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Delaware’s Business Owner: Flexibility & Creativity in the Construction Business


Positive attributes become necessities in times of economic struggle.

Is the HVAC industry immune to recessions? In the recent past, HVAC companies have stayed consistently profitable, even during downturns in a troubled economy. This consistency is a result of the essential services that these companies provide, that people and businesses can’t do without even when times are tough.

Good business practice helps considerably, too, since you can’t just rely on the strength of an industry to carry you through. One Salisbury, Maryland-based construction, plumbing and HVAC company, Noland Mechanical, has weathered the storm of economic upheaval for the past few years.

One employee has had a major impact on that consistency. Senior estimator and project manager Keith D. Clarke has done more than his fair share to keep everything running smoothly, even while other companies were forced to close job sites, let go of staff, or close completely.

HVAC is inherently valuable lately, too, which doesn’t hurt. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened across the globe, and started to seriously affect the United States, the CDC recommended the use of HEPA technology as part of a multi-layered approach to handling virus aerosols responsible for infecting people with COVID.

Even apart from the pandemic, the need for HVAC systems is only increasing. Ecological disasters like forest fires and air pollution greatly increase the need for quality air-filtration systems in more places that they weren’t necessarily needed before, like private homes. Excellent ventilation and refrigeration has always been a necessity in healthcare, and that need only grew during the pandemic. Demand for quality heating and air conditioning is also growing as a result of recent unprecedented high- and low-temperatures across the United States.

Keith D. Clarke notes that especially during times of economic hardship, people still prioritize getting or upgrading their HVAC systems because a more efficient system means decreased energy bills, ultimately saving customers money even if the cost of getting a new system is more than they’d prefer to pay at the moment.

Of course, no company is completely immune to the effects of a recession, or an economy that’s been negatively impacted by something like a pandemic. Supply chain issues are unavoidable lately for every industry, and HVAC companies are no exception. Keith D. Clarke describes how Noland Mechanical had to purchase PVC pipes in bulk, to stockpile them and ensure they wouldn’t run out in the event of future supply issues.

Construction companies in general have had to diversify their scope of work. Noland Mechanical has accomplished that by focusing on projects like government-subsidized housing that got accelerated, rather than shut down, during the pandemic. Construction of private residential homes slowed down drastically, but many commercial construction projects proceeded more or less on schedule. Clarke recounts Noland Mechanical’s work on hotels, resorts, and other commercial projects during the pandemic.

Noland Mechanical also offers Design-Build services, which are a great benefit to company and client alike. Design-Build means that the architect and contractors work together as a team, sharing responsibility amongst themselves. This system increases open communication between everyone involved in a project, and greatly decreases the amount of conflict and finger-pointing that sometimes occurs between owners, architects, engineers, and contractors during a construction project.

When clients choose to utilize Design-Build services, whole projects become a lot more efficient. During a standard project, for example, money can be withheld if one party believes the other is not pulling their weight or is working too slowly– this can hold up project lead times, resulting in unhappy clients and unnecessary conflict. It’s not uncommon for architects to file lawsuits against contractors, and vice versa, due to these kinds of conflicts. When everyone works as a team, communication and accountability are greatly increased, which means everything happens on time and with everyone’s approval.

In general, it helps to be able to diversify and have a flexible professional outlook. Noland Mechanical, and Keith D. Clarke, have their system of productivity down to a science, allowing them to smoothly deliver quality products, on time no matter what.