Safety Above All
New England Yankee Construction handles critical demo and remediation jobs with care
New England Yankee Construction, LLC is the company you want helping you when a structure needs to be safely brought down and removed. Its experienced demolition crews are skilled at both selective and full demolition services.
It’s also the company you need on your side if you have a building or land that’s been declared unusable or unsafe because of chemical or biological contamination. These workers have the expertise to perform required restoration or cleanup activities to make the property safe and suitable for use.
Chris Godek founded the environmental and demolition contracting firm with Gary Lane in 1997, and Chris acquired full ownership in 2000. With 65 full-time and 20 part-time employees, the company based in West Haven, Connecticut, serves clients throughout New England.
“In our early days, we were mainly performing asbestos and lead abatement work. Then, through the years, we realized we needed to offer more services in order to truly meet our clients’ needs. So, we branched into full demolition, selective demolition, storage tank removal and contaminated soil cleanup,” Chris explains.
Planning Is Vital
When imagining a demolition project, one often thinks of a building implosion or heavy equipment clawing away at a structure, resulting in a lot of noise and dust. While the image is partly accurate, there is so much more involved when a skilled demolition team performs its work.
Chris says the company handles many other critical tasks related to bringing a structure down safely. This involves developing a site-specific safety and work plan, ensuring asbestos abatement is performed properly, removing hazardous or regulated materials, obtaining permits, submitting necessary notifications, disconnecting utilities and cleaning up the site.
“We take the careful approach. We plan out every job by identifying the steps we’ll take and any potential hazards. Then, we put measures into place to help ensure those hazards are avoided. And once we start a job, we’re always alert to any new hazards that may crop up,” Chris adds.
He explains that safely performing environmental remediation work has been critical in his company’s ability to operate and grow.
“We pride ourselves on how safely we handle hazardous remediation work. What we do can involve the removal of asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls or lead, for example,” he says. “And just so everyone on our team is on the same page when we perform this type of work, we conduct regular training and always stress the importance of good communication with our teams.”
U.S. Naval Assignments
In 2011, New England Yankee Construction crews were given a short timeline to demolish residential housing structures on a U.S. Navy submarine base in Groton, Connecticut.
“The Navy wanted to reduce and replace some of its housing stock. Working through its residential property manager, we demolished, abated and restored 350 housing units,” Chris says. “In some cases, the now-empty sites were used to build new housing. In other cases, the sites were restored to grass with new sidewalks and curbs.”
“We fenced the sites, then conducted environmental remediation, such as asbestos abatement and storage tank and contaminated soil removal. After environmental remediation, we demolished certain structures and then restored the site,” he adds.
The project led to a similar Navy housing demolition and restoration assignment at Naval Station Newport. During the project, New England Yankee Construction was awarded an additional contract for the removal of 26 underground fuel storage tanks.
“What was challenging was the fact that we had to use ground-penetrating radar to identify underground utilities we needed to avoid while removing the tanks,” he says. “We feared that lots of stop-and-go work to avoid cutting into any utilities meant the project might fall behind schedule. However, through teamwork with our subcontractors, we were able to complete the project on time.”
Selective demolition may involve the removal of portions of a building or a floor if the building is being adapted for reuse or floors are being remodeled or renovated. And Chris reports that selective demolition accounts for the majority of New England Yankee Construction’s work.
One such job stands out because of the complexity in demolishing a 10,000-square-foot concrete vault inside a building being renovated for the future headquarters of Aurora Products, a company that packages and distributes all-natural dried fruits, trail mixes and other foods. The vault was an addition to the original structure.
“Our first challenge was demolishing the vault while keeping the building structure in place. We devised a plan to complete the project in a cost-effective way by shoring up the interior concrete beams of the vault and cutting the beams to separate them from the structural columns that needed to remain in place,” Chris says. “Then, we began demolishing the vault itself—progressing very deliberately and systematically—with a hydraulic hammer. Next, we processed the rebar for salvage and crushed the concrete on-site for use as fill material.”
In this example and in other demolitions, the company takes care of waste removal and construction site cleanup.
“Waste removal is an integral part of what we do. And, it’s an important part because we ensure that waste is taken to the proper facility for either disposal or recycling,” he adds.
New England Yankee Construction earned approximately $15 million in gross revenue in 2019. Chris anticipates gross revenue for 2020 will be a bit lower because of the financial impact of COVID-19.
National Demolition Association
Chris gives to the greater demolition community by serving as the current President of the National Demolition Association (NDA), the professional organization that supports nearly 500 U.S. companies engaged in a wide range of demolition activities. Members access the NDA for best safety practices, training, education and networking.
Now in the second year of his two-year term, Chris has worked closely with NDA members across the country to identify and share best practices for working safely during the pandemic.
He says, “Overall, we urge companies to stay in close contact with workers on the job sites, and we suggest companies modify their work approach by limiting the number of workers assigned to work teams.”
“Managers also need to listen to workers’ concerns and keep an open mind to their ideas. We should always be looking for the next piece of information or technology that can help keep our workers safer,” he continues.
Passion and Respect on the Job
Chris is proud of the passion his employees bring to their jobs.
“They’re a great group of employees who look for ways to give their all to the company to help make it better,” he explains. “They’re what keeps us able to perform well and get new jobs. And, I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve maintained a low turnover rate. Some of our people have been with us 20 years.”
Chris’ wife, Staci, also helps out by coordinating human resources and payroll duties. And their son Jack now works in the warehouse. Chris explains that his company’s culture is focused on demonstrating respect toward employees.
“Ours is not a pressure-cooker environment. We respect our people and their personal time. They know they can call me to discuss any issues they might have,” Chris says. “We value communication and collaboration because we’re a relationship company.”
He adds, “We also value our customer relationships. Customers know we’re going to get their jobs done right, and we’re proud that our workers are doing quality work.”
Chris says his team’s ability to build relationships with customers has helped him maintain his business, even in challenging times.
“Recently, when we performed demolition at a private school, the school’s administration asked if we would also perform the excavation work on campus in order to upgrade the infrastructure with natural gas,” he recalls. “The client said that our attention to detail, ability to keep the site clean and the fact that our crews treated the campus like it was their own were the primary reasons we got the extra assignment.”
“Yet, our greatest relationships are with our employees. We treat them as teammates and stakeholders,” he explains. “They are the reason New England Yankee Construction is here and continues to grow.”