USS Cal Builders Inc. (USS Cal) has been providing quality general contracting service throughout Southern California for nearly three decades. Founded in 1984, and incorporated in 1992, USS Cal has grown to employ upwards of 300 expert principals, architects, engineers and contractors who continually deliver exceptional projects that generate $100 million annually from new construction, modernization, design-build, infrastructure, seismic retrofits and construction management projects.
Operating primarily from Orange County offices in Stanton, Calif., USS Cal also has satellite offices in San Diego; San Francisco, where the firm has landed multiple school projects and is establishing a presence throughout the Bay Area; and Jordan, where it pursues international work and continues to develop a name for itself as a provider of quality work and exceptional customer service. Allen Othman, CEO of USS Cal, is proud of the company’s work, which is fueled by its commitment to customer satisfaction.
“I have been with the company since its inception, and from the beginning the one thing that has remained constant is that we have always put the client first,” says Othman. “We treat each client as if they are our only client. We value the relationship we have with each of our clients, and we do everything we can to foster and grow that relationship.”
Integral players in helping USS Cal run smoothly are Eric Othman, chief operating officer; Rabih El-Zein, vice president of operations; and Rani El-Djoundi, DBIA, director of business development and design-build, who has been with the company for four years. “The company was established on educational projects, but has since expanded its scope to include all types of public projects, such as fire stations, police stations, road improvement, bridges and rail work,” explains El-Djoundi, who has helped guide the company’s continued diversification. “Although we have diversified our scope , educational projects are still the bread-and-butter of the company.”
Follow the LEEDer
USS Cal completes a large number of LEED-certified projects, the most recent examples being an LEED Gold one for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), the largest community college district in the United States with nine colleges spread throughout 36 cities in the greater Los Angeles area: the Van De Kamp Innovation Center.
“The challenge we had at Van De Kamp is it was a very old historical building [a former bakery] that required extensive seismic upgrades,” explains Othman. “What we did to approach that predicament is that we left most of the original construction intact, installed steel and concrete structures to comply with the seismic upgrades, and we created a modern look with exposed structures in the ceilings. We had to rebuild a lot of damaged details and trims so that the historical value of the building was kept. Keep in mind that all the work we did on that building had to pass a very stringent D.S.A. [Division of the State Architect] code, which made our work much more difficult.”
“The project was a great success,” affirms El-Djoundi. “At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the mayor of L.A. was in attendance and congratulated USS Cal on its accomplishment.”
“What sets us apart from our competitors is we like to foresee the issues on the projects before they become problems,” continues Othman. “We like to be proactive and work as one team toward the same goal. We have a great team here, with diverse employees that cater to diverse clients. No project is the same and no client has the same needs. Our team has the capabilities to meet the needs and requirements of our clients with care, attention and understanding. This is why we have repeat customers.”
In addition to its education/institutional work, USS Cal has recently completed a LEED Silver Los Angeles fire station and is currently halfway through an $80 million effort for the L.A. County Bureau of Sanitation in nearby City of Industry doing mostly A-license type work, including rail work and bridges.
“We self-perform a great deal of our projects, especially in our A-license work, which includes underground utilities, electrical, concrete, plumbing, etc.,” informs El-Djoundi. “However, some of the specialty work is still given to subcontractors.”
Quality employees, carefully vetted strategic partners and excellent management help set USS Cal apart from other general contractors, and the company’s unwavering quality standards have allowed for some memorable projects. El-Djoundi is particularly proud of the company’s involvement in the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, a master-planned development at the Port of San Diego, as it involves a lot of agencies and A-license work in an area generating high public interest project. With each project USS Cal reinforces its capabilities, furthering its reputation by strengthening its people.
“We continually invest in the future of the company by improving the knowledge of our employees and challenging them to seek continuing education,” says Othman. “Most of our employees have been with our company for an average of 10 years. We feel our strength comes from the passion and loyalty of our employees.”
On the Right Track
USS Cal’s commitment to ongoing training and a diversified portfolio has allowed the company to gradually add sectors such as rail work to its activity, and USS Cal is pursuing even more in this area, setting its sights on an $81 million project in San Diego. “We are closely following the rail industry as there has been an increase in demand recently” shares El-Djoundi.
USS Cal plans to branch out even further in several directions at once to meet the demands of the future of this challenging industry. “We plan to focus more on developing our design-build niche; making that a higher priority at USS Cal,” shares El-Djoundi. “We’re also expanding our focus to the Southwest region of the U.S., while simultaneously emphasizing international projects. This requires networking and fostering long-term relationship.”
Othman is enthusiastic about the multidimensional future USS Cal is building and looks forward to adapting and improvising in a dynamic industry. El-Djoundi shares that optimism and welcomes a more international, rail-driven, design-build focus in the future.
“We have branched out from being a one-dimensional general contractor to being able to perform work in many sectors of the market, in addition to being able to complete a number of projects internationally,” shares Othman.
Learning from each educational build, USS Cal Builders Inc. has established a track record that could serve as a master class in conscientious, comprehensive general contracting.
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