Like Father, Like Son- Dual Mechanical strives for success, but retains humble roots
By Perry King
Since receiving a LEED gold award for their work on a design build job in Metro Vancouver, Dual Mechanical Ltd. has been on a roll, opening the doors for more design build projects than done in the past.
Ever since John Collett started working on plumbing and heating jobs out of his basement in 1978, Dual Mechanical has become humbly successful at providing high-quality craftsmanship for their projects. Taking on industrial and commercial projects in 1981, the company has not turned back.
“We’ve had people call and congratulate us, things like that,” says Jason Collett, John’s son and the company’s vice president. “Have I seen a direct relationship to it yet? Not that I know of, but we are getting a lot more calls for projects, especially design build jobs, that we normally didn’t get before.”
That project, their catalyst for the latest wave of success, came from a design build located at the Annacis Island Water Treatment Centre. Competing with two other companies to retain the project, Dual Mechanical’s plans for the Annacis Centre for Research and Education peaked the attention of the metro government.
“Our team won [the bid] partially based on our design, and like any design build job, budget is always a concern,” says Collett. “Having to work within a budget, a timeframe, it’s a much different job than we’ve done in the past, it has all sorts of different green building technologies, different systems.”
Through the usage of effluent pipeline designs — in this case, Dual Mechanical utilized one of four sewage pipelines that flow through the facility — the inflow of sewage can be used for heating the building during the winter, and cooling in the summer season.
This technique may not be their own creation, but effluent piping has not been done very often.
“There’s also three other lines that are being used that they run experiments through the research bay, so there’s different levels of the affluent treatment,” says Collett. “Some of it looks like water, so clean and clear like water. I wouldn’t want to drink it, but it is.”
With so many projects on the go and more to come, and despite the recent success of the Annacis Island project, it’s still hard for him to hang his hat on one project he’s particularly proud of.
“That’s a hard one to pick,” says Collett.
Since their first out-of-town design build project at Westview Elementary School in Powell River, British Columbia — the design includes an expanded gymnasium, a Student Commons, and additional multi-purpose spaces for the community — the design projects have been broad and numerous.
Projects have been the design build school Chilliwack Senior Secondary — an $8.4 million project that is 90 per cent complete. The contracts are worth millions of dollars, and Dual Mechanical has had to evolve quickly, as a result, in a short period of time. More workers are coming on board, but the award-winning sub-contractor has been able to adjust on the fly, becoming COR-certified, adding an extra-level of safety for their construction on the ground level.
Dual Mechanical also has the continued support of partnerships that John Collett has been able to sustain for over 25 years.
“Northwest Sheet Metal has done many of these design build projects with us,” Collett says. “Another sub trade that we’ve used on many of these projects would be ESC Automation, Delta Systems. They’ve done a number of the controls on some of these projects. We have also used Aarc-West [Mechanical] Installation on a number of these projects, as well as Trane BC as one of our suppliers.”
“It builds trust, it builds the relationship that we’re working together towards the same goal and they give us efficient, competitive pricing all the time as well as delivery on time, which is also important to our customers.”
In a landscape where there are many big players with vast projects on the go, Dual Mechanical is consciously small and hands on in their work, providing an intimate approach to design builds that are inherently complicated and require a personal touch.
“We’re not a large company, our idea is that we can spend more time on the smaller details,” says Collett, who joined his father’s company in 1990. “When we’re working on a design build project, I’m actively involved in everything that’s done, whether I’m doing it directly along with one of my estimators or project managers who are working on it.”
It is this current stage of growth that Collett is thriving in, an environment that he inherits from John, who has taken a smaller role in the company in recent years.
“[John] lives in the interior, comes down once or twice a year for a couple weeks and just checks on things, but he’s not involved in the day-to-day at all,” says Collett.
Becoming an equal partner in the company with his father in 2009, the direction that Dual Mechanical has been taking is the right one, for now.
“We want to be doing what we’re doing now, which is having the bulk of our work being design build rather than hard tender,” says Collett. “We always have to do some of both, but we would prefer to definitely do more of the design build and expand the company to do more of these out of town projects.”
Collett’s hands on role is what is needed for the company that emphasizes hands on work.