Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry Logo

AWCI Member Spotlight: Component Assembly Systems

Component Assembly Systems, Inc. is one of the largest wall and ceiling contractors in the United States, but the company started out small in 1964 when it was founded as Score Carpentry, Inc., in New Rochelle, New York. Its first job was at the New York World’s Fair, installing exhibit cabinetry for $139.23.

Today, with an average of 1,500 employees, CAS does an annual business volume in the nine-figure range. It operates out of five offices on the eastern seaboard, three in California and one in Las Vegas. Drywall, acoustic and specialty ceilings represent the lion’s share of its business in office construction, residential/hospitality towers, medical facilities and entertainment venues.

In New York City its current work includes the wall and ceiling contract for the 60-story JPMorgan Chase office building in midtown Manhattan. Other significant contracts have been for Apple’s world headquarters in Cupertino, California, Amazon, Facebook/Meta, and it did all the wall and ceiling work for New York City’s One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower.

The specialty ceiling sector, which “has dramatically evolved over the past 10 years,” represents a growing portion of the contractor’s work, says company president Bob Perricone. “With the advent of infrastructure money, public projects have contributed to the renovation of most major airports, bus terminals and transportation hubs. Metal ceilings have been the architectural choice as owners appreciate the products for the durability, performance and color selection.”

The Javits Center
In large open spaces such as New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, baffles provide ambience and acoustic sound mitigation for the thousands of people attending events. For the convention center’s recent expansion, CAS’s work included 50,000 square feet of linear baffles (34-inches tall at 40-inches on center) in the complex’s grand ballroom, “the largest of its kind in the New York region,” says Roque Taveras, executive vice president at CAS. The contractor’s work also included 90,000 square feet of exhibit space and 45,000 square feet of meeting space. CAS was the design-assist contractor on the big project.
Also under the scope of work are all of the drywall and specialty ceilings in the new spaces. The materials for the specialty ceilings alone cost about $5 million, says Taveras, who oversees construction and project management in New York City.

“It was a very big job and one of the most challenging in my career because there was an incredible amount of engineering, and an extremely fast-track project schedule.” Taveras, who has been with Component Assembly for about 35 years, took leave of his executive duties to run the two-year convention job because the company was short of project managers.

Huge Ballroom, Still Not Enough Workspace
The 50,000-square-foot ballroom was “particularly daunting,” he says, partly because the room is about 70-feet high. “The walls and ceilings required special engineering support,” he explains.

Taveras says the linear baffles required for the ballroom were installed by CAS’s crew on “massive lifts” stretching to the ceiling. “All the trades working in the space at the same was the most challenging aspect of the contract.”

Jorge Barbosa, head of CAS’s field operations, says rather than create a hanging system for support from the upper slab, a metal frame was engineered to support the ceiling primarily because the span of the steel beams was 10 feet. “I can span that with a certain-sized strut and never go back up to the deck with hangers. It allowed us to be more productive in the support of the ceiling and required less coordination with mechanicals being installed above,” Barbosa explains.

To hang wallboard on the 70-foot-high walls required “oversized skyjacks and various booms to stand up the studs,” Barbosa adds. Lift equipment took up a lot of square footage in the congested space resulting in a logistics challenge with various subtrades. “Two guys would be working on a machine but it might be 6 feet wide by 15 feet long. That takes up a lot of space in the room where other subs are working.”

Ceiling Details in Other Areas
In corridors adjacent to the ballroom on the fifth floor, CAS installed custom 8 x 8-foot metal ceilings, and the fourth floor was specified with aluminum ceilings that had openings for lighting. “Both areas took a lot of coordination with the trades,” Barbosa says, adding it was a key factor for why mock-ups were completed of both ceilings. “It was a full go once all materials arrived on site.”

Roughly 30,000 square feet of 10 x 10-foot custom metal coffers were specified for pre-function areas. In the concourse areas about 5,000 square feet of custom perforated ceilings with a “pixilated-like pattern” were installed. They were surrounded by solid metal panels.

In the meeting rooms at the Javits Center are 40,000 square feet of linear metal ceiling cassettes that are 6 inches high and 6 inches on center. Sound-absorbing material is encased in the perforated metal ceiling.
Because the big convention project required 42% Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) contractors as stipulated by the state, the meeting rooms, some pre-function spaces and areas without specialty ceilings were subcontracted out to minority and women-owned companies, Taveras says. About 80 carpenters, lathers and tapers from CAS plus another 40 from the New York state’s M/WBE program worked on the job. CAS has separate departments for ceiling crews, millworkers, framers and drywall installers. “Because we are a big company,” Barbosa says, “we are able to maintain a good amount of our workforce.”

Although the Javits Center contract was fulfilled through the pandemic, CAS didn’t experience supply chain issues with specialty ceilings because they were all purchased in 2018–2019, and the contractor paid the ceiling manufacturer to store the materials until project startup. CAS had to scramble, however, to secure the 3 million square feet of gypsum wallboard from various suppliers around New York City because of scarcities at the time due to the pandemic. While they had an account with a regular supplier, that supplier didn’t have all that was needed for this job.

Barbosa says the key to the success of any specialty ceiling job starts with accurate shop drawings supplied by the manufacturer. “They guide us on everything done and all the coordination needed prior to the material’s arrival,” he says.

He adds that although the Javits Center’s specialty ceilings presented challenges, the unionized contractor had enough skilled installers do the job “without many hiccups” once project flow was established. “Everybody needs to be trained from the outset on how things go together, and then everything repeats itself,” Barbosa says.

Beautiful Ceilings at the Museum
The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation in the west wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York is one of CAS’s most striking custom ceiling jobs of recent times. It consists of a series of 3-inch wide wood baffles extending from a main column that forms the shape of a tree with spreading branches. Each baffle was labeled for a specific location and hung with aircraft cable. The ceiling is suspended from a black iron system.

Barbosa says it was a complex job. To get a precise layout of the complex design in which every baffle is a different length and extending to different heights, CAS used a total work station to plot points of the ends on the floor. “The keys for us were that all the pieces were labeled on the shop drawings correctly so we knew where they went, and also having the right guys to do the installation,” Barbosa explains. “The frustration for the manufacturer was that they had to make all these pieces differently.”

Mike Todaro, senior project manager, says usually when CAS encounters jobs this complex, it pools resources from past jobs to develop practical production solutions. This job was unique though. “It was a lot of head-scratching. Developing a game plan was a tremendous challenge,” he says.

Todaro says once the manufacturer’s shop drawings were approved, production on the unusual ceiling system commenced in Florida. The product was completed several months ahead of installation, so CAS stored it in a dry space at a lumber yard in Queens.

Another ceiling made by the same Florida-based manufacturer was in an S-shape for an undulating wave-like form at the Richard Gilder Center. “We created each piece with various segments and hung it in the same way,” says Barbosa.

The ceiling job was complicated by the fact that the iconic interior of the new building “pretty much looks like a cave,” he adds. “None of the ceilings are square. The walls were radiused and the ceilings and fascias that come off the walls were radiused and turned.”

Other Projects
Another CAS project at a high-rise office building across the street from the iconic Trinity Church in lower Manhattan featured three specialty ceiling systems: a metal coffered ceiling made to replicate large wood beams, a custom linear ceiling and a custom wood-panel ceiling.

One of the hurdles was sequencing the trades for such installs as lighting and sprinklers because of the confined space to work in, says Barbosa. “Like anything you try to max the height for mechanical, but when you max the height it doesn’t give you a lot of forgiveness for other things put into the ceiling.”
In Manhattan, Barbosa sees more owners wanting their building interiors, especially their ceilings, to be unique. “I think the days of luxury office spaces are gone and things have turned to open concept, so owners are trying to add more value to the ceilings,” he says

CAS has contracts at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 1 where “showy ceilings” are a priority. “Much of the money on these contracts is in the ceilings,” he says.

CAS uses a variety of layout tools, such as rolling robots that provide plotting points and other robots that draw out shapes for the contractor on the floor. “The only other new technology we use is the pile max machine primarily for drywall pockets and fascia,” Barbosa says.

While recent specialty and custom ceiling jobs have been among the most challenging of Barbosa’s long career at CAS, they are among the jobs he likes the most. “They keep me on my toes,” he says, “and the crews like them because it gets them thinking and doing something new every day.”

Don Procter is a freelance writer in Ontario, Canada.

Browse Similar Articles

You May Also Like

CEMCO® is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! Founded in 1974, CEMCO is recognized as one of the largest manufacturers of steel framing and metal lath systems in the United States.
As temperatures rise and the summer sun beats down, ensuring the safety of your construction workers becomes a top priority. But what can you do?
AWCI's Construction Dimensions cover

Renew or Subscribe Today!