Case Studies

Durr Mechanical Construction

New York City's durr-able and dependable heavy mechanical for 30 years

For 30 years, Durr Mechanical Construction (Durr Mechanical) has delivered fast-track, highly complex heavy mechanical construction for industrial players in the power and process industry throughout greater New York City and beyond. From power and sewage treatment plants to health care, educational and industrial facilities and more, Durr Mechanical supports those responsible for keeping NYC up and running.

As a family-owned company and member of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York (MCA-NY), Durr Mechanical has built a reputation as one of the Northeast’s premier mechanical contractors. Renowned for one of the top safety ratings in the industry, quality workmanship and timely completion, Durr Mechanical has been recognized by ENR as one of the top 600 specialty contractors in the U.S.

Durr Mechanical’s welders, pipe fitters, boilermakers and equipment setting crews are some of the best and brightest union tradespeople in the business. “Over the years our commitment to union construction and to quality and safety have been the bedrock of our business, as well as the fact that once we get a customer, we have them forever,” says Frank Heidinger, vice president of operations and safety for Durr Mechanical. “Some customers we’ve had for 30 years, which is as long as we’ve been in business. Once we get our foot in the door it’s hard to get rid of us because people know and trust our work.”

Durr MechanicalA family foundation

The multigenerational, family-owned firm has been building its reputation since 1985 when Robert “Bob” Durr Sr., past president of MCAA and MCANY, as well as his sons, Kenneth, past president MCANY, and Robert Jr., current president MCANJ, established the company.

“Bob Sr. served as the president of Courter & Company, a heavy mechanical NYC contractor that built virtually all of the power plants throughout Long Island, Northern New Jersey and NYC through the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” tells Heidinger. “The company was sold in the early 1980s and the manner of doing business changed so Bob decided to go out on his own and start Durr Mechanical with the help of his sons.”

“I joined the company shortly thereafter,” recounts Heidinger, who also worked for Courter & Company for 12 years. “I’ve been with Durr Mechanical for 29 years and we have done the same kind of work — power plants and sewage treatment plants, etc. throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with plans to expand further west and up and down the East Coast.”

In-house, union-sealed delivery

Durr Mechanical has grown by leaps and bounds since 1985 and now the company is expanding throughout the Mid-Atlantic region with a strong union contractor base. “We employ approximately 90 in-house professionals and we hire 100 percent union tradespeople,” shares Heidinger.

A skilled union workforce is essential to Durr Mechanical, considering the company carries out 100 percent of heavy mechanical work in-house. “We supervise all of our own projects, including scheduling, BIM drafting, quality control, safety monitoring for heavy mechanical -power piping, process piping, commercial HVAC, erecting and setting equipment as well as 24-hour emergency service,” details Heidinger.

Durr Mechanical often takes a general contractor role, managing major projects step one through done. “All along the way, we keep our customers up to date with weekly progress reports and metrics,” explains Heidinger. “We’re big on interfacing with the customer so they’re aware of what’s happening in terms of workload and pricing, and it helps us identify issues before they become problems.”

As a longstanding member of MCA-NY, an organization that’s united mechanical and fire suppression contractors in NYC and Long Island for more than 130 years, Durr Mechanical joins industry partners in making decisions on subjects ranging from collective bargaining and educational programs to dealing with city and state agencies.

“MCA-NY provides a forum for like-minded individuals and executives to come together under common interest,” expands Heidinger. “MCA-NY offers great programs for project management, safety and labor relations.”

Heidinger is currently a member of the MCA-NY board of directors and a trustee with the industry’s education fund. “Costs keep rising – insurance, materials, rent, wages – it all continues to go up,” he measures. “Working through MCA-NY, we’re able to work out changes to union collective bargaining agreements every three years, including new pay and conditions with the goal of staying competitive while maintaining a skilled work force.”

Major mechanical turnarounds

It’s through this skilled workforce that Durr Mechanical delivers some of the most difficult heavy mechanical turnarounds in the region. “We’re just completing a seven-year project at the Croton Water Treatment Plant for the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP],” tells Heidinger.

Durr Mechanical was tasked to procure, install and startup a complete HVAC system for the multi-level underground water treatment plant with a footprint of 600 feet by 600 feet. The equipment installed included four 750-horsepower boilers, 15 air handling units, 48 control room air conditioners, 17 heating and ventilating units, six dehumidification units and three heat recovery units.

In addition, the team installed the plant’s process heavy equipment and piping, including pumps, tanks, mixers, flocculators, skimmers, ultraviolet filters and connected them to 190,000 linear feet of piping in all compositions and sizes, ranging from 0.5-inch diameter up to 144-inch diameter.

“This plant filters one of the three main water lines feeding NYC and was one of the largest projects ever for the DEP with a tremendous amount of massive equipment,” explains Heidinger.

Prior to the Croton plant, Durr Mechanical completed the Con Edison (ConEd) East River Generating Station Repowering Project, a 380-megawatt power plant in an existing building installing more than 100,000 linear feet of piping.

“There’s a grandfather clause in New York City -if you tear down a power plant you can’t build another on the same site,” explains Heidinger. “Because of this, our challenge was to install the new equipment while bringing it in and starting it all up within an existing 1920s building. It was a huge coordination effort – we had 150 tradespeople on the project at one time.”

Clearing the air with natural gas conversions

Durr Mechanical has also been an influential player in a greening project for ConEd uptown on the 74th Street Generating Plant gas conversion, switching major boilers to natural gas and cutting fossil fuel emissions.

Over the course of eight months, 100 Durr Mechanical steamfitters, boilermakers and electricians took to the sweltering conditions in the facility to take it apart, pipe by pipe and install the new equipment and piping needed to carry natural gas. The conversion will help ConEd reduce pollution as the utility transitions from dirty oil to cleaner burning natural gas.

“This was an intense job schedule because all of the work was done in a short period of time in congested areas, but we met the dates and no one got hurt because we upheld our safety standards – that’s what we’re all about,” says Heidinger.

Planning ahead for a safer tomorrow

To say Durr Mechanical takes safety standards and practices seriously would be an understatement. “The safety of our workers is of paramount importance to us,” measures Heidinger.

The company is committed to providing a secure work environment at all times and deploys strict standards, rigorous employee training and regular review of safety procedures. And it all starts with proper planning, leaving no detail to chance.

Surrounded by heavy equipment, turbines, generators and other potentially dangerous power and process equipment leave no room for error. “Before the job starts and before any tools or equipment is handed out, our site managers and field supervisors and foremen meet with crews and subcontractors to perform a job hazard analysis,” explains Heidinger. “We originated this concept about 20 years ago on an intense pharmaceutical job. We discuss the task at hand and everyone gets a chance to contribute in the planning. From there, everyone is required to sign off on the tools, materials and methods that will be utilized to accomplish the job. It’s all in writing identifying the hazards and how to mitigate them.”

Open-book policy

Heidinger says Durr Mechanical keeps all of the job hazard analysis paperwork in an open binder, ready for everyone from the on-site safety manager to the customer to review. “We try to make our mistakes on paper rather than in the field and trust me, not only is it safer, it makes us more efficient,” explains Heidinger. “In addition to the before-job planning, we also run safety meetings with the entire team, from subcontractors to our union crews. This has worked out very well and eliminated any guess work. Remarkably, in 2014, we logged zero OSHA recordable injuries.”

While Durr Mechanical has always had a strong safety culture, Heidinger says the company has really ramped up in recent years in terms of safety performance. “I’m a stickler for eye protection as well,” he says. In fact, we’re pushing for mandatory safety glasses, a requirement in our company for over 20 years, to be mandatory on all union construction sites in NYC.”

In September 2012, the company was recognized for its safety commitment at the PSEG New Haven Peaking Project, as the winner of ENR’s New York Region safety award. “We were the first to receive this honor,” tells Heidinger.

No matter the job, Durr Mechanical puts in place a strong safety standard -something that’s moved with the company as it transitions to nontraditional markets. “When the economy started to go downhill so did a lot of power and process work,” says Heidinger. “Our backlog at the moment is in health care and institutional work.”

Durr Mechanical is now building four massive boilers at Mount Sinai Hospital and delivering a burner conversion at Columbia University. “We’re developing our backlog again,” says Heidinger. “The power and process market is starting to rumble and I think it will explode again, especially in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region where we’re expanding.”

Even through lean times, Heidinger says Durr Mechanical has held onto its high-quality personnel. “We invest in our people -in training and preparing them, even when the market is slow, because we know when it picks up, we’ll need them,” he assures.

Performing fast-track turnarounds and complex heavy mechanical power and process installations wouldn’t be possible without the skilled team and attention to detail in safety and planning that sets Durr Mechanical Construction apart from the rest.

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