In the construction game, there is building; and then there is relationship-building.
That is the strength of New England Yankee Construction LLC (NEYC), Wallingford, Conn., which prides itself on building rapport with potential clients from the ground up.
“I believe that one of the key components is relationship-building. We have built solid relationships with both customers and vendors,” said NEYC founder Christopher Godek. “These relationships have enabled us to weather some rough waters over the last few years.
“For example,” Godek continued, “While we were performing demolition at a private school, the administration asked if we would perform the excavation on campus to upgrade the infrastructure with natural gas. Our client said our attention to detail, keeping the site clean, and the care our crews took in treating the campus, like it was their own, was the deciding factor [in awarding the contract].”
Founded in 1997 by Godek, NEYC is entering its 16th year of operation. Today it is run and managed by Godek and his wife, Staci.
Godek started in the trade in 1990 as a laborer. He moved up through the ranks at various companies. In 1996, he was the manager of an environmental firm. Disenchanted with the lack of customer service in the construction market, Godek felt it was a good time to venture on his own. He set up shop in Wallingford, about 14 mi. north of New Haven.
“Luckily, the economy was chugging along, and helped with the company’s growth,” said Godek. “Our humble beginnings were mainly asbestos abatement and lead abatement work. Through the years, we realized, that to truly serve our customers, we needed to offer more services. We have branched into full demolition, selective demolition, tank removal and contaminated soil clean-up, to name a few.”
Those other “few” include site work, concrete foundations and repairs, structural shoring and shot blasting, along with a few wrinkles that can’t be described in a few words.
“Since our inception, we have continued to add services, based upon the requirements of our customers. By listening to the needs of our customers, we have been able to add services,” added Godek.
In its 16-year history, NEYC also has been involved in several noteworthy projects. Among them:
Groton, Conn. — Navy Northeast Housing
“We have performed turnkey work for Navy Northeast Housing. Due to the Navy’s desire to reduce and replace housing stock, working through their residential property manager we demolished, abated and restored 350 units,” said Godek. “In some cases, the now empty sites were used to build new housing. In some cases, the sites were restored to grass, with new sidewalks and curbs.
“Our firm would fence the sites, conduct environmental remediation, consisting of asbestos abatement, tank removal and contaminated soil removal,” he added. “The sites consisted of one to 20 units at a time. After environmental remediation, NEYC would perform the demolition of the respective structure, and then restore the site.”
Newport, R.I. — NAVSTA
Following its success with performing the Groton Housing project, the company was awarded the contract to perform the same scope of work in Newport, R.I. NEYC demolished and restored 65 housing units in three different Navy housing neighborhoods. This project required all work to be performed in active neighborhoods.
“During this project, we were awarded a contract for additional removal of 26 underground fuel storage tanks. This project in itself was not a difficult project. The difficulties of this project stemmed from the multitude of underground issues that presented themselves,” said Godek. “The entire site required [us] to perform ground-penetrating radar [GPR] to try and identify underground utilities.”
Even after extensive GPR work, utilities were still discovered, he added. Delays caused by multiple stop-and-go-work to avoid breaking any utilities caused the project to be in jeopardy of falling behind. Yet, with three weeks left on the schedule, NEYC had finished the underground work, and through teamwork with its subcontractors, was able to complete the project on time.
Hope Street JV —- Niantic, Conn.
“This project was the environmental remediation and demolition of the former Hermitage facility,” said Godek. “This project had an added degree of difficulty, in that it was situated adjacent to the town wellhead. All heavy equipment on site had to be refitted with non-toxic hydraulic fluid. This fluid is a vegetable-based fluid, and, if leaked, would not jeopardize the wellhead.”
In addition to the known environmental issues, additional environmental issues were uncovered weekly. NEYC’s commitment to the environment, customer satisfaction, and safety became the driving force that kept them on task.
“The project was completed, and was a great example of redevelopment. An environmental liability was turned into housing,” Godek added.
Chapel Street — New Haven, Conn.
This project consisted of demolishing a severely neglected building located in downtown New Haven. Water damage to the building was so severe that the city of New Haven condemned the structure and ordered it to be demolished. Due to this unsafe condition, it could not be accessed for proper environmental testing.
An Alternate Work practice was submitted to the state of Conn. Department of Public Health and approved to load out all debris from demolition as friable asbestos wastes.
The challenges on this project were the space constraints. The west side of the structure was 32 in. (81 cm) from its adjacent structure and the east side was 4 in. (10 cm) from its adjacent structure. NEYC had to obtain an obstruction permit to use the parking lane for removal of debris. All demolition was monitored by a licensed asbestos project monitor and — through use of pool water tankers — debris was kept adequately wet so as not to contaminate outside areas.
Upon completion of the demolition, NEYC received an e-mail from the city of New Haven’s demolition coordinator letting the company know they did a great job.
“Our commitment to customer service makes us stand out,” said Godek. “More than one customer has been heard to say, ’We only have to ask you guys once,’ or ’I don’t have to worry about New England getting it done.’”
The company is truly ’New England.’ It has performed work in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey and New York.
“We will travel anywhere for a good customer,” said Godek.
In the Vault
Sometimes, the company’s ability to cut costs makes customers beam. Other times, NEYC’s ability to cut beams make customers ecstatic.
“We were selected to perform the demolition of a 10,000-square foot concrete vault, by Aurora Products, at the home of their future headquarters. The vault portion of the building was constructed as an addition. The vault was built as an integrated portion of the building,” said Godek. “The first complexity of the project was demolishing the vault, while keeping the structure in place.
“When approached with the problem of how to get it done, [we] devised a plan to get the project completed via the most cost-effective method. To complete the project, we had to shore the interior concrete beams of the vault. Following this, we saw-cut the concrete beams to separate them from the structural columns that were slated to stay,” he added. “Then, the exterior wall of the building was removed to allow us to walk our equipment into the building.
“Once these preparations were completed, we began demolishing the vault itself,” Godek continued. “Due to the sensitive nature of the demolition we needed to progress in a very deliberate and systemized manner. We completed one bay at a time before proceeding forward and demolishing the next bay.”
His crew demolished the vault using a 5,000 Model G 80 Allied brand hydraulic hammer, mounted on a Volvo 290.
“We used a Genesis GXP 300 processor to process the rebar for salvage. The difficult parts of this phase of the project were the confined spaces in which we were working and the volume of materials produced,” said Godek.
The vault was constructed of 18-in. (46 cm) concrete walls and decks. All of it was tied together with five mats of 1-in. (2.5 cm) bar. All materials from this project were reused. The concrete was crushed on site and reused in the fills, and the rebar was sent out as salvage.
“Upon completion of the project we installed a temporary enclosure to the exterior of the building,” said Godek.
Brotherly Co-Workers for 10 Years
Godek cited the exemplary work of his crew, particularly a pair of brothers.
“Michael and Jason Hicks have been with the company since the early 2000s. Both started as laborers and have progressed within the organization. Mike is currently a field superintendent and Jason works in the office as a project manager/estimator,” he said.
“This year will mark my 10-year anniversary working here at New England Yankee Construction. I began working here when I was 18 years old, driving the box-truck and managing the warehouse,” said Jason Hicks. “Over the last 10 years, I have progressed through the various positions — from driver to laborer to site supervisor and now, I am a project manager and estimator.
“The working environment at NEYC feels more like we are a big family and not just a company,” added Hicks. “And this type of working environment reflects itself to the field. Every employee at NEYC takes pride in their work and strives to do better for the good of the ’family.’ ”
This year also will mark Mike Hicks’ 10-year anniversary. Mike Hicks has worked his way from a laborer to a site superintendent.
“Our reputation has spread due to word of mouth. Most of our calls for pricing come from clients that have heard of commitment to customer service and our dedication to our clients through previous or existing clients,” said Mike Hicks.
New England Yankee Construction is the company around Wallingford to go to for virtually all of your construction clean-up needs. Certain charities also have been “cleaned up,” as a result of the company’s ongoing commitment to help in their community.
“We have provided monetary support to quite a few charities; The Clifford Beers Clinic for one,” said Godek. “We have also supported children’s athletics through the years.
Christopher Godek currently serves on the National Demolition Association’s board of directors. The organization represents demolition contractors throughout the United States, and is proud to have international members as well.
In 2013, he assumed the role of environmental sub-committee chairman. In March, at the organization’s 40th Convention, he will be elected to the National Demolition Association’s Executive-Board. Godek will serve as treasurer, will continue through the executive-board positions and will eventually assume the role of the organization’s president.
For more information, visit www.newenglandyankeeconstruction.com or call 203-284-9972.
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