Spotlight On: Charlie Wilson, President, CT Wilson Construction Company

Spotlight On: Charlie Wilson, President, CT Wilson Construction Company

Charlie Wilson

2 min read September 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Charlie Wilson, CEO of CT Wilson Construction, talked about how the relationship and cooperation between architects, contractors and owners is changing for the better thanks to the advancement of technology. He also discussed how supply chain issues are forcing the industry to change the way it operates. 

What has been keeping you busy lately and what is coming down the pipeline? 

We have been kept occupied by supply chain issues as, just like the rest of the industry, we are finding it extremely difficult to source materials to even start projects. We are spending a lot of time in the pre-construction phase, but to minimize delays we have started to adopt new strategies such as ordering materials early and substituting materials for faster procurement. We are also spending a lot of time and money recruiting people for our field labor positions. We spend a lot of time in local schools trying to get high school graduated individuals interested in construction and we are focusing on reaching out to minority contractors 

What are some of the ways you are managing client expectations during this time? 

We are very upfront and honest and explain that things that used to take 12 months now take 14. We work hard to help the owner make selections that will minimize the increase in costs but sometimes there is no way around delays. When clients do take risks in terms of materials that are in short supply, we have to order things way ahead of schedule. We have even started ordering roof insulation 10 months before obtaining a building permit. These kinds of decisions require a level of trust between the contractor and the client. Therefore, we try to be as accurate as possible with our estimates, although volatility in the market sometimes means very quick price changes that we cannot predict. 

What role do you believe technology will play in the construction sector going forward? 

We have invested a lot of money into technology. We started by getting a drone to take better pictures to send owners and that turned into combining those photos with drawings to enhance communication. With these renderings, we can make sure things are in the right spot and calculations or topography maps are accurate to expectations. We also have thermal drones that help with renovations, and we started 3D modeling. All that technology will continue as job sites don’t really have paper plans anymore and are almost exclusively using those 3D models. But there is a range of much more advanced technologies around that a contractor can choose to adopt based on their needs. One example is an exoskeleton that can be used to pick up sheetrock. This is great for safety and productivity, especially given staffing shortages, but it may not be necessary for some companies.  

What do you see as the evergreen benefit of working with a general contractor?

Architects are great at designing but not the best at measuring functionality, practicality and cost. So, as they design, we go back and forth with feedback between the architect and the owner to make those early construction decisions that will impact the final budget and schedule. We spend a lot of time on energy efficiency and decreasing costs where possible. The typical upfront construction cost of a building is a drop in the bucket of the typical life cycle cost of a building, so we look at the whole lifespan from the day it opens to the long-term costs into the future. 

In what sectors are you seeing changes in demand? 

We do a lot of healthcare work but when the pandemic hit, projects stopped. Ever since then there has been a backlog of projects coming through. We are seeing a lot of people shrinking and consolidating office space. After the extension of historic tax credits, we saw an uptick in activity. We do a lot of private school work and work on places of worship, which are both going well. Retail seems to be lagging but everything is doing relatively better in The Triangle than it is nationally. 

In what ways are you excited to see Durham grow? 

Durham has always been a melting pot, so I don’t want it to lose that. Affordability must remain a priority in order to maintain the culture and so that we can have a stable workforce supply. This culture is what makes the place so attractive, especially for contractors and developers. Durham has very good bones. There are a lot of historic buildings with the potential to be renovated, such as tobacco warehouses and textile mills. Even going out into the surrounding areas there are many old mills and plants to be found, especially along the river.  

The exchange of information between the architect and the contractor is becoming a lot easier than it used to be. We now work from shared 3D models when we used to just have a set of plans so I think that collaboration will continue to shape construction. This will be especially true the more technology becomes more incorporated in the building industry.

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