Premform Limited

Premform Limited says its new equipment line is vital to its success. Unlike most contractors today, the residential division of Premform Limited – a Canadian concrete forming company – is still very busy. “We’re in the middle of our bigger contracts,” General Manager Tony DiNardo explains. “This work was secured by us months ago, some more than a year ago. Market indicators suggest that 2010 will continue to be strong.”

One of those projects includes the last two high-rises that are a part of the five-building Absolute World Towers condominium complex in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The company’s portion of the work is $30 million and it is currently performing the concrete formwork and reinforcement on the 56-story Tower D and 50-story Tower E.

As of early October, Tower D was on the 19th floor and is expected to be completed in one year, and Tower E had just come out of the ground and will be completed in 14 to 16 months. The construction of these two high-rises is more challenging than the first three because they are designed as a corkscrew.

“As each floor goes up, the building footprint rotates,” he explains. “We participated in several pre-design meetings with the owner [Fernbrook Homes] and the architect [Burka Varacalli Architects] and the structural consultant [Sigmund Soudack & Associates] to come up with a design, which would be more efficient than what they had.”

For typical condominium projects, once the underground and lower podium aspects of the construction are completed, the rest of the floors are repetitive, DiNardo explains. “[For this project], as you build every floor, the position of the slab and the configuration of the vertical element changes,” he says. “Outside of the main core footprint, we try and implement on each floor as much repetition as possible, so we made suggestions to the consultant on what we thought we could work with.

[By doing that], you’re making improvements to the schedule and also reducing the cost for the owner.” Also, DiNardo notes, the project utilizes an Agilia concrete mix – a higher quality of concrete – within the vertical elements on the lower levels of the developments due to the high volume of reinforcement. “There is very little vibration that is required once it’s placed,” he explains. “It produces a very high level of finish.”

Telus Office Tower

Premform Limited recently completed its $25 million portion of the Telus Office Tower in downtown Toronto. The company’s scope of the project involved concrete formwork and placing the concrete finishes on the 30-story commercial building with underground parking.

The project was challenging because it was located in the heart of downtown, in the midst of much pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Because it couldn’t shut that area down, Premform, along with Amhurst Pumping, developed a method to place the 50,000 cubic meters of concrete more efficiently. “We proposed to put the pumping equipment right across the street,” DiNardo explains. “From there, we ran the pump lines under York Street and into the site. We then ran the lines up the building.

“We’ve pumped our concrete on previous projects, but we’ve never staged the concrete away from the site before,” he says. The company didn’t encounter any challenges with the new method, he adds. “It was planned very well between the subcontractors, ourselves and the owner of the project.”

High Tech

Premform Limited was founded more than 40 years ago and today performs concrete formwork for multifamily residential, big-box industrial, multilevel commercial and institutional markets in the Toronto area.

“Our main goal has always been to stay abreast on new technologies and on how multilevel concrete construction is executed in other markets, understand their respective benefits, educate our clients and implement these techniques here in our market,” DiNardo says. “[Equipment acquisitions] is an important part of our operation. We are constantly looking at tower cranes and the latest shoring equipment, and how they can be adapted for use in our market.”

The company keeps in close contact with its equipment suppliers. “We follow their advice on new equipment being used in other markets,” he says. “They always let us know what new pieces of equipment they see coming down the pipeline. We also attend trade shows in the states and Europe. We believe that maintaining or bringing new equipment to do our work helps us in the long run.”

In addition, DiNardo says Premform’s relationships with its clients, general contractors and subcontractors are the main reason for its success. “A very small portion of our business is with new clients,” he notes. “We are proud to have outstanding relationships that have existed for many years – hence the bulk of our business is with repeat customers.”

All of those relationships are based on trust, he stresses. “Trust is something that is important in our business and is not something you go out and demand – it’s something you earn,” he says.

The same goes for its strong relationships with its subcontractor base. “We have dealt with a core supplier group for a number of years and we have excellent relationships with them,” he says. “It’s very important to us. Their service to us is extremely important and we consider them as a part of our family.”

The importance of those relationships is demonstrated through the project process. For example, the company’s clients pay Premform on time, which allows it to pay their subcontractors on a timely basis as well. “Cash flow is important,” DiNardo says. “Considering the type of work we do is very labor intensive, our payroll cost is enormous.”

Eye on the Ball

The Toronto construction market has always been competitive, DiNardo notes, but this does not faze Premform. “We really need to know our costs and control our costs as best we can,” he says. “We try and run as lean an operation as possible. Cost control is important and so is equipment. We always try to make sure we have [the newest equipment possible].”

Having the latest equipment is also vital in keeping its employees safe. “Because we are so labor intensive in our work, it’s critical that the equipment our forces use in the field is in excellent condition,” he says.

Premform’s safety program is always a work in progress, he adds. The company has worked with Residential Construction Council of Ontario Construction Safety Association for four years to develop its safety program. “The requirements are always updated and something we are quite proud of is how we’ve been able to develop the program,” he says.

The company also strives to provide the best service possible, he adds. “We will not compromise the level of service, quality and workmanship,” he stresses.

Focused on Integrity

Premform follows a stringent corporate ethics and accountability policy, and DiNardo stresses that attributes such as fairness, communication and honesty are key building blocks to a successful business. “These are proven attributes which our organization proudly demonstrates on an ongoing basis both in the boardroom and on the site,” he says. Integrity is also vital, he adds. “If you have integrity, then nothing else matters,” DiNardo states. “If you don’t have integrity, then nothing else matters.”

DiNardo says his vision for the future of Premform is to stay updated on new technology and market trends. “We want to continue to educate and promote and ultimately implement in our market new systems of concrete construction, thereby elevating the quality, workmanship and frequency of service supplied to our clients,” he says.

The company will depend on its subcontractors, suppliers and trade shows to meet the vision. “Toronto is unique in that although we have always been aware of different systems and technology to do the work, our market has typically been reluctant to make that change,” he says. “Recently, with the higher and taller buildings that we’ve been building, we have started to see the implementation of different or newer systems [such as specialty formwork, concrete pumping and newer tower cranes],” he notes. “Depending on the economy and availability of land, tall building construction will continue.”

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