Case Studies

NTK Construction Inc.

10 years as San Francisco's diversified general engineering contractor

San Francisco is home to an estimated 837,442 people. To keep a city of this size moving a huge investment in infrastructure is needed – mass transit, roadways, rail, underground utilities, pump stations, wastewater treatment facilities and more. For more than a decade, general-engineering firm NTK Construction Inc. (NTK) has been repairing, replacing and creating new infrastructure of the highest quality on some of the toughest projects in the Bay Area.

As a result, NTK and its in-house engineering team have forged strong working relationships with the city and local municipalities and organizations such as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SF-PUC) and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SF-MTA). NTK is known for rapid turnarounds and challenging projects other area contractors choose to avoid.

“Most contractors in the city either specialize in transit projects or wastewater and pump stations or underground utilities -only one thing,” explains Tin Tran, president and founding partner of NTK. “At NTK, our engineers and union field contractors are cross-trained in multiple projects, allowing us to tackle various kinds of infrastructure, including many city-owned jobs.”

Tran says the city tag on a job often deters other companies, but not NTK. “Some contractors don’t want to tackle city projects, because they’re a little more difficult,” he explains. “There’s more paperwork involved, and it’s a little bit more of a headache. However, once we get to know the routine and begin to understand organizations like SF-PUC and SF-MTA, the work gets much easier.”

Building a trusted team

NTK officially opened its doors as a general-engineering contractor in 2005, founded by Tran and two other partners. Tran, who is originally from Vietnam, has been in the California construction industry since 1987.

“NTK was founded on the principles of integrity and trust, and we still hold our employees to the highest ethical standards in the industry,” assures Tran. “NTK recognizes that its ability to earn the role of ‘trusted’ hinges on its honesty in everyday actions and its ability to communicate well with all members of the team.”

The company’s goal is to improve quality of life for its employees and clients, as well as for the general public, who are ultimately served by the projects the firm builds. “NTK’s success is the result of our team’s commitment toward establishing positive relationships with agencies, partners and subcontractors,” emphasizes Tran.

NTK Construction The ability to self-perform

NTK is unique, not only in its range of work, but also in its ability to self-perform nearly all aspects of complex construction projects. “We occasionally subcontract paving, rebar and some electrical services, but in-house NTK does concrete, earth and site work, as well as a full range of mechanical aspects,” details Tran. “We have a team of in-house engineers, but we understand that subcontractors are critically important in our overall success. It’s crucial to maintain good working relationships with our subs, because we need people in the field that we will trust as much as our own NTK guys to get the job done right the first time.”

NTK is well-versed in many realms, including: constructing open-cut sewer lines, precast and cast-in-place storm drain structures, storm drain pipelines, cross-country and infrastructure water lines, clean water and waste water plants, as well as in light rail systems, excavation and grading, pump station treatment, concrete structures, seismic retrofits, electrical and communication duct line facilities and mechanical facilities.

“In March 2014, we completed construction of the SEWPCP- Oxygen Generation Plan Replacement for SF-PUC, with a total contract amounting to $8.9 million,” tells Tran. The objective of this project was to construct an oxygen generation plant and gaseous oxygen supply piping at the Southeast San Francisco Treatment Plant.

“The work included construction of a new concrete utility trench, as well as a new concrete foundation for electrical enclosure and oxygen equipment,” details Tran. “We were also responsible for relocating utilities and fiber optics; designing, furnishing and installing two package oxygen generation plants to the roof of aeration tanks and connection to existing piping; site utilities; grading and paving; in addition to electrical components.”

Over the years NTK has repaired, retrofitted and built out a range of similar facilities, in addition to pump stations and water treatment plants. “Right now, we’re working on $14 million of chemical systems relocations for a treatment plant,” adds Tran.

However, this is just one page of NTK’s portfolio – the company really excels in the transportation arena. From the $1.1 million Uptown Transit Center in Oakland, California, to the St. Francis Circle Rail Replacement project valued at $8.6 million to cable-car infrastructure in the heart of San Francisco, NTK moves cities.

In June 2013, NTK delivered the Church and Duboce Track improvement project for the SF-MTA. The $18,046,489 contract was multi-dimensional and consisted of replacing tangent tracks, one half-grand union special track, two single crossovers and diamond crossings.

Additionally, NTK was responsible for replacing the Overhead Contact System (OCS), as well as for replacing and upgrading the trackswitch signal control system; improving the boarding islands; installation of a curb extension; repaving roadway; upgrading curb ramps; improving the water main and distribution lines; upgrading the sewer main system; improving street lighting and providing temporary work for bus substitution.

“With the replacement of half-grand union special track work at the intersection of Church and Duboce, we had to tear up old track and install new, replace controls, replace and repair concrete, replace underground utilities, make sure the train signals were in working order and turn it all over in nine days,” reveals Tran. “We’d never done something of this magnitude before, and some didn’t think we could. However, we proved them wrong, and SF-MTA was very impressed and pleased.”

On this job, SF-MTA had limited resources and budget to provide bus substitution for regularly-scheduled trains. “The SF-MTA allowed only 21 weekends and one shutdown period of nine days to complete the project, but we completed the project in 16 weekends and one shutdown period of nine days,” Tran details.

Tran goes on to note that the company experienced its fair share of pressure. “We had lots of pressure,” he continues. “Knowing there was a big penalty for each hour of MUNI train delay and that this penalty would continue until the train was back in service. This time pressure was exacerbated by the fact that the public news media was regularly monitoring the MUNI service schedule for San Francisco commuters and passengers.” According to Tran, the project’s completion was well worth the team’s hard work. “This was one of the most intense and challenging projects we’ve ever done,” adds Tran. “We did it, and it’s really helped build our reputation and respect as a general-engineering firm.”

NTK continues to build its reputation by consistently bringing projects in on time and on budget. “As long as we can finish on time, and the owner is happy at the end of the day, we are happy,” he details. “It makes our lives easier because it furthers our reputation. NTK couldn’t do that without our team. I have great pride in the people that I work with and I stand behind each and every one of them to get the job done. They’re proud of what they do and the people at NTK truly enjoy working together. It’s a fun environment.”

After a 10-year company celebration in Napa Valley, Tran says NTK is just focusing on doing what it does best. “We’re fortunate that we’ve been successful,” he says. “Even through slower years, we’ve maintained our workload, but we’ve also worked very hard for it.”

Tran notes that he sees the company staying the course in 2015 and in the future, as NTK Construction Inc. continues to turn over critical infrastructure in a timely manner, promoting the San Francisco progression of improvement and continual forward movement.

Published on: July 6, 2015


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