How Great Projects Begin
American Pile and Foundation
Celebrating five years in operation, American Pile and Foundation is a certified minority- business enterprise (MBE) and is quickly growing along the East Coast of the United States. From its headquarters in Somerville, New Jersey, it serves the Tri-State area and beyond.
American Pile and Foundation has come a long way since its founding to become a top pile driving and drilling specialty contractor with a wide range of deep foundation preparation and construction services.
Nelson Ferreira purchased the assets of a pile driving company when it was facing bankruptcy in February 2013 and started American Pile and Foundation (APF). He overhauled operations, focusing on business development and market strategy, and assembled a team of experts in the field.
In no time, Ferreira duplicated the level of success he has achieved with his other ventures. He owns Ferreira Construction Company, a long-standing entity and one of the Northeast’s leading contractors. He also has ownership in Valiant Energy Services LLC, Valiant Power Group LLC, and Vanguard Energy Partners, LLC, all affiliates of American Pile and Foundation.
President Gaby Antoun came on board in January 2016. The two were able to improve efficiency across the company’s estimating, engineering, operations and management processes to take the company from $15 to $30 million in sales to $80 million in sales per year.
Antoun acknowledged that the market is strong and American Pile and Foundation is poised to take full advantage of it. “We just go after the work, from government public work, to private work, to utility work. We cover three main markets, so the work is always there for us. If one slows down, the other picks up, and it keeps us working with a higher volume.”
American Pile and Foundation is served by more than market diversity; its strength also lies in the range of services it offers. Its specialties encompass design-build services for various disciplines; pile driving of pipe piles, H-piles, timber piles and concrete piles; drilling mini-piles; installing caissons, piers and shafts, sheeting and shoring; and foundation work for a variety of structures.
“We do a lot of support of excavation for deep foundations as well, which utilizes sheet piles, soldier piles, and/or tie-back and lagging as well as underpinning. So we offer a variety of options so that when a general contractor or a construction manager/owner solicits our services, we can cover all of it,” explained Antoun. This includes marine work as well. This versatility is a significant advantage for both American Pile and Foundation and its clients, as the work can be completed by one company, rather than relying on multiple subcontractors.
The company has made ongoing investments in its fleet and its people. Over one hundred tradespeople, a large staff of project management, an estimating group, and in-house design and engineering teams help create successful projects for American Pile. Its fleet of equipment includes specialized equipment inclusive of hydraulic pile driving rigs, low headroom drill rigs, conventional and hydraulic cranes, excavators, loaders and so much more.
“We have multiple ‘Junttan’ pile driving machines that we import from Europe. We have four large drilling machines. We have five larger cranes to assist our pile driving or drilling, and we have a variety of smaller pieces of equipment for micro-piles and tie-backs,” said Antoun.
“We’ve greatly increased our equipment fleet in the last two to three years, and for every machine, that’s an extra crew,” he added. “If we have fifteen machines out there, we can have fifteen crews working on different projects at the same time.”
In only five years, American Pile and Foundation has secured and completed many impressive projects. One such project is ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company to renovate existing facilities and build new research facilities in New Jersey.
“We’re doing about 150 drilled shafts. It’s a high-profile and accelerated project that the client needed complete in three months,” Antoun explained. “We started in the middle of October, and we should be done with the work in a week or two.” The project is right on schedule.
“We had about four crews with three drilling machines and a spare one to get the work done. Our crews are providing an extremely safe work environment which has also helped improve the project schedule. It’s about a $5 million project,” Antoun said.
American Pile and Foundation undertakes projects of various sizes and complexities. It played a crucial role in the replacement of a mass transit rail station in Harrison, New Jersey and completed a large caisson job on a $270 million project for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which required low headroom equipment and related expertise.
One of the primary reasons for its consistent success on high-profile projects is its safety program. Its safety record is a major source of pride for Antoun and rightfully so, as the company has an experience modification rating (EMR) of 0.776, which enables it to secure repeat work with clients.
“We cover a multitude of complicated work, especially in substations like PSE&G [Public Service Electric & Gas Co.] or Florida Power and Light (FPL), PPL Electric Utilities, and ConEdison, where we have to be extremely careful working around live, high-voltage facilities. So safety, to us, is primary,” explained Antoun.
“We have been doing very well with safety, and because of that, we treat safety on all other jobs within the private sector or other public agencies the same way that we treat safety if we were working on a utility substation,” Antoun said.
To complete projects safely and with the highest standard of quality, American Pile and Foundation emphasizes training. In fact, at the time of speaking with Antoun, more than twenty employees were undergoing safety retraining as the weather was less than ideal, proving that every moment counts.
While access to skilled labor has been a challenge for much of the construction industry, American Pile and Foundation is lucky to draw from a pool of unionized labor.
Employees hold numerous certifications including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10 and 30, as well as Hazwoper training. American Pile and Foundation is an approved installer of A.B. Chance Helical Pulldown Micropiles and Ideal Stelcor Piles, and its team of professional engineers are licensed in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California and D.C.
“We’ve been able to create a core group of people that work for us that are really company minded and who can train other employees that we solicit from the union halls. So as far as we’re concerned, our employees are our bread and butter. If we don’t have employees that know what they’re doing, we will not be successful on all the different projects that we work on because we rely on them to manage the work,” said Antoun.
Safety, quality, organization and professionalism are stressed, as employees are experts in the field and are expected to take leadership roles on a project. As American Pile and Foundation is usually the first on site, it needs to ensure it meets all project objectives with an impeccable attention to detail.
“We’re the first subcontractor on a job site, before anyone else starts, so all the concentration and all the eyes are on us to ensure that the job starts properly. We are normally the ones who set the tone of a project by being organized, clean and offering good quality and, of course, working in a very safe manner,” Antoun explained.
American Pile and Foundation has its sights set on new markets, new services and additional growth. To achieve these objectives, the company is working to strengthen and maintain its team of employees and the standard of service it provides by making continued investments. This will expand the kind of work it can do and the markets in which it can work. “Long-term is to really help American Pile grow into more of a national company. I know it’s going to take a while, five to ten years, but that’s the intent, to grow the company to a larger size by going national.”