US Builders Review: St. Charles College: Renewing a Sacred Place

St. Charles College: Renewing a Sacred Place

St. Charles College has been the spiritual center for the Jesuits of the New Orleans province for over 100 years. Located in Grand Coteau, La., the site serves as a sacred ground for the members of the Jesuit community. “For me, as a Jesuit, this project is important because the history of my family is rooted here,” says Br. Larry Huck S.J., renovation manager for St. Charles College. “This is home.”

JB Mouton LLC (JB Mouton), a local builder based in Lafayette, La., is heading up renovations on the century-old building. Stuart Billeaud, project manager for JB Mouton, has been in the industry for over 10 years, ensuring St. Charles College is in good hands. Being the fifth generation of family management at JB Mouton, Stuart spent a majority of his youth learning about the business.

“I worked during summer vacations and throughout high school,” recalls Stuart. After graduating with an MBA, Stuart has grown accustomed to wearing many hats at JB Mouton. Today Stuart oversees business development, marketing and safety in addition to his project management and estimating duties.

Founded in 1915 by J.B. Mouton, the company began building homes in the small community of Lafayette, L.a. J.B., joined by sons William and Francis Mouton, expanded the company into commercial construction. In 1948 Manning Billeaud, J.B.’s grandson, started out working as a field superintendent at the company.

Then, 50 years later, Manning, former president and owner of JB Mouton, took the reins of the family business. The tradition has carried on. Today one of Manning’s 17 children, Robert (Popie) Billeaud, current president and owner of JB Mouton, began his journey working for the company as a laborer up to his current position. The family tradition does not stop there, as two of J.B.’s other great-grandsons also work for the company. Kim Martin Nehrbass, vice president of JB Mouton, and Andre Billeaud, project manager for JB Mouton, are happy to work alongside one another to carry on the family legacy.

A New Century of Service

JB Mouton serves about a 60-mile area of Louisiana, targeting every market within its region. “We do all different kinds of work across the board,” explains Popie. “Everything from renovations to rebuilds, K-12 to apartments.” JB Mouton offers a variety of services, including preconstruction, delivery systems and post-construction.

As the St. Charles community opens its doors to more novices, senior Jesuits and retreat guests, repairs are necessary to ensure the college can thrive for another hundred years. The total cost of the renovation is an estimated $15 million, consisting of a 100,000-square foot area. JB Mouton broke ground September 2011 and expects to complete the revamp by mid-March 2013, one month ahead of schedule.

In order to meet modern-day safety codes and handle the influx of more people, the building required added safeguards. St. Charles College counted on the experts at JB Mouton to update old wiring and antiquated fire alarms, enclose stairwells, as well as add a fire sprinkler system and elevators to accommodate guests and residents with disabilities.

Fortification of the structure’s exterior was also necessary, involving brick façade and roof repairs, redirecting storm drains and reglazing the original drafty windows. JB Mouton has completely redone the plumbing and sewer lines, in addition to having remodeled all existing finishes such as walls, ceilings and floors to bring St. Charles College up to par.

One of the most important aspects of the project involved a central air conditioning and heating system. Before the installation, inefficient individual air conditioning units were used. JB Mouton collaborated with Bernhard Mechanical Contractors to save the college over half-a-million dollars by utilizing a Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC system made by Mitsubishi.

Interior upgrades will create a more inviting, peaceful space for those who come to the college to both study and pray. New bedrooms and common restroom facilities will be updated to keep up with the growing number of novice Jesuits. Retreat rooms will be outfitted with new baths, replacing an outdated dormitory-style facility currently limiting the number of guests. The elderly assisted-living community of Jesuits – known as the Ignatius Residence – will have more access to the rest of the college with new elevators.

Earning Trust, One Building at a Time

The JB Mouton crew faced some challenges with the college renovations. For the first three months the team couldn’t move forward with the electrical and mechanical systems, as the systems were being redesigned to support the Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC system.

“Anytime you do a renovation there are more unknowns; newer buildings tend to be more predictable,” says Popie. The flow of information presents an issue with historical renovations such as for the college. “There is more managing to be done with a constant back and forth of questions and RFIs,” Popie continues. Despite a few bumps in the road, the second phase of the project is moving along smoother.

Although JB Mouton is self-performing the carpentry, demolition and concrete work at the college, the company couldn’t get the job done without the help of a valued team. “It’s definitely a team effort,” says Popie. “We know we did our job if the subcontractors, architects, designers and owners are happy. We value opinions from everyone.”

To assemble the right group of professionals JB Mouton looks for experience. “As far as project bids we look for a low price, but if it’s too low or we think they don’t have enough financial means to complete the process we stay away from that,” explains Popie. With the right team, the company is up for anything – and the reconstruction of St. Charles College is just the beginning. JB Mouton LLC understands the value of trusted relationships with owners and subcontractors, ensuring satisfied repeat clients.