Carson & Roberts reaches the 90 percent completion mark on the excavation phase of the West Point Military Academy Motor Pool Relocation Project. By Brooke Infusino
Motor Pool Relocation Project
Project Value: $10.5 Million
Location: West Point, N.Y.
Employees: 40 to 100
Scope: Earthwork, Excavation and Utility Work
Each project Carson & Roberts Site Construction and Engineering, Inc. goes after is a chance for the Lafayette, N.J., site engineering, excavation and horizontal drilling firm to put its best foot forward. When your reputation is your most valuable asset, as it is at the company, accurately bidding projects and performing quality work is a requirement.
Vice President John Roberts says the firm has grown from a small site contractor to one of the largest civil firms in New Jersey. He says the company is holding its own in the down market by expanding its geographic reach to the south and by operating two complimentary divisions: site work and underground utilities.
In a recent interview with Building & Construction Northeast, Roberts explains how the firm is utilizing its skills and divisions to get new business, as well as its role on the West Point Military Academy Motor Pool Relocation Project.
John Roberts: Currently the construction market has tightened in the way of competition and the cost owners are willing to pay, less projects to bid results in more competition and lower pricing. To offset current market conditions, we continue to implement stringent cost controls and improve on our operating efficiency. Also, we have expanded our geographic reach to include the entire East Cost and Mid-Atlantic regions for site work, and the entire country for auger boring and horizontal drilling businesses.
BCNE: Which market sectors are currently performing best for Carson & Roberts?
JR: Carson & Roberts is split into two distinct, but complementary divisions: site and underground. Fortunately, both divisions are performing well. Having two divisions provides us with a level of diversification to help minimize market volatility.
BCNE: How do you secure new projects?
JR: We continually seek out new projects to bid that suit our skill set and size. We are a full-service site construction company, and we self-perform earthwork, utility work, concrete work, paving, jack/boring and horizontal directional drilling. This allows us to bid many projects in the marketplace. Once we are awarded a contract, we fully staff the project with on-site project managers and site superintendents. We have found that the additional cost to provide on-site management more than pays for itself in the way of increased efficiency and expediting schedules. It also provides the added benefit of continual monitoring and better control of our projects.
BCNE: How do you view the Northeast construction market today?
JR: Clearly, the Northeast construction market has slowed and there is less work to go around. In past markets, developers, owners, general contractors and construction managers would have numerous projects for us to bid and we could be much more selective as to which projects we decided to pursue. Today, although we remain selective, we must expend more effort to continually develop more opportunities. BCNE: What issues does a contractor face in the Northeast aside from competition? JR: Fluctuations in material costs can be challenging. From ductile iron pipe to asphalt, materials can be very volatile. We try to minimize this risk by linking our contracts to published material indices. If these commodities fluctuate, generally a client will understand and be willing to provide additional compensation, likewise if these indices lower, clients would see a credit. Another issue is the additional regulations and permitting requirements. Dealing with these issues takes considerably more time than in the past. It seems now owners and engineers have shifted some of the approval/permitting process onto the contractor. We responded by putting project administrators in place to deal with these items along with any other coordination issues.
BCNE: Are you exploring or employing any new technologies or design methods?
JR: We created our underground division to serve the jack/bore and horizontal directional drill markets. This has provided us with a new source of revenue and it continues to grow as the consulting and design engineers become more familiar with this technology.
BCNE: Describe your involvement with the West Point Motor Pool Relocation Project.
JR: The West Point Motor Pool Relocation Project is being performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the West Point Military Academy. The existing motor pool – located on the campus – is being relocated to off-site. Suffolk Construction is the construction manager/general contractor. We were awarded the project in August 2009. The 30-acre site is heavily wooded with steep rocky, terrain. Our scope includes:
We have teamed with several contractors to help successfully complete this project. We are approximately 90 percent complete with the earthwork phase of the project. The remaining work, which consists of utility installation, curbing and paving, will continue through the winter, and the project is expected to be complete by May of 2010.