Groupe Démex-CentremBy Anna Guy

Creativity and efficiency: that’s what makes a demolition company successful. Martin Gagnon is uniquely qualified to know. As General Manager of one of Canada’s most experienced demolition companies, Groupe Démex-Centrem, he’s had to stretch the outer bounds of both.

In the 25 years since the company was started by the Tremblay family, Démex has amassed a roster of projects that have earned the company its reputation as the go-to demolition, deconstruction and recycling team for the tough jobs, primarily in the industrial and mining sectors. With roots in Eastern Canada, Démex has recently expanded nation-wide, starting with a large project dismantling the production process of an aluminum smelter for Rio Tinto in Kitimat, British Columbia.

With the team’s vast experience, Démex specialists work in synergy throughout each stage of deconstruction projects. Far from just being a company that takes things down, Démex partners with its clients to build their future success by tackling their biggest challenges. “Démex has become a leader in its field thanks to the innovative methods it applies in carrying out its mandates,” says Gagnon. “These are major undertakings for our clients.”

That is no understatement: Démex takes care of the dismantling and management and handle several thousands of tons of by-products such as steel, aluminum, hazardous water materials, while managing the logistics of sending the various by products to be optimized or disposed of, safely, and to deadline.

“Each project is completely unique in many ways,” says Gagnon. “We have to invent methodology to dismantle depending on how you see the job. You have to be creative and efficient, and optimise the value of scrap and by-products and scrap metal, because it makes a big difference.”

Not only is there a responsibility to the environment to recycle, if done wisely and efficiently, recovering by-products help to lower the overall cost of the job. In 2006, Démex started its own recycling division to help service its clients’ business. “We have the necessary qualifications to estimate, design and implement solutions for the rehabilitation of industrial sites (aluminum smelters, paper mills, mines, etc.). The very high quality of our work is also ensured through partnership agreements with specialized firms in the various fields of environmental protection. To date, several such projects have been completed in eastern Canada.

Thanks to significant investments in research and development at sister company Centrem which specializes in recycling, Démex is able to meet challenges that many companies run from. This ability to combine technical expertise with recycling know-how was evidenced in projects such as the demolition of a 175-meter chimney, the highest in Quebec, and transformers decommissioning for Hydro-Quebec, Dismantling of scrubbers or aluminium production processes as well as plant buildings demolition at various Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) plants across Quebec, and Asbestos Removal and Demolition of three aircraft hangars at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. “I think one important element is our technical expertise, we have some people here started as a family business and now second generation just took over two years ago,” says Gagnon.

Démex’s experience has certainly been on display in downtown Montreal, where the team was called on to dismantle St. Luc Hospital. That on its own may not seem that out-of-the-ordinary, until you learn that it was to be taken down in direct proximity to St. Luc’s $3.6-billion replacement—the Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal superhospital.

The St. Luc project and the Rio Tinto Kitimat project are perfect bookends to illustrate Démex’s range. Location is typically the biggest variable in a project, and it’s hard to think of two more different, and difficult circumstances than in a remote, rural area with little labor force or back up, and a densely populated and restricted environment of a city core.

“Some sections of the new building are only centimetres away from the one we have to demolish,” says Gagnon. “You can imagine that we have to take down a building where sections have a brand-new building literally within arms-reach. That will be an interesting challenge, working on the logistics of moving several thousand tonnes of waste material, debris, from downtown core,” smiles Gagnon. “But, the more complicated a project, the more perfect it is for us.”