Building with Integrity

Teck Construction LLP delivers excellence in design-build services

The people of Teck Construction Ltd. are creatures of habit, in the best sense of the word. Founded in 1957 by Al Tecklenborg, the Langley-based mid-size general contracting firm has always been in demand. But instead of opening numerous field offices as many successful firms do, it has steadfastly focused its resources on projects in the Fraser Valley ranging from $500,000 renovations to $13-million buildings.

Also, although Al’s sons George and Albert and their colleagues have considerable construction expertise, they prefer to concentrate on commercial facilities such as car dealerships, big box stores and warehouses.

The firm’s client focus sets them apart. This is summarized by Paul Boileau, director of operations at Soprema Inc., the international manufacturer of waterproofing products. Teck recently created 26,000 square feet of additional space for a Soprema warehouse in Chilliwack. “It’s commonplace these days to have contractors win a job by low-balling their bid and then nail you for extras,” says Boileau. “But the Teck people proved themselves to be honourable, even though we had no less than 25 change orders during construction.” Boileau goes on to praise the team. “George Tecklenborg and his crew have a strong moral character that is rare in this business, and they don’t deviate from it. They definitely make great buildings, but I would go so far as to say that their strongest asset is their integrity.”

All these factors have served Teck extremely well of late. Although the commercial construction market was fairly soft in the Fraser Valley for the first half of 2013, George and Albert recently completed or are currently busy with projects ranging from an extensive renovation of a Langley car dealership their father built in 1974, to several new commercial/industrial buildings including a foundry in neighbouring Surrey.

Teck has even ventured beyond its traditional geographic jurisdiction to construct five different facilities in Fort McMurray. “We like to think we’re raising the bar for good building design over there,” says George, stressing that the Alberta venture is inspired mainly by the great working relationship he has formed with client Kuusamo Developments.

The Tecklenborgs’ work ethic and stellar reputation is also the reason they managed to ride out the recession relatively intact, compared to many other mid-sized contractors who are still reeling from the aftershocks. “To be fair, while we had predicted the downturn we didn’t imagine it would be so severe,” says Albert. “In 2007 we worked on 19 jobs, but that figure decreased to 10 the following year and plummeted to five in 2009, with these five being small tenant improvement projects.”

Teck has since recovered a healthy annual volume, “plus the work is big, not small, and many projects were reactivated after being put on hold in ’09,” says Albert. George adds, “During the worst part of the recession we had to cut office staff in half and our field crew of about 70 people down to 12, but these figures have also bounced back to the halfway mark and are growing.”

In the spirit of making lemonade when handed lemons, the Tecklenborgs discuss the positive aspects of the recession. “Generally speaking, those who survive such a severe downturn are the real professionals, and that includes the subtrades,” says George. “Also, we have fathers and sons on our team, and the sons were honing their skills prior to the recession in hopes of taking over from their fathers, who were nearing retirement. When the recession hit, many of the fathers were able to retire, with the “new talent” really stepping out of the shadows and distinguishing themselves.” Albert notes, “The young ones demonstrated a resiliency that every employer dreams of and spends a lot of effort trying to find during recruitment drives.”

Teck began as an informal venture. Al helped build a house in the 1950s, and once it was complete he figured he could make a living doing just that. He founded Teck at the age of 21, and the initial scope of residential projects soon expanded to include commercial facilities, schools and hospitals.[pagebreak]
George, 43, and Albert, 45, got involved in the business as school kids, and as they grew so did their entrepreneurial spirit. For example, George decided to purchase his own equipment instead of contracting out. He was also an early adopter of advanced technology, starting with 3-D site work modeling in the late 1990s, followed by Revit architectural software in the mid-2000s as well as robotic surveying. “All of these initiatives increased accuracy and project efficiency,” says George. “However, by far the most important entrepreneurially-minded initiative occurred early on when Albert pushed Teck’s design-build system, which is advantageous to clients because it simplifies all construction methods, reduces on-site problems and value-engineers all aspects of a project.”

While design-build is Teck’s mainstay today, the company is also gaining experience in the development side of the business, an initiative that will grow in coming years. “This too enhances our service to our clients,” says George.

Teck has been credited for changing the Langley landscape. First Al created a series of car dealerships and commercial/retail facilities in the 1970s, then he built tilt-up concrete buildings that pushed the envelope of design with reveals, cornices, columns and elaborate glazing. Today, George and Albert are at the forefront of Langley’s explosive growth.

Despite a slow start in 2013, Langley, along with Surrey and Chilliwack, remain hotbeds of commercial development. “We’re in the midst of building the new Lougheed Acura on Highway 1 and just finished renovating the Preston Chevrolet Cadillac dealership that dad built in 1974, a project that required us to provide a completely new showroom and renovate the rest of the facility—50,000 square feet altogether,” says Albert. To which Preston general manager Peter Heppner remarks, “Albert’s tradespeople are highly skilled professionals who produce outstanding results.”

Most satisfyingly, the Tecklenborgs are providing innovative solutions to a whole new range of clients. John Rempel, president of Rempel Development Group, says, “We were developing an office building in Langley whose original design made it very difficult for us to justify the cost of construction. We’re residential rather than commercial developers, so we asked around for someone who could help us, and Teck was recommended.”

Rempel credits George and Albert for changing the conventional steel structure design to a tilt-up “that doesn’t look at all like a tilt-up. It has metal cladding and plenty of architectural flourishes that are just as esthetically pleasing as the original design—but turned out to be 15 per cent less expensive.” He adds, “I wish I could persuade the Tecklenborgs to get into residential construction. I would work with them again in a heartbeat.”

Paul Boileau at Soprema Inc. echoes the sentiment. “Forming bonds of trust is the most important thing to me, and I’m looking forward to working with the Tecklenborgs and their team again.”

For their part, the Tecklenborgs are equally concerned about forging strong relationships. “We’re in Alberta because of our relationship with Kuusamo. We’re constructing a manufacturing building in Edmonton for them this fall,” says George.

The Tecklenborgs’ plans for the future centre on the continued well-being of their company. “We’ve brought in more staff in anticipation that things will get busy starting this winter, but overall we will simply continue to build what is practical and remain here in the Fraser Valley,” says George. “Doing good work and being a hands-on solution for our clients will always be our top priority.”