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Close-up: Ted Bumgardner

Xpera president is wise to where construction fails

There are times when construction does not go as planned. Delays. Defects. Overages.

Ted Bumgardner has made it his business to identify the source of these problems, at various phases of the construction process. The kind of service he provides really depends on at what point in the process he’s hired.

Xpera Group is a Solana Beach-based construction consulting services firm, and Bumgardner is its co-founder and president. The company specializes in forensic expert witness services, building and construction consulting, and property condition assessments. Its clients are attorneys, insurance companies, property owners and contractors.

Launched just three years ago, Xpera is generating annual revenues for consulting services of just over $4 million, according to Bumgardner. Xpera has a full-time staff of 14 people, and a second office in Rancho Bernardo since its April acquisition of Roel Consulting Services Inc.

Bumgardner’s career has included three decades in construction management, including top posts at Gafcon Inc., Davidson Construction, Beltway Construction and Sundt Construction. He found a new niche for his knowledge when he was contacted by an attorney seeking an expert witness.

“She said, ‘Ted I need an expert to testify in a case,’" Bumgardner said. "She explained the case to me and what have you, and I listened, and my response was, ‘Gee, I’d love to help you, but I don’t know an expert to refer you to.’ She said, ‘No, no, no … I was wondering if you’d be my expert since you’ve been in the industry a long time and have all this experience.’”

That case went well. Soon, he was asked to testify in other court cases.

“One thing led to the next, and before you knew it I was getting pretty heavily booked.”

He’s since testified as an expert in more than 600 construction litigation cases.

“The expert’s job is really to take complex technical issues, analyze and break it down, and then make it simple for nontechnical people to understand so that decisions can be made. Juries are nontechnical people. Basically, your job as an expert is to take the complicated and make it simple. And that is actually a lot of fun,” he said.

Bumgardner has worked hard to become a better communicator, a skill he thinks is lacking in many entering the construction field. As an adjunct professor at San Diego State University teaching a graduate-level class in pre-construction management, it’s a deficit he encourages his students to overcome.

“Technology, as great as it is, and as important as technical solutions are, they are virtually worthless unless they can be communicated to nontechnical people, be well-understood and easily implemented,” he said.

Xpera is often called in on large construction projects like high-rise residential properties and university buildings, where mitigation and varied expertise are required. For example, Xpera was recently hired to find remedies for an air-conditioning problem at a large mixed-use project in downtown San Francisco.

“We had to coordinate a design team and other experts to come up with a solution and approach somewhere between the plaintiff and defendant,” Bumgardner said. “That’s a very gratifying assignment.”

Bumgardner believes Xpera has the largest, most comprehensive group of technical experts in San Diego, and he hopes to someday make his firm the largest of its kind in California. The Roel Consulting Services acquisition added about 150 open contracts to Xpera’s roster and a new facet to the business: quality assurance, backed by a proprietary data management system.

“My goal personally is, I’m trying to build this company to where it provides a very high level of service to clients, be self-sustaining and robust,” he said. “The company has taken on a life of its own, and it’s an awesome thing to watch happen.”

-McEntee is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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