3R Demolition provides demolition and recycling services for a range of commercial and residential buildings and interiors. David Soyka learns the “3 Rs” of success for this British Columbia, Canada-based company.
So the first thing you might want to know about a company named 3R Demolition is what the Rs are and what they have to do with tearing things down. Then, you need to know about the “evers.”
“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” explains general manager and co-owner Corinne Fulton, who founded the British-Columbia, Canada-based demolition contractor in 2000 with her husband, Keith Fulton. “Whatever, wherever and whenever.”
While a clever marketing slogan, it is also an apt description of the business and its commitment of responsibility to every job it undertakes. Fulton also emphasizes that the demolition business has adhered to these principles long before it became fashionable – and profitable – for businesses to proclaim their adherence to “green” practices. “I’ve been in the demolition business since 1974 and while sure, today there is more attention to environmentally conscious methods, our industry has always been about the safe and effective removal and disposal of building materials,” says Fulton.
She adds, however, that both her company and the industry as a whole are currently emphasizing “deconstruction” over conventional notions of demolition. It’s a vogue term, but also an accurate description of 3R Demolition’s services.
According to the company Web site, “Deconstruction has revolutionized the demolition industry. This new trend is making conventional demolition a thing of the past – it’s no longer just a traditional material removal and disposal industry. Rather, it has progressed to a highly sophisticated, environmentally friendly deconstruction, recycle and salvage opportunity. Today, with all the options of recycling and building codes changing, the building’s deconstructed materials are frequently reintroduced into the construction materials supply chain. The salvage industry has grown alongside with the ongoing acceptance of harvesting reusable material for future construction planning.”
And what’s good for the environment is also good for business. “Adopting the principles of deconstruction means a safer work environment, results in more jobs, and promotes a positive company image,” Fulton says.
“LEEDING” THE WAY
Fulton adds, “What’s really big these days especially in the Vancouver region and northwest Canada is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It started out with residential projects, but there’s now major growth in the industrial and commercial sectors, as well, in adhering to LEED certification standards. We generally obtain at least an 85 percent recycle/reuse of the materials in any project we deconstruct. The fact that certain materials, such as drywall, are banned from landfills, makes it that much more important to have a demolition company that can not only safely remove these materials, but salvage them for other uses. This eliminates the problem of how you dispose of something that literally can’t be thrown out.”
While 3R Demolition does not itself recycle deconstructed materials, Fulton explains that “we have relationships with recyclers and salvage operators to handle the material we remove from a site. The one exception is that we do maintain lumber as well as some select top-of-the-line items in our own salvage yard for resale.” She adds with a chuckle, “It’s kind of an odd notion to recycle lumber in a region that’s known for its timber industry, but the building industry has started to see the forest for the trees in the advantages of reusing lumber instead of just throwing it out.”
Materials that can be recycled include drywall, most metals, concrete, asphalt and clean unpainted wood. Items that can be salvaged for use in other building projects include doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, steel beams, lumber, timber, plywood, appliances and electrical fixtures and panels, including HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) units.
Another kind of recycling involves the preservation of historical structural timbers and artifacts. “We work closely with our clients to identify what needs to be preserved and work to carefully remove these items to maintain their condition and prepare them for storage or installation elsewhere,” Fulton says.
Fulton herself is active in industry associations that promote effective deconstruction and reuse of building materials. She served a two-year term on the Board of Directors for the Used Building Materials Association and currently is on an advisory committee with the British Columbia government and the Greater Vancouver Regional District whose mandate is to encourage recycling as an alternative to landfill as well as hazardous waste materials abatement. She is also a member of a provincial government task force considering tax incentives for re-using building materials.
3R Demolition’s main office is located in Burnbay and does project work mostly in the Vancouver and lower mainland region. Fulton says, however, “While we concentrate in work here in Canada, we are interested in pursuing projects below the border. When and if the right opportunity in the United States arises for our services, we would certainly be interested.”
The company employs 80 on staff with five to 10 additional on-call temporary workers. In addition to the demolition of entire buildings, the company also can selectively tear down part of a structure, or interiors within a structure. “Exterior demolition can involve cutting a building in half to make it smaller or to add a larger addition,” Fulton explains. “Selective interior demolition is currently big in the lower mainland’s construction market. To do this effectively and safely, you have to ensure you don’t disrupt surrounding businesses that continue to operate, while working in condensed work areas under strict timetables and equally strict budgets.”
She adds, “The safety of our workers is always paramount for us. But for interior work in particular, a safe and clean working environment is essential so that there is minimal disruption to other businesses and people in the immediate area who could be inconvenienced by our presence.”
One example is the recent successful deconstruction of the Zeller’s Store in the Scottsdale Mall to allow a building extension that doubled the existing store footage from about 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet. This involved the removal of drywall, steel studs, concrete and concrete slab, square metal tubing, tin roofing, all electrical, and slab bar reinforcement. At another project, on the west side of Vancouver, 3R Demolition deconstructed the aging three-story Shaughnessy Mansions apartment building, while ensuring historical preservation of the brick, wood and concrete heritage landmark. The exterior south portion was structurally supported and saved, while the complete building to the north was deconstructed.
Fulton notes, “Here in British Columbia we’re getting ready for the 2010 Winter Olympics, so there’s a lot of work now, particularly interior deconstruction, where a lot of renovation is required to upgrade facilities, such as to improving mobility to allow access for persons with disabilities. So that’s been a big part of our business lately.”
She adds, “Even in the current recession, we’ve been busy. In fact, things are going like crazy for us. We’ve doubled our business over the last year, despite the economy. I think there are a number of reasons for this. One is the relationships we’ve built over the years with our customers. You do a good job at a good price and you’ll get asked back. Secondly, we have all the capabilities that are required to do a job right. It’s important to have all your ducks lined up; you can’t be scrambling to line up resources once you get a job, and you have to be ready to do the job as soon as it comes in. And, finally, you have to be aggressive to go out and get the work. You just can’t be sitting around waiting for someone to offer you a job.”
While competitive pricing is always a major factor in awarding contracts, a range of factors make 3R Demolition the right choice. “First is that we are very conscious of protecting the health and safety of all our workers consistent with all regulatory requirements. All of our employees are thoroughly trained in accordance with all established procedures, especially those involving hazardous materials, and safe work practices. We train our employees so that they clearly understand and accept responsibility to act and work safely and comply with all health and safety regulations and company procedures.”
In addition, the company maintains first-rate working relationships with other sub-trades and general contractors that may be involved in a project. “It’s key that they know what we need from them, as well as what they need from us,” Fulton stresses. “Otherwise, things can get held up. We strive to meet all reasonable timetables, and part of our ability to perform is our ability to work with others to see that we move forward together.”
And, of course, delivering those three R’s “Reduce Reuse Recycle” – whatever, wherever and whenever – underpins both current and future success. While prospects may be crumbling for some businesses, 3R Demolition is busy tearing things down as the means to building things up.