Case Studies

American Contracting & Environmental Services Inc.: Making Complicated Seem Easy

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American Contracting & Environmental Services Inc. (ACE) started as a truly bare bones operation, founded in 2003 by Jim Voltz and Joe Godin. The main office was a small room in Jim’s basement, and the workforce consisted of eight brave souls (including Jim and Joe). In the eight years that have passed, the company has grown into one of the most respected industrial general contractors in the Mid-Atlantic, specializing in building water and wastewater treatment plants. Though the company’s primary focus has been on a specific sector, ACE’s ability to self-perform civil and process mechanical work lends itself to a wide portfolio of projects, including privately held industrial plant process, heavy civil and renewable energy projects.

“We got our start very small,” laughs Godin, “We started out bidding any project we could. Of course, in those days, our bonding capacity was pretty small, so $25,000 jobs were a big deal for us then.” These days, the company has grown to be one of the larger privately owned industrial general contractors in its region, and regularly handles jobs in the $1 million to $12 million range.

Currently, ACE employs about 90 people and works primarily in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area from its headquarters in Laurel, Md. “We tend to gravitate towards projects that are heavy in the mechanical aspect, with complicated process equipment and process piping installations – that’s what we excel at,” explains Godin.

Masterful Mechanical Contracting

The firm staffs its own project engineers, superintendents, foremen, carpenters, millwrights, pipefitters and laborers, which enables the firm to take on the larger scale, more complex facilities. The firm self-performs “about 70 percent of the work,” says Godin. “Our focus is to self-perform the earthwork, concrete, miscellaneous metals and process mechanical and subcontract out the remainder of the work.”

To date, Godin says that the most substantial project for ACE “has been as a process mechanical subcontractor for a job in Arlington County, Va.” According to Godin, the total cost of the project was over $250 million, the site was overseen by Alberici Constructors Inc., and it involved the total upgrade and expansion of the county’s water pollution control plant in order to triple the plant’s capacity.

“The most difficult component of the project was the rehabilitation of the existing blower building. We had to replace five each 900-horsepower blowers and associated piping in an existing building in phased construction. We had no crane access and each blower weighed about 30,000 pounds, so we had to design a custom gantry crane to move the blowers into position and also completely shore and support the floor slab due to the weight of the equipment. The day of the first blower installation, it seemed like the entire plant staff was on hand to see how we were going to do this, and due to our detailed pre-planning and preparation we had the first unit set in about six hours! ” asserts Godin.

Running a close second in terms of sheer project size for ACE is the Tertiary Clarifier Rehabilitation at the Noman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant in Lorton, Va. The project totals just around $9.5 million of work and is scheduled for completion in early 2013. For the project, ACE will oversee the rehab of four tertiary clarifiers.

“The focus of the project is to rehab the four tertiary clarifier mechanisms, but the work has to be done in phased construction not only with our contract work but with other contractor’s projects running concurrently,” explains Godin. “There is also a new chemical feed facility to construct and we are also doing a complete rehab of the underground piping tunnels associated with the clarifiers, including piping replacement, electrical, crack injection and concrete coatings.”

Bringing Clean Water to the Community

Additionally, ACE recently completed a vital upgrade and new construction work on the Little Falls Run Wastewater Treatment Facility. The plant is located in Fredericksburg, Va., and the $7.5 million job is only the first phase of a projected upgrade. The project focus was to increase the plant’s nutrient removal capability in order to comply with EPA regulations.

“It was a smaller plant than some others we have worked on, but we had to rehab just about every structure on the plant,” explains Godin. The firm completely rehabilitated the headworks with three new bar screens, four aeration basins with new blowers, piping and aeration equipment; it installed two new UV channels with the disinfection equipment; it installed four new sludge storage basins; and it rehabilitated the existing sludge storage basins.

Throughout its projects, ACE holds safety to be at the core of all its activities. The firm focuses on continuing education for all of its employees. OSHA 30-hour, Confined Space, Excavation, Fall Protection and CPR & First Aid training sessions are regularly offered to all field employees. Among the results of this focus have been an Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) Baltimore Chapter 2009 Award of Safety Excellence and the much more important satisfaction in knowing employees return home safe each day. These policies and procedures are constantly being strengthened to assure field conditions and conduct allows for the most efficient, energized and quality assured workforce.

Despite the difficult economy, Godin remains optimistic about the company’s position in the marketplace. “The year 2010 was hard for many companies, but we had our best years in terms of sales and profits. There’s a lot of competition out there, but I’m cautiously confident enough to say that I feel very good about where we are positioned to take on work in the future,” says Godin. “For 2011 and 2012, I expect things to pick up in our market and our estimating staff is very busy.”

With its proven ability to deliver high-quality results on time and within budget, and its capabilities to install systems that produce not only cleaner water, but also cleaner energy, American Contracting & Environmental Services Inc. has the resources to both improve its market share and its region’s standard of living for decades to come.

Published on: March 5, 2013

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