A century based on trust

A century based on trust

By Greg McMillan

When you’ve been in the construction business for 100 years, expect to deal with a few changes along the way.

So it’s no wonder M. Sullivan & Son Limited, Canada’s oldest privately-held construction business, has been able to make adjustments seamlessly in the green building marketplace.

Based in Eastern Ontario, Sullivan has definitely moved with the times and today embraces Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification projects, showing a responsibility to be more responsible to the environment, and incorporating green ideas into its building designs and construction practices.

The company, most recently, received LEED® Gold certification for the design and construction of the Prescott Border Crossing in Johnstown, Ontario. Earlier LEED® Gold recognition was awarded for the Kingston, Ontario, Police Headquarters and the St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre, for OPG, in Cornwall, Ontario..

Features incorporated into the design and construction include: a white reflective roof for reflectivity to reduce the heat island effect, optimization of energy modelling through mechanical systems and building envelope design, as well as reflective energy efficient glazing, automatic lighting controls, the use of slag in the concrete, high recycle and regional content in the materials used, indoor air quality monitoring, a tobacco-free environment, bicycle racks, an electric car charging station and the use of FSC certified wood products.

Low VOC paints, flooring adhesives and solvents for pipe and conduits contributed to the low-emitting materials credit. Sediment run-off controls were installed and monitored throughout the construction. As part of the indoor air quality credit, the building HVAC system was used to flush the air for a required duration prior to and after occupancy, which was monitored through the building’s automation system.

A third party commissioning agent was retained to manage and verify the commissioning and training and achieve the best practice commissioning credit. Rainwater was collected from the large roof areas into a cistern and used as non-potable water in toilets and urinals. A geothermal heating/cooling system was designed for the Cornwall project.

According to Tim Pruner, Sullivan’s vice-president, business development, sustainability has become part of the firm’s culture, as it also signifies a commitment to energy conservation, life-cycle improvements, environmental responsibility and the community.

“It has become part of our firm’s culture, as the new ‘greener’ generation takes over,” Pruner says. “From recycling to energy conservation, sustainability is evident in all of our daily lives. It has become second nature and will continue to evolve as technology leads the way with new greener products, equipment and methods developed to meet more stringent environmental and energy efficiency criteria.

“We are finding now that most projects, even the ones that are not designated to meet LEED certification, are incorporating a lot of the LEED concepts and principles, so the process is working.”

At Sullivan, Pruner points out that “our success has always stemmed from our readiness to champion innovations in our industry.”

In a company brochure, it states: “We were industry leaders long before the practice of construction was divided into so many disciplines. Our respect for the traditions of our craft – and the innovations that propel the construction industry – makes us a company of choice on challenging projects that demand specialized expertise, from hydroelectric generating stations to health-care facilities.”

Sullivan, which enjoys ongoing recognition at the Platinum level as one of Canada’s best managed companies, had an extra reason to celebrate in 2014, as the company marked its 100th anniversary with the launch of a book, aptly titled A Hundred Years on a Handshake (Lessons Learned In Building a Successful Business For Life). It had long been a dream of Tommy Sullivan ( Sullivan’s previous chairman) to have a book to preserve the history of the firm and the family.

Back in 1924, the year of its tenth anniversary, Sullivan logged just $5,012 in revenues. Fast forward to its 100th year and the firm now boasts more than $100-million in annual sales. Collectively, the business has generated more than $4.7-billion in sales and 6,300 person years of employment to local contractors in Ontario, Nova Scotia and other provinces.

The book, though, also reveals what it took to turn Maurice Sullivan’s obsession into a multi-generational legacy as larger-than-life characters – rooted in old-world ethics – helped shape the way business is done in Canada. More than just a riveting family history, the book is an entertaining guide for anyone wishing to create and sustain a successful and long-lasting company.

“I’ve been with M. Sullivan & Son for mostofmy career, and it’s been an invigorating experience from the start,” Robert J. Ball, president and chief executive officer, said at the book launch back in February. “Everybody works hard all day and all night if they need to, everyone is fair and honest, and every single employee gets treated like family. I could not name another Canadian firm that has been able to say that for a whole century.”

Added Greg Sullivan, fourth-generation builder and vice president of Sullivan’s Kingston operation: “Every time we build, we put our family’s name on the line and our family’s money behind the project. We’re proud of everything we do, and still go by our original Sullivan motto – you can never do a job too good.”


 A full-service industrial, commercial and institutional construction firm, M. Sullivan & Son Limited provides general contracting, construction management, design-build and project management expertise for clients in the public and private sectors.



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