A World-Class Perspective
At San Diego’s Central Valley Environmental, people mean more than profit
In its 2017 Safety Performance Report, the Associated Builders and Contractors affirms that the roadmap to world-class safety starts with leaders who “take a stand to challenge and transform the status quo to create a culture that is passionate in its belief that all [safety] incidents are preventable—a culture where safety is considered a moral obligation not just for leadership, but for all employees.”
In the business of cleaning up, removing, altering or destroying a building, the scope of work is ever-changing and inherently risky to workers. Fortunately, the leaders at CVE Contracting Group and CVE North Bay Contracting Group, Inc. strive to promote a world-class culture of safety, providing professional development, certification and high-level training opportunities so that employees can perform their job functions safely and efficiently. While safeguarding the lives of employees seems like a natural part of running a successful operation, these California-based companies are focused on an objective that’s much more meaningful—taking care of people.
Building a Smashing Reputation
CVE Contracting Group, a licensed environmental and general engineering contractor based in Fresno, was founded in 2008 by CEO Tim Williamson. Back then, it was a two-man operation focused mostly on work in the government, insurance and commercial sectors. In just eight years, Tim’s company has experienced explosive growth; today, it has close to 200 employees spread across offices in Fresno, San Diego, Vernalis and Rohnert Park. Industries served include industrial, commercial, residential, education, fuel and oil supply and government and military.
Catering to clients throughout California, the firm’s fully trained and certified technicians deliver a superior customer service experience by using state-of-the-art equipment to tackle demolition, deconstruction, asbestos removal, lead abatement, hazardous materials removal, contaminated soil remediation and mold remediation. The company prides itself on providing safe, efficient and cost-effective project solutions while consistently maintaining scheduling and job continuity—from proposal through completion. It further reassures clients of its commitment to quality by offering emergency response services 24/7.
In 2011, Tim partnered with Glenn Accornero, a seasoned veteran in the abatement industry, to expand the company’s footprint in California’s building and environmental remediation markets. “I’d worked for other contractors in the abatement industry since 1989, and came to know Tim as a sub on many of his demolition projects,” says Glenn. In 2012, the business partners launched a new corporation—CVE North Bay Contracting Group, Inc., doing business as Central Valley Environmental (CVE), which Glenn leads as President. “Our company’s bread-and-butter projects consist primarily of insurance work—residential, commercial, water and fire emergency services—as well as asbestos work,” Glenn adds.
Central Valley Environmental’s San Diego division has a staff around 50 and is overseen by General Manager Jason Barbato, who joined the team in 2016, drawn by the company’s compelling culture and leadership.
“I’m a big believer in developing people,” says Jason, whose 20-year career in corporate sales gives him unique insight into cultivating his staff’s potential and output. “Every day here there’s a lot of human interaction, which I absolutely love. There’s great satisfaction in seeing people grow, mature and take the next steps in their careers.”
Exceeding Expectations with Explosive Talent
In the San Diego region, many of the company’s largest projects consist of providing environmental, demolition and deconstruction services to owners of apartments and buildings in the hospitality sector, as well as abatement work in other sectors.
“One of our flagship projects is the Paradise Point Resort & Spa,” Jason says. “Last May we started a year-long job performing selective interior demolition and abatement work on 471 villas.” Located just minutes from downtown San Diego on a 4,600-acre island called Mission Bay, this destination vacation spot features tropical gardens and lush lagoons, a full-service marina, an award-winning spa and other recreational options and amenities.
Another recent signature project is Vista Terrace Hills Apartments in San Ysidro, a community located south of San Diego and immediately north of the U.S.-Mexico border. This complex apartment rehab took a year and a half to complete and required asbestos abatement and demolition work to take place while tenants were living inside the building. To minimize the disruption on tenants’ quality of life, workers’ activities were limited to an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule.
For the CVE team, developing appropriate processes for each job and maintaining a structured schedule are key to completing projects that meet or exceed clients’ expectations.
“We’ve got a sharp group of individuals working for us, and we provide them with the right processes, structure and equipment to be successful,” explains Jason. “There are lots of other subs on jobs, but the demolition and abatement guys are always the first ones on the scene. As such, our daily communication between the general contractor and other subs is essential. We make every effort to comprehensively understand project parameters because we know that the general contractor is relying on us to keep everyone and everything moving forward. In our line of work, it is critical to stay mindful of daily logistics—even down to hourly interactions—to ensure projects run smoothly.”
Glenn adds, “The environment is a big deal for us; we have to be extremely environmentally cautious in removing hazardous material. Whether it’s emergency services or planned renovations, we make an effort to move quickly and be thorough.”
Whether the work involves removing miles of large-diameter jet fuel lines for an oil refinery, or demolishing massive vacuum chambers for a hypersonic wind tunnel at a NASA research facility, or performing demolition on weekends to avoid impacting activities at an elementary school, or crushing concrete for re-use on a commercial site—CVE has the expertise to provide custom solutions that are sensitive to every client’s needs.
Jason affirms, “One of my mantras with clients is that you’ve got to trust me on the first call, and we’ll earn the second call. This is wholly based on our people’s performance. I give my team autonomy in the field, and they know I support their decisions on the job. In San Diego, where we often have anywhere from five to eight jobs running simultaneously, we have to trust our people in the field.”
Glenn concurs, adding, “We care about our clients and we take pride in the services we offer. It’s not all about making a buck; it’s about helping others to make sure their situations are taken care of correctly and promptly.”
Demolishing Dangers with Comprehensive Training
Demolition is considered one of the most construction dangerous jobs and is a field where fatal and non-fatal occupational injuries occur most frequently in the U.S., according to a peer-reviewed paper authored in 2017 by Hüseyin Ertaş and Ali Sayıl Erdoğan.
The top six most frequent demolition-related accidents include building collapses, falling from heights, being struck by falling objects or flying debris, machine accidents, electric shocks, and slipping/tripping/falling/stumbling. Together, these incidents account for 96 percent of all fatalities in demolition work, with building collapse being the chief cause of death.
There’s also no question that building and environmental remediation tasks have inherent risks, as workers must identify and dispose of asbestos, lead, radioactive waste and other hazardous materials, as well as clean up materials that are flammable, corrosive or toxic. As such, CVE has built a comprehensive training program and requires its technicians to maintain up-to-date certifications to stay abreast of industry changes and best practices.
“Whether it’s first aid, OSHA certifications, toolbox training, safety awareness—we train the heck out of our guys,” Jason says.
“We also employ state-of-the-art processes and equipment to augment safety and enhance project delivery,” Glenn explains. He points to examples such as dry ice blasting, an efficient and cost-effective way for technicians to remove lead paint and black mold. Also called dry ice cleaning, CO2 blasting or dry ice dusting, this method is similar to sand blasting where media is accelerated in a pressurized air stream to clean or prep surfaces. But instead of using hard, abrasive media to grind on a surface—which is potentially damaging—dry ice blasting uses compressed air to accelerate soft, dry ice “pellets” to a high velocity, creating mini explosions that lift underlying substrates in a manner that is non-abrasive, nonflammable and nonconductive. “This method also results in cleaner projects because the dry ice dissipates when it comes into contact with surfaces, so there are no secondary contaminants such as solvents or grit media to clean up,” Glenn says. “And because dry ice takes oxygen from the air, we protect our staff by installing engineering controls in confined spaces. Special training from the manufacturer is also necessary.”
Operating Like a Team
In his experience leading others, Jason says he’s found that being “a coach, not a cop” is the most effective way to connect with his team.
“If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you. The camaraderie here is really good. Our atmosphere is supportive through daily coaching, having positive interactions with others and acknowledging people at the start of every day,” Jason says.
In addition to an in-house safety awards program designed to recognize exemplary work performance, the company has various incentives to boost staff’s morale and solidarity. “We attend sporting events together and, recently, we did a clay pigeon trap shoot. Incentives like these serve to encourage our employees and instill confidence in the company through the idea that ‘we are in this together, we are one,’” he says.
According to Jason, a tightknit family-like atmosphere is one compelling reason people choose to work at the company. Another is a shared spirit of altruism.
Team members financially support and volunteer with a variety of local community programs, such as Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County and local high school sports programs. Last year, when nearly 9,000 wildfires ravaged the state of California, the staff passed out waters to first responders, volunteered their time and talents to help community members and made donations to the Salvation Army.
Whether it’s serving clients through innovative project solutions, investing in resources to properly train and safeguard staff, or selflessly taking care of their community, the leaders and staff at CVE Contracting Group and Central Valley Environmental are clearly passionate about people.