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Tectonic Engineering ENGINEERING ACROSS THE BOARD

This New York-based firm provides engineernig services to a variety of industry sectors. An in-house materials testing lab ensures they will meet enviornmental and safety standards.


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CONSTRUCTION LEADERS TODAY

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TECTONIC by Rachel Goldberg

Tectonic Engineering has the vital, though sometimes invisible job of building and maintaining the infrastructure that supports and connects the entire country. They provide engineering services to public and private clients in transportation, public works, telecommunications, energy, water resources, land development, healthcare and education. Tectonic Engineering remains involved with these projects in a variety of capacities from design development through the construction phase. “We provide a soup-to-nuts service,” says CEO Donald Benvie. In the early stages of development, they work with clients to identify design concepts based on the particular project’s needs, costs, and technical specifications. They also help to develop specific plans and obtain approval from regulatory agencies. “Once the project’s been approved and the design is complete, our role will be to facilitate construction of the project by being available on a technical advisory basis to assist the developer, owner and contractor with technical oversight,” Benvie says. Tectonic is unique among engineering firms in having its own materials testing laboratory within the firm. Within that division, engineers oversee the testing of materials like soil, concrete, asphalt and steel to ensure that they will meet environmental and safety standards. Because Tectonic Engineers have strong construction engineering backgrounds, they can maintain a higher level of quality control than they would by working with an independent laboratory business. “Having that testing lab has given us the ability to bundle services, to transition beyond the design phase and into the construction phase,” Benvie says. Tectonic has shifted its focus in the past few years to concentrate increasingly on the construction engineering and inspection. Though they are still involved in design, Benvie says that there is now a greater need for oversight during the construction phase. For this reason, Tectonic is offering expanded construction engineering and inspection services to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. This change is due in large part to the struggling economy. With dwindling work available in the private sector, Tectonic Engineering, like many other firms, has been working more on government projects. 4 Construction Leaders Today


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1. Site preparation at Westchester’s Ridge Hill, Yonkers, NY. Photo courtesy of Tectonic Engineering. 2. Cavern Mining for New Grand Central Station, MTA East Side Access, New York, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Tectonic Engineering. Summer 2010 5


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Federal stimulus funds are mostly allocated to projects that are “shovelready,” and though public agencies may have in-house design staff, they tend to outsource construction and engineering services. Today about two-thirds of Tectonic’s business comes from the public sector. Tectonic Engineering has maintained a 10% growth rate and a heavy workload through the recession by providing vital maintenance and construction services for public infrastructure. They are currently engaged in upgrading transportation, water and energy facilities across the country. Much of America’s aging transportation infrastructure is in urgent need of renovation. The American Society of Civil Engineers last year gave the US infrastructure an overall grade of D. Less money is allocated to construction of public facilities today than in the past, and most roadways and bridges are now reaching the end of their lifespan. Outdated transportation systems can have significant effects on the economy, says Benvie. “For example, the amount of time commuters lose stuck in traffic

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3. Asphalt Compaction for the JFK Airport Runway Reconstruction, New York, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Tectonic Engineering. 4. Concrete Pour for the Reconstruction of 1-95 in Milford, Ct. Photo courtesy of Tectonic Engineering. 5. Installing Rock Reinforcement for New Grand Central Station, MTA East Side Access, New York, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Tectonic Engineering.

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jams has a big dollar value when you add it up,” he says. “That time spent in traffic is lost productivity.” Tectonic works on updating and expanding existing bridges, roadway and mass-transit systems to accommodate the increased traffic and bring them up to current standards. Several current projects in New York involve reconstruction on major public facilities. This spring, Tectonic has been working on widening the main runway at JFK airport. They are also involved in rebuilding the World Trade Center site. The East Side access project is a major commuter rail project that will connect the Long Island railroad to Grand Central Station with a new tunnel and underground station. “That involves mining and excavating solid rock 50 feet underneath the existing railroad facilities to build a new passenger station,” Benvie says. The most important new construction that Benvie says he hopes to see in the near future is a high-speed rail system connecting cities throughout the country, similar to the systems in Europe and Japan.

“It’s not a panacea for reducing our use of oil but, it’s one step among many we need to take as a country,” he says. Tectonic is also involved in working with developers of alternative energy facilities to explore other possibilities. A new rail system and changes to the existing one will take significant investment from the government, however, and increased pressure on tax revenue has governments at all levels cutting back. “The hope is that as we come out of the recession, private sector work will pick up again and the tax base will increase so the government will have money to spend on public works projects,” Benvie says. For now, Benvie says that Tectonic Engineering will continue to look for opportunities for growth and make sure they can stand by the quality of their work. “As an engineering company, there’s a public expectation that we deliver our work with integrity and credibility,” he says. “It’s one of the most important things in how we set our leadership.” CLT


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