From Levi's Stadium for the San Francisco 49ers in the north to Dodger Stadium's renovation in the south, ACCO Engineered Systems has become known throughout the California construction industry as a valued member of teams that build ultra-fast-track projects.

During the recession, ACCO made the seemingly contrarian decision to retain key employees and invest in its business. That allowed the Glendale-based firm to have expertise at the ready to tackle major projects that moved forward just as the economy took a turn for the better. As a result, ACCO's in-state 2012 revenue rose by more than 40%, to $622 million. This year, it is projecting a further gain.

The 79-year-old firm's mechanical, piping and controls expertise has garnered respect among the region's most-active general contractors. That reputation played a key role in ACCO's selection as ENR California's Specialty Contractor of the Year.

"ACCO is among the best organized subcontractors that we've worked with," says Bob Aylesworth, executive vice president of Hunt Construction Group's Irvine office. Early this year, Hunt wrapped up a $100-million renovation of Dodger Stadium in a tight time frame. "Their skill set was very well suited for the assignment," Aylesworth says.

ACCO brings a range of services to its projects, including engineering, cost analysis, constructibility reviews and life-cycle costing. "Depending on what the reception of the customer or the team is, the earlier we are in there, the higher the success rate for us because we can positively affect that project more," says Peter Narbonne, president and COO of ACCO's Southern California group.

As the mechanical engineer and contractor on Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, ACCO was quick to hit the field. It mobilized 125 engineers and field personnel to design and install 875,000 tons of sheet metal and miles of condenser and hot-water piping. The project team is using a hybrid integrated project delivery (IPD) method to design and build the stadium in less than two-and-a-half years from the February 2012 bid date.

The delivery method was particularly successful in scheduling and logistics, says Frank Nascimento, ACCO project executive. "The joint venture welcomed and looked for input from [ACCO] and all the trade subs, and the team came with enough ideas where that collaboration resulted in a plan that was able to get executed."

Speedy Recovery

The recession hit ACCO along with the rest of the U.S. industry. Narbonne says the firm became more selective in the work it pursued, avoiding marginal work driven solely by price. That strategy led to a decline in revenue.

When private-sector work dropped off, ACCO "had to retool ourselves to chase some of the public projects around the state and out of state in order to create that growth while the private sector rebounded," says Jeff Marrs, executive vice president for project groups.