Bringing an Owner’s Perspective: Meet Keith Lawrence - Director, Development Services

January 2021


Collaboration fuels building projects. Keith Lawrence knows that from years of experience as a Project Executive and Owner Representative and also from his pastime of racing cars in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix to support the community.

Keith recently joined AE Works to spearhead and grow the firm’s services, including Owner's Rep, Construction Management, and Program Management, to serve the capital projects needs of private sector clients located in the Western Pennsylvania region. Over his 30 year career, Keith has overseen $3 Billion in fast-paced complex capital improvement projects for private, industrial, and government markets. He has managed all types of project delivery methods, including Design-Build, Design-Bid-Build, and CM at Risk. Prior to AE Works, Keith held senior leadership and executive positions at Big Burrito Group, West Virginia University (WVU), Education Management Corporation, FedEx, and others.

In this Q&A, Keith shared more about how he applies his unique skills and experience to building projects.

Keith Lawrence - Director, Development Services

With your background, you approach projects differently than a designer. Can you share more about what you are looking for on a project and the questions you are asking?

Throughout my career, I’ve managed and maintained a range of buildings - educational, restaurants, retail, industrial, office, healthcare, research, manufacturing and more. Recently, while at WVU, I oversaw the final construction, start-up, turnover and maintenance of their first four Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) projects in Morgantown, WV. With a construction value of $220 million, these projects delivered a mixed-use development that included housing, retail, and academic space.

Evansdale Crossing, University Place, West Virginia University

FedEx Ground Hub

For these WVU buildings and other projects, I start with the end in mind. I look at the details of how a building will be built, used and maintained. Bringing an owner’s perspective starts early in design and focuses on those operational considerations until the project is complete. Proactively looking at utility runs and coordination and the access needed for larger equipment repairs and upgrades are just a few examples of how I apply my experience to add value on a project. I make sure the owner's view is represented at all times and designers understand the project goals and lifecycle use of the space from an operational perspective.

You’ve worked with a range of building types and industries throughout your career. What is one project that stands out?

Reinventing a brownfield site is always an exciting opportunity and challenge. It reinvigorates a community and makes a site productive again. In Woodbridge, NJ, I oversaw the design, construction and start-up of the first and largest FedEx Ground "superhub.” Located in a wetlands area, the site previously housed an old arsenal dating back to the civil war era. Navigating layers of site, environmental and historical considerations was a challenge that resulted in an efficient transportation and logistics facility that served as a model for many others to come.

Every project has unique opportunities. What do you see as the trends that are shaping today’s building projects?

As someone who was responsible for managing and maintaining buildings, I have seen firsthand the increase of owners who know more specifically about what they want in their building project. They are focused on long-term maintenance and creating a better value to drive their organizations forward. I’m excited to apply my experience at AE Works to support our Clients in meeting their building needs to support their long-term goals!