Plumb House’s Corsair project will set itself apart with its amenities for tenants.
By Alan Dorich
Plumb House Inc. is not only in the business of building projects, but also relationships, Senior Project Manager Jeff Bergeron says. “We’re not a one-off-based contractor,” he says. “We look to earn repeat business.”
“That’s our No. 1 goal and our reward for doing the job,” he says, noting that approximately 80 percent of the company’s work consists of repeat business. This includes Corsair, its project for developer Post Road Residential in New Haven, Conn.
Corsair, he notes, consists of two buildings that will feature residential and retail space. Plumb House renovated a two-floor building that was built in the 1800s, Bergeron says.
The general contractor gutted the structure, but kept its shell. “Basically, we kept the interior wood floor system, sandblasted it and made it look really nice again,” he recalls.
Today, the building has three residential units on its upstairs level. “They’re unique in terms of their shape and layout,” he says, noting the bottom floor will consist of retail or more living units.
Next door, Plumb House is constructing a new building on a site where a Corsair plane propeller plant once stood. “That’s where the project gets its name,” he says, noting that the grade level changes throughout the building, from three to five levels.
Plumb House started on the Corsair project in December 2014 and plans to be finished by the end of October. This will mark the company’s second project with Post Road Residential, Bergeron says.
The first was The Batch Yard, a 328-unit loft rental building in Everett, Mass., that was made from the rehabilitation of a candy factory. Plumb House built 170 units spread through two podium-style buildings. “We have a great working relationship” with Post Road Residential, he says.
He also highlights the work of Beinfield Architecture PC on Corsair. “How the masonry work ties into the neighborhood on the project is fantastic,” Bergeron says, noting that the buildings will be located in a historic area with original masonry from the mid-1800s.
While the older building retained its original masonry shell, new masonry was installed in the second building so that it fit in with the rest of State Street. “The way the new construction ties into the surrounding properties looks really nice,” Bergeron says.
New Life from Old Materials
The Corsair project has incorporated many reclaimed materials, including the wood for its floors in the Amenity Space. Reclaimed furniture is utilized throughout the Amenity Space as well. “Post Road utilized a sub-contractor who had them manufactured from trees that had fallen around New Haven,” Bergeron says.
The project team also utilized materials that were already on the site. “Our project superintendent, Joe Marcin, who is a carpenter at heart, took some of the posts and beams from the property and made a sliding door out of them which is a feature in the Amenity Space,” he adds.
Plumb House also utilized limestone murals that were on the outside of the Corsair plant. “We took them and hung them up inside the” Amenity Space, he says. “They have plane propellers and World War [II] symbols on the front of them.”
Corsair’s Amenity Space will be set apart from other projects with features such as “a very unique art collection,” Bergeron says. “It’s not a traditional clubhouse.”
It also includes gathering areas, a bar, a library and a fitness area with a yoga room, treadmills and a cycling room. “Corsair has one of the best workout areas we’ve seen on a project,” he says.
Corsair’s approximately 18,000-square-foot courtyard also will set it apart, with an exterior pizza oven for celebrations and an area “our landscape architect calls ‘the forest,’ where there’s 200 trees inside this courtyard,” Bergeron says. “You feel disconnected from the city and in a different place.”
A Connecticut First
Corsair marks Plumb House’s first residential project in the state of Connecticut. “We build this product in Massachusetts all day long,” Bergeron says, noting that some of the company’s subcontractors followed it from its home state.
Plumb House also had to work with some new subs that are based in Connecticut. “It worked out really well,” he reports. “We met a lot of new subcontractors that we’ll be furthering our relationship with.”
The largest difficulties Plumb House encountered on the Corsair project were due to Mother Nature, Bergeron says. “The 2014-2015 winter was a challenge,” he recalls, noting that the company also coped with difficult soils.
“We had a lot of ground improvements before we could even start,” he recalls. The process involved managing multiple classifications of soils which limited re-use based on type. “A fairly extensive soil swapping program was introduced during the earthwork portion of the project. Other than that, it was pretty straight forward.”
A Quality Culture
Based in Milford, Mass., Plumb House specializes in wood frame and cast-in-place multifamily housing, such as new construction, rehabilitation and historic rehabilitation. In the past 38 years, the company has built more than 18,000 units.
Bergeron, who joined Plumb House 12 years ago, credits its success to the culture it developed with its employees. “We all work together as a group,” he says, noting that its team focuses on quality and safety.
“We work in a relationship-based, safe market,” he says. “Our No. 1 focus is worker safety, and our No. 2 focus is staying on budget and on time.”
Bergeron sees a strong future for Plumb House, which will continue to focus on multifamily projects. “That’s where our history has brought us,” he says.
But the company also plans to branch out. “I see us eventually diversifying into senior living, assisted living and student housing, which we have not completed as much as multifamily,” he says.
Production With Safety
Plumb House Inc. considers its people its most important asset, making safety its biggest responsibility. “Our goal is not production and safety,” it says. “It is production with safety.
“Our goal is to maximize protection of our employees and minimize losses for the company, both in financial and human costs,” the company says. “Safety and health are a shared responsibility, and the joint cooperation of employees and management in observance of our safety policy is vital to prevent accidents which cause personal injuries, property damage and interruption of work.”
Each Plumb House employee is trained to work safely and take ownership of the safety of themselves and their co-workers. “Compliance with safety requirements is a condition of employment,” it says.
“The results of our safety efforts affect not only the security of our workers and their families, but our overall success and competitive position in the construction marketplace,” it says. “’Safety first’ is not just a concept. It is a core value.”
Plumb House also has been a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Group since 2000. “It means that 27 member companies in our trade association have signed ‘joint and several’ agreements in a self-insured group,” it says.
“T.D. Insurance Inc. is the insurer and FutureComp is the third-party administrator that provides loss control and pays the bills,” Plumb House says. “Contractors Risk Management is the safety consultant for the group and provides jobsite inspections and safety training.”
Plumb House says it operates with a merit shop philosophy. “We have built our business by attracting, educating, training and promoting the best people in our trade, so that both they and our company can grow and prosper,” it says.
“Merit shop is the cornerstone of our business,” Plumb House continues. “The merit shop philosophy emphasizes a worker’s individual effort, ambition and achievement and uses merit as the basis for advancement within the company.”
According to Plumb House, the true worth of a company is determined by its employees’ safety, health, attitudes, skills and productivity. “Our employees have the opportunity to improve their careers through a bonus and promotion system that rewards individual and team achievements,” it says.
On Its Own
Plumb House employs a staff of more than 100 employees/workers who often self-perform much of its work. “We self-perform the critical trades of concrete/foundations, rough framing, roofing, siding, exterior trim, interior partitions and interior finish,” it says.
“Control of these trades affords an added measure of control over quality, scheduling, cost and safety,” Plumb House says. “In addition to construction services, we offer comprehensive design and value engineering capabilities, as well as assistance with permitting, zoning, financing and various city, state and federal requirements, such as affirmative action compliance and wage reporting.”
Plumb House’s past experience as a subcontractor gives it “a unique perspective, which enables us to help subcontractors formulate some of their programs, procedures and processes,” it says. “We have developed a strong rapport with a core of repeat subcontractors who specialize in housing.”
Plumb House says it achieves its clients’ goals through several methods, including providing an accurate, economical construction budget at the inception of the project, before plans are even developed. “We understand the budget has to be accurate on day one,” Preconstruction Manager David Erickson said in a statement.
“Our pricing includes 5 percent overhead and 3 percent fee,” he explained. “Since we focus solely on multi-residential work, we use our historical pricing to accurately price the job at inception even without plans.
“We will provide an estimate, assumptions and qualifications, outline specifications, alternates and allowances, and a basic schedule at this stage,” he continued. “Once the budget and scope are satisfactory, the process of designing to the budget begins.”
According to Erickson, Plumb House takes a full involvement in the design to protect the budget and the design intent of the project. “[We] participate in the weekly design meetings as ‘guardian of the budget,’” he said.
“[We] resolve constructability issues during pre-construction rather than during construction, to avoid adverse impacts on costs and schedule,” Erickson continued, noting that Plumb House also can recommend materials. “[We also] recommend engineers who have a track record of designing multi-residential projects to meet a budget.”
The company’s pre-construction services also include conducting meetings between subcontractors and engineers to go over plans. “This is particularly important for the civil, structural, plumbing, HVAC, fire protection and electrical trades,” he said. “Our in-house subcontractor expertise is a key component to [being] cost-effective.”
But the company does not charge for the services. “We prefer a handshake deal that awards us the construction contract if the budget is met,” he said.
Making it Work
Plumb House’s clients can be assured they are getting the best price, even if their project is not being put out to bid. “We have a long history of making our customers’ pro formas work,” David Erickson said.
“We work for most of the major multi-residential developers in New England,” he continued.
According to Erickson, the bid process can lead to adversarial relationships between customers and contractors. “To be competitive, a contractor must find a competitive edge over the other bidders, seeking loopholes in the documents to reduce his bid,” he explained.
“The process also incentivizes bidders to offer a low initial bid in the hope of future change orders,” he continued. “The public bid process in Massachusetts is an example of a perfect bid process that routinely returns the worst results: high-cost, low-quality, unqualified contractors who can’t get the jobs done properly.
“We don’t want to have a ‘low-bid relationship’ with our customers,” Erickson asserted. “We don’t bid because we don’t want to be in the position of taking advantage of our customers through loopholes and change order opportunities in the plans. We will furnish a complete proposal based on all the costs necessary to build the project.”
Based in Fairfield, Conn., Post Road Residential Inc. says it is a full-service multifamily developer. Founder Andrew Montelli started the company in 2011 and it concentrates on Class A, multifamily housing on the Interstate 95 corridor between Boston and New York City.
“Post Road Residential offers financial institutions and partners the in-house capabilities to manage all aspects of multifamily development,” it says, noting that its professionals have more than 85 years of experience in multifamily construction as well as the management and development industries.
“The team is currently managing or has completed the development of over 1,350 rental units, representing nearly $450 million in Class A rental housing,” it says, noting that it is selective as a developer.
“Our approach is unique and we sweat the details,” it says. “We realize that customers value thoughtful design that is absent in rental housing. From financing and design to construction and management, Post Road Residential works with the best professionals in the business.
“Our team is focused on delivering the best product and experience in every market,” Post Road says. “Our projects transform neighborhoods, add vibrancy to communities and will remain the standard to which neighboring developments will be measured.”
Designing the Exceptional
Based in South Norwalk, Conn., Beinfield Architecture PC says it is focused on solving architectural problems with environmentally sustainable solutions. “Our work is responsive and imaginative, modern yet respectful of tradition and context,” it says.
“As architects practicing in New England, our design is informed by vernacular traditions and the timeless and essential meanings found in the stark, simple, patterned forms of early New England architecture,” the company says. “It is an architecture of distilled images, which bridges between the distant past and the present, exploring varying degrees of abstraction along the way.
“Our design process embraces our client’s dreams, enabling them to be realized in built form,” Beinfield Architecture says. “We have had a long-term interest in the use of architecture as a tool for community building, and have received national recognition for that work.”
The company takes an alchemical approach to design as it strives “to transform the ordinary into the exceptional, and employing common materials towards uncommon ends,” it says. “It is an architecture firmly rooted in the lessons of the modern movement, but often clothed in contextual or cultural allusions.
“We use historical vernacular forms in search of meaningful symbols, imagery and experience,” the company continues. “To fuse contradictions we perceive as intrinsic to the American context and psyche, we manipulate and implement a wide range of architectural vocabulary.”
Because of this, Beinfield Architecture says, its work does not conform to a label. “It is neither excessively academic nor relentlessly rational,” it says. “Our images are intended to express a dreamlike yet familiar quality, where objects and scale may be slightly skewed and suggestively distorted.
“We combine conformist and subversive elements, engendering an interplay between order and upheaval,“ Beinfield Architecture says. “We endeavor to create primal, transcendent images that emerge from a collective consciousness, our shared mythical memories and recollections of our childhood.
“We do not confront the American landscape but rather build within it an architecture that acknowledges the complex connection of myths from which it has always been constructed,” it says. “Our architecture is grounded in both objective and subjective needs of our clients, giving birth to architectural concepts that celebrate the idiosyncratic potential of each project.”
Breathing New Life
Beinfield Architecture considers sustainability one of its core values. “We recycle, not just trash, but buildings too,” the company declares. “The historic preservation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings is a central focus of our practice.
“We have revitalized over a million square feet of previously abandoned buildings into uses such as museums, colleges, corporate headquarters and homes,” it says. “We take an alchemical approach to the revitalization of industrial buildings celebrating the raw character, textures and weathered patina of the original structure.
“We love the opportunity to breathe new life into derelict shells in ways that honor the history and speak of renewal,” Beinfield Architecture says. “Our award-winning design of a new wing of Stepping Stones Children’s Museum was the first LEED Gold building in the region that has as its mission to teach sustainability to the next generation.
“In 2015, we received top honors from The American Institute of Architects for the design of a zero energy home on the environmentally sensitive Connecticut coast that harnesses its energy from natural sources and has a very light footprint on the land,” it says.