Few are trusted more than the experts at the Clifford Group of Companies when it comes to undertaking historic structure projects. Canada’s undisputed expert in masonry and restoration for almost half a century, the group encompasses Clifford Masonry Limited, Clifford Restoration Limited, and Clifford Group Limited, which has a local office in Calgary, Alberta and head office in Scarborough, Ontario.
Under the leadership of President Sam Trigila, Vice President Phil Puype, and Vice President Tony Serafico, the company’s massive portfolio of education, civic, church, historic, hospital, museum gallery and other works keeps growing.
The Clifford Group’s work encompasses many well-known buildings across the country, where it has done structural and fine finishing work, updated electrical and audiovisual systems, and brought buildings up to today’s handicapped access codes. It takes on even the most difficult works, from the Casa Loma and the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant to Toronto’s Old City Hall to restoring the west wing of the MaRS Centre, one of the world’s largest innovation hubs.
“We offer our clients the assurance of quality, professionalism, and expertise from each person on our team,” says Phil Puype, Vice President. “Ongoing education focusing on trends, products, knowledge, technology, and equipment ensure that our people operate at the leading edge within the industry. At Clifford, we are knowledgeable, innovative, informed, and current. We combine our strengths to form a team of craftspeople, artisans, and management to ensure the successful completion of each project.”
The divisions that make up The Clifford Group enable it to work seamlessly in the building and historic conservation sector. Every division is professionally managed by a qualified specialist who, along with trusted team members, provides customers with exceptional service and project outcomes.
Working on older buildings requires not only a high degree of knowledge in an array of restoration, consultation, and conservation services but also artistry. The Clifford Group of Companies has over 250 full-time employees, with skilled workers added as necessary depending on project requirements and timing in the construction season.
“All employees are highly skilled in their respective fields,” says Puype. The company’s experts include brick and stonemasons and restoration masons, restoration steeplejack carpenters, scaffold and elevated work platform erectors, architectural conservators, Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB) certified welders, and skilled labourers.
They can perform façade retention, fault diagnosis, micro-abrasion cleaning systems, stone and masonry consolidation, chemical treatments, and restoration and conservation of plaster, stucco, and interior finishes. They may also be required to reproduce and install Roman Stone (cast stone) or conserve, repair or replicate structural and decorative wood, as well as underpinning, waterproofing, and many other professional services like laying brick, block or architectural units, installing stone cladding, natural stone, granite, or precast units, fitting natural stone pavers and landscape walls, interior and exterior restoration or stabilization of masonry, carpentry, and conserving decorative metals or historical elements.
Like other firms in the construction sector, the Clifford Group faces obstacles like maintaining a skilled workforce, product availability, or specialized equipment. It must also deal with inclement weather, work on occupied buildings, confirm worker safety, and protect the public.
The company takes a proactive approach and carefully prepares a project plan that starts during the estimating phase, where it researches and identifies any potential hazards and supply issues that should be considered. Once the bid is successful and a contract is secured, the company is prepared to meet the challenges ahead.
The group maintains relationships with union partners and training associations and participates in initiatives that are geared towards providing the next generation of skilled workers. This includes providing career opportunities to pre-apprentices and new Canadians interested in starting in trades.
Many employees participate in several industry associations to safeguard success. “This allows us to focus on improvements in the industry and network with others who want to make a positive impact,” says Puype. The company is involved in apprenticeship and training of skilled trades, conservation and heritage associations, industry associations at the regional, provincial, and national levels, and safety associations.
Historical buildings have many aspects to consider as part of the restoration and conservation process, and these vary greatly from those of new builds. It is vital to make sure that correct methods and appropriate materials are chosen, so irreparable damage is not done to the structure.
“The main objective of restoration is to bring the structure back to its past glory by conserving the existing material where possible and only replacing where no other method will achieve the required result,” says Puype. There is a growing trend of incorporating portions of heritage structures into modern architecture.
“Clifford has completed many façade retention, penalization, and dismantle-rebuild projects over the past five decades. During this process, it is important to perform investigations and evaluations to ensure that the heritage façade, joined to the modern building, perform as it was originally intended. If not, there is potential for accelerated deterioration of the structure to occur over time.”
The Clifford Group values its staff and actively promotes a family culture, hosting events like a family fun skate, a day out at a Toronto Marlies’ hockey game, and a visit to the Toronto Zoo. It sends out a quarterly newsletter to all employees, keeping them updated with regard to company goals, events, and promotions. Awards of recognition are presented for employee achievements and highlighted in the newsletter, which has a project spotlight that showcases the results of all its hard work. “We are very proud of our employees’ pride in workmanship and integrity and take a dedicated, team-oriented approach to all that we do,” says Puype.
Clifford is on the threshold of celebrating fifty years in business in 2020 and is preparing company swag for employees and planning celebrations to mark the milestone. “We are taking into consideration that this is a special year, and we want to celebrate with all of the employees who made this achievement possible,” comments Puype.
As workplace safety plays a crucial role in the success of each project, the company consistently monitors projects with regular inspections by its safety coordinators to guarantee that procedures and protocols are being followed and that all elements of its projects operate efficiently. The company is keen to provide a safe working environment for all employees, subcontractors, and the public.
The company’s commitment to quality has resulted in it receiving numerous awards for its work in the Heritage Toronto Awards’ architecture category, where it won the William Greer architectural conservation and craftsmanship award. It has also earned recognition from the Ontario Heritage Trust, from which it attained the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario heritage award for excellence in conservation. The Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals annual national awards, National Trust for Canada Awards, and the 2014 Ontario Masonry Design Awards have also acknowledged the company’s excellent work.
Even with all this, the company aims to constantly better itself. This means seeking out educational programs, seminars, and services to assist with employees’ skill growth as well as improving its internal processes. Clifford is always investigating new technology to reduce the environmental impact of its projects. It has implemented tablets for field staff to reduce the need to print documents, and this has had the added benefit of improved response times for any problem or change that comes up during the project.
The company is also in the final phase of completing certification requirements for the Certificate of Recognition program. “The COR certificate is awarded to employers that develop and maintain a health and safety program that meets or exceeds established provincial standards,” says Puype. “Our goal is to encourage employee participation so we can continually improve our health and safety management system each year.”
The Clifford Group has had an excellent reputation in the industry since it was formed in 1970 and has joined forces with many top-rated architectural firms on ICI (Industrial/Commercial/Institutional) and private projects, placing a strong emphasis on communication between all parties. It embraces innovative concepts, creative thinking, best practices, and environmental protection while providing outstanding products and services.
“The Clifford management team members are highly educated and top in the industry with initiating, planning, ensuring execution of the entire Clifford team on each project to achieve the specific goals and meet or exceed client expectations on time and on budget,” states Puype.