Overaa Construction

A key reason why Overaa Construction has been in business for more than a century is because it abides by its values. The Richmond, Calif.-based contractor maintains its roots as hands-on craftsmen, which is evident in its ability to self-perform much of its work, including concrete. Although Overaa has evolved into a turnkey solutions provider, it remains old-fashioned where it matters the most. “We value blue-collar ethics,” President Christopher Manning asserts.

When the term “blue collar” developed a stigma for being tawdry or unsophisticated, the company contemplated changing the wording. But the truth is, “We’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves and dive into the work,” Manning admits. “It has rounded us out to be a true builder. It’s a great accomplishment when you can rise to the challenges and be successful. I think that’s the foundation of this company.”

Overaa was established in 1907 when Carl Overaa – a Norwegian immigrant and carpenter – vowed to help rebuild the San Francisco Bay area after the Great Earthquake of 1906. Today, his grandson, Jerry, leads Overaa Construction as CEO. Manning – a 25-year veteran of the company – recently was appointed president after Peter Kappelhoff retired in March.

Technical Expertise

Overaa is experienced in a variety of building sectors including commercial, education, parking structures, energy and power, healthcare, laboratory and technology, religious and cultural, water infrastructure, transportation, federal government and multifamily housing. “We have a large and diverse resume that qualifies us to go after a wide variety of projects in many of the different markets in California,” Manning states. 

In recent years, Overaa has exercised skill in negotiated, proposal-based delivery methods such as design/build and lease-leaseback. For instance, Overaa was the design/builder for the $22 million, LEED Silver-certified Advanced Light Source User Support Building in Berkeley, Calif., which was completed in October. The three-story, 31,000-square-foot building contains mechanical assembly, chemical and biology labs, conference rooms and offices. It serves as the support space for users of the existing Cyclotron Building, which houses the world’s first linear accelerator and booster for micro-science experimentation.  Overaa built the Cyclotron Building in the 1980s.

In September 2010, Overaa completed work on a $32 million recycled water plant in Richmond for East Bay Municipal Utility District and Chevron. Treated wastewater from a nearby wastewater plant flows through pipes to the recycled water plant where it is further treated and utilized to provide steam for Chevron’s refinery. Chevron’s decision to use recycled water saves 3.5 million gallons of fresh water per day for the community to use. “It is incredibly rewarding to work on these types of projects that benefit the environment and protect California’s natural resources,” Manning says.

Overaa would like to see its technical expertise implemented on more green technology projects, he adds. “We are very interested in alternative energy and have completed several such projects,” Manning notes. “We are proposing on a large solar project in Blythe, Calif. – in the desert – that will essentially use hundreds of mirrors focused at a water reservoir to create steam,” he describes. “We’re currently working on a project for East Bay MUD that uses methane gas from their sewage treatment plant to run a turbine generator to produce electricity they sell back to the grid.”

Culture of Safety

If an exceptional safety record separates the good contractors from the great, it is clear which category Overaa falls under. The company was one of few builders in California to participate in the Cal/OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program. This is a tremendous accomplishment when taken into consideration the fact that much of the work Overaa completes is self-performed, Manning points out. He says the company is pleased to work with Cal/OSHA and takes great pride in raising the industry bar on safety.

Safety is instilled in every aspect of Overaa’s corporate culture. “It starts with a culture that understands the importance of safety and what that means to the bottom line of the company,” Manning explains. “It means keeping an eye on your fellow worker to make sure he comes home as healthy as he came to work that day. If you don’t have it at the grass roots level, it’s hard to achieve safety excellence. If there is not some context of safety where rubber meets the road or where the hammer hits the nail, I don’t think it will work throughout the rest of the organization.”

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