For Tony Guichard, the road to owning one of Los Angeles’ premier concrete construction companies started at the age of 16. Working as an asphalt and concrete laborer, Tony moved between companies across the Los Angeles area. He had nearly a decade of experience when he decided to set out on his own in the early 1980s, purchasing a backhoe and working as a self-employed operator.
After a few more years of work, it occurred to Tony that his years of experience across projects on-site could be put to better use. From his seat on his backhoe, Tony had an elevated view across the entire project site. He could see how a project came together and where processes could be done more efficiently; he could see issues as they arose on-site and identify areas where a project could be managed more smoothly.
From his unique perch on that backhoe, Tony realized he had the perspective, knowledge and experience needed to successfully manage his own construction company. So in 1991, Tony, with the help of his wife, Gigi Guichard, launched ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc.
The family-owned business provides all aspects of concrete and asphalt installation and repair services, including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant curbs and ramps, decorative concrete, seal coating and striping, and surveying and engineering services to mitigate drainage and soil compaction issues in parking lots.
With a team of 25 employees, President Tony serves as chief estimator and oversees all project management, and Chief Financial Officer Gigi heads up accounting, invoice processing, contract administration and payroll functions.
With a focus on technical excellence and exceptional project management, ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction serves both residential and commercial customers across Southern California, taking on large public works projects, as well as small residential and multifamily projects.
Meeting a Need
One year before the launch of ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. Among its many provisions, the ADA requires that all public and many private facilities be accessible for those with disabilities.
Under ADA guidelines, all new construction must be compliant with ADA standards, and existing facilities must remove barriers to accessibility.
The company soon became one of Los Angeles’ premiere ADA designers and contractors of asphalt and concrete. “We have a wide portfolio of clients that rely on our expertise in ADA compliance and appreciate our ability to smoothly manage these concrete and asphalt projects,” Tony says.
A Unique Role in the Industry
According to Tony, the company occupies a unique niche. “What separates us from others in the industry is that we understand the complexities behind ADA compliance. Even many architects and engineers don’t understand how it actually works in the field.”
The ADA requires that buildings accessed by the public accommodate entry by disabled individuals, often requiring installation of a ramp in multilevel environments. The ADA lists specifications for access ramps, including maximum allowable slopes.
Tony explains that often architects and engineers will design a slope to the degree specified by the ADA, but doing so essentially “handcuffs the concrete contractor,” since it is impossible to meet this specification without a margin of error.
“The tolerances for asphalt and concrete work are at a 2% cross slope max, and where most contractors fail is that they set their forms at 2%, max” he says. Typical forms that are set to 2% max ultimately result in slopes that are at 2.1-2.5%, which means they do not meet compliance and must be removed.
Many of the company’s concrete finishers have worked for the company for more than 25 years, lending expertise to challenging projects.
“Everyone on-site is highly skilled and understands the tolerances, allowing us to perform in areas that others won’t touch,” he says.
Tony estimates that ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction is asked nearly twice a week to replace new concrete that has recently been poured by others that does not meet ADA requirements and must be removed. For both concrete and asphalt work, the company has designed and created its own bespoke specialty forms for asphalt ADA parking stalls that other contractors do not have and is even considering marketing these forms commercially. These custom forms allow the asphalt crew to hit targeted elevations without error.
A Highly Knowledgeable Team
In addition to seasoned concrete finishers, the team at ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction includes Estimator and Project Manager Don Rightmeyer and Superintendent Luis Carranza.
“I trained Don and Luis personally, ensuring the highest degree of quality control through multiple layers of checks and tight management protocols,” Tony says. He explains that Luis doesn’t perform any physical work on-site himself, but instead “micromanages, double and triple checks elevations on projects to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
“Luis has the latitude to hire his own team, which allows him control over the project. He understands that the work we preform is critical, and many on his team have worked with us for years,” Tony says.
Acting Quickly and With Skill
Tony explains that when a business that requires a level parking stall or accessible route to the front door receives notice of a lawsuit in federal court, it has only 21 days to respond. A variety of decisions have to be made immediately: they must find an ADA attorney who can resolve and settle the lawsuit; they need to obtain a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) report that identifies all corrections that need to be made to the inside and outside of the property; they need to locate a designer to create the accessible route that complies with the state and federal laws; and find a contractor who can perform the work correctly.
ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction provides a complete team. They have ADA legal counsel, Certified Access Specialist inspectors, designers and contractors who can move swiftly. Without this team effort working collaboratively, valuable time could be lost and the property may not achieve ADA compliance, leaving an owner open to multiple lawsuits. ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction often tackles properties with multiple lawsuits. Tony personally spends a great deal of time with representatives from the Division of the State Architect, which provides design and construction oversight for state-owned and leased facilities in California. The group, which includes Certified Access Specialists and ADA attorneys, studies and compares notes on compliance rules, how those rules are applied and the outcomes of lawsuits across the state.
As of July 2013, California law requires all commercial property lease agreements to disclose whether or not a property has had an inspection by a Certified Access Specialist. Tony estimates that there are currently 30,000 lawsuits pertaining to ADA compliance in California alone.
“I have a new client who has been sued three times on the same property,” he says. Because of the great risk faced by the company’s clients, Tony ensures that he or one of his team members is always available to take a client call.
The company owns and operates a facility where their clients can visit and review their projects with a team of professionals in person. The company also stores ADA construction materials in this facility ready for use on-site at any time, allowing for a fast turnaround on a project.
ACR Design & Build
With the company’s success in the ADA compliance field, ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction was able to expand into the design and build industry. Tony opened sister company, ACR Design & Build in 2016. The company designs ADA-compliant spaces and submits those plans for city approval and then builds these accessible designs, all in-house. The company’s work ranges from the design of accessible exterior and interior routes to lowered service counters and ADA-compliant restrooms.
“Over the years, word has spread that if you need any ADA-related work at a college, commercial building or anywhere, we’re the go-to team for ADA compliance,” Tony says. “Almost all of our new business comes to us through client recommendations. That’s something we’re proud of.”