Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Power Engineering Construction Company

30 Years of Infrastructure Improvements

 

The company's "flexifloats," one of which is seen here with an excavator aboard in a shallow lagoon in Stinson Beach, California, are modular floating docks that can be combined to form a large work surface or staging area. Photo courtesy of Power Engineering Construction.

It doesn't happen every day but once in a while a client will invite a Power Engineering representative to lunch, especially after the completion of a successful job. It was a surprise, however, to arrive at a lunch after a recent project at Crissy Field in San Francisco and find Caltrans hosting more than 40 people to celebrate the project. The project was an outfall replacement in an environmentally sensitive construction site inside a National Park with numerous visitors and a rigorous timeline. Caltrans wanted to recognize the outstanding teamwork and success of the project and each individual stood up to share their satisfaction of the project and working together. So while lunch was nice, the accolades were quite touching. This is just one example of the respect Power Engineering has earned from clients working on big marine and heavy civil projects in California.

Early Days

Power Engineering Construction Company began in 1986. Britt Stitt had worked with Danny Reynolds for 14 years and Ken Lindberg for 5 when they decided to start an engineering and construction company together. The aspiration was to build a team that would accomplish quality work in an environment they enjoyed. "We just wanted to build and enjoy the people we built with," says Ken Lindberg. The company was born in a trailer on a small lot in Palo Alto and it was decided that Power Engineering Construction Co. would specialize in the construction and repair of marine and civil structures.

In 1986, it was basically the three of them and a skeleton crew. A typical day would find Britt busy beating the bushes for the next heavy engineering project while Ken and Danny were gearing up to crawl into a pipeline or up a cliff side to implement the solution. "We were doing small and unusual projects. Not profitable, but fun and interesting," says Danny Reynolds.

Work typically came from clients who had complex projects that other firms wouldn't consider and also knew Britt, Danny or Ken personally. One example would be forcemain replacement projects, which could involve diving in raw sewage pipelines. Another might be outfall work, such as projects they did off the California coast at Davenport and Santa Cruz. These offshore projects required work in surf zones while managing rip tides and breaking waves. In 1990 the Dumbarton Bridge needed 170 anodes installed in 100 feet of water. It seemed an impossible task, as two other companies had already attempted and failed. Installing anodes was typically a drilling job, but Power figured out that bringing pile-driving methods into play was the answer, and won the bid. "This was a really tough job," said the client, Jose Villalobos, a Consulting Engineer to Caltrans. "To be on the job with their crews is a thrill for the owner and engineer alike." Each of these projects presented the partners with an opportunity to demonstrate their ingenuity on complex engineering projects, helping them to establish a name for themselves.

It was this commitment to ingenuity and challenging projects that attracted David Mik to accept a full-time position as Project Engineer in 1992. David had worked for Power as an intern one summer rappelling off the ceiling at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View in order to make repairs. His engineering and marine background, coupled with his discipline and energy, made him a good fit and a tremendous asset to the team. In 1996 Britt was ready to retire and David Mik bought his shares to become an Owner.

In 1996, another challenging project came along- this time the job entailed the construction of four cofferdams in 20 feet of flowing water at the Veterans Bridge over the Sacramento River. After struggling to use conventional cofferdam methods as designed, Power redesigned the cofferdam using a method that eliminated pile driving all together, thereby allowing successful completion of the project ahead of schedule. Others in the industry subsequently adopted the new Power Engineering method.

Growth

The second decade likely started a little early when Power was given the opportunity to restore China Basin Wharf on the San Francisco waterfront after fire damage in 1994. It was one of the first wharf projects that required heavy-handed architectural and landscape features. At the completion of the project, the client, Ted Bumgardner of Gafcon, Inc., was pleased with the results. "Power met the demands of the wharf project by providing the unusual composite of heavy civil abilities and a detailed attention to architectural finishes," he said. "The result has been the accomplishment of a major engineering project that has become a key architectural feature in the waterfront environment. Power's creative engineering efforts resulted in a cost savings that made the completed project a reality."

Also in 1994, at the Chevron Long Wharf in Richmond, California, Power repaired piles under the tanker wharf. The Richmond terminal is one of the busiest oil terminals in the Western United States. Tom Farr, PE, at Chevron USA says, "Power's work has always been completed on time, without interruption to the facility, and with no environmental incidents." Power aggressively bids work at Chevron and has continued to perform maintenance construction on the Richmond Long Wharf since 1994. Currently the company is working on an exciting design-build project of a new $11 million fuel system and marine loading arm replacement on the Chevron Long Wharf.

Another client that has been with Power from the very beginning is SBSA, now known as SVCW (Silicon Valley Clean Water). In 1986 SBSA was sending Power most of their live influent (raw sewer) work. There have been many jobs over the years, most notably the outfall replacement project of 1994 and the current capital improvement projects at the SVCW treatment plant in Redwood City, California. The outfall project of 1994 replaced a segment of outfall with a 66-inch pipe. It was an active outfall that ran through bay wetlands. Using bracing in bay mud, a 235-foot by 17-foot sheet pile cofferdam was constructed over the existing outfall in order to do the work. For those unfamiliar, bay mud is a sticky, oily, clay-based mud similar to wet black tar.

Currently SVCW and Power are working closely on some major design-build projects at their treatment plant in Redwood City. Another satisfied customer, Teresa Herrera, Assistant Manager and Authority Engineer of SVCW says, "Power embodies the spirit of collaboration, creativity and cooperation. Power builds relationships with all of the project team members, resulting in a larger, cohesive team who work together to deliver the best possible project."

This year SVCW nominated Power Engineering for Contractor of the Year to the American Public Works Association (APWA), for their exceptional efforts on engineering-construction projects in the public works sector. Power is proud to have won and accepted this award with great honor.

Respect for Field Crews

The type of work Power takes on relies heavily on a skilled and dedicated work crew. The projects reach success only because of the people in the field. In a show of respect for the field crews, Power joined the Pile Driver's Union in 1997. This partnership demonstrated Power's willingness to provide a professional compensation and benefits package, while also providing the company access to a scalable skilled work force, and the ability to aggressively pursue larger projects with a concentration on water-related projects; piers, marinas, outfalls, and water treatment facilities.

Client Engagement

The strength of the union meant Power was prepared when the El Nino storms of 1998 hit and emergency repair work started coming in fast and furious. Coastal erosion and creek erosion projects were front and center, and the City of Pacifica and Power worked together frequently during this time on the restoration of seawalls, beaches, creeks, bridges and piers. In hindsight, the real defining benefit to Power Engineering of this era was the opportunity to work directly with owners, as the urgency of work superseded formalities. Design and construction were taking place simultaneously. Power gained an invaluable perspective of what is important to project owners. "We could now go into a big job, in which we didn't always have direct contact with the owner, with a better understanding of what owners are concerned with," said Ken Lindberg.

A couple of additional major projects in the late 1990's and early 2000's pushed the company to grow. One is the seismic upgrade of Pier 1 along The Embarcadero in San Francisco. This was a highly-visibly public venue in which an older pier was completely renovated and expanded, requiring, among other things, driving 4-foot diameter and 145-foot long steel piles and building a new concrete deck. Another was the 14-Mile Slough project in Stockton, CA. where much of Power's crew showed their mettle. This job required construction of both a levee and a pump station, with the primary challenge being dewatering the site in an environmentally sensitive area while excavating 42 feet below grade. Groundwater pumping lasted 9 months and reached a peak of 1 million gallons per day. The project won awards with the APWA and ASCE for its success in design and construction.

The Execution of Experience

With 20-years of experience under their belts, it was in the third decade that larger-scale, as well as design-build, projects really started to take hold at Power Engineering. From 2007 to 2010 the company was awarded a design-build contract for the Downtown Stockton Marina, reconstruction of Piers 15 & 17 for The Exploratorium Museum, and the design-build of South San Francisco Ferry Terminal.

The Downtown Stockton Marina started with 30 percent drawings, provided by the city, and Power moved it to 100 percent in less than four months. The project involved the removal of the existing marina and construction of all-new floating docks complete with utilities, tension fabric canopy structures, a new architectural promenade, new public art, and a new restroom building. The project earned an Award of Excellence from The City Planning Commission of Stockton, California.

The Exploratorium is a 330,000-square-foot museum at Piers 15 and 17 in San Francisco. These historic piers were built in phases over the past 100 years and needed to be seismically retrofit and renovated before the museum could utilize the stunning location. A large portion of the work was repairing 1,200 of the existing pilings – part of the museum most people will never see. Crews worked around the clock, while managing challenging tides and ferry traffic, to restore the piles. Pier upgrades also required extensive under-deck concrete repair, new deck construction, pedestrian bridges, and other heavy timber framing and decking.

The South San Francisco Ferry Landing project for WETA involved the design and construction of a new ferry terminal. In addition to leading the design team, Power Engineering also led construction, which included building a fixed concrete pier, and terrace, fabrication and installation of a structural steel canopy with a tension-fabric roof and the design and installation of all over-water utilities, as well as landside parking lot grading and improvements.

During this time a fourth partner was brought on board; Hilary Tigue. Hilary, who started as a Project Engineer in 2002, became an Owner in 2010. With a unique combination of exceptional critical thinking and people skills, she is an excellent addition to the leadership of Power Engineering Construction.

Something that has been slowly growing in the background of these projects is the accumulation of critical owned-equipment. This resource is a tremendous asset for cost and quality control, and has also offered Power the freedom to no longer be limited in regards to the size of jobs. Today Power has 73 exceptional employees and has incorporated a full-scale diving operation complete with commercial divers, a decompression chamber, and 4 barges including a new-build 100-ton derrick barge, D.B. Alameda.

Today

Power Engineering's owners (from left to right) are David Mik, Danny Reynolds, Ken Lindberg and Hilary Tigue. Photo courtesy of Power Engineering Construction.

Over the past 30 years, Power Engineering has been privileged to have worked on or under almost every pier on the San Francisco waterfront, been inside the belly of the entire Bay Area's public water system, involved in the upgrading of West Coast refineries such as Chevron, BP, and Phillips 66 and proudly built state-of-the-art marinas and ferry terminals. As Power moves forward, the company recognizes it is ever more imperative to acknowledge how it became successful.

"Our people – craft workers, managers, engineers, and staff – are the company," Company President David Mik notes. "They deliver on ever more challenging commitments and earn the accolades that keep the company healthy and allow its continued growth."

Mik notes that of Power's 75+ employees, 30 have been with the company for more than 10 years and many are at 20-plus years and counting. "Although potentially clichéd," he says, "it is with complete sincerity that we credit the entire company for 30 years of building exciting projects. We are a group of like-minded people who will never quit on each other and believe a life spent in pursuit of difficult-to-achieve goals is meaningful and rewarding."

 
 

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