Restoring the Past, Building the Future

Buttcon Limited

For over three decades, award-winning Construction Management and Design/Build firm Buttcon Limited has earned the respect of countless clients through its commitment to bringing in projects on time and on budget.

The company’s tireless dedication to quality workmanship, attention to detail, innovative design, and management and communication skills have also played significant roles in Buttcon’s continuing success.

Adhering to construction contracts, forms and guides set forth by the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC), Buttcon Ltd. stands apart from other general contractors in the field. Specializing in industrial, commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential construction as well as restoration and renovation, the company realizes some tools, technologies, construction methods and materials have changed over the years. But one thing which has enabled Buttcon’s ongoing success has remained the same: the firm’s ability to communicate well with all clients, contractors, and stakeholders engaged in construction projects.

“One of the reasons we stand apart is the experience of the people we have, and how we communicate with others,” says Marc Ferguson. “You can use all the standard methodologies you want, but if you don’t communicate them properly, you’re not going to be overly successful at what you do.”

Speaking from years of industry experience, Mr. Ferguson has spearheaded numerous projects over the quarter century he has worked at Buttcon. Starting as a senior project manager, Mr. Ferguson has handled complete management of multiple projects ranging in value from $2 million to over $60 million. Today, as Vice President, Preconstruction, he is responsible for business development and management of preconstruction activities for new CM and DB projects.

Founded by Michael A. Butt in 1979, Buttcon Ltd. today has more than 100 highly trained and experienced employees, and an industry-wide reputation for professionalism, solid management skills, superior quality, unparalleled safety, and working with clients, subcontractors and other parties in an atmosphere which fosters camaraderie and trust. Unlike some medium-sized general contractors, the team at Buttcon focuses on building long-lasting relationships with all customers, which has earned the company considerable amounts of repeat business over the past 35 years.

Still an employee-owned company – an asset, since staff have a vested interest in the success of the business – Buttcon continues to work on a range of projects, and has experienced growing demand in the fields of renovation and restoration work. “We are seeing a lot of existing buildings being re-purposed,” explains Mr. Ferguson. “Some are being re-purposed to do the job they were originally meant to do – but only better and more efficiently – and others are being transformed into something entirely new. We took the old Maple Leaf Gardens and turned it into a new Loblaws Superstore and sports facility for Ryerson University.”

Of all the restoration projects undertaken by Buttcon, undoubtedly one of the most ambitious to date is the revitalization of the world-famous St. Michael’s Cathedral for the Archdiocese of Toronto. Situated on grounds encompassing a large block in downtown Toronto, the legendary cathedral – the city’s oldest Roman Catholic Church building – was designed by British-born architect, engineer and surveyor, William Thomas in the Gothic Revival style. Thomas, who designed over 100 buildings between 1843 and 1860, has become best-known for surviving structures including St. Lawrence Hall, the Don Jail, and of course, St. Michael’s Cathedral.

The Cathedral was built in stages, commencing in 1845. Like many buildings of its time, it was made using available materials, and constructed largely by Irish labourers who were immigrating to the area. Serving parishioners for many years, the cathedral – essentially a wooden structure made with masonry on rubble foundations – has lasted for decades, yet had never before had a complete restoration.

“St. Michael’s Cathedral is being restored to serve its original purpose, only better,” shares Mr. Ferguson, adding that many repairs to the structure over the past 150 years were carried out by parishioners such as carpenters or stonemasons who patched things up in their spare time. “This is the first major restoration that has ever been done to St. Michael’s, and one we’re not going to let go of until we make sure it is done right. At Buttcon, we try to take a 100-year scenario into mind when we are doing the work, so everything we do there is for a 100-year solution, not just Band-Aid or suspender-type fixes. We are doing long-term restoration to the cathedral so it will be around for another 100 years or so.”

With a current budget for the restoration of around $42 million, Buttcon is working closely with the Archdiocese of Toronto on budgeting for the project, which will possibly run until 2018. “It is phased implementation of certain plans as they obtain the budget to do it,” says Mr. Ferguson of the ambitious work. “There is an overall master plan, but we are implementing it in stages as the operation of the cathedral and their cash flow allows.” In addition to cleaning all exterior masonry and stonework, pinnacles and exterior windows are being restored. Inside the cathedral, the basement crawl space and crypt are being transformed into a full-height basement with new washrooms to service the cathedral. The main level is being completely restored with new plaster ceilings, paintings and artwork on the ceiling, along with new floors and pews in the main nave of the cathedral, and modern air conditioning and heating systems.

During the course of the renovations, the team has made a number of “discoveries” – as Mr. Ferguson calls them – inside the cathedral structure. Once the team began examining the building, it was revealed that the supporting main structure of spire at St. Michael’s has nearly rotted away, and was likely to topple over. Presenting a potential safety issue, Buttcon underpinned the spire and created a temporarily support while a new concrete ring beam was created around the perimeter of the base, which replaced the old wood structure. During this entire time, Buttcon faced the challenge of working within the parameters of an occupied space, as the cathedral has remained open during renovation. “It is important to keep it open so that the services can go on while we’re doing a multi-million-dollar project,” says Mr. Ferguson. Along with quality and client satisfaction, safety is one of the pillars of Buttcon and its ongoing success.

Integral to Buttcon’s delivery of all construction projects, the company has a comprehensive Health and Safety Policy and Programme, which is issued to all staff and adhered to for the duration of every project. Buttcon prides itself on an exceptional safety record and has, in the past decade, received nine awards for “Zero Frequency of Accidents.” The company’s concern for maintaining safety has extended to other projects over the years, including the Ontario Science Centre and the Ontario government’s Legislative Assembly building, an occupied space which not only required the utmost in safety, but also security and keeping disruption and noise to an absolute minimum over four years of work.

Like many projects which involve older structures, Buttcon encounters hazardous materials during renovation and restoration projects, such as asbestos insulation wrapped around plumbing, or present in floor tiles. In some cases, such as with St. Michael’s Cathedral, the company will propose carefully considered and budgeted means to repair parts of structures or replace them entirely, whichever best suits the client’s needs.

As part of a larger Renewal Master Plan, the St. Michael’s project involves the masonry conservation of the west façade and the 275-foot tower. Earlier unsympathetic repairs have been reversed, and original features – including pinnacles, finials, and flying buttresses – have been recreated to restore the spire and tower to their original appearance. To match the original materials as closely as possible, replacement brick has been imported from England. Inside the cathedral was an original balcony, which was condemned. By not putting in support beams, Buttcon saved the Archdiocese money, stating that the structure could be torn down and built anew one day when future funding came through.

“We saved them funds by doing that, and showed them some financial assessments of what would be in their best benefit to do in terms of getting certain work done, and they elected to go ahead and put in a new balcony,” says Mr. Ferguson. Progress on the cathedral is being videotaped, and the project will become the subject of a documentary in the near future. AS a result of its impressive work on the cathedral, Buttcon was awarded a contract to restore much of the masonry for the Church of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, Ontario, which was dedicated back in 1883.

From renovation and restoration work to the construction of new projects such as casinos, educational facilities, hotels, health care facilities, multi-unit residential spaces, office spaces, restaurants, warehouses, manufacturing facilities and much more, Buttcon Ltd. prides itself on maintaining and fostering strong and honest relationships with all clients, subcontractors, suppliers, and trades. With a focus on zero workplace accidents, the company excels at creating quality projects while maintaining open lines of communication in an atmosphere which emphasizes working together to create a positive outcome. It is ultimately, says Mr. Ferguson, all about respect and trust.

“I am confident the trades we use on an ongoing basis are loyal,” he states. “There is a trust factor there. If there is something that needs to get done, we get it done, and if there is paperwork there, it flows through the system, and they get paid. It is an honourable relationship. We work with clients, trades, sub-trades, consultants, sub-consultants and many others, and at the end of the day, it is all about how you treat people.”

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May 25, 2020, 4:04 PM EDT