Case Studies

J&S Mechanical Contractors

A design-assist approach to mechanical contracting in Utah

Headquartered in Draper, Utah, with an office in Las Vegas and holding contracting licenses in five western states, J & S Mechanical Contractors has the ability to tackle the most complicated mechanical systems. Since 1976, J & S Mechanical has relied on quality craftsmanship, safety and top management teams to develop the company into a preferred mechanical contractor in the western United States.

J&S Mechanical Contractors

With an emphasis on building solid relationships within the industry, J & S Mechanical prides itself on its employees as the company’s biggest asset. “The basis of our business is our people in the field,” says Justin Barlow, executive vice president of J & S Mechanical. “The top-to-bottom emphasis on safety and getting the job done right the first time that our people follow is what has helped us to establish so many working relationships within the industry.”

With a design-assist approach, J & S Mechanical maintains a strong presence in the commercial, governmental and institutional markets. Hospitals, labs, data centers and higher education institutions create the bulk of work completed by the company. With approximately 100 employees, J & S Mechanical is never afraid to take on new challenges. “We tend to take on technically challenging projects that a lot of other mechanical contractors tend to stay away from,” says Barlow. “We’ll go to wherever the right project is.”

Application of technology

In 2012, J & S Mechanical brought its technical capabilities to the University of Utah. The company completed mechanical installations for the high-profile construction project known as the James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building (SMBB). The SMBB building consists of 144,800 square feet of technical lab space, 36,200 square feet of vivarium space, and 26,861 square feet of clean room nanotechnology space. “It was a very technically challenging job and one that we are really proud of,” says Barlow.

Technical aspects of the SMBB project include Edstrom environmental monitoring, ultrapure water, heat recovery air handlers, clean room air handlers, process gasses and chilled water, Phoenix valves and high temperature water. The job was a design-assist project and is currently pursuing LEED Gold certification.

J&S Mechanical Contractors

In the town of Draper, J & S Mechanical was involved in the construction of a 192,000-square-foot customer service center for eBay. Completed in March 2013, the facility utilizes energy-efficient mechanical systems with indirect/direct evaporative cooling, which provides the primary means of air conditioning for the complex designed to house 1,900 occupants, each with computer workstations. The plumbing systems are designed using low-water-consumption fixtures and the building is on track to receive LEED Gold certification.

While the company maintains the ability to self-perform a majority of its own work, J & S Mechanical turns to a solid network of subcontractors when a project calls for sheet metal, insulation and controls. “We have a strong network of subcontractors as well as general contractors that we work with on a regular basis,” Barlow explains. “We bring people onto to a job that we feel can present a team atmosphere to the project.”

Barlow considers any subcontractor that J & S Mechanical hires as a direct extension of the company. This philosophy creates the opportunity for the company to be selective in who J & S chooses to work with and manage on each project. “Managing subcontractors is a big part of what we do,” says Barlow. “We make sure everything is flawless as the project progresses.”

The measure of success for the company is done on a job-to-job basis. The satisfaction of the owner and general contractor of each project is the biggest measuring stick for J & S Mechanical. On every job the company completes, J & S Mechanical receives letters of recommendation for the entire company as well as individual employees. “It’s all about keeping the general contractors and owners happy,” says Barlow. “We want to make sure that we are valuable to them.”

The importance of relationships

Barlow credits the company’s employees and relationships to the company not only surviving the economic downturn but also thriving through it. With a strong employee retention rate and a reputation for taking care of its employees, J & S Mechanical has little difficulty in finding qualified workers. The ratio of journeymen to apprentices at J & S Mechanical is approximately 90 percent to 10 percent, respectively. “That’s really because once people join the company they don’t leave,” says Barlow. “That’s how we want it. We want our employees to enjoy the company they work for and be able to make a lucrative career here and support their families.”

The entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged at J & S Mechanical. From first-year apprentices to experienced journeymen, new ideas, methods and procedures are always welcome to be presented to upper management. “If somebody has a better way to do something, we want to hear about it,” says Barlow. “If we agree that it’s a better way, then we’ll implement it.”

The employees at J & S Mechanical present the biggest motivating factor for Barlow. The fact that the decisions he makes affect many people and their families is an aspect of the business that Barlow takes very seriously.
“We want anyone who works for us to be able to give their families the best possible lifestyle they can give them,” Barlow elaborates. “We want to be able to pay every worker the best we can and have them go home safe to their families. That’s my motivation for coming to work every day.”

The entire management team at J & S Mechanical began at the apprentice level and all hold Journeyman Plumber cards. With his father Jim Barlow founding the company, Barlow found that growing up in the presence of the industry sparked an interest in him at an early age. “My dad has always been my idol and I’ve always wanted to emulate him,” says Barlow. “He has created quite a legacy here so it was a very natural fit for me to join the family business.”

The fact that Barlow is able to view his company’s work at the end of the day and for years to come is something he thoroughly enjoys about the job. “It’s great to be driving through the cityscape and to be able to point out buildings to your kids and tell them that you were a big part of building it,” says Barlow. “I was fortunate enough to be the superintendent for a job that involved a hospital in Las Vegas. I lived and breathed that job for a few years and my kids still call it ‘dad’s hospital.’ Those types of things are exciting to me.”

With a solid reputation and strong backlog of work, Barlow says that the company’s future goals remain more internally focused than externally. Through its processes and procedures, J & S Mechanical Contractors will continue to better itself and strive to be the safest, most efficient company in the industry.

Published on: December 14, 2015

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