Case Studies

Nobis Engineering Inc.

Engineering, design and construction management services in the Northeast

Since 1988, Nobis Engineering Inc. has been serving the diverse needs of public and private construction clients throughout the Northeast. Abhijit “Nannu” Nobis, P.E., L.S.P., established the company more than 26 years ago to address a need in the industry for high-value, integrated engineering and consulting services. While quality civil, environmental and geotechnical engineering comprise the company’s core business, Nobis Engineering also operates with a service-oriented business structure, prioritizing the needs of clients through personal commitment.

Nobis Engineering stands out in the market for a number of reasons, one being the company’s involvement with ESOP New England, a leading employee stock ownership program association encompassing member businesses in six states. “We have been employee-owned for about 12 years,” says Kenneth Koornneef, P.E., president of Nobis Engineering. “Our CEO, Mr. Nobis, wanted to transfer ownership in the company to his employees. The ESOP was one of several options available to him and ultimately, he decided it was the best fit for our company.”

Koornneef notes that with an open-book company culture, the transition to ESOP was fairly natural. Overall, the experience has been positive. While he says there are some additional steps now to maintain compliance, becoming an ESOP has allowed Nobis Engineering to achieve better results overall as a business. “It’s hard to measure, but this has definitely helped reinforce our ownership-thinking culture within the organization,” he explains. “Our people act and think more like owners as a result of it and they make decisions accordingly.”

Nobis Engineering Inc.Sharing success

Everything Nobis Engineering does is geared toward serving the needs of clients. “If we can do it well, that gives us a genuine sense of pride,” Koornneef explains. Repeat business is a staple of the company’s success. In order to maintain the efficiency necessary to deliver services on time and on budget, the management team takes stock of several key performance indicators.

“Obviously sales is a key metric,” notes Koornneef. “We are also focused on maintaining a specific percentage profit. With an open book culture we have lots of metrics, but we boil it down to one critical number that all employees can understand – billable hours. If we make our billable hour goals everything else falls into place and we are doing well as a company. In addition to ESOP, our company also has an annual incentive bonus plan which links the company’s performance directly to staff’s individual performance.”

With such a high value on employee performance and ownership, Nobis engineering also dedicates resources to the growth of team members. “We also strive to provide for the well-being of our employees and their families,” Koornneef adds. “We want to help people continue interesting and engaging professional development throughout their careers. Because our employees are so vested in the company and how they can drive success in the organization, they are very focused on both the top line and the bottom line, constantly looking for ways that we can be more effective and efficient.”

And ultimately, he says the entire team has shared in this success. “Employee balances have been going up, which is a pretty cool thing,” Koornneef notes. “We have at least 10 people with balances in excess of $70,000 as of now and it will keep growing.”

Recent projects

In 2010, Nobis Engineering began work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Elizabeth Mine superfund site. The company was tasked with full closure of the operations tailing piles. Scope of work included constructing surface and groundwater diversion structures, stabilizing tailing piles, and capturing and treating contaminated discharge.

Working through a structured green remediation strategy, the Nobis Engineering team dipped into all areas of expertise, including civil, geotechnical and environmental engineering. The firm worked with scientists, geologists and construction management people to ensure safe and efficient delivery.

Another geotechnical project is Nobis Engineering’s work on the Green Line Extension project for Boston’s transit agency, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). The new line extension expands service from Cambridge, Massachusetts, out to Somerville and Medford. The team performed geotechnical calculations and prepared reports in support of the basis of design for the project. In addition to preparing technical specifications for deep foundations, construction instrumentation and monitoring, and dewatering, Nobis Engineering reviewed design drawings for conformance with the geotechnical recommendations.

“We worked as part of a design team, led by a joint venture, with the lead geotechnical engineers for the entire project,” says Koornneef. “We’re involved with the below-ground infrastructure for the Green Line Extension. The project is complicated because we are working in an active rail line in an urban area. The expansion includes viaducts, stations and a maintenance facility. We did a substantial amount of geo-investigation for retaining walls. ”

The company has also taken on several projects in recent years using thermal remediation to clean up government-owned superfund sites. “At the Silresim Superfund site in Lowell, Massachusetts, we performed a complex, in-situ thermal treatment program to address highly contaminated soil and groundwater,” says Koornneef. “We produced a site-specific remedial action plan for the site that involved heating up contaminates in ground, volatizing and running them through a treatment train to clean up the site.”

On the civil and site design side of the operation, Nobis Engineering recently wrapped up work for a consolidation of eight elementary schools in Concord, New Hampshire. The team provided civil, landscape architecture and geotechnical engineering services for the institutional project. Scope of work included design elements of three new schools for which Nobis Engineering performed schematic design, design development and construction drawing phases.

Looking ahead

With a strong and growing portfolio, Nobis Engineering is looking ahead to new opportunities in the Northeast construction market. “We have a lot of projects on the horizon, though there aren’t many we can talk about,” notes Koornneef. “We just landed an on-call contract with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) as one of the state’s consultants, which we are very excited about. There is also another large scale rail project coming up in Massachusetts and we are tracking its progress to see if there are opportunities for us to do there what we did on the Green Line.”

The team has a number of internal projects going on as well. The company recently expanded into Virginia, with a new location office in Alexandria. This new location is helping Nobis Engineering expand services down the East Coast. Meanwhile at the headquarters in Concord, the company has performed a significant energy improvement project that it anticipates will result in an Energy Star rating for the building.

Koornneef and his colleagues are optimistic about the market. With new resources and growing relationships in both the public and private sectors, the business is on track for growth. While federal projects have seen a slight decline, state work is opening up and there is more money flowing in the commercial sector.

Over the next few years, Nobis Engineering is on a trajectory toward becoming 100 percent ESOP. “It depends on how our stock does and how the company performs, but that is our long-term objective,” Koornneef adds. “In 2013, we made our first acquisition of another firm and we are looking to do more acquisitions and mergers as the business grows.”

With a hearty employee ownership program and distinct capabilities, Nobis Engineering Inc. is on track for significant growth over the coming years as the business takes on new challenges and opportunities in the market.

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Spring 2018



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