New Hampshire’s commercial and residential construction company
Concord-based Cobb Hill Construction Inc. (Cobb Hill) has been in business since 1986, when Tom Avallone established the company to serve the residential remodeling market in New Hampshire.
Jerry Kingwill, current owner and president of Cobb Hill, joined the business in 1988, his first foray into the construction industry. “Tom founded the business with his brother-in-law,” Kingwill recounts. “They started off providing turnkey remodeling services, including everything but electrical and plumbing performed in-house. After the recession of the late 1980s, new business came to a standstill. The company transitioned into the commercial sector, hiring the first commercial project manager in the early 1990s.”
In 2015, the business has grown and diversified significantly. After more than 28 years in business, Cobb Hill has become a reputable contractor for new construction, remodeling and historical renovation work in both the residential and commercial sectors.
With a total of 33 employees, Cobb Hill has four project managers with differing specialties; one is focused on the senior living market, another specializes in commercial work with a niche in dental office construction and renovation. The third focuses on high-end residential work and the last oversees specialty service-related projects and maintenance work.
“Our mantra is that we do not want to excel at just one thing,” Kingwill says. “We have not really declined the opportunity to work for anyone so long as the relationship we build is good. In the last six years, we have found a niche market with dental offices. We do three to five offices a year. Our team also does a considerable amount of residential work, including high-end work as this market has rebounded following the 2008 recession. We have also done significant historic preservation work over the years, including the complete restoration of the Endicott Hotel in Concord, New Hampshire, a building originally constructed in 1894. This project earned the Chairman’s Award as the Best of the Best at a recent presentation by the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Hampshire and Vermont.”
A growing portfolio
Kingwill and his team have been involved with a number of diverse and complex projects over the years, ranging from single-family homes to larger green commercial spaces. With every project, the team manages costs and schedules to maximize efficiency and value for customers. Meanwhile, safety is an ongoing priority.
As of the end of 2014, the business has not had a safety accident on record for more than seven years, an impressive accomplishment for a business of any size. As a result, for the second time in the last three years, Cobb Hill is being presented the Safety Award for Excellence (SAFE) by the National Association of Home Builders in a ceremony at its national convention.
Recent work includes the completion of a brand new single-family house in a rural area of New Hampshire. While Cobb Hill performs a significant amount of residential construction work, this project stood out for a number of reasons.
“We used 2-by-4 construction on the exterior wall, which is something we have never done before,” Kingwill explains. “This home is for a repeat client and the site is up on a slight incline, so high wind activity can easily travel up the hill and impact the house. Because of that, one concern was energy management of the home. We constructed the wooden frame, then applied 2-inch spray foam inside and layered Styrofoam sheathing to increase the R value to R26 on the exterior wall. Local code requires only R19, but we were able to save money on lumber which made it possible to get full coverage of insulation and better management of airflow. This was something we haven’t done before but always discussed, so it was a great opportunity to utilize this process.”
The team also completed a 12-month build-out of 34 new units in Havenwood Heritage Heights, a retirement community located in Concord. The $13 million construction project was broken down into three phases.
“This was a completely built-out community that had 54 units made up of several buildings,” Kingwill details. “We demolished some buildings throughout the phasing and rebuilt new duplexes and singlefamily homes. The infrastructure was completely rebuilt, working from one end of the community to the other while there were residents living in existing units. We brought in a new gas line system, because there was no existing gas service. Changes to the electrical and sewer systems were completed at the same time. The average age of the residents is 82 years, so their safety and security, as well as their ability to move within and around the community presented an ongoing challenge.”
Another memorable project for Kingwill has been the Pope Memorial SPCA building also in Concord. The building features solar hot water making systems to help cut energy costs for the nonprofit organization.
“The SPCA uses a lot of hot water as a facility and offsetting that expense was a priority for them,” says Kingwill. “We installed two arrays on the roof in order to get the majority of the hot water to the best temperature we could get. From there, they have conventional systems to heat the water to the required temperature for their needs. As a nonprofit, this was a big piece to get into the program early and help them operate at a lower cost for the long term.”
Kingwill’s team also installed eight 14-inch solar tubes throughout the building to help circulate more natural lighting, reducing the need to use electrical lighting throughout the day.
Fighting for the green
Kingwill and his team aim to turn around high quality projects that improve clients’ operations as well as the community as a whole. Cobb Hill consistently utilizes Energy Star products and other grown technology in construction projects. For example the company has constructed several homes that utilize geothermal wells for heating and include energy use reducing features. While these systems provide major savings for home and business owners, the market is still facing challenges when it comes to going green.
“It depends on where our customers are located in New Hampshire,” Kingwill explains. “There are many different utility providers and some of them make the use of green systems more conducive than others. There was a client in the Campton area who wanted to use geothermal systems in their project, but the financial return offered by the utility was not favorable. The economics didn’t work for that project, but in the New London area, the utility provider had a great program that brought the customer’s heating bills down dramatically. The success of these projects varies from location to location depending upon the utility company. We are seeing a lot of interest but it is not always financially beneficial to the client.”
Cobb Hill is affiliated with the United States Green Building Council, a partnership that helps to keep the business in touch with changing technology while building exposure for the company’s services. “As the green movement picks up across the country, you have to be involved,” Kingwill explains. “It’s the right thing to do and being part of the organization means something to your potential clients. Our involvement shows that the company is aware of the responsibility builders have to the environment. We implement LEED strategies and technology where they work in a given project.”
While Cobb Hill felt the effects of the recession in 2008 much like other contractors, Kingwill says he has seen consistent improvement over the last few years. “There are certain indicators that things are improving,” he says. “There is more work out there, but there is still room for improvement.
The green movement was hindered by the economic recession, but we are curious to see how this rebounds. We are grateful that our community is supporting us. To have the ability to give back to the community gives me and the entire company a great sense of pride.”
Kingwill and his team remain active in the communities within the company’s service area, working with a number of charities and nonprofits. Cobb Hill has established a wide network of partners throughout the state. The crew has a reputation for providing a high level of quality and placing a measurable emphasis on safety. Kingwill is not afraid to take on challenging projects. He knows that his team’s experience and reputation for excellent performance has increased business. Through meeting and exceeding expectations, Cobb Hill has been able to build a strong network of repeat clients throughout New Hampshire.
For the coming years, Kingwill expects the business to continue to grow while reinvesting in technology and qualified personnel. The company has a strong inventory of projects scheduled for 2015; he sees a busy year ahead.
“There is a lot of activity and interest, so we are excited about what is ahead of us,” Kingwill notes.
Moving forward, Cobb Hill Construction Inc. will continue to provide integrated, high-quality construction services in New England.