Mechanical Inc. offers contractors a full suite of mechanical contracting expertise.
By Jim Harris
Mechanical Inc.’s wide range of capabilities and focus on high-quality projects makes the company an ideal partner to general contractors and others.
“We are a full-service provider that can perform any mechanically related project including piping, plumbing, venting or controls,” says Peter Plapp, vice president of special projects for the Freeport, Ill.-based company. “We have the capabilities in-house to self-perform our work.”
The company’s expertise includes engineering, computer-aided design and building information modeling (CAD/BIM), building automation systems, fabrication and modularization, and facility management and service.
“We are adaptable and flexible to our customers’ needs,” Plapp says. “We’re a very large and structured company, but we’re not so rigid that we can’t adapt to what a project needs to be successful.
“Though profit and the bottom line are important, they’re not necessarily the be-all, end-all,” he adds. “Performance and customer satisfaction are what drives us. At the end of the day, we’re looking for repeat customers/satisfied customers and to build a good, quality product.”
The company’s ability to complete high-quality work has earned it a number of repeat clients. “We’re relationship driven; we think we have a strong relationship with major players in the Midwest market including general contractors and owners,” Plapp says. “We also value our vendor relationships and try to maintain and cultivate partnerships with vendors.”
Mechanical Inc. is part of The Helm Group, a family of privately owned companies offering construction and maintenance services in select U.S. markets. The Helm Group also includes a civil contracting firm, an industrial design company, a heavy equipment provider and a limestone aggregate supplier.
Mechanical Inc. works on a variety of projects including water and wastewater treatment plants, electrical plants, manufacturing and industrial facilities, schools and universities, healthcare facilities, aquatic centers and government buildings.
The company’s projects range in value from $5,000 to more than $60 million. “We can cover everything,” Plapp says.
Although most of its projects are in the Midwest, Mechanical Inc. occasionally works in other parts of the country. “With the right project, relationship and customer, we can travel,” he adds. As an example, Plapp notes the company recently started work on an aquatic center project in New Jersey as a result of its previous work with another company, Durr Mechanical.
Diversification across sectors has helped Mechanical Inc. adapt to changes in any of its individual markets. “We can adapt and adjust to changes and have the forethought to see where the market is going, as well as the internal resources to support where we need to go,” Plapp says, noting the company’s proficiency with CAD and 3-D building system modeling gives it the ability to work across diverse sectors.
The company’s project managers are capable of overseeing multiple projects. “We are not siloed,” he adds. “Our project team can oversee projects involving plumbing, piping, sheet metal or anything else. We have the flexibility and internal resources needed to run multiple projects with different aspects to them.”
Largest of its Kind
Mechanical Inc. is applying its expertise to a number of ongoing projects. The company was awarded a $44 million contract to install mechanical and plumbing systems in the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management’s new building in Evanston, Ill. The new building is slated to open later this year. The contractor is Power Construction.
The 415,000-square-foot building will house the university’s Ph.D. and Master of Business Administration programs as well as its business school. The facility is heated and cooled through a radiant panel system. The system – the largest of its kind in the United States – was manufactured in Germany and China. The building is targeting LEED Gold status.
Work is also slated to conclude this fall on a new 450,000-square-foot building for Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Lake Forest, Ill. The four-story building includes six interconnected towers. Mechanical Inc.’s contract on the project is valued at $15 million. Turner Construction is the general contractor on the project.
Mechanical Inc.’s scope includes providing labor, material, equipment, BIM coordination and supervision related to the hospital’s hydronic, steam and medical gas piping systems. This includes installing heat exchangers, pumps, large and small heating and cooling coils, drain piping and water treatment and glycol feed systems.
The company last year completed a 10,000-square-foot expansion to the hospital’s energy plant. The expansion houses a 3,150-ton chiller plant, a refurbished 1,600 boiler horsepower (BHP) steam boiler plant, electrical switchgear and a six-megawatt emergency power system.
Mechanical Inc’s $23.5 million contract on that project included installing three 1,050-ton chillers, a 400 BHP boiler, a 25,000-gallon underground fuel oil tank and underground transmission piping between the expansion and new hospital building. Mechanical Inc. was responsible for the design and overall construction of this project and worked directly with the hospital.
Mechanical Inc. is also working on a $14 million contract to install the mechanical system of the new Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill. The nine-story building includes a new chiller plant as well as 12 new courtrooms, prisoner holding cells and an underground tunnel connecting it to a jail facility and another building. Clark Construction is the contractor, and the building is slated for completion next year.
The mechanical contractor worked with a security contractor during the BIM phase to ensure security walls were properly prefabricated. The company also had to accommodate plumbing and control devices located in the walls.
Work is also underway on mechanical and electrical upgrades to the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System campus in Chicago. The company’s $6.2 million contract includes performing phased replacements to up to eight air-handling units. Exhaust fans, electrical distribution, lighting, fire alarms, sprinklers, heat recovery system components, piping and temperature control work is also being done.
Several projects recently completed by Mechanical Inc. also demonstrate the company’s acumen. The company in 2015 completed a $15 million mechanical and plumbing systems contract related to the construction of a new outpatient facility in Chicago for Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
Mechanical Inc. worked closely with general contractor Turner Construction as well as architect Smith Group Inc. and engineering firm KJWW-Braddick Young during the early planning stages of the project. “Our team added value in providing constructability, code compliance, BIM coordination and keeping the project within budget,” the company says. The project was awarded the Healthcare Facilities Symposium Distinction Award.
The company installed the facility’s complete mechanical package, including pipe, vent, medical gas and plumbing work. The 128,000-square-foot facility includes six new operating rooms with clean suite ceilings, pharmacy and radiology areas and a laboratory. Mechanical Inc. installed new chillers and heat exchangers, which are used to convert steam to heat water.
Last year, Mechanical Inc. completed a $3.1 million contract for contractor Henry Brothers at West Aurora High School in Aurora. The company removed existing ventilators, ductwork and piping to make way for a new geothermal water loop that connected to two geothermal fields.
The new geothermal loop connects to approximately 160 new heat pump unit ventilators in classrooms, storage rooms, above the ceiling and mounted on the roof. Two pumps were installed in a mechanical room located in a new addition to the school. Ductwork was also installed.
The project was fast-tracked, as it started the last day of school in May 2016 and the new system needed to be operational before the beginning of school in mid-August. The majority of the work was performing in the existing school, which meant the company needed to run duct and pipes around existing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, Mechanical Inc. notes.
Recent examples of Mechanical Inc.’s industrial sector work include a crude oil transfer station for Joliet Bulk Barge and Rail in Joliet, Ill. The station handles unloading, bulk storage and pipeline transmission to Chicago-area oil refineries.
The company’s $6 million contract entailed installing piping for the station’s central plant and rail unloading systems. “This project was installed during outdoor winter conditions to meet a very demanding deadline,” the company says. “Despite this, the base contract was completed ahead of schedule with no reportable injuries.” The project was completed in 2015.
‘A Good Place’
All of Mechanical Inc.’s projects are performed by a highly trained staff and with high safety standards in mind. Staff members go through internal training programs as well as supplemental training offered by the Chicago and national chapters of the Mechanical Contractors Association.
The company employs full-time staff members dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of its employees. Mechanical Inc. has earned a number of safety awards from the Mechanical Contractors Association and others for its safety program.
“Safety to us is a culture and behavior that is bred into us; it’s who we are,” Plapp says, noting the company’s experience modification rating is 0.49. “We do what we say, and our numbers prove that.”
Plapp credits the company’s internal culture with its overall success. “Mechanical Inc. is a best-destination employer – people want to come here to work, and they stay here,” he says. “We’ve created a culture and environment that is satisfying for employees; they feel valued and are allowed to grow, blossom and develop in a variety of directions.
“This truly is an employee-driven company from top to bottom,” he adds. “It’s just a good place to work.”
Mechanical Inc. works closely with high schools and colleges in its local markets to provide internship and training opportunities. This includes working with the ACE Mentor Program, which introduces students to careers in architecture, construction management, engineering and other disciplines. The company also has an employee who works with a high school computer aided design (CAD) program.
In addition, the company works closely with the United Way and local women and children’s shelters. “We believe strongly in giving back to the community,” Vice President of Special Projects Peter Plapp says.
Adapting to Needs
Maintaining market and project diversity is the goal of Mechanical Inc.’s launched special projects division. The division led by vice president Peter Plapp – a nine-year veteran of the company – targets smaller jobs.
“We want to focus more on the faster-track tenant improvement and direct-to-owner type of projects,” he says. “Right now, we’re really good at bigger and larger projects, which means we’re not as competitive on smaller, fast-track jobs. This is geared toward the needs of the customer, adapting to what their needs are and making changes as needed.”