The Caribbean’s contractor of choice
Since commencing operations in 1995, NH International (Caribbean) have established themselves as an industry leader in the construction services and construction management sector throughout their region. The Trinidad-based company − which has won the prestigious Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association (TTCA) Contractor of the Year award six times since the turn of the century − has successfully delivered high-profile projects to major clients in more than 12 countries across the Caribbean.
Today, NH International (Caribbean) predominantly undertakes projects ranging from $10 million USD to $100 million USD in the commercial, residential, education, and health sectors. They also have the capacity to handle civil engineering projects, but according to Managing Director John Connon, the company is currently focusing on residential major housing works, as well as water and sewage treatment facilities.
“In the past, we’ve built roads and other types of civil projects − not just in Trinidad, but throughout the Caribbean islands − but at the moment, we’re concentrating more on the residential building types of projects with some civil works,” he says. “To give you an example, we build mass residential housing for the Housing Development Corporation here in Trinidad, where the projects would range from 400 houses in one project to probably 600 or 800.”
The company recently completed a major housing complex in St. Lucia and is currently building the first stage of Freedom Bay, which is a luxury resort beneath the famous Piton Mountains in the country’s southwest. They are also currently working on major projects for the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, including a 600-house residential development in Princess Town and a major tertiary education building in Chaguanas. The latter is a design-build project valued at approximately $28 million USD that was completed a full year ahead of schedule.
“Most of our projects now are design-build,” John says. “We have developed our organization over the past two or three years to accommodate the procurement of such works. We’re moving from the more traditional approach to the design-build approach, so we have our own design coordination department responsible for coordinating architects and engineers, which we normally would sublet to consulting practices on the island.”
To facilitate this transition, NH International (Caribbean) has put the systems and technologies in place to handle the increased workload that comes with broadening their scope. Specifically, they have developed a formwork system that allows them to quickly replicate building models, greatly enhancing their ability to finish projects in an efficient and timely manner.
“The formwork system is made of aluminum forms, and the forms are modulated to suit the particular project,” John explains. “For example, if it was a housing project, the form would be a mold to build one house. If it was a hotel, it would be to build one room of the hotel. If it was another type of building, it would be one part of the building that would then be used repetitively. So, the form is made to enable us to cast the slab, walls, columns, and beams to the module that we’ve developed in one concrete pour operation.”
“The benefit, first of all, is it achieves quality because you’re casting the whole part of the building in one pour, and the windows, doors, et cetera are all cast together and formed together,” he continues. “Secondly, the cycle time on the form is very fast, so you can improve upon the speed of the project. We started using it on large housing projects, and as we’ve built up an inventory of forms, we’re now using it on numerous projects.”
John estimates that NH International (Caribbean) currently employs roughly 150 permanent staff members in addition to the rest of the company’s workforce, which includes a “considerable number” of labor-only subcontractors. He points out that there are many qualities that make the organization appealing to the local labor pool, particularly their “professional culture.”
“Over the years, we’ve built a culture within the organization of strength, integrity, professionalism, and I’d say we have a fairly strong reputation throughout the region,” he proclaims. “We promote integrity and we have systems and structures within the company that allow people to operate professionally.”
NH International (Caribbean) also enjoys professional relationships with suppliers. John reveals the company is favored among suppliers within Trinidad thanks to their sterling reputation and long history of success within the region. They boast a substantial “matrix of suppliers” for standard construction products and materials, such as concrete, masonry blocks, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping, and reinforced steel. For items required for specialist work such as mechanical, electrical, and finishing, the company typically procures imported goods from North America and uses local subcontractors to install the items.
Primed for prosperity
Having successfully completed numerous high-profile works that have helped to reshape the region over the years, NH International (Caribbean) are well-positioned to keep repeating those achievements moving forward. For example, they are currently in the process of negotiating “an interesting project” for the Office of the Prime Minister in St. Lucia and are also in the midst of pursuing another major project for the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation.
“It’s two 10-storey residential towers − a project that was started some years ago and left unfinished,” John clarifies.
Beyond that, John indicates that the company aims to be a leader in the design-build sector in the Caribbean. He sees it as an area that’s ripe with opportunity and says the organization is taking the necessary steps “to have the right team and personnel onboard who understand the philosophy of design-build work.”
“The design-build procurement method is relatively new over the last few years,” he concludes. “Obviously, it’s a completely different strategy to traditional contracting where the contractor now has to design and cost the building at the bidding stage, which means that one can win a project not necessarily on price alone, but on design as well as price. As such, one has to have the teams in place to manage the bidding, design, and construction. It’s an area that is growing and I think we are growing with it, and we feel that it could be to our advantage in the future to maintain and improve our status in the construction sector in the Caribbean.”