Structure Tech understands that speed in the superstructure paves the way for completing the rest of a project.
By Tim O’Connor
When Gerry Cormican and his partner, James Scully, founded Structure Tech NY as a foundation contractor in 2009 the country was still in height of a recession. It was a sharp lesson in keeping costs down, staying lean and creating alternative approaches, Cormican says. Both partners often filled multiple roles and were hands on with projects to ensure work was done on time and within budget. “You have to think outside the box and find different ways to get things done,” he adds.
Those early challenges meant that Structure Tech had the leadership and lean processes in place to expand quickly after the economic recession had passed. As the building market picked back up, Structure Tech filled the vacuum left by those competitors who didn’t survive the downturn.
The company began heading in a new direction in 2012 when it built its first superstructure building. “That gave us a platform to significantly increase the size of the company and we took it from there,” Scully says. Since then, Structure Tech has branched into superstructure concrete and masonry, allowing it to add crews and grow in size.
Structure Tech can now take a project from piling, excavation and foundation up to the topping out and masonry enclosure. At the same time they’re hoisting up brick, Structure Tech’s crews can be bringing down formwork. The ability to act as a total package provider makes the company appealing to general contractors, who want to minimize the number of subcontractors to ease coordination. “You’re squeezing a lot more output out of the same building footprint when one builder is doing it all,” Cormican says.
At any given time, Structure Tech has between 12 and 14 ongoing projects. Most of its work is in foundation and superstructures for high-rises in Midtown Manhattan, but the company also does multi-family apartments and low-income housing in New York City’s boroughs. “We feel that keeping a presence in the market for the multi-family, low-market stuff is good for us,” Cormican explains. “In recessionary times that work is still there for us.”
Although it has emerged from the cost-cutting years of the recession, Structure Tech still follows a lean model with strong owner involvement. “We’ve a very output-driven company,” Scully says.
When a problem arises on a project, owners don’t care about why it happened. They only want to know how it can be solved. Clients know Structure Tech for its ability to deliver projects and overcome challenges. The company often heads off issues before construction even begins. By investing in pre-construction shop drawings and project management, Structure Tech resolves inconsistencies in project documentation and plans months ahead of ground breaking, leading to smoother construction. When issues do arise in the field, it strives to quickly identify multiple solutions to keep work moving. Further, Cormican, Scully and their project managers all make themselves available for meetings, conference calls or whatever is necessary to resolve the problem.
Clients keep coming back to Structure Tech because of the trust it has earned over the last seven years. The company works for nearly all of the major general contractors in the New York City market, including Lettire Construction, Bravo Builders, T.G. Nickel & Associates, Monadnock Construction, Triton Construction, Newline Construction, ZDG LLC, Gilbane Building Co., L+M Builders Group, Time Square Construction and CM & Associates.
Those general contractors have enlisted Structure Tech to work on many high profile projects in and around the city, including the Marriott in Long Island City. The hotel features two facades made of architectural concrete, which was installed as part of the superstructure installation by Structure Tech. Additionally, the company was responsible for the drilling, excavation and foundation for the project.
For L+M’s Essex Crossing project, part of a 1.9 million square foot development on Manhattans Lower East Side by Delancey Street Associates, Structure Tech was responsible for the 21,500 square foot foundation and 16-floor superstructure of Building Six. Foundation work began in February and was topped-out by August, earning the company recognition for speed and quality.
The New York City market is especially competitive. High land values mean slimmer margins for developers. Whether a developer makes a profit on their investment often hinges on being able to turn a building around quickly. Speed is critical in building the superstructure, Cormican says. The faster the bones of the building are completed, the sooner work can begin on the mechanical systems and filling out the interior. “It’s very easy to measure success on these jobs in that if we deliver a project on time everybody is a winner,” he explains. “We look good, they look good and we all move on to the next one.”
Structure Tech is organized around its three units: foundation, superstructure and masonry. Each of those areas is managed by people that were promoted from within the company’s ranks. Cormican believes elevating employees into leadership positions ensures those managers understand Structure Tech’s mentality and ethos, and keeps everyone’s interest aligned. “We try to act in the same way and push toward the same goals,” he says.
The company doesn’t have a formalized training structure. Rather, it identifies where the up and coming talent is and gets those employees involved in smaller projects at the management level. From there, Structure Tech mentors its workers and steers them in the right direction.
Finding those employees is the hardest part. Builders in the New York market have been competing for the same pool of skilled labor for the past several years. This has made it difficult to secure the necessary number of crews for Structure Tech’s workload. The company has coped by stepping up its recruiting efforts and hiring more workers from outside the New York City area.
A secure labor force is important to Structure Tech’s ability to maintain its standing in its market. It’s also a symbol of the company’s growth since its founding in 2009. “We’ve taken a small group of workers in our earlier years and pushed it to a size where we’re handling some of the largest private commercial work in New York City,” Scully says..
Today, Structure Tech is focusing less on further expanding its market and more on refining its process and procedures. Cormican’s goal is to teach people at all levels of the company to adapt to challenges and solve problems without needed to escalate them to higher levels of management.
“We’re happy with the position we occupy in the market right now,” he says. “And even though it’s a broad spectrum of work, a lot of the processes are getting repeated. The focus right now is having the mid-level management of the company more focused and able to use the experienced they gained over the past couple of years.”