Diversification Drive Keeps Webcor Healthy
Achieving a regional speed record for concrete work on the 605-ft-tall One Rincon Hill in seismic San Francisco. Managing the slippery slopes of the $488-million California Academy of Sciences to substantially complete the one-of-a-kind project on time in just over two years. Value engineering the structure of the over-budget San Francisco Public Utilities Commission headquarters, which resulted in construction of the nation's tallest seismically resilient post-tensioned concrete core that slashed more than $5 million off the cost. Diving into the first private-sector test at FLEXLAB—the world's first rotatable research "sandbox" for full-scale energy performance tests on building envelopes and energy systems.
These are just a few accomplishments that have established Webcor Builders as the go-to firm for daring owners looking for a contractor unafraid to join their forays into the unknown.
Webcor is "focused on bringing innovation to lower cost and shorten the project schedules," says Edgar Lopez, city architect and deputy director at the San Francisco Dept. of Public Works. "Webcor's staff is strategic in putting together schedules to optimize performance from their subcontractors and other key partners in ways that are not common in the industry."
The contractor also excels "at identifying project risks and recommending solutions to mitigate their impact on budget and schedule," he adds.
Founded in San Mateo in 1971—the same year that "Silicon Valley" was coined—Webcor lives by its corporate ethos of boldness, innovation and collaboration. The work ethic is more commonly associated with Silicon Valley's high-tech firms than with contractors.
"We grew up here in the tech world and we've always been a part of the innovation," says Jes Pedersen, president and CEO of Webcor, which relocated to San Francisco in 2011. "People who want to find a better way to do things are attracted to our company."
For many years, Webcor worked almost entirely in the private commercial and residential markets. Revenue peaked in 2007, but Webcor's fortunes fell along with the rest of the industry during the recession.
"We weren't really well-prepared for it," Pedersen says. "We've had to really retool ourselves into a lot more diversity in order to sustain ourselves."
Since the recession, Webcor has diversified its market areas. "We developed 11 different market sectors," each with a leader, says Len Vetrone, a senior vice president. New sectors include education, government and infrastructure.
Webcor has also deepened collaborations with other contractors and designers. The joint ventures helped the firm penetrate new market sectors quickly. "To try and do it organically would have taken years," says Vetrone.
The strategy helped boost last year's California revenue by nearly 15% to $821 million and helped the firm win multiple large-scale projects, such as the $1.59-billion Transbay Transit Center, the $690-million San Francisco General Hospital and the $500-million Moscone Convention Center expansion, all in San Francisco.