When the College Football Hall of Fame opened in Atlanta in 2014, it became a showcase not only for the game’s greatest legends, but also for the beauty of the custom wood ceilings and walls Anning-Johnson Company installed throughout the interior of the building.

  Installing the wood finishes inside the football-shaped rotunda was no easy task, but it was just the type of complex, demanding high-end project the specialty contractor and its team of highly-skilled field employees thrive on.

In addition to its Atlanta district, Anning-Johnson operates in seven other locations nationally, making it one of the largest specialty contractors in the country. Headquartered in Chicago, the 75-year-old company also has offices in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and District of Columbia.

While the eight districts operate independently, the financial strength of the national corporation gives each of them the resources needed to employ highly-trained field personnel and equip them with state-of-the-art technology for planning, scheduling, and budgeting projects of all sizes.

“We equip all project foremen and managers with tablets to run projects more efficiently using various construction tools and software,” says Matthew Vento, vice-president and district manager for Anning-Johnson Atlanta. “This also allows us to communicate documents between general contractors, architects, office, and field personnel in real time with less paper in the process.”

With these tools in hand, field personnel are able to quickly adapt to changing conditions in the field and resolve any issues that may develop. “We believe in providing the best tools and equipment to our people to promote ingenuity and creativity,” adds Vento.

Anticipating Problems in Advance

Such was the case at the College Football Hall of Fame when Anning-Johnson field superintendent LeShay Grant realized that the interior dimensions of the rotunda differed from those on the plan. This would change the layout of the Armstrong WoodWorks wall panels they were getting ready to install. Working with Armstrong Ceilings installation resources, Grant and his crew reviewed the CAD dimensions and came up with a new pattern to fit the actual dimensions of the space.

“LeShay anticipated in advance what the problem was going to be and was able to measure and communicate to us the changes that would be needed in the panel sizes,” says Gregg Hunter, regional sales manager with Armstrong Ceilings, who worked with Grant on the project. “As a result, we were able to adjust the width of the wall panels the architect had specified and deliver panels that matched the new pattern.”

It was no doubt this type of performance that helped Anning-Johnson win a CISCA 2015 Silver Construction Excellence Award for the custom curved metal ceiling clouds the company built in the newly-renovated law offices of Alston & Bird in Atlanta (See related story). Again, Grant found creative ways to work around any obstacles his crew encountered when installing the Armstrong MetalWorks Torsion Spring ceiling clouds in two of the firm’s high-profile areas.

“With any custom job, there are bound to be a few surprises,” explains Hunter, “details that weren’t noted on the required documents. What’s impressive about LeShay is his flexibility, professionalism, and willingness to handle any issues that arise. He always stays positive and finds a way to work through the situation.”

Meeting Expectations

Grant is “quick on his feet” in thinking about how to make things work and meet the customer’s expectations, says Vento. “What sets him apart is that he really pre-plans his work from every angle and is willing to do anything it takes to support his foremen and what they need. We put safety as our number one priority – go home safe – and LeShay really embodies that.” Grant’s ability to communicate with other tradespeople to establish a good flow of work is another value he brings to the customer. “Once you get that kind of relationship going with other subcontractors and get them all working together, it makes it that much easier for the general contractor and other superintendents.”

Hired as an apprentice by Anning-Johnson Atlanta 13 years ago, the former Marine quickly rose to a leadership position. “The Marines taught me all the characteristics of being a leader,” says Grant. He believes proper planning is key to successfully dealing with changing conditions in the field. “Planning is critical in any aspect of construction,” he says. “It’s important to build projects in your head before you begin the work.”

Grant attributes much of his success to the team-oriented culture at Anning-Johnson. “I like to say I have more than 200 years of experience in the trade because I can call any of my fellow superintendents for help. With over 200 years of experience, there is very little we haven’t seen. Most importantly, Anning-Johnson has the best work force. It starts with our hiring practices. We hire for attitude and talent.”

Hiring, training, and retaining employees like Grant is how Anning-Johnson sees the most success. “We self-perform our work and a lot of people are promoted within,” says Vento. With the shortage of quality labor in the construction industry, Anning-Johnson works with local schools, helping them structure programs that teach basic construction skills. “Then, when these kids come out, they’ll know how to frame a metal stud wall, hang and finish gypsum board, or install acoustical ceilings,” he says.

The Extra Mile

Anning-Johnson’s reputation as an industry leader rests in its devotion to quality. “We believe in building great relationships by helping our clients be more successful on each project,” says Vento. “We believe in doing things the right way—building things to the specifications and engineering requirements for the project. We’ll go the extra mile, working closely with manufacturers to make sure the installation is done correctly.  We don’t cut corners on cost or do anything that would compromise the job. At the end of the day, whether we’re making money or over budget on the job, we sleep well at night knowing the project was done right.” 

Up in the Ceiling Clouds 

Cloud installation at the Alston & Bird law office helps give a modern look while bringing in cutting-edge communications technology.

Alston & Bird, a national law firm headquartered in Atlanta, recently renovated its offices to include state-of-the-art communications technology and a more contemporary design.

Carson Guest Interior Design of Atlanta was charged with converting the law offices from the traditional look of 25 years ago to the contemporary space the firm wanted. “They asked us for a contemporary space,” says Rita Guest, design team leader.

The firm, which is situated on the top 16 floors of One Atlantic Center, a 50-story office tower that defines Atlanta’s skyline, wanted the top three floors to be gutted and converted to a signature space consisting of a reception area, conference rooms, a dining area, and a mock courtroom.

In keeping with the contemporary design, rows of curved metal ceiling clouds were suspended above the videoconference room and dining area to provide acoustical control to these two high-profile spaces. “These are the areas where most of the meetings take place,” explains Guest, “so the ceilings needed to be interesting and create the illusion of height.”

The Dining Area

In the dining area, nine curved metal ceiling clouds in a wild cherry laminate finish add warmth to the 4,000 square-foot space. Seven of the clouds measure 12- by 22-feet in size, and two are 9-feet by 22-feet in size. The clouds were created using Armstrong MetalWorks Torsion Spring custom curved panels. The panels are made in 36-inch by 7-foot, 6-inch modules with a 1/2-inch reveal around each module. The modules are installed in a custom, extruded aluminum, slotted T-Bar suspension system. Each cloud is framed with coordinating 6-inch Armstrong Axiom perimeter trim, creating a seamless visual.

When installing the ceiling clouds, specialty contractor Anning-Johnson of Atlanta had to find creative ways to deal with some of the issues that developed on the job site. The carpet was already installed in the dining area when it came time to install the ceilings, preventing the contractor from laying the clouds out on the floor. Not one to back away from a challenge, Field Superintendent LeShay Grant found a way to work around this issue and keep the job moving.

“We couldn’t lay out the clouds on this expensive carpet,” explains Grant, “so we snapped chalk lines to the deck instead and did the layout on the structural slab ceiling above.”

The Video-conference Room

Five curved metal ceiling clouds with a bright, white finish are installed in the video-conference room, providing the desired high light reflectance to the 1,400 square-foot space. The clouds, which also were created using Armstrong MetalWorks Torsion Spring custom curved panels, each measure 8-feet by 23 feet, 6 inches in size. The panels are installed in a custom, extruded aluminum, slotted T-bar suspension system. Narrow linear lighting is installed on the same plane as the panels and each cloud is framed by coordinating 6-inch Armstrong Axiom perimeter trim, for a completely integrated look.

The design team was pleased with the result, noting that the ceiling clouds add volume and height to the space. “They have acoustical value, they are accessible, and they work with the contemporary aesthetic of the design for the new space,” says Guest.

(The MetalWorks Axiom ceiling cloud installations at the Alston & Bird law firm won the 2015 Silver Construction Excellence Award in the Ceilings South Region from the Ceilings and Interior Systems Construction Association.)