Building an outstanding reputation for construction in the San Francisco Bay Area is a challenge fraught with pitfalls. Yet for Nibbi Brothers General Contractors, the idiosyncrasies of each project represent a labor of love, as Andrew Pelis learns.
Nibbi Brothers General Contractorswas established back in 1950 when Marino Nibbi, who at the time worked as a carpenter for another general contractor, decided to start his own construction company. Shortly thereafter, his brother Pete joined the business, as did his son Sergio in the late 1950s. During the 1960s Marino’s other son Larry joined the firm.
Through the years the company evolved through referrals and repeat clientele,” says Joe Olla, director of business development. Today Nibbi operates throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, covering nine counties in a number of market sectors, including: commercial, multi-family/mixed-use housing, education, community based, waterfront, historic and seismic building renovation. Additionally, Nibbi has a division dedicated to performing structural concrete for owners, developers and other general contractors.
While Nibbi Brothers remains true to its core family values, significant changes in the company’s focus began to emerge during the 1990s when the amount of negotiated work increased to over 90 percent of its business. This approach began when Sergio’s sons Bob and Michael became part of the company. Today, Bob Nibbi, president, and Michael Nibbi, project executive, share ownership with a dedicated pair of industry veterans, Rick Fedick, chief financial officer, and John Kugler, chief estimator.
Nibbi’s increased negotiated work with their clients meant they were moreinvolved during the design phases of each project on a consulting basis to build more efficient structures and offer clients greater value. During the design phase of every project, Nibbi provides its preconstruction services, which include conceptual estimating, constructability reviews, scheduling, logistics, Building Information Modeling (BIM), sustainable “green” building expertise and code compliance reviews.
The Greater San Francisco Bay Area has a myriad of challenges, such as site constraints and seismic requirements. “However, rather than seeing these issues as a problem,” Olla says, “Nibbi’s experienced team regards the challenges as rewarding. Much of the work involves restoration work on historic buildings requiring seismic upgrades.” Notable projects Nibbi has built or restored over the years include: the Cliff House, Pier One, SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) and Boudin at the Wharf.
All major San Francisco Bay Area cities have space and height restrictions that Nibbi regards as the normal course of doing business. “We enjoy overcoming the logistical challenges of tight urban sites,” adds Olla. Many of these sites are effectively like working on a postage-stamp-sized area surrounded by buildings with electrified bus lines running along the frontage of the buildings. All the while Nibbi is digging out basements or underpinning adjacent buildings. Over time Nibbi has become accustomed to dealing effectively with these situations. “Anyone can build in a flat green field; that’s easy. It’s more fun and challenging to build where most others cannot, while still exceeding your clients’ goals.”
It is apparent that technology has changed the operations of the company. “IT plays a heavy role in all facets of preconstruction and construction work for us. Utilizing and advancing our knowledge of new technologies that can be applied to our industry allows us to work in the most efficient manner possible, while yielding the highest value for our clients,” states Olla.
The way Nibbi approaches quality control and customer service seems to be very unique. Its Quality Control and Customer Service department staff are involved during pre-construction, construction and post-construction, enabling Nibbi to integrate lessons learned to continually improve the projects it delivers. Nibbi works with its clients to provide maintenance protocols, training and manuals, including making DVDs showing the client how to maintain and operate all of the building systems.
Such attention to detail is also reflected in Nibbi’s safety department, which recently won recognition from CAL/OSHA as a VPP-C recognized general contractor, making Nibbi only one of a dozen to receive such acclaim in California. “We have now reached more than 630 consecutive days working injury-free,” Olla affirms. “It’s not the number that’s important to our business; it’s a real dedication to our workforce and their safety. Our family approach means it’s more important to us that everyone returns home from work safely to their families every day.”
Every job, large or small, is reviewed prior to work commencement, and a safety binder is produced for each project. As a member of the Construction Employer’s Association (CEA), the company meets with other industry leaders to discuss ways to improve safety throughout the industry and also attends monthly meetings with CAL/OSHA.
At present, funding remains a concern for all construction businesses in California. Olla estimates that the overall cost of construction is at a five- to ten-year low, while labor costs remain constant, putting a dent in profits. “One positive by-product of the downturn has been increased production,” says Olla. “All of our workers are putting forth their best effort.” As Nibbi looks into the future during this difficult economic climate they are still forecasting a growth year for 2010, as well as 2011.
“We truly have a unique passion about our business, and helping our clients find solutions. Our clients trust us to treat them with respect and operate with a high degree of transparency and integrity,” states Olla.