Case Studies

Kenny Construction Company

Respect for New Technologies
  • Written by: Kenny Construction Company
  • Produced by: Kenny Construction Company
  • Estimated reading time: 5 mins

The mission of the team at Kenny Construction Company (Kenny) is simple: to do exactly what the client wants, and do it well. The team’s mentality is the reason why Kenny has been able to maintain a strong presence in the public sector since it was founded in 1927. It’s also why the company continues to be on the shortlist of contractors under consideration for high-profile construction projects and major infrastructural improvements around the country. More so than any award, though, the Kenny team believes in conducting business with great respect for the client, one another and the safety of every construction site.

“For the entire Kenny team the success of every project is measured by the quality of work we deliver and our ability to uphold our track record of ethical conduct,” asserts Ralph Bonanotte, vice president of Kenny’s underground division. The Chicago, Ill.-based contractor has made a name for itself by making ethics and compliance a cornerstone of company culture. Kenny even published its own code of ethics handbook entitled Building a Strong Foundation. All employees are issued a handbook and must also complete mandatory ethics training every year.

The company is also a founding member of the Construction Industry Ethics and Compliance Initiative, a nonprofit and private association committed to consolidating and disseminating information on the industry’s best practices. To ensure proper principles are executed, Kenny also operates the Kenny Ethics Hotline where callers can report unethical, unsafe or illegal activity in the workplace that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline allows callers to remain anonymous, ensuring reports never result in retaliation or disciplinary action.

Kenny represents seven primary operating groups focusing on underground work, electrical utilities, tunneling, sustainable energy solutions, construction management, civil infrastructure construction, and commercial, residential and institutional construction respectively. Kenny has been fortunate enough to contribute toward the construction of Chicago’s first downtown subway, the first jet runway at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and a test of the world’s first 30-foot diameter tunnel boring machine on solid rock.

Kenny to the Rescue

The company was also responsible for finally stopping the source of the Great Chicago Flood in 1992. The flood resulted when workers on the Kinzie Street Bridge unknowingly punctured a century-old tunnel beneath the Chicago River, flooding basements and underground structures across town.

In the company’s 85-year history, Kenny has seen the industry adopt and abandon new technologies in favor of newer technologies, but the company has never shied away from embracing groundbreaking technologies early on. In fact Kenny’s underground division was one of the earliest adopters of trenchless technologies, including cured-in-place pipe rehabilitation, cured-in-place manhole lining and glass-fiber reinforced pipe renovations. Kenny is one of the leading providers of these services as an Inliner Technologies licensee, and the underground division expanded its footprint by acquiring Colorado-based Western Slope Utilities in 2010.

The Kenny secret is assembling the right team. Bonanotte, a 25-year veteran of Kenny with 28 years of industry experience, takes great care to ensure the teams support one another.

“What we do is high risk,” asserts Bonanotte. “The good thing is that I have surrounded myself with really great people who grew up in the business, are incredibly experienced and give me confidence in their decision making abilities. Even if something goes wrong, we know that we are here for one another. They have my home phone number and my cell phone number, so there are really no excuses.”

Relishing the Challenge

Since Kenny’s propensity is to take on large multiyear contracts requiring an incredible amount of coordination, the extra support ensures Kenny will be able to deliver a project no matter what. The city of Chicago tapped Kenny in 2007 to begin work on rehabilitating over 500,000 linear feet of sewer pipes, which led to a second and third contract. The multiterm contract splits the work between Chicago’s north, central and south neighborhoods and targets a complete revitalization of the city’s century-old water and sewer systems, which range from eight to 112 inches in diameter.

“It’s an incredibly aggressive program, but it’s one that will hopefully prove what trenchless technology can do,” opines Bonanotte. “The city wants to complete improvements to 50 miles of sewer and 75 miles of water mains every year, and the city has been here a long time so some of the newer sewers were built in the 1920s and 1930s.” Crews will also complete work on approximately 200,000 catch basins and 20,000 manholes as part of the project, in addition to seeing to the 4,400 miles of sewer traverse the city.

The Sewer Rehabilitation Program relies upon Kenny’s expertise in cured-in-place pipe technology, which the program’s superintendent estimated could be installed for one-fifth the cost of total pipe replacement with minimal disruption to major arterial roads. Still, Kenny is no stranger to the payoff of keeping the public informed. The company’s crews have taken a proactive position to ensure the improvements are completed with respect for all Chicagoans. Kenny works directly with all the government agencies involved with or affected by the improvements from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Water Management.

Building a Culture of Excellence

Kenny produces a 10-day forecast document that is distributed to every subcontractor and government agency involved to provide ample notice of any expected disruptions. Yellow door hanger notices are distributed 24 hours in advance to any homes or businesses affected by any street parking bans, and they include information on any restrictions on water and sewer usage.

“Street parking is definitely one of our biggest challenges, because it’s a dense city and street parking is limited,” admits Bonanotte. “You’re always going to have a few guys running out of the house in slippers to move their vehicles at 6:30 a.m. before work starts at 7 o’clock, but the city gives us great help with it and we try to give residents as much notice as possible.”

Of course, Kenny has seen its fair share of surprises on the job as well, most notably in March 2012 when the G8 Summit was moved at the last minute from Chicago to Camp David in Maryland. The move bought crews a few more days to complete work in the area, but NATO’s 2012 Summit commenced as expected in downtown Chicago, and Kenny crews had to stop work on a one-mile stretch of Lakeshore Drive for security reasons. Even so, the project is still on track to wrap up by the original 2013 date.

In any case, the next few years look bright for all of Kenny’s divisions, and especially for the underground division as sewer rehab technologies continue to prove a cost-effective option to total infrastructure replacement. The team’s willingness to embrace new technologies will always be balanced by the company’s emphasis on ethical business practices, which will carry Kenny Construction Company safely through another 85 years, at the least.

Published on: July 29, 2013

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