor. In 1924, Beck opened an office in Dallas, where the company is based today; it also has offices in Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Fort Worth, Houston, Mexico City, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Tampa.

Ten years ago, Beck merged with Urban Architecture to become a full-service builder that offers architecture, construction, real estate development, finance, and technology services. An early leader in design-build and integrated project delivery, The Beck Group serves a wide range of building sectors, including corporate, healthcare, entertainment, religious, and education. It operates as a privately held limited partnership (HCBeck, Ltd.), led by third-generation CEO/Managing Director Henry C. (Peter) Beck, III.

Professional development is strong at Beck. Its in-house training arm, Beck University, which has been operating since 1997, provides 700 hours of classroom training a year, as well as online continuing education. Professional staff are expected to take a minimum 40 hours of training annually. Upper-level executives have taken management courses at such institutions as Harvard, Stanford, and Dartmouth. More than 100 employees have attained LEED Accredited Professional status, largely through intramural training.

Since last year, The Beck Group has mandated eight hours of continuing education toward cross training for all employees. This encompasses all service areas: architecture, construction, development, technology, marketing, even human resources and IT. Why the emphasis on cross training? Because the firm sees it as aligning with its integrated project delivery model.

Reaching Out to Those in Need

One particularly notable statistic: Last year, more than 60% of Beck's 550 employees donated time to community work—an average 37 hours, essentially a week's worth of community service per volunteer over the course of a year. Homeless shelters, Scout troops, arts and civic groups, schools, nonprofit agencies, and government committees benefited from their service. One employee helped establish a children's museum in his neighborhood.

The firm measures community participation as part of employees' annual reviews and permits employees to donate time to charitable activities during working hours.

Local offices lead the way in community service. Beck staff in Florida rebuilt a kitchen for an organization serving teen parents and women in crisis. In Texas, employees donated five days' work to repair the roofs on two homes damaged years before by Hurricane Rita. As an organization, the Beck Group led an AEC industry effort to rebuild a church that had been totaled by a 2007 tornado. The firm provided pro bono design and project management services, nearly tripling the church in size while adding new classrooms and a kitchen.

But it is in their work outside the U.S. that Beck Group employees have truly distinguished themselves. Through the firm's private Beck Community Development Foundation, teams of employees have worked with humanitarian groups like Living Water International and Amigos for Christ, traveling to El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua to repair existing water wells and drill new ones, reconstruct buildings, and build schools.

At Casa Alta Refugio, an orphanage for child victims of emotional and sexual abuse in Puebla, Mexico, 15 Beck employees devoted a week to building classrooms, an obstacle course, an outdoor gathering area, and entertainment centers for the children.

To be eligible to volunteer for the mission trips, participants must have been an employee of Beck for at least two years. They must get their own inoculations, medical clearances, and passports, and they must support the Beck Community Development Foundation through payroll deductions totaling $200.

These missions are not meant to be one-shot events. Through its foundation, the firm has pledged to continue to support the villages it has served, as well as to track their progress to determine how the volunteer efforts have benefited the indigenous people and where improvements could be made. —Robert Cassidy, Editor-in-Chief

Beck Technology: An Early Player in BIM
DProfiler is a macro-BIM program that enables contractors to make early estimates of the cost of their projects, using 3D building information modeling. The Beck Group first licensed the technology from a European software company several years ago and later acquired the program. It has since established a division, Beck Technology, to further develop the software for its own use, as well as to license it to general contractors and design firms. Last July, Beck Technology released DProfiler with RSMeans 2008 Version 1.0, which permits changes to major building components in a single step to show the cost relationship between different materials, levels of quality, structural systems, or different energy-related items.

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