Torcon Named Region's Contractor of the Year
With 48 years in construction, Torcon is a strong player in the tristate region with a track record of going after highly complex projects in R&D and health care. The family-run firm has had to square off against much larger companies to win work in its own backyard, and it has held strong through the recession. Tallying $294 million in regional revenue in 2012, Torcon expects to increase that to $360 million by year-end. The company expects its global revenue to grow to more than $500 million.
The firm owes some of its success to expanding into the public sector during the downturn. One of its major wins was a $190-million contract for the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) II project, completed last year, at the Dept. of Energy-funded Brookhaven National Laboratory complex in Upton, N.Y. In light of its achievements, the regional editors of Engineering News-Record named Torcon the tristate region's 2013 Contractor of the Year.
At Torcon's Red Bank, N.J., headquarters, brothers and co-presidents Joe Torcivia and Ben Torcivia Jr., share lead executive duties and aim to ensure that clients always have access to a company principal.
"We are a bit of a unique choice for a client looking to build a large and a sophisticated project because we're not like a large national company," Joe says. "The client can pick up the phone and get an answer directly from a principal."
They credit that strategy as well as a reputation for taking on complex projects that started with their father, the late Ben Sr., with helping the firm maintain a steady pipeline of work. Much of the firm's technical expertise has been honed on past projects with such pharmaceutical clients as Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb. In recent years, the company has found opportunities in health care and higher education. Last year it completed St. Joseph's Medical Center's $130-million Critical Care Building and parking structure in Paterson, N.J.
About three-quarters of Torcon's work is from repeat customers. These include Saint Peters College in Jersey City, which opened a new 88,000-sq-ft Student Center that Torcon built (ENR New York 10/8/12 p. 23).
"In the office, we have a picture of our dad at a ribbon-cutting at Saint Peters when we were 8 and 10 years old," Joe says. "Forty years later, we've done a half-dozen projects for them." Saint Peters, he says, reflects his father's philosophy of "doing the right thing by the client."
That reputation has helped to win other clients as well, including The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., which has worked with Torcon for 17 years. Maria Mediago, vice president of facilities management at The Valley Hospital, says Torcon gets high marks for being aggressive about infection controls, keeping sites clean and maintaining high standards for safety. Moreover, she says the Torcon team works seamlessly with facilities staff and clinicians. "I see them as Valley employees because they work so well with my team," she says. "They are part of our family."
The firm has also entered new markets in recent years. Several years ago, it launched the Torcon Management Services group to help execute more small projects and the Energy Services group to help clients pursue sustainable energy solutions.
When the recession set in and private projects went on hold, Torcon made a big move into public projects. Leveraging its high-tech background, the company has targeted complex R&D projects, including the NSLS II project. The 278,000-sq-ft facility, which will cost $912 million when fully outfitted with equipment, is a ring-shaped building that allows electrons to travel around a circular tunnel. The 3-billion-electron-volts facility is designed to deliver world-leading intensity and brightness, producing X-rays more than 10,000 times brighter than Brookhaven's existing NSLS.
Given the precise needs of such a facility, meeting tight tolerances was critical. The project demanded 40,000 cu yd of high-density concrete, nearly 70% denser than conventional concrete, with iron used as a primary aggregate. Walls ranging from 1.5 to 2 ft thick had to be poured carefully to keep aggregate from sinking to the bottom. Precise windows had to be constructed through the walls, so Torcon specified using metal forms rather than wood to reduce tolerance issues. Although not specified in its contract, the company created numerous mock-ups for the concrete walls and X-rayed them to ensure quality.
Torcon and the client also had to work out considerable phasing challenges. Although it had a 34-month schedule, portions of the facility had to be delivered on eight dates, starting at 19 months into construction.
Torcon also put its safety expertise to the test at Brookhaven. For two decades, the firm has based its safety program around OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), and to date, it has earned an industry-leading 22 VPP Stars. For the Brookhaven project, Torcon faced stringent DOE-mandated safety requirements, and the firm was concerned that the local work force would be challenged to meet them, says Rick Estrin, Torcon senior vice president and project executive at Brookhaven.
The work force had "a low level of safety preparedness," he says. "We had to work really hard with the subs to train workers and oversee them in order to meet our goals for safety and [owner] expectations." The project earned $500,000 in bonuses for safety performance, nearly all of which was distributed back to the workers.
After securing work at Brookhaven, the firm won other big public-sector jobs. Torcon is part of a joint venture with Manhattan Construction on a $500-million bio-containment lab for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. That project is set for completion in late 2014.
With private-sector work improving, Torcon expects revenue to rebound in the near future. As a major construction management firm in Puerto Rico, the firm has grown thanks to its pharmaceutical clients, and it is eyeing further expansion in the tristate region as well as Philadelphia, where it has an office.
Growth aside, Ben says the company remains committed to staying connected with clients, just as his father would have wanted it. He adds, "We owe a lot to our dad, and we're just happy that we can maintain and grow that legacy in his memory."