Lippert Brothers Inc.

Whether the project is a memorial to the victims of terrorism or a museum for cowboys, a habitat for elephants or botanical garden structures, the world’s largest McDonald’s or a copy of a Frank Lloyd Wright tower, Lippert Brothers Inc. has always regarded versatility as its strength and niches as pigeonholes rather than opportunities.

Its projects include constructing six new structures for $13 million at Myriad Gardens, a botanical garden in the heart of Oklahoma City. One is a restaurant, another is a children’s pavilion, a third is a water stage, the fourth is a new restroom facility, the fifth is an ice rink pavilion and the sixth is an event lawn pavilion. The project was started in April 2010 and the majority of the structures are scheduled for completion in April 2011.

“Myriad Gardens was started in the late 1970s, and it was just constructed in phases as money was available,” President Rick Lippert explains. The park is being built in the heart of Oklahoma City across the street from the new 50-story Devon Energy building, also under construction. Four square blocks were originally razed to make way for it.

The four new buildings Lippert Brothers is constructing are all structural steel with fiber cement panel board on the exteriors. The decks and some interior walls and ceilings are IPE wood, which is like a mahogany and comes from Brazil. Insulated bent glass panels 12 feet high and 6 feet wide will be butt-glazed together without mullions on the restaurant to provide an unobstructed view of a lake. The glass had to be transported in large sheets from its only source in Barcelona, Spain.

Up to 30 subcontractors worked on Lippert’s portions of the Myriad project. The logistics of being downtown restricted access to the site. “We had four gates on each corner, but they were not always available,” Lippert remembers. “An entrance there one day was not there the next day, and traffic changes.”

Pachyderm Project

Another project on which Lippert Brothers Inc. has worked recently is the $13 million Asian exhibit at the Oklahoma City Zoo. This includes an elephant habitat, which was started in fall 2009 and completed in March 2011. Lippert Brothers constructed four paddock areas and two pools for the pachyderms with artificial concrete rock that looks real and is fed by 8-foot and 12-foot waterfalls.

“It’s a beautiful habitat for them,” Lippert remarks. “The old one was behind three stone walls and a dirt floor. It wasn’t all that attractive. Now they can roam freely – they’ve got an electric fence, but they seem to be adjusting quite well. It’s probably 10 to 12 acres.”

A 14,670-square-foot building to house the elephants with an elevated walkway for viewing by patrons and an amphitheater also was built by Lippert Brothers. Zookeepers and trainers can monitor the elephants from a mezzanine above.

Lippert says a challenge of the project was working in a functioning zoo. “We did have an access road that was separate from the main entrance, thank goodness, but it had to be manned to keep personnel and other stray animals out,” Lippert notes. “To get a dog in the zoo wreaks havoc on the other animals. We had to have a gate man at all times.”

The Asian exhibit is located next to the ape and chimp habitat. “From time to time, one of the chimpanzees would get out of his habitat, but not out of the total cage – there’s a dry moat around there,” Lippert explains. “They’d have to call a code red and stop work, and zoo patrons and our people would get in a secure place, then the zoo staff would lure him back where he should be.”

The Asian exhibit was built on undeveloped zoo land. Lippert Brothers self-performed the concrete and worked with approximately 30 subcontractors. “A good dozen were specialty subcontractors we hadn’t worked with before that did the terrific rock work, the hydraulics for the sliding gates, the electrified fence and steel pipe and cable,” Lippert notes.

91 Years

Founded in 1920 by Lippert’s grandfather, Erick, and his brothers, the company was taken over by Lippert’s father Donald and Donald’s brother Robert in 1964. Now Lippert manages the company with his brothers, Tom, who is senior vice president, and Joel, vice president. Tom and Joel each have a son who has worked at the company during school breaks – Joel’s is in high school and Tom’s is studying construction management at Oklahoma State University. “He’ll probably be here before we know it,” Lippert remarks.

Lippert attributes the company’s 91 years of success to trying to maintain a good reputation with others. “We’re fair and honest with our clients and our subcontractors,” Lippert declares. “Our subcontractors perform virtually 70 percent of any construction project in the commercial part of the business. If you don’t have them on your side, you don’t really have a very good team.”

Lippert Brothers has done work in the states surrounding Oklahoma, such as Arkansas Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. “But since the early 1990s, the last job we did out of state was a suburb of Dallas in 1994,” Lippert remembers. “Ever since then, we’ve just been in Oklahoma. We will go out of state to work with clients or architects that ask us to that we have previous relationships with, but we’re likely to stay in Oklahoma.”

Good Employees, Good Partners

Lippert  estimates half the company’s business is from repeat customers, and most of its business now is within Oklahoma.

“I would say our success is due to our employees,” Lippert maintains. 

“Our project managers are not paired up with the same superintendent year after year,” he adds. “They have to interact with other superintendents, and the superintendents have to interact with a different project manager. People have different personalities, and it sometimes is tough, but they put their egos aside and do what’s best for the company at heart.” Lippert’s success also is due to key partners. These include Shawnee Steel Company, Bentley Flooring Inc. and Associated Glass.

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