The E. Turgeon Construction Corporation
There are few construction firms in the United States that can lay claim to the history and stability of leadership of the E. Turgeon Construction Corporation (Turgeon) – a construction management, general contracting and design-build firm that has been serving the New England area since 1896.
The company, founded by Evangeliste Turgeon in the late 19th century, started as a general contractor specializing in commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. Shortly after the start of the Great Depression, Evangeliste’s four sons – John, Edward, George and Henry – joined their father at his firm in 1931 and helped guide the company through the nation’s dark economic times. A year after World War II ended, Evangeliste retired at the impressive age of 76, handing the company reins over to Edward.
In 1973, Francis (Frank) Ducharme joined Turgeon as a vice president, and when Edward decided to retire in 1976, Ducharme became president and CEO, a position he still holds today. Bradley Draycott joined the firm in 1987 and currently resides as vice president. In 1994, Frank’s sons David and Christopher Ducharme joined the firm, and now a second generation of Ducharmes, along with Draycott, proudly maintains the legacy of the Cranston, R.I.-based company.
“We have always been a family-owned and operated business and we’re currently in our fourth generation of ownership,” says Christopher Ducharme, Turgeon treasurer. “We take pride in being one of the oldest construction companies, not just in Rhode Island, but also in New England.”
Today, the company works primarily for private-sector clients within the region, with about 30 percent of its activity in the public sector. “We are primarily a construction management firm with design-build and BIM [Building Information Modeling] capabilities. Our focus is primarily commercial/industrial, educational and religious-type projects. While we’ve renovated historic residences for specialty clients, we are not residential contractors by trade,” asserts Ducharme. “We are very much a New England company, so we will travel to Massachusetts and Connecticut, or even farther if we need to.”
Thousands Live and Learn in Turgeon-built Structures
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders have matriculated from schools, worked in office buildings, and prayed in churches built by Turgeon’s team of professionals. And Turgeon continues to uphold the long-standing reputation of the company at further job sites that incorporate innovative techniques.
Even though the firm was founded in the era of the horse-drawn wagon, Turgeon has firmly embraced the future and has led the industry in implementing technological advances as they entered the industry. When Rhode Island became the first state in the U.S. to adopt international green conservation codes, which require new publicly funded buildings to have energy-efficient insulation on the outside, Turgeon incorporated this “outsulation” in the construction of a new local church.
Contrary to the immediate internal impression of batts of fiberglass wrapping the exterior of a building, outsulation is created from expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation board – the same base material used in the creation of compact disc covers and disposable razors. Up to four inches of EPS can be installed on the outside of a building’s walls giving an R-Value of 15.4. The EPS insulation board can be constructed to mirror traditional building materials, which allows for the construction of highly efficient and beautiful exteriors.
RGB Architects and Turgeon Construction worked with Father Marcos Girgis, head of the St. Mary & St. Mena Coptic Orthodox Church in Cranston, to incorporate the use of EPS insulation board in the construction of his new 24,000-square foot Byzantine-styled church. “It’s become the wave of the future now that people start to look at that [outsulation system] as a very important design and construction element,” says Draycott, Turgeon’s project executive for the new church.
Father Girgis, likewise, was impressed with the final result, saying, “It’s efficient energy-wise for the church, and it looks very nice, too.” The new design marks the first building in the state and the country to be built to the new code, which is expected to gain popularity in other states as well.
Local and national trade organizations have been impressed with Turgeon’s work over the years as well. In 2006 Turgeon won an award from the Association of General Contractors for its work at Providence College’s new Smith Center for the Performing Arts. The new 60,000-square foot facility provides space for film, dance, theater and music departments. The development included rehearsal spaces, faculty offices, classrooms and state-of-the-art production facilities in addition to two performance spaces, a concert and lecture hall and an art gallery. “It was a great honor to win that award, because it was an intricate building project whose end result was of vital importance to the school,” says Ducharme.
Turgeon prides itself on constructing structures that benefit the surrounding community in more than just an aesthetic sense. “In 2007 and 2008, we worked on the new East Greenwich Police Facility, which was a two-story building that was very much needed by the local police force,” explains Ducharme. The new facility measures three times the size of the previous location in the basement of the school department building, offering the police a 21,000-square foot facility designed with state-of-the-art security features. Whereas the old facility didn’t even have bulletproof glass for the dispatcher’s window, the new facility provides bulletproof glass along with a fiber optic system to monitor busy traffic intersections and a synchronized door locking systems to isolate problem areas.
The new door locks allow rooms to be essentially blocked off in case of a disturbance and also ensure that inmates being transferred within the building can only move so far, as doors in those areas are programmed not to open until the previous door has been shut. In addition, the new center provides the town’s finest with a fitness center and firing range in the basement, a community meeting room that can double as an emergency command center, and even an ATM in the lobby to make posting bail more convenient as well as generate additional revenue for the town.
“Then in 2009 we completed a brand new facility for the Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School in Cranston, R.I., replacing the older Cranston-Johnston Catholic Regional School located in Garden City,” says Ducharme.
The new pre-K through eighth-grade school provides not only classrooms but also includes a new science lab, gymnasium, library, 200-seat performing arts center and a separate cafeteria. This entirely new school was the first new school built from the ground up in over 45 years in Diocesan history in Rhode Island. First-rate computer technology, smart boards and wireless networking were integrated into the construction of the school. Speaking of technology, the project incorporated the installation of a 485,000-gallon underground stormwater retention system manufactured by StormTrap. The first of its kind in Rhode Island, this concrete baffled-type system collected and distributed water successfully and as designed during the March 2010 flood, a flood which proved catastrophic to most all of Rhode Island.
Future-proofing the Company
Despite retaining a competitive edge over the years, Turgeon has still felt the pinch of a slowed economy undergoing an even slower recovery. “It’s a very tight market right now. There isn’t a lot of private-sector work and the public-sector work is very slowly being released, and I’m not sure things will be getting much better in the next few years, but of course we’re hopeful,” states Ducharme.
Though the company doesn’t expect any major growth, the up-and-coming generations still bring a lot of energy to the table. “The younger generations are looking to change,” explains Ducharme. “We’re really looking to expand the company into the private and defense sectors and we feel confident to try new things because we have the stability that comes from maintaining our repeat customers, which accounts for about 70 percent of our volume.”
It’s impossible to know if founder Evangeliste Turgeon ever imagined that the firm he created in 1896 would have such an impact on the lives of Rhode Islanders for over 115 years. However, it is known that the E. Turgeon Construction Corporation under the personal involvement of current and future Ducharme and Draycott family leadership has advanced technologically and set a precedent that should carry the company through another century.
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