Hitting the Mark

Features - Cover Story

Precision Demolition’s client-first focus has helped the company become one of the nation’s largest demolition contractors.

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May 21, 2018
Adam Redling
Photos by Mike Reyher

When you have a name like Precision Demolition, details matter. Which might be one of the reasons why Aaron Smith, owner and president of the Lewisville, Texas-based demolition company, puts so much emphasis on doing the little things right. Whether it’s taking extra time to “engineer out” potential complications on the front end of a project or investing in stringent continuing education programs to ensure safety compliance within its workforce, Smith says Precision Demolition’s exacting standards have allowed the company to flourish over the last 20 years.

“We approach each project as a team and specialize in projects where preplanning, high-level safety precautions and due diligence are paramount. No project is ever too big or too complex,” Smith says.

The company, which Smith founded in 1999 just a couple years out of college, has expanded to include approximately 480 employees and new offices in Houston and Austin. Smith says Precision Demolition is currently the largest privately owned demolition contractor in Texas and the seventh largest demolition contractor in the country.

Precision Demolition completes roughly 300 projects a year in Texas, that includes a range of services, such as implosion, wrecking, selective structural demolition, interior demolition, exterior demolition, saw cutting and coring.

Smith attributes the company’s expansion to its focus on the basics and a mentality that underscores the need for investing in what’s important rather than what’s convenient.

“We have implemented safety standards that exceed industry standards, developed continuing education programs for our labor force and invested in the most technologically advanced fleet of equipment the industry has to offer,” Smith says. “These commitments, along with the core principle of creating clients for life, have enabled Precision Demolition’s [growth]."

Investing where it counts

Smith says that the company’s typical projects range anywhere from $5,000 to $15 million in scope, with a focus on contracting with general contractors and developers performing projects in the commercial, healthcare, education and airport sectors. Precision leverages its team of more than 400 field professionals, plus its 80 preconstruction, operations, safety and administration staff, and its large fleet of equipment to keep up with demand.

While Smith says that its staff is Precision’s biggest asset, the company isn’t immune to the workforce crunch that has swept over the construction and demolition industries.

“As it sits today, a labor shortage is the largest hurdle we are currently facing, and this is not localized with only demolition companies but with the entire construction industry in Texas,” Smith says. “The unskilled, and especially the skilled labor force, seems to be shrinking while the industry's demands continue to grow. With the largest demolition workforce in the state, this challenge has been on the forefront of our concerns for some time.”

To combat this issue, Precision has stressed the importance of strengthening and educating its existing workforce. It has also partnered with organizations like the Construction Career Collaborative, Houston, to help in building a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce they can rely on. Smith says part of Precision’s investment in its team is giving workers the tools they need to succeed. That’s why the company has doubled down in recent years in employing the industry’s latest equipment.

“Precision Demolition has been actively implementing technology into our operations such as more efficient equipment and on-site computer systems to utilize our workforce in a more efficient manner,” Smith says.

When it comes to investing in equipment, Smith says the company’s philosophy is simple: buy whatever it takes to get the job done.

“We buy any equipment as needed so our customers and our team members can obtain the greatest success,” Smith says.

The company’s catalog of equipment is extensive. Currently, they own four backhoe loaders from Caterpillar, Peoria, Illinois; six Caterpillar track skid steers; 33 Caterpillar wheeled skid steers; 20 tracked excavators from Caterpillar and Volvo, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania; three Volvo high-reach excavators; 10 telehandlers from JLG Industries, McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, and Xtreme, Henderson, Nevada; three JLG Industries manlifts; three Caterpillar track loaders; four Caterpillar wheel loaders; 13 original equipment manufacturers floor strippers, 18 flat saws from Merit, Prescott, Arizona, and Husqvarna, Charlotte, North Carolina; and six wall saws from Pentruder, Sweden.

Implementing a client-first mentality

One of Precision Demolition’s mottos is centered around “creating clients for life,” Smith says. This mentality is based on understanding and working to fulfill the needs of Precision’s industry partners on every job.

“Precision Demolition treats every client as a partner,” Smith says. “What this means is, the development and implementation of the demolition scope should revolve around the project’s success as a whole and not only what is best for the demolition contractor. Whether we perform a single-level interior renovation or dismantle a group of multistory buildings downtown, we believe in developing an honest and open relationship allowing for a safe and efficient project completion that focuses on exceeding the expectations of their client, not just ours.”

Smith says that meeting the expectations of the client begins long before the actual demolition starts, as Precision works to craft a comprehensive strategy for each project to minimize on-the-job risks.

“We believe in developing an honest and open relationship with our clients, allowing for a safe and efficient project completion that focuses on exceeding the expectations,” Smith says. “In an industry where unfavorable logistics and demanding time constraints intersect with unforeseen and dangerous conditions, Precision Demolition has taken the approach to engineer out the hazards during preconstruction rather than constantly adapt in the field. This has been led by an in-house safety department that provides training, documentation and implementation throughout every life cycle of a project.”

Smith says the company’s training and compliance measures have paid dividends for the company through greater workplace safety, which has garnered Silver & Gold Safety Training Evaluation Process (STEP) awards from the Associated Builders and Contractors, Washington, and a Top 200 safety award from Texas Mutual, Austin, Texas.

“This dedication of [trying to build] the most well-trained and safest demolition labor force in the country has resulted in an experience modification rate (EMR) of .87 and no deaths in the history of the company,” Smith says.

Raising the bar on recycling

Part of Precision Demolition’s philosophy on preparing for and getting the most from each project is centered on maximizing its recycling opportunities. According to Smith, the company’s environmentally conscious mentality also helps Precision Demolition fulfill its clients’ expectations.

“Our experience in recycling is extremely advanced,” Smith says. “We come from a long history of green building projects and recycling requirements of almost every type of material on the job site. We are experts at accounting for and recycling just about every material you can think of that might be in a building. Our customers, cities, state and federal requirements demand that level of expertise, and we deliver.”

It’s this focus on recycling that helped Precision Demolition win the 2018 Excellence in Demolition award from the National Demolition Association (NDA), Washington, for its demo work on The University of Texas at Austin Engineering Education and Research Center (UT EERC).

The project, which began in September 2014 and lasted three years, included the removal of a multitiered concrete structure with more than 225,000 square feet of interior space and more than 125,000 square feet of pavement. Along with the sheer size of the project, Precision Demolition had to contend with a number of environmental concerns, including more than 150,000 square feet of interior asbestos and 31 tons of exterior asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), lead paint, mercury and radioactive material.

“Winning the Excellence in Demolition Award for Precision Demolition is a great honor, one that recognizes the effort of our entire organization,” Smith says. “Having a team with the right experience and collaborative thinking, along with a conscious attitude towards environmental impacts and safety, has allowed us to be recognized by the National Demolition Association. On this particular project, we were able to implement a system that reclaimed the water used for dust suppression that allowed it to be refiltered and reused. Not only were we recycling thousands of gallons of water during the demolition, we also implemented a sorting system that allowed us to recycle over 96 percent of the structure.”

Smith says the collaboration exhibited during the UT EERC project is emblematic of the team-first ethos he dreamed of fostering when he founded the company two decades ago.

“As I transitioned from college to the business world, I enjoyed the synergy of people and relationships and what can be accomplished when the right group of people, the right vision and planning come together,” Smith says. “Twenty years later, we have had tremendous growth and tremendous success. We are looking forward to the future.”

The author is editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at aredling@gie.net.