Cowden-Woods Design Builders Ltd

Barrie design build built on relationships
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

For 32 years, Cowden-Woods Design Builders Ltd. (Cowden-Woods) has carved a name as a trusted design-build firm based in Barrie, Ontario. Founded in May 1983 by Keith Cowden and Ron Woods, the firm started in the local agricultural market and now takes on industrial, commercial and institutional clients of all shapes and sizes.

From conception to completion, Cowden-Woods offers a complete range of serves to match any project and budget, from site selection to planning and working with local municipalities to budget analysis, building process and more. “Construction is the end result of our business, but really we’re in the service industry,” explains Anita Stacey, now president of Cowden-Woods. “We’re a true design builder in the sense that it often starts with a conversation that turns into plans and specs so on; it’s part of being a one-stop shop, which is something we’ve really focused on over the last 20 years.”

Stacey has been with the company for more than 21 years and bought into Cowden-Woods just over six years ago. “I run the company with Mike Cowden, our vice president,” she details. “Both Mike and I have been brought up in a high level service environment over the years mentored by the previous owners.”

Referral-based business

Cowden-Woods has called Barrie home for more than three decades, over which the company has developed a host of repeat clients. “We typically don’t do a lot of hard bid work,” explains Stacey. “We stick to negotiated design-build projects and most of our business is generated through referrals. Cowden-Woods has garnered many repeat customers over the years and it speaks to how we do business.”

The company sticks to Barrie and the surrounding territories, but has traveled as far as Toronto and North Bay, following repeat business. “It really depends on the customer,” says Stacey. “There’s a level of trust and all kinds of benefits working with people time and time again, so if a customer wants us to go the extra mile we will.”

Cowden-Woods now has a team of 15, many of which have served the company for 20-plus years. “We have quite a tenured staff,” reveals Stacey. “Once they come, they typically don’t leave and this adds to the value of our company.”

Among the members of its skilled team are personnel who are proficient in design, drafting, estimating, safety coordination and construction management. “Depending on the complexity of the project, we hiring consulting architects and engineers in addition to a skilled labor force of sub trades,” explains Stacey. “We’re always welcome to new relationships, but Cowden-Woods often works with the same local sub trades because they know how we do business and our expectations.”

Single-source responsibility

Between a versed in-house team and loyal sub trades, Cowden-Woods complies the people and services to match projects and budgets. “From site selection where we look at issues regarding elevation of the land to the location of services such as hydro, sanitary and storm to budget analysis; in today’s economy you have to be budget sensitive to everyone,” considers Stacey. “Once we look at all of these things and more we enter site planning which involves working with municipalities. This step can take more than six months where we invest a lot of time for our clients.”

“After these steps are in line we move on to the construction process; the selection of materials and what type of building –we offer conventional and pre-engineered buildings,” says Stacey. “The method of construction is based on the client’s needs. Being involved from the ground up, really allows us to control costs.”

Cowden-Woods delivers this value point for all types of facilities –warehouses, offices, manufacturing plants, commercial buildings, and town halls anything involving extensive planning. But a recent standout for Cowden-Woods is the Creemore Springs Brewery, a vital small business in the town of Creemore, Ontario.

“We’ve been working with Creemore Springs for three years, delivering different additions to their historic facility” shares Stacey. “The brewery is an extremely old building, so it’s been a challenge to keep in tune with the heritage of the small village. There are a lot of retired people who live in the area concerned with maintaining the same look and feel and Creemore Springs, which invests a ton of money in the community, is trying to keep residents involved in the $6 million expansion process.”

The first phase of the brewery expansion started to take shape in April 2013, as Cowden-Woods erected the steel frame of the addition of a back building which houses new fermenting tanks and a covered grain silo. The site work continued through the 2013 summer, onto the new warehouse in fall 2014. “We’re on track for the entire project to complete by spring 2015,” tells Stacey.

In the construction world, Stacey says every day breeds new challenges, but it comes back to a trusted team. “There are challenges along the way, but it’s how you meet the challenges and the solutions that come out of it,” she says. “In this field, every day is different, but the most rewarding feeling is when you have a satisfied client, such as Creemore Springs. After three years and all of the different phases we’re going to stand back and be proud, knowing we delivered a facility that really impacts the community.”

Planning, budgeting, analyzing designing and drafting- all driving outcomes that support communities in Barrie and beyond; that’s the Cowden-Woods Design Builders way.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Fred Hook Limited
Geogrian Paving