Diversify and Prosper

Arden Engineering Constructors
Written by Ryan Cartner

Arden Engineering Constructors provides mechanical engineering construction and maintenance services to industries throughout New England, and is a member of the Arden Building Companies family.
In 1954, Irwin Arden established Arden Engineering, a small mechanical contracting operation offering HVAC and piping installation services out of its headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It was here that Arden cut its teeth, learning the industry and forming many long lasting business relationships in Pawtucket and the surrounding area.

As the company grew, it identified opportunities to expand its offerings by examining the needs of its customers. First, it added plumbing services to complement the HVAC and piping installations the team was already providing. Then, the company acquired a fire protection contractor and brought those services under its umbrella. The final piece of the Arden Engineering puzzle was to add electrical contracting services. This allowed the company to develop a lineup of services so comprehensive that it was capable of satisfying more customers with broader needs than many competitors operating in the region.

Identifying the needs of customers and adapting the company to satisfy them has been the key to Arden’s success. “Here are three questions that must be answered to successfully undertake this strategy,” says Robert Bolton, President and CEO of Arden Building Companies. “Understand what your customers need, not just for the first contract but down the road. Understand how your offerings match, or don’t, what your customers need, then fill the gaps. Once you have established your value to existing customers with a robust product or service offering, determine how you can expand your geographic reach. If you keep these points in mind you have taken the first important steps to a prosperous future.”

With the acquisition of MJ Daly of Waterbury, CT in 2006, Unique Metal Works of Pawtucket, RI in 2007, and Corporate Mechanical of New England of Woburn, MA in 2014, the Arden Building Companies family of firms was born. Expanding the diversity of its service offering and its geographic reach has enabled the company to survive changing economic conditions by leaning on the better performing markets when others slow down.

Going forward, Arden Building Companies plans to continue with the same strategy, diversifying to meet the ever changing needs of the marketplace and expanding its operating territory. The company is unique in that it offers the full lineup of mechanical services from mechanical engineering and electrical contracting to sheet metal fabrication and more. This will enable the team to adapt to the industry as it evolves. As new technologies come to the fore, Arden will embrace them and will train its workforce to use them effectively and efficiently. The company is committed to continual improvement so that it can always provide the best possible value to its customers.

Still serving Rhode Island, Arden Engineering has become the largest, and the leading mechanical contracting provider in the region. It employs more than 50 office staff, and more than 125 union pipefitters, plumbers, HVAC technicians, electrical workers, and specialized tradespeople in the field. Arden believes that its people are its greatest resource, providing the expertise and the experience that have earned the company a reputation for quality workmanship and reliable service.

As a union contractor, Arden faces the challenge of having to pay more for labor than non-union competitors. But, the company has been able to maintain a competitive edge by focusing on technology. Arden uses Building Information Modeling (BIM) to turn spatial information about a building into a precise design so that the shape and size of an installation fits the space. BIM is a standard within the industry, but Arden’s BIM implementation uses advanced scanning technology with greatly improved results. Traditionally, data is collected manually with tape measures by hand and given to BIM engineers. Given that every pipe, every duct, and all of the hangers and other positioning components need to be precisely measured, this approach is very time consuming and prone to mistakes. Arden now uses state-of-the-art 3D scanning technology to collect measurement data much more accurately and quickly. This is one example of how Arden leverages technology to remain competitive as a union contractor.

Safety is another central component of the Arden business model. Employees are given comprehensive safety training based on a three-point plan known at Arden as: “Think Safe, Work Safe, Home Safe.” These three points combine into an extensive safety program. In order to implement this effectively, Arden has a dedicated safety committee, a team of volunteers solely committed to preventing on-the-job accidents by monitoring worksites and sharing their experience and training with workers throughout the course of a job.

Regular safety meetings ensure that everyone is up to date with the latest safety information and regulatory requirements, and cleanliness protocols help to keep the workspace free of clutter and dust. Personal protection equipment such as hardhats, eye protection, and high visibility clothing are required at all times, and Arden is continually investing in technology that improves its capacity to protect the health of its workforce. For example, the company recently purchased drills with HEPA filter protection that can protect workers from the effects of respirable silica dust that comes from drilling holes in concrete. Silica can result in respiratory diseases such as silicosis, lung cancer, and COPD. Previously, Arden used wet-core drills to keep dust wet and prevent it from entering the air, but with these new filtered drills the company will be able to drill in areas where water can’t be used.

Arden employees are committed to following these safety rules because safety is a core part of the company culture. The business has been successful in maintaining a job site safety record above the industry average by fostering an environment where workers think safe and work safe so that they can make it home safe.

South Street Landing, Rhode Island’s largest economic development of 2016, is a clear demonstration of Arden’s capacity and the value the company can bring to a project. Over the course of two years, the Arden team operated as the sole mechanical contractor on this massive redevelopment project for Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, and Rhode Island College in Providence with all trades operating in harmony under one roof. Arden’s key value proposition is that it can manage all of these services as a single entity, improving communication and collaboration throughout the project. This is beneficial for everyone involved because it eliminates competition for space and improves coordination between the various teams. Scheduling conflicts are eliminated, space is saved because all teams can coordinate and effectively share large equipment, and the result is a great deal of saved time and expense.

On this particular project Arden provided plumbing, fire protection, mechanical HVAC, electrical, sheet metal fabrication, and building automation. South Street Landing was a major undertaking and is the first of many planned projects in what Providence is now calling its Innovation and Design District. Arden’s reputation for reliability gave this customer the confidence to put their trust in the company for this important project.

Beyond the many high-quality services it offers, Arden Engineering Constructors is also committed to building New England through community involvement. The company has always encouraged its workers to give back to the communities that have supported its growth over the years, and some of the organizations it has worked with include the Rhode Island Food Bank, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and the Ronald McDonald House. Employees donate their time to support these causes, and in August of this year one particularly charitable Arden volunteer, Laureen Gosselin, was recognized by the Ronald McDonald House for donating one hundred hours over fourteen months, a significant milestone for which a commemorative brick with her name has been displayed in the facility. Laureen’s generous spirit is the embodiment of the culture that Arden aims to encourage, and the team is very proud of her and this milestone that she has achieved.

For more than half a century, Arden Engineering Constructors has found success in its capacity to adapt. As markets evolve and technologies advance, Arden has restructured and expanded to fill gaps and meet the needs of its customers. Going forward, Arden plans to continue this growth with a commitment to understanding the needs of its customers – not only now but for the future – and by learning how to transform itself to best meet those needs.



Food for Thought

Read Our Current Issue


A Living Underwater Laboratory

May 2024

Achieving Equity Through Sustainability

April 2024

Hands-On Learning for Future Success

March 2024

More Past Editions

Cover Story

Featured Articles