Hotel design and construction is a completely different animal from single- or even multiunit homebuilding. There are x-factors to consider, including the guest experience, building schedules that won’t impede business, and unusual elements such as restaurants and conference centers. It’s because of this that Phil Miller’s design and construction team plays such an important role at Atlanta-based Davidson Hotels & Resorts. “Our design and construction services comprise a value-added discipline that most owners don’t understand,” Miller says. “We bring hotel knowledge to the construction side.” American Builders Quarterly recently had the chance to talk to Miller about the specific knowledge he must keep in mind and about a few of his team’s latest projects.
Your company’s core service is hotel management, correct?
Yes. Davidson Hotels & Resorts operates 50 four- and five-star hotels under many different brands, so the hotel employees are actually our employees.
What is the role of the design and construction department?
On an ongoing basis, we manage capital expenditures, which would include, as an example, the replacement of kitchen, laundry, and HVAC equipment. We also address any emergencies that arise, such as fixing a burst pipe.
But you’re also involved in new builds and renovations?
Yes, we have the capabilities to design and roll out a new build or a full renovation of a property. We can take the project from inception of budgeting through design, procurement of contractors, and construction.
What are some of the construction and design challenges unique to your industry?
First, there’s a brand-approval process. When we renovate a Hilton, Hilton has to bless what we’re doing because you can’t have thousands of owners all over the country doing whatever they want with the Hilton hotels. Second, it’s a different type of construction management. You’re doing construction work in an operating business; there are no downtimes.
How do you plan construction around a 24/7 business?
You need knowledge and flexibility. There are many times when we set out a schedule to work in a certain area, and we have to adjust because a certain group can’t be disturbed. If we’re shut down in one area, we bounce over to another. For a lot of traditional contractors, that’s a foreign concept. They’re used to setting the schedule and sticking to it.
Among other hotel managers, how does Davidson stand out?
As a large company, we have extensive internal knowledge and resources, but we also have an entrepreneurial approach that allows us to customize each and every project. We don’t ball up our services into one specific take-it-or-leave-it package. We provide each of our properties with the individualized service of a small company.
All 25 different owners in our portfolio have a different need. Some have more in-house resources on the development and construction side, and we play more of a consultant role, partnering with someone on the owner’s team who’s managing the process. Other owners may have a single hotel with no resources internally, and they look to us to do it all. We can flourish in both of those settings.