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McGee tackling a concrete structure in the south of England ...
McGee tackling a concrete structure in the south of England ...

There’s more to demolition than knocking things over with a big steel conker. There’s the delicate, complex, dangerous and highly skilled business of dealing with asbestos, removing entire power stations and cooling towers, taking apart offices and recycling the bits, demolishing everything in an enormous building apart from its grade I-listed facade, unstitching bridges, taking down structures in such a way that you can put them up again later, demolishing structures within working airports … and, of course, knocking things over with a big steel conker. The point is: demolition is a highly skilled job, and McGee Group is, according to our academy of the finest and most knowledgeable minds in the industry, the best we’ve got. No doubt they think this because it can perform all of the above-mentioned tasks, but also because it does it in a way that is safe for staff and passers-by – its commitment to safety and the environment has been widely recognised within the industry, and the company has won many awards for safety and environmental consideration, including the gold standard of health and safety, the Beaumont Trophy for Safety Innovation.

Runners up

Cantillon demolition
After a generation in the demolition game, Cantillon is undergoing a growth spurt: its turnover rose by 27% last year to £11m. This upsurge has made no impact on its safety record: this firm has had only three major injuries in the past 35 years. The rise in turnover is partly accounted for by Cantillon’s completion of a contract at the New Broadcasting House project in Westminster for the BBC. And out of the 14 specialists on the site, Bovis Lend Lease awarded it five out of eight of its on-site Health & Safety Awards.

Controlled demolition group
This firm has earned the thanks of the good people of Portsmouth for knocking down and carting away the dysfunctional concrete object known as the Tricorn Centre. It has also undertaken some unusual tasks, such as the collapse of a mile of buildings in Doncaster and the recycling of the 11-storey tower of the former Royal Mail building in Leeds by peeling off its skin. In the course of this work, it has established a reputation for handling large regeneration projects, which has to be a shrewd move for the future.

Last year’s winner of this category is well regarded for the range and quality of its services, which extend to demolition, steel design, logistics and piling. What it is less well known for is being a desirable place to work. It pays the second highest per capita wage of any specialist in Britain; taking into account directors’ pay, the average wage is a whopping £70,000. That it can afford to do this speaks many volumes about its success with clients – 80% of its business is repeat work.

Speedy hire
Last year, when Speedy was a runner up in this same category, we pointed to its extraordinary commercial success. This has continued in the past 12 months with a 15% growth in turnover – unsurprising given that more than twice as many large contractors use Speedy as any other hire company. However, underlying this is an admirable commitment to innovation in safety, such as it vibration and decibel labelling to safeguard users’ health (see the innovations category on page 15). So, it is no wonder it was named Hire Company of the Year for the second year running in 2004 by the Hire Association Europe.

Wilson james
Wilson James is well known as the firm that virtually invented the modern science of site logistics, and by doing so offered the whole industry the benefit of lean production, just-in-time delivery, and the rest of the Japanese business bestiary. Recently it has applied this science to such challenging sites as the Tate Modern, Paternoster Square in the City, the Greater London Authority headquarters, and Heathrow airport. It’s latest innovations include “logistics consolidation centres” to make delivery even smoother.