Taking It to the Next Level
Malaka’i Construction, Inc.: 35 years of delivering quality projects
J Han grew up around the construction industry watching his father build a plumbing, HVAC and electrical firm into a small construction company in his native New York City. Han followed in his father’s footsteps, but has taken his own company, Malaka’i Construction, Inc., to the next level.
“My father insisted on his business staying small. I learned a lot about construction and business from him throughout the years, but I wanted our company to become nationwide and possibly international. We’re on our way,” says Han, CEO/Chairman.
Founded in 1986, Malaka’i Construction, Inc. is a full service commercial and industrial architectural and engineering construction company with experience in many market sectors, including ground-up construction, hotel construction and renovation, commercial construction, and buildouts and renovations for office buildings, medical facilities and retail spaces/malls. The company also provides architectural design and civil and structural engineering services to commercial clients. Additionally, Malaka’i provides design-build and renovation services for residential clients, whether it be a small cottage or a luxurious mansion.
The company employs around 250 people in eight strategically located offices across the United States. Headquartered in Honolulu, the company has locations in Chicago, Austin, Houston, Dallas and Manhattan in New York City. Han is now bringing his three decades of construction and construction management experience to Florida, with the company’s newest office location at Miami’s One Brickell building.
Over the last 35 years, Malaka’i Construction, Inc. has delivered landmark building projects for corporations and government entities, as well as luxury home construction for residential customers. The company has completed more than 200 design-build projects, many from ground-up structures.
Some of its standout work has included construction projects for Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, Bank of America, Naval Station Great Lakes, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and O’Hare International Airport. The company built 20 American Apparel locations nationwide over the course of six years and did major remodels for high-rises like the BPI Head Office Building in Makati, Philippines, First Hawaiian Center in Honolulu—the tallest building in the state—and many more.
“We are passionate about creating one-of-a-kind spaces that support our customers’ passions,” says Han, “whether that’s a retail space, office building, manufacturing facility, medical office or an inviting home or estate."
“We offer high-quality work at very competitive prices. We come to work every day to be the construction company of choice for our customers, the employer of choice for our people, and to set the highest standards for ethics, quality and safety,” Han says.
Key staff members at the company’s newest office location in downtown Miami include Architect Sergio Astorga, Superintendent Hoang Nguyen, Office Manager/Administrator Nellie Kathane and Lead Estimator/Project Manager Jay Brooks.
In the past two years, the team has completed a variety of projects, from a Dollar General store buildout in Miami to a remodel of multiple doctors’ offices and buildout for Sanitas Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
Han says the company is currently beginning plans for a large development in the Brickell area of downtown Miami, estimated to cost between $1 billion and $2 billion. The company is also starting the complete retrofit of 62 YouFit Health Clubs, with 42 of the locations in Florida.
Han says his team prides itself on developing relationships with their customers. “I know a lot of other companies get too busy and don’t get back to their customers in a timely manner or just don’t give enough time to their clients. We do,” Han says.
The firm’s goal is to develop reliable construction budgets, and the team works diligently to deliver even the most complex projects on time and on budget. “We are able to build rock-solid budgeting practices through ongoing feedback with our on-site teams, suppliers and subcontractors. By maintaining open channels of communication throughout our organization, we ensure the most up-to-date costing and project forecasting,” he says.
Han, himself, takes an active role on the project team. He regularly meets with clients, often visiting them on the property site or meeting them for lunch or dinner. “I work hand in hand with my clients. We keep in touch throughout the project. We don’t leave them stranded,” he notes.
He’s also upfront about project costs. “Oftentimes, a construction company will underbid a project to get the job. They will drop their bid 10% to 15% whether they can realistically do the job for that price or not, then hit the client with additional work orders to make up the money. Our bids are accurate. I’m honest with my clients about actual costs.”
For the past eight years, Malaka’i Construction, Inc. has used building information modeling (BIM) on nearly all of its complex projects. “BIM increases efficiencies, reduces late changes during the course of construction and minimizes rework that results in additional cost or extensions to the construction schedule,” Han says. “And, it improves operational efficiencies throughout the life of the building.”
Safety is also an important part of the culture. The company’s core safety program relies on a simple approach and message: “No One Gets Hurt.” As such, the company creates site-specific safety programs for each project. All site supervisors carry OSHA 30-Hour safety training cards and have completed a fall protection program. All on-site workers have OSHA 10-Hour safety training, as well as scaffold training. “We implement detailed safety checklists and require safety training on a regular basis. We also have weekly toolbox meetings on all projects,” Han says.
“The most important thing we can do every day is to send our men and women home in the same shape as when they arrived,” he adds.
Sustainability in Action
Malaka’i Construction, Inc. employees advocate for green design and construction practices to help its customers create environmentally conscious facilities. The team has completed multiple LEED-certified projects and is working on numerous projects to be registered with the U.S. Green Building Council.
The company’s commitment to sustainability will be evident in its new future LEED Platinum corporate headquarters expansion in Honolulu. Han says many of the finishes used in the building will include recycled, nontoxic and low-emitting materials.
“We have LEED-accredited professionals on staff to work closely with each customer to meet their own sustainability needs,” Han adds.
Community Service, Near and Far
Whether it’s helping communities where the company has offices or sending donations across the globe to help in times of need, Malaka’i Construction, Inc. gives back.
Han says that the company put up tents at its offices in Chicago and Houston for administering COVID-19 vaccinations this year. In Houston, the company helped community members obtain temporary housing, shelter and food after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
And Han has personally provided financial resources for students in the Philippines, as well as monetary donations for relief help, after a typhoon struck that country in early 2021.
Always on the go, Han says he tried to semi-retire 15 years ago, but the lure of the construction industry brought him back after two years. These days, Han says he keeps his hands in most things as the company continues to grow, traveling from office to office to meet with clients, whether in Hawaii or the mainland.
“I get involved with each client. Before we start a project, I sit down and discuss their needs with them. When we put a proposal together, I present it to the client. And we stay in touch through project completion,” he says. “This intense commitment to our clients is the reason 80% of our projects represent repeat business.”