No massive introduction should be needed for KHS&S—East or West. Its several branches sprinkled throughout the country have established that this contractor, with more than 1,200 employees, is still one of the domineering forces in this industry. 

KHS&S does multiple interior/exterior scopes of work for large-scale commercial projects. Scopes include metal stud framing, drywall, plaster, themed construction, Venetian plaster, sheathing, lathing, exterior building enclosure, EIFS, prefabricated building panels. The company also has a full preconstruction department including BIM.

The company has been in business for 33 years. It became incorporated in December 1984. 

The Southeast branch of the company was formed in the early 1980s after the founders moved to central Florida to build parts of EPCOT Center. Disney’s growth helped spur the growth of the company, and Disney has since remained a valued client of KHS&S, along with other major theme parks, including Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.  

“Our expertise in themed construction also fueled our growth to the U.S. West Coast and national expansion,” says Mike Cannon, CEO/president of KHS&S - East Coast. “[The company] expanded from Florida to Nevada and California in 1996 when Las Vegas was experiencing the building boom that transformed the Las Vegas Strip with hotels such as Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas Casino Resort.”

The company is members of AWCI, Florida Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association, Western Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association, EIMA, IAAPA, Green Building Council, Themed Entertainment Association, Associated Builders & Contractors Central Florida Chapter, ABC Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, and ABC East Florida Chapter.

Themed construction remains a strong market niche for KHS&S. The company employs excellent craftsmen and artisans who have created all types of specialty environments and finishes.   

“We also have a strong presence in the healthcare, resort, gaming, general commercial, retail and aviation markets,” says Cannon. “We have built some of the largest hospital construction projects across the U.S. and are currently finishing two major airport expansions in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.”

Business Solutions

KHS&S has been in the business long enough to enjoy both explosive growth cycles and suffer through recessions like 2008. Each era has brought its challenges to stay on course, says Cannon.

The company also has been in business long enough to see cycles by industry type. Demographic and economic shifts may result in a few years of major hospital expansions, followed by years of large resort construction.

“We are enjoying a period of steady opportunity and consistency in most market sectors,” says Cannon. “We prefer steady as opposed to huge booms because booms eventually lead to huge declines.”  

Overall, Cannon says that each region tends to balance another one out/increasing market share/stronger foothold across the country: “We diversified geographically to help alleviate sharp declines in revenue due to changing regional market conditions. One area of the country’s growth spurt helps smooth impacts from another area reaching market saturation. In general, this has worked well for our company.”

In regards to Cannon’s favorite aspects of the job, he says that each project represents a new beginning and new challenges, and rewards. Each project has its own personality. For the more challenging moments in the job, he says that in the past five years or so, the construction industry has changed dramatically. It’s not a hard aspect of the job but a challenge to make sure the company stays ahead of the curve.

“We have made a significant commitment to Lean Construction, which we believe is an operational game-changer,” says Cannon. “Most owners of large projects are no longer accepting the project delivery process of the 1990s and early 2000s. They want collaborative teams that work from day one to minimize waste and unpredictability.  Company-wide, we have ongoing Lean boot camps and training sessions to ensure a Lean culture is evident from the office to field teams. Given our long design-assist history, our teams are accustomed to working on projects early in the design process, but now we’ve formalized the Lean processes that go with it. We believe the result will position us tremendously well for the future. 

“Likewise, although it’s no longer considered ‘new,’ our ability to utilize BIM and take it into the field has proven very beneficial and is an area of strong emphasis,” he continues. “But with all the technology, it’s only as good as the construction knowledge and experience behind it. Our BIM teams are more than technicians; they understand the building process and this is why BIM is working for our company.”

Cannon says the company’s goals and business strategy are consistent: only seek out work where KHS&S has the strongest competitive advantage and offer the highest value to its clients. Since it is a large company, this means focusing on large projects with diverse scopes that smaller companies can’t deliver on. KHS&S has also devoted more resources to BIM, design-assist and Lean Construction so the company can work in partnership with the design and construction team early in the process to improve outcomes. This makes the contractor more valuable to clients in the short and long terms. 

“We also try to focus on ongoing projects that generate spinoff work, such as major airport expansions,” says Cannon. “These projects typically have extensive master plans, so when we do a good job on one piece it’s more advantageous to keep us on the team.”

Disney Springs Project

Most recently, capitalizing on its penchant for quality workmanship on themed construction, KHS&S East’s Orlando office worked at Disney World. The featured project is an entertainment complex at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and consists of three venues: The Edison; Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante; and Enzo’s Hideaway. (Disney Springs opened in May 2016 and was also a very large project for KHS&S. In fact, Disney Springs earned KHS&S FWCCA’s “Project of the Year” in 2017.

KHS&S used multiple scopes of interior and exterior work on the project. Exterior scopes included exterior framing, exterior stucco, themed stucco, thin brick, carved plaster, carved brick, themed plaster, regular painting and ornamental composite architectural features. Interior scopes included interior framing, drywall, insulation, themed plaster, carved brick, themed painting and ornamental GRFG, FRP and acoustical treatments.

The walls and ceilings played a major role in the three pieces of this project. Each area had its own design intent, but all three shared a theme of building vintage venues, which required new construction while embracing the old. 

The Edison is a recreation of the original venue located in the historic Higgins Building in downtown Los Angeles, which repurposed a 1920s power plant. Called “Industrial-Gothic,” the look and feel of The Edison at Disney Springs had to be true to the aesthetic of the original venue, down to worn away brick, soot marks and wear and tear from a flood that put the original location six feet underwater. The result was a natural watermark on walls and columns. KHS&S craftsmen and artisans had to recreate each unique marking and aesthetic using plaster, stucco, hand carving, themed paint and color washes. And each wall and section had to withstand the scrutiny of multiple architects and designers, each wanting to stay true to the story being told by the facility.

Creating an additional challenge was the fact that much of the facility itself was a renovation, so KHS&S had to work around the existing structural steel skeleton while marrying the old and new together to create the desired look.

For The Edison’s exterior tower, geometrics wouldn’t allow KHS&S to reasonably use thin brick on portions of the angled structure, so KHS&S had to create carved brick and then precisely mix it with thin brick to create a single look and feel. When inspecting the final product, there is no distinction between the thin brick and KHS&S-created carved brick.

Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante tells a different story. This 1920s vintage restaurant was designed to recreate the golden era of air travel and features a dramatic vaulted dining room framed and created by KHS&S.

At Enzo’s Hideaway, 100 percent of what you see is carved plaster and 100 percent is a design creation. The area is designed to resemble a rum-running speakeasy during the Prohibition era. The original surface was just a big open space. KHS&S created arches through framing and sheathing, while craftsmen created each brick and surface through carving, hand applied stucco and themed painting. High-resolution photos of real surfaces were used as guides to create the desired look and feel.

Manufacturers included in this project include: American Cement (stucco and cementitious products), Coronado Stone, ClarkDietrich Building Systems, National Gypsum, Armstrong Ceilings and Sto.