CEO-Level Insight on Every Project
Every Eckman Construction client receives attention from senior leadership
At Eckman Construction (Eckman), the team takes pride in exhibiting professionalism and excellence in four key areas: safety, quality control, culture and collaboration. Started in 1974 in Bedford, New Hampshire, Eckman was founded by husband and wife team Hal and Amy Eckman. Originally, their focus was on building single-family homes. A decade later, when they brought on Project Managers Anthony “Tony” Spagnuolo and Mark Walsh, the company started pivoting away from building homes to focusing on commercial and multifamily projects.
In 2008, Tony and Mark purchased the company. Tony died in 2011 from cancer and Mark stepped into the role of CEO and President. He notes that Tony was so close with some clients that buildings were named in his honor on the campuses of Franklin Pierce University and Saint Anselm College.
Today, Mark continues to ensure that the company maintains high standards while being nimble in terms of responsiveness and cost. A small but mighty firm of 35-plus employees, Mark says that Eckman continues to “punch above its weight” and delivers outstanding projects with a New Hampshire focus.
Joining Mark on the leadership team is John Deloia, Vice President of Operations, and Preston Hunter, Vice President of Business Development. These senior leaders are focused on growing the reputation of the business by delivering positive results on high-profile commercial projects. Preston says, “The majority of our projects are education and multifamily housing. We have developed a highly regarded reputation for this kind of work.”
Home is Where the Heart (for Construction) Is
Eckman has been a leader in the institutional and multifamily construction markets for decades. In New Hampshire, the multifamily market has increased due to a housing shortage. Preston says, “Our team is on the cutting edge of trends in the design and construction of modern apartment buildings. We evaluate all major components of these buildings to maximize value, quality and return on investment for our clients. It’s important to focus on timely completion because these projects are in such high demand.”
There are a variety of types of multifamily housing, and Preston says that Eckman has a reputation for delivering them all extremely well. From market rate/luxury apartments to workforce/affordable housing, and from historic mill conversions to assisted living communities, Eckman’s portfolio is large.
Preston says the company is one of the preferred general contractors in the affordable housing community. “We are unique because, as a small firm we can be very competitive because we don’t have layer upon layer of management. We keep our overhead down so we can provide personalized, cost-effective service. But our employees are skilled at delivering very large projects, and we even offer a bonding capacity of up to $200 million in aggregate.”
Partners in Education
Education projects encompass nearly 50% of Eckman’s portfolio. “When performing construction on a college campus, it’s incredibly important to adhere to schedule. We never let our clients down,” Preston says. Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, exemplifies a long-term relationship forged through trust. “We are under construction on our 16th project right now,” he adds “This relationship goes back two decades. We’ve been fortunate to have a great owner and team. I can’t overstress how important subcontractors are for delivering successful projects.”
It doesn’t hurt that, after such a long history, Eckman thoroughly understands the client’s goals and overall vision. “That institutional knowledge we have is hard to replace.” Eckman is currently providing design-build services in partnership with Dennis Mires, PA, The Architects, on Saint Anselm College’s new Welcome Center. “This project is located at a gateway to the campus, and holding true to Saint Anselm’s vision is critical,” Preston adds.
Another education project that required a keen understanding of the client (and community) was Newmarket Junior-Senior High School. Newmarket has a population of approximately 9,000 and when a new, replacement school was suggested, the town was very uncomfortable. “The price tag of a new school was astronomical, creating a huge division in the town,” Preston says. “When a funding referendum for the new school failed, we were brought in along with a new design team the following year. Our thought was to find a cost-effective solution that worked.” And, although many said from the beginning that it was impossible to work with the existing school building, the Eckman team developed a phasing plan for renovations and additions that allowed for continued operations and a significantly reduced budget.
The community rallied around this plan, achieving a 74% voter approval for a $39 million bond. “This solution is a great example of how Eckman worked with stakeholders during preconstruction to find the right solution and ultimately achieve buy-in from the public,” Preston explains.
Collaboration is Key
Eckman digs into the details during a project’s design phase to help owners understand the building components. With three full-time cost estimators on staff, they can examine cost implications of different assemblies within buildings (e.g., alternative wall assemblies, floor-to-ceiling assemblies, facade treatment, mechanical/electrical/HVAC systems). “The idea is to vet those different components and provide the owner/design team with cost information they need to make informed decisions during the design process,” Preston says.
Partnering with architects on any project is primarily forged during preconstruction. “In 90% of our projects, our team is involved early in the design phase to help the architects avoid issues during construction,” he adds. “We want what’s best for the project. If you are part of a project team that shares this same view, you are going to realize efficiencies without compromising the design intent.”
Treating Subcontractors as Respected Partners
One of the largest challenges for any client embarking upon a construction project in New Hampshire (and nationwide) is finding enough skilled labor. Eckman’s team prides itself on treating its subconsultants equitably. Explaining what this means, Preston says, “Part of being treated fairly means having a realistic schedule and performance expectations. Bottom line is, we have to provide good planning, be proactive, set realistic schedules and involve our subconsultants in these decisions early on so there is shared ownership and accountability relating to performance expectations.”
Eckman is also willing to go above and beyond to enhance the skilled labor market. “We take the time to help subcontractors transition into new markets,” Preston says, “We provide a safe, clean, quality environment to everyone on our projects. In other words, our reputation in the field is, when you work for Eckman, you should expect a well-run, professional job site.”
Leaders in its Community
It is of utmost importance for Eckman’s leadership to know that their firm is contributing in a meaningful way to the local community. Outreach and volunteering provide a secondary benefit as a teamwork tool to encourage cross collaboration within the organization. The company mobilizes volunteers for Building on Hope, an organization which renovates a nonprofit facility every two years. Eckman also supports New Horizons, a food pantry and homeless shelter, the Granite United Way, and the New Hampshire Food Bank.
“Sometimes our employees can become siloed, so we try to emphasize collaboration. Whether we are helping sort food donations or working on renovating a shelter or a nonprofit, when we have different staff working together on a volunteer-based weekend project, we see the benefit both across the company and in the community,” Preston says.
Eckman employees know they will always have interesting projects to work on and they will always be challenged. “There’s much opportunity for professional and career development with lots of support from hands-on senior leaders,” Preston adds. When you combine this environment with a culture committed to supporting the community, it’s a recipe for continued success.