Building Relationships

CFI Mechanical

CFI Mechanical, Inc. provides high quality management and labor services to the construction industry with its exceptional mechanical and plumbing systems. The company has been in the business for twenty-one years with a service division that began eight years ago.
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CFI has the capacity to design, engineer and install various plumbing, mechanical piping and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) systems for commercial and some industrial customers in the private and public markets. It works with hospitals, research labs, office buildings, schools and college campuses, having done some work on almost every college and school district in the greater Houston area.

April of 1996 marks the date that CFI Mechanical was established in Sugar Land, Texas by Chuck Fell. CFI started when another company walked away from the Houston area and left the plumbing and mechanical market open for a new, motivated business to arise. Chuck was joined by some of the talented people he had previously mentored, and CFI stepped in to fill the gap.

The goal in establishing CFI was to bring a higher level of quality and efficiency to the market, and although CFI began as a relatively small company, it has grown significantly ever since. The company’s one location in Houston now has approximately one hundred and eighty employees. It has developed a reputation for effective management of the details surrounding installations in different sectors of the public and private markets.

Chuck Fell is the president of CFI Mechanical, and in 2014 and 2015 was also the president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), which is a title that changes annually. The MCAA assists companies that work with HVACR, plumbing, piping and mechanical services by providing members with specific educational materials and programs. The purpose is to help members and companies achieve the highest level of expertise in management and technical skills. As a past president, Chuck continues to attend functions and still serves as a Past President.

The MCAA includes the Mechanical Service Contractors of America, the Plumbing Contractors of America, the Manufacturer/Supplier Council, the Mechanical Contracting Education and Research Foundation and the National Certified Pipe Welding Bureau. This proud union company takes advantage of its close relationship with the MCAA.

“We use the MCAA as a 2,600 member association, of which CFI is one member,” says Chuck Fell. “It provides educational material to the entire staff here in the office and in the field – anything from safety to project management, quality control and other issues that pertain to our industry.” The tools and resources provided by the MCAA expertly assist the ongoing growth and development of the company.

CFI has grown significantly in the last three to four years due to some substantial projects it has taken on. “In the year 2016 and early 2017, our résumé had 191 stories of towers. That included a forty-story apartment complex, a thirty-story Marriott Marquis Hotel and a twenty-seven story condominium tower, and the rest were office facilities,” explains Chuck. The company regularly works with apartments, condominiums and office towers for new construction and it also takes care of its existing clients around Houston. It has built a fairly large database of repeat customers in town. “It’s nice to know that I have a good team that takes care of its customers and that we get repeat business from it.”

In the construction industry, safety is the number one priority for the employee and the company. And in Houston, there are many companies in the oil and gas business where safety is especially critical. Employees receive recognition and praise for a good safety record equally as often as they do for quality work.

“It’s kind of impressive here in the last ten years, how this market has come around to judging you on your safety before the bottom dollar,” says Chuck. In 2012, CFI Mechanical was recognized for its commendable safety record at the MCAA/CNA Safety Awards. The safety atmosphere at CFI is an essential component of this exemplary record.

CFI Mechanical is known for taking care of its people, most of the staff are as close as family, “People don’t feel like they are a number here. They feel like they are working for a company that cares for them,” says Chuck. This philosophy encourages the customer-centric approach that CFI has. Employees are taught that the relationship with the client is more important to preserve than any financial profit. The company combines its unique customer service with excellent technical support when maintaining plumbing and mechanical systems for its clients.

Chuck Fell enjoys encountering each project’s individual challenges and finding a solution through collaboration with his employees. The business can be stressful, yet CFI makes sure its employees stay motivated and focused during any demanding or complicated situation.

Chuck has many other accomplishments of which to be proud. For instance, he was awarded the Joseph Kneidinger Green Contractor of the Year Award in 2012 for promoting green education and research in the field. The company strives to practice environmentally-friendly building practices to contribute to sustainability and offers complete design-build packages, allowing architects and builders to work collaboratively on projects to finish the project more quickly and for less than usual.

The challenge for CFI Mechanical is the same as any other company in the industry: finding skilled labor with today’s aging skilled workforce. Even though it is a union-based company, it is not immune to the effects of the limited labor pool. The mechanical and plumbing trades are very skilled technical trades that require trained technicians who understand how everything works. The entire industry is paying attention to and attempting to address the issue.

CFI carefully chooses with whom it works, ensuring that its partnership with the client is a good match. The company is proud of its steady growth and its repeat business with the clientele that has helped it achieve such success. The school market in Houston, for instance, is often contacting CFI with more business to attend to, and CFI is honored to be chosen. It has developed a reputation with the school districts because of the level of work it can do on large, complicated buildings.

The company uses innovative concepts such as prefabrication to help with safety, quality control and keeping schedules on time. This technique is also helpful because it does not require the installer to be as technically qualified since the product has already been assembled and simply needs to be put into place. This helps the general contractor with the schedule and speeds testing processes.

Two-thirds of the work that comes to CFI is through hard bid contracts, and the rest is through repeat business or local referrals. Among its many significant projects are the research laboratory for the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, the Belfiore Condominiums, which is the most prestigious condo in the posh Galleria area of Houston and a forty-story apartment complex downtown that is the highest in all of Houston. This apartment building features an extended, death-defying pool on the top floor that hangs over the street, above pedestrians. Another project that CFI is proud of is its maintenance work with the Houston Astros, who just won the World Series.

The vision for the future of CFI Mechanical, Inc. has not changed in twenty-one years. It will still focus on steady growth, and take special care of the clients with which it has a history, since repeat business is a key factor in its success. This strategy has thoroughly paid off for CFI in the past, and it is not one that is likely to change, no matter how large the company grows.

Industry Changemakers

The construction industry has historically been slow to evolve, drawn to tradition over technology. As the industry is in a state of rapid innovation and advancement, organizations like the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) are working tirelessly to build strong member businesses that won’t fall behind.

June 17, 2019, 11:53 PM EDT