Durr Mechanical’s reputation for quality work on mechanical systems carries it into new markets.
By Tim O’Connor
Safety is a priority on any job site, but Durr Mechanical strives to go beyond what is expected. Eight years ago, the company began a job hazard analysis (JHA) program. At the beginning of each shift, site workers were required to discuss their tasks for the day and evaluate the risks, difficulties and potential hazards.
The JHA ensured that every person understood the issues and was conscious of safety. “It wasn’t apparent at first, but it is very, very effective,” Thompson says. “The men buy into it, which is a big deal. If the men don’t buy into it, you’re wasting your time.”
Workers who first saw JHA as simply more paperwork have since come around and now see it as a useful tool, Thompson adds. The results are fewer on-site accidents and better safety procedures overall.
The JHA program culminated in industry recognition in 2012 when Engineering News-Record chose Durr Mechanical as the first-ever recipient of its Best Safety Award for a PSEG power plant project the company completed in Connecticut.
Durr Mechanical is a New York-based mechanical contractor specializing in combined and simple cycle power plants, water and wastewater treatment facilities. The company’s range of capabilities includes power and process piping, commercial HVAC systems, equipment erection and building information modeling (BIM). In some cases, Durr Mechanical even acts as the general contractor for a project.
Among its largest projects is the $3.2 billion Croton Water Filtration Plant, a New York Department of Environmental Protection project capable of treating 290 million gallons of water daily. After eight years of construction, the facility located under a golf driving range in the Bronx began operations in May. Durr Mechanical’s work on the water treatment plant, a $140 million contract, should be finished by the end of the year.
Beyond the Big Apple
Bob Durr Sr. and John Pecoraro started Durr Mechanical in 1985. Even as they grew older, the two founders continued coming into work every day until 2012, when they both turned 80 and decided to retire together. Today, Bob Durr’s children, President Ken Durr and Vice President Bob Durr Jr., operate the company.
During most of Durr Sr. and Pecoraro’s 27-year run, the company had enough business around New York City to keep it busy. But the city’s last power plant project was completed in Astoria, Queens, in 2008. Although some maintenance work remains, the need to continue working on major projects necessitated that Durr Mechanical expand its reach.
The company’s first excursion away from the Big Apple was in 2003 when energy producer PSEG, a longtime Durr Mechanical client, hired it to build a power plant in Albany, N.Y. “We had such a good experience there [in Albany] that we actually maintained an officer there for about nine years,” Thompson says.
Durr Mechanical continues to expand its footprint out of the New York City metropolitan area. The company has offices in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Long Island, N.Y., and it has pursued projects as far west as Ohio and south as Virginia. “We’re spreading our wings a little bit further north, south and west,” Thompson says.
It takes a lot of collaboration internally and externally to complete major projects such as the Croton Water Filtration Plant. Durr Mechanical employs about 70 managers to oversee those projects, but it relies on as many as 600 union workers when it comes to the actual installation within the facilities.
Thompson says Durr Mechanical has had success in working with local unions because it treats those workers with respect. “They’re our partners; they’re not our enemies,” he explains.
This collaborative approach matches how Durr Mechanical works with its customers. “You say you work for Durr and usually there is a smile on the client’s face,” Thompson says.
“A lot of our business is repeat business with clients we’ve had for many years,” he adds. “That has to say something.” He credits those long-term relationships to Durr Mechanical’s integrity. When working with the client, Thompson says the company is transparent and never tries to hide anything, even if it makes a mistake. “We’re known for doing quality work, [being] trustworthy, honest, and we don’t run away from issues or problems,” he says.
Durr Mechanical continues to add capabilities as it expands its market. For instance, the company formed a special services division this summer that performs maintenance work and handles smaller construction jobs, enabling it to cater to an entirely new group of customers.
Its internal capabilities are changing as well. After purchasing its new Pennsylvania offices in 2015, Durr Mechanical remodeled the building to establish a piping fabrication shop. The shop only produces material for Durr Mechanical’s own projects, but it allows the company to perform more efficiently and add more value for its clients.
Having that new capability supports the company’s plans for future growth. Durr Mechanical has bid on projects in Ohio and Maryland and Thompson says the company is open to further expansion. “You never know what’s going to happen,” he explains. “If you get a project [in a new market], you may just decide to open an office down there.”