Priestly Demolition provides complete demolition services and includes remediation, salvage, and on-site recycling as part of what it does on any project, in any industry throughout Ontario.
The company is currently celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. Priestly Demolition was founded by Vic Priestly as Vic Priestly Contracting Limited in 1971 and was incorporated under its current name in 1993. Vic’s children, twins Robin and Ryan Priestly, run the business now, as executive vice president and president respectively, and are quick to credit their highly skilled team for the company’s continued success, touting this as the biggest and most advanced demolition team in the province.
The Priestly team comprises approximately three hundred people in the summer and around two hundred and fifty in the winter. They serve the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) from the company’s main office in King City and the rest of the province from smaller offices in Ottawa and Sudbury.
Priestly Demolition embraces four core principles: safety, innovative technology, family, and renewal.
Safety is the company’s foremost pillar, as can be expected of any construction or demolition outfit, but the team is continuously working on this to guarantee a safe working environment now and to build safety into the workplace culture for the future. Safety is what goes together with quality to keep the business sustainable, say Robin and Ryan, and accidents on the job not only subtract value from the brand but are also plainly unacceptable to the company culture.
Priestly employs cutting-edge innovation through the technology it uses both in the field for equipment – like new attachments, couplings, and machines – and in the office, where the team uses new software for estimation, dispatch, maintenance, tracking, and quality control. Priestly Demolition is also Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, giving it an international mark of excellence for green building, as it makes certain that its demolition services lead to further green building initiatives, sustainable practices and a general approach of conservation and renewal.
Of the four principles, family is the one from whence the company’s very identity comes. Robin and Ryan inherited the business from their father and happily admit that working with family poses far more advantages than challenges for them. The rest of Priestly’s staff also has many family members working together, to the point where the sense of family has become engrained in the company’s very culture. The nature of the business is one of high risk and fast pace, so it is important for Priestly to operate with teamwork. Collaboration leads to employees taking care of each other and doing their jobs with excellence.
Founder Vic Priestly instilled a sense of community within Priestly Demolition, and the company is still very involved with many Ontario community projects to this day. Vic was an entrepreneur at heart, his children say, and he relied on good relationships with the nearby communities to build his businesses. Some of that involvement includes supporting local children’s sports teams from soccer to hockey to baseball, as well as giving to local hospitals in different regions throughout the province. The company supports charitable initiatives such as Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, Big Brother Big Sisters, M.A.D.D., and more.
Marketing within the demolition industry can be tricky at times, says Robin, but word-of-mouth about Priestly Demolition’s services and the pride its employees take in their work are what consistently nets the company attention and projects. Ryan adds that a job well done, along with good feedback from customers, adds value to the brand. Priestly’s marketing is also accomplished through digital efforts like social media and even by simpler acts like labelling trucks and making the company logo noticeable on machines.
The company’s efforts have certainly garnered the team some impressive clients, and it boasts a rich portfolio of successful projects. For a project dubbed, “St. Mike’s Staircase,” Priestly was contracted by Bondfield Construction Company to perform the demolition of an existing 17 storey stair tower situated within the existing and functioning St. Michael’s Hospital. “This project was sensitive in every way imaginable,” says the firm’s website – “a live, functioning hospital situated in the busy downtown Toronto core.” Operating within the tight footprint of a staircase, logistics and the movement and storage of materials posed significant challenges. But, “As professional demolition contractors, we were able to mitigate the risk to patients, staff, and visitors, and the meet hospital’s need to continuously provide service, in addition to completing the work required on time, and on budget.”
In a particularly environmentally sensitive project, PDI was contracted by Bot Ferrovial Nipigon Joint Venture to remove the existing Nipigon Bridge, built in the 1970s, as well as the remaining piers from the 1936 structure. The company, in partnership with Western Mechanical, decided that rolling the bridge off would be the best tactic. First, the old bridge was jacked up to install hydraulic drives, and a water protection platform was installed. The team removed all overhangs and concrete deck on the east side to reduce the weight of the structure, then installed king post bracing and began to roll the entire bridge to the west, trimming concrete and steel in 50-foot increments until it was complete.
For client PCL Construction, Priestly was responsible for the careful demolition of a 1960s-era hospital upon completion of the new facility – just metres away. The company had to manoeuvre equipment and materials in the limited space between the new Bridgepoint Health facility and the historic Don Jail, taking care to protect the new building’s glass façade as it brought down the old building in stages. As the company states on its website, “Attention to detail, efficiency, and most importantly safety were the key factors for this project.”
The extension of the Don Jail was next in the Bridgepoint redevelopment project. Built in the 1860s, the historic Don Jail remains a landmark in Toronto to this day, and now serves as an administrative hub for the new Bridgepoint Health hospital. “The more modern extension that was added in the 1950s, however, had served its purpose and closed in January 2014,” says the company. “This red brick addition needed to come down without interfering with the original building and its new role for the hospital,” and while preserving the original heritage structure.
The importance of urban renewal
Projects like these indicate that demolition is an industry very much in demand with no signs of slowing down, especially in a metropolis like Toronto. The city, says Ryan, is in a continuous state of renewal, with new buildings and infrastructure replacing old ones to accommodate an increasing population.
Robin and Ryan cite Union Station in Toronto as an example of this renewal, as it has been worked on since 2008 due to constant upgrades. This never-ending upgrading allows the demolition industry to work together with its sister industry: construction. It also ensures that Priestly will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.
As Ryan says, with the demand for demolition a continuous one, keeping to your word on a project is key. Saying what you are going to do for your customer, and then following through with that is exactly what customers want.
Success in the industry
A challenge that Priestly regularly runs across is having to bid competitively in a fast-paced marketplace. Robin and Ryan say that the advantage of Priestly is its ability to understand projects better than other companies and to offer innovative solutions that other bidders may not coneive of. Priestly understands multiple markets through the variety of the services it offers, so it can provide a full package of solutions that is the most attractive to its customers.
This approach to customer service has been not only profitable for Priestly but has netted the company greater worldwide attention as well. For the past several years, Priestly Demolition has added impressive accolades to its name. In 2016, Priestly won the Civils Demolition and World Demolition awards at the World Demolition Awards summit; a year later, Priestly added two more of these awards, one for contract of the year under one million dollars, for its work at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and the recycling and environmental award for its work at Humber Hospital, also in Toronto. Priestly has ranked highly in national and international lists of best contractors and is currently short-listed for the 2018 World Demolition Awards in an impressive four categories.
With this kind of success, it may not be long before Priestly Demolition extends its reach outside of its home province. Priestly commands one of the largest demolition fleets in Canada and is always researching further projects, including possible expansion into other provinces or even the United States.
Priestly Demolition will also be working on a reorganization of its management style and structure, so that systems are in place for the company and its customers to get to the matter of a project without wait times, making the process much more efficient. Priestly also strives to keep on top of technology in the industry to stay ahead of the competition.
Ryan notes that Priestly is looking to obtain Certificate of Recognition (COR) by early 2019. With COR certification coming to Ontario, it is a necessity for companies like this if it wants to work with larger businesses like MetroLink, Public Works Canada, the City of Toronto, and others that will require this standard of safety. Robin and Ryan are proud of what the company has become and will continue to work with their team to sustain its success for many years to come.