Case Studies

Climate Engineering Inc. / Centennial Controls

Delivering all-in-one HVAC service and controls across Colorado

Climate Engineering Inc. is a mechanical service specialist serving commercial and industrial HVAC customers across Colorado’s Front Range. Founded in 1965 by Louis Bindner and Leonard Johannes, the company experienced an early setback when the Platte River flooded its office just three months after it launched. Binder and Johannes worked out of phone booths for the next few weeks until they could relocate to a temporary office and the incident almost put the company out of business, before it had even started.

The flood marked the first of many challenges Climate Engineering would face over the next 50 years in business, but under the leadership of Bindner, who remained active in the company into his 90s, the company has always managed to come out on top. Climate Engineering remained a HVAC specialist until 2007 when it made a push for diversification with the acquisition of Centennial Controls.

With Climate Engineering’s full slate of HVAC services and Centennial’s expertise in automation and control systems all under one roof in Denver, the companies have become a one-stop shop for mechanical system installation, maintenance, retrofit and repair. “We had always been involved in controls, but we decided we wanted to focus more on that,” says Eric Bindner, CEO of Climate Engineering.

This unique relationship allows the two companies to provide superior service throughout a system’s entire lifecycle while reducing the blame-shifting all too common to the industry.

“You’ll have a mechanical company that will say ‘No, it’s the controls that are causing problems,’ and a controls side that says it’s the mechanical. By working together, we have the capability to avoid those issues altogether,” says Bindner.

By sharing offices and the sales teams from both companies working closely together, the two companies are able to provide a better solution to their customers. “We do a lot of work together and there is a good amount of crossover between the two companies. It took a while for us to get that to work well, but now it’s really benefiting us,” says Bindner.

Following the acquisition of Centennial Controls, Tod Flannery joined the company in 2008 and became president and Bindner’s partner in 2010. The locally-owned companies combined now employ 25 throughout the Denver area and pride themselves on exceptionally low turnover. “We have people who have been here a long time and have well-established relationships with customers; its things like that that help us provide better service,” says Flannery.

Mint conditions

While Climate Engineering has long serviced the HVAC systems of commercial buildings throughout Colorado, the acquisition of Centennial Controls has allowed the company to generate more revenue on each project. Where Climate Engineering was once forced to recommend an industry partner to provide controls installation and service for its HVAC systems, it can now call in the Johnson Controls Authorized Building Control Specialist-certified contractor, Centennial, to take on the next step of the project.

“There’s been a trend in recent years to change out system’s motors and put in high efficiency motors and variable-frequency drives (VFD) and we’ve purchased those Johnson Controls VFDs through Centennial Controls. We’ve also involved Centennial to tie in the VFDs to the building automation system and to assure they are running properly,” says Bindner.

The two companies recently worked together to complete a project at the Denver Mint, a branch of the U.S. Mint located in Colorado. The facility is one of four U.S. Mints across the country responsible for producing coins for circulation, as well as commemorative and collectible coins. “Logistically it’s a challenging place to work because of the tight security,” says Flannery. “You have to be escorted and you need security clearance, so workers had to go through background checks and all that.“

While the check-in process took a toll on the company’s overall efficiency, Bindner and Flannery are eager to further strengthen the company’s relationship with the Denver Mint. “We’ve done work there for a number of years and their confidence level in us has gone up,” says Bindner.

Climate Engineering and Centennial have also worked extensively with a local funeral home service with several locations across Denver, providing HVAC and controls retrofits. While many of the facilities are quite small, their age can make environmental comfort issues a constant challenge.

“That’s important for them because if they’re having a funeral service, all of a sudden you have a bunch of people in the building and it presents a real challenge, comfort-wise,” he says. “It’s a fun challenge and we pride ourselves in being able to resolve tough comfort and equipment issues that have plagued buildings for a long time.”

A team approach

The acquisition of Centennial has been both one of the best and boldest business moves of Binder’s career. Purchased one year before the economic recession, the new entity had the potential to sink the established company. “Halfway through 2008 we looked at Centennial and thought maybe we didn’t make such a great decision, but it ended up doing well and after a year and a half, we saw that it was a good decision,” says Bindner.

While both Climate Engineering and Centennial Controls perform much of their own work, the two companies will often sub out roofing and sheet metal work, as well as some electrical and rigging duties. In the busier summer season, Centennial might contract out cable-pulling work, but will often self-perform the same job during the slower offseason. “We keep a pretty steady workforce, but when business ramps up we start to sub out,” says Bindner.

As both Climate Engineering and Centennial Controls continue to grow, Bindner and Flannery are looking to expand their customer base, specifically in the maintenance sector. “That helps both companies, so we’re really focused on expanding that,” he says.

With new business being hard and harder to come by, Bindner and Flannery are also making a concerted effort to ensure that the companies’ quality stays up to the market’s exacting standards. “If you don’t figure out how to do a better job, they’ll find someone who will. If you just focus on the customer piece of mind, growth and profits will come along with it,” he says.

Recently remarried, Bindner and his wife make the most of their personal time by taking advantage of Colorado’s ample natural wonder, whether its trail running or exploring one of the state’s storied peaks. Flannery and his wife enjoy the outdoors skiing and cycling, and occasionally spending time on their Harleys.

As a leading mechanical systems specialist with a recently expanded expertise in controls, Climate Engineering and Centennial Controls will continue offer superior HVAC service to clients throughout Colorado.

Published on: September 13, 2016


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