Austin Construction News, December 2002 | Public Storage - North Lamar

MST Constructors Infuse Building
Recipe Throughout the Southwest


by Rachel Jordan

Though a finished product is always glorious, James W. Bratton, president of MST Constructors, Inc., finds the process of building just as alluring.

With offices in California and Texas, since 1992 MST has found a building style and success that allows the company to develop, design and manage a project from start to finish, across state lines, while including the client's input.

"We are a company that is geographically diverse," says Bratton. "Our primary markets are in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. We are also heavily involved in northern California and the East Bay area. We probably do an equal amount of work in California and Texas. We are a design-build company and specialize in the full development of projects for large corporations, such as Public Storage, one of our main clients."

Bratton says MST is licensed in about eight states, which allows the company to follow clients' desires to build multiple buildings for them.

"Multi-Story Technology is, among a number of things, what MST stands for and what helps us deliver the exact desired end product to our clients," says Bratton. "Throughout various projects, we have outside engineers and architects working on projects with us. Yet, our Director of Design, Richard Reeves, P.E., is a major part of MST in that he oversees the design aspect of all our projects.

"Currently we are in the design stages on a five-story building in downtown San Francisco. At this point, Richard is working with a production architect in California while we are developing the project. We are feeding numbers back to the client for his underwriting. We have found time and again that this is a very successful combination. This process allows the owner direct cost and design solutions during the development stage. This method allows pulling the plug if the project is not feasible. We are able to tell the client what the project will cost within about 10 percent."

Bratton says an example of the process would be that if the prospective land has poor soils, MST may start designing the type of structure and foundation the day it receives the soils reports back.

"We may change the actual products for this building to accommodate any movement of the foundation, thus making the building function economically for its intended use," says Bratton. "MST is different because we have engineering expertise, development expertise, design and construction expertise. What we offer the owner is the total package."

Bratton became a Butler Builder in 1979. Over the years, he says he has guided his company and developed a niche in the pre-engineered building market. "I believe strongly in using different types of structures to solve building challenges for owners. As an offspring of that, MST includes cold rolled components with the pre-engineered and standard conventional construction to give the owner what he wants.

Recent projects MST touts with pride are two storage facilities in north Austin. "The storage industry is something I have been involved with for almost 30 years," says Bratton. "We are one of the top five storage contractors in the nation. The buildings are incredibly challenging because they have all of the systems and square footage that a large office building may have, but they have to be built at a much more economic price. There lies the challenge."

The projects are around 100,000-sf each and incorporate different types of construction. The Lamar Public Storage project has been operational for a year-and-a-half and was built in a key area of town near Hwy. 183. The facility has a tilt-wall warehouse in the back with 30-ft walls along with the cold rolled framed multiple stories system.

"This is very economic to integrate these materials with standard structural steel," says Bratton. "With a similar concept in mind, we are now building another storage facility with development partners at the corner of Burnet and Braker. Both projects are similar in that the end product and use is the same. Architecturally they are a little different with one displaying a Texas outside structure with limestone and the Star of Texas on the front, and the second displaying more of a California, south-west motif."

After 10 years presenting his building style to repeat clients across the Southwest, Bratton is pleased with his company's output and doesn't worry about economic fluctuations.

"Our average building size is probably about $3.5 million. We have designed and developed airline terminals in California as well as a MRI facility for the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles to restaurant and storage facilities in Texas. We don't let volume drive MST, we let profit drive the company. When the markets go down, we slow down. We always have quality as the center of what we do and by doing that, we ensure that each project will never be compromised at any time."

Subcontractors on the North Lamar project include: James A. Goodman Architects, Inc.; Clarence Cullen Co.; JM Utilities; Enriquez Concrete; Honeycutt Fire Systems, Inc.; Airco Mechanical, Inc.; Hampton Plastering; Otis Elevator; Azurdia Metal Construction; U.S. Door and Building Components; Alamo Glass; Action Services; Jett Enterprises, Inc.; Airtron Mechanical; ABC Doors; Armor Sealants and Firestopping; Wheeler Coatings Asphalt, Inc.; Fertile-Lawn Organic Systems; Innovative Interiors Incorporated; Auto Gate; Puttrich & Sons; Custom Welding Works; K & B; Paint Systems, Inc.; Allied Acoustics; Majestikleen Cleaning Co.; Schmidt Electric, Inc. and Simplex.