According to data from the National Weather Service, when Hurricane Sandy (Sandy) ripped through the Mid-Atlantic with gusts reaching speeds of 89 miles per hour, homes, businesses and a range of other buildings were no match for the storm surge. What if there was a better building block at the base of it all; a time-tested technology spiraling well below the ground, creating an anchor and pile combination for safer, stronger construction?
That’s the message Danbro Distributors (Danbro) has been spreading up and down the East Coast through the midst of the post-Sandy rebuild. Partnering with Hubbell Power Systems, a leader in helical pier and resistance pile technologies, Philadelphia-based Danbro delivers teams of certified installers for residential, industrial and commercial, infrastructure and government foundation and tie-back projects throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States.
The Danbro team provides cost-effective solutions, feasibility assessments, expert engineering, design and installation of the largest helical pier inventory in the northeastern U.S. “Sandy has exposed a wider audience and more general contractors are aware of helical technology, but the method has been around since the 1800s,” reveals Pat Haffert, marketing manager for Danbro.
A critical connection
Helical technology originated in England in 1836, and in 1838, the first helical piles were used in the construction of a light house. With the onset of the industrial revolution, timber became a more prominent building material and helical technology was put on the back burner so to speak, until Albert Bishop Chance, founder of CHANCE, now an international leader in earth anchoring, resurrected the technology.
Chance owned and operated a local Bell phone company in Centralia, Mo., and awoke one morning after a major storm to find many of his telephone poles knocked down. “Chance thought there had to be a better way to support his phone lines, so he researched the technology,” recounts Haffert. “Initially, Chance sold to the utility industry, but by the 1950s helical piers started to gain awareness among structural and geotechnical engineers in Missouri where shrink-swell clays were causing excessive settlement in buildings.”
Danbro began its long-standing relationship with CHANCE 25 years ago. “Danbro is an offshoot of D’Angelo Brothers Inc. [D’Angelo], which is a fourth-generation family-owned company established in 1906,” details Haffert. “In 1989, D’Angelo, a large excavation and commercial contractor, purchased some helical anchors from CHANCE as an alternate to grouted tendons due to poor soil conditions and dramatic improvement in the production schedule.”
What started as a customer relationship soon blossomed into a successful business partnership. “When CHANCE saw how well established D’Angelo was in their market, they thought the company would be a good match and Danbro was awarded a distributorship in 1993 for south Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania,” he continues.
A new market for time-tested technology
Today, the aftermath of Sandy has expanded the acceptance of helical products and has also opened up a new market for Danbro’s products. “When we first started distributing helical piers, most general contractors were not familiar with them, but now, the helical business is growing exponentially,” explains Haffert. “Builders are being forced to raise elevations to meet new Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] standards, but because there’s no room to move a home in densely populated areas along the shore, helicals allow the process to happen without moving the home completely off the foundation.”
While the company now distributes from Maine to Virginia, lately it has primarily focused its efforts on the Sandy-affected coastline. “We support contractors looking to purchase helical piers with a number of CHANCE-certified installers who are trained in the field by Danbro,” shares Haffert.
In order to spread the word and educate area builders, Danbro recently exhibited at the Atlantic Builders Convention (ABC) hosted by the New Jersey Builders Association (NJBA). “For some general contractors, it was about learning more about an unfamiliar technology,” indicates Haffert. “Some companies were looking for subcontractors to put in helicals, but others took a look at it and said, ‘I could add this to my business,’ and wanted to learn more and possibly get certified.”
The Sandy Solution
Haffert says Danbro’s products have a really strong regional impact, especially post-Sandy. “We invited CHANCE-certified installers and, virtually the whole time, we had people strolling into our booth to watch the continuous video demonstrating our helical approach,” he recalls. “We certainly accomplished our goals of raising awareness of the CHANCE brand and helped initiate the conversation with general contractors and house-lifters for The Sandy Solution.”
Danbro is the only proponent of eliminating the grade beam and installing cost-saving, cased and grouted helicals above grade, similar to a timber pile. The innovative ground-breaking approach was featured on the Oct. 7, 2014, episode of “This Old House.”
In times of crisis, there is always a lesson to be learned and room for improvement. In the case of post-Sandy restoration, there is a better base for building and Danbro Distributors is delivering The Sandy Solution.
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