Clearing the Way for What Comes Next
Special team focus at Kinsale Contracting Group Inc. gives new life to old buildings
Based in the Chicago suburb of Westmont, Illinois, Kinsale Contracting Group Inc. (Kinsale) is a company specializing in strip-outs and cleanup work. Its crews are called to handle important sequences at the start of many construction projects, especially when it involves work with existing structures and historic buildings.
Services include selective demolition, mechanical dismantlement, asbestos removal, hazardous waste cleanup, lead mitigation, mold and microbial remediation, and floor grinding and scarifying.
Selective demolition is the removal of certain items or aspects from a building while retaining its basic structure, Robert Duermit, Kinsale’s President, says. This type of demolition requires greater precision and is usually done by hand. Examples include projects that entail stripping out an entire floor and leaving the exterior walls, removing the facade only or removing a corner section of a building without affecting the rest of the floor.
The company has extensive experience in providing solutions for industrial, governmental, institutional, high-rise and health care properties and for either commercial or residential customers.
“Clients with unusual construction situations count on our team to provide carefully planned selective demolition solutions that are safely executed in even the most challenging environments,” Duermit says.
Kinsale is ideally located to aid general contractors or owners with the services the company provides. The Midwest and the vast metropolitan area surrounding and including Chicago are packed with aging and often historically significant buildings. Some require abatement of unsafe materials, and others are tagged for repair and refurbishment, giving them new life for new generations.
Either way, when Kinsale is called in, the company approaches the project with careful evaluation and attention to detail from start to finish.
“We work knowledgeably with a wide variety of project participants such as architects, engineers and preservationists to facilitate successful projects time and time again,” Duermit says. “We are known for providing advanced solutions to even the most complex, selective demolition problems.”
Building on Family
In 2001, Duermit and two other members of the Duermit family and another associate started Kinsale. They all worked for another company and had extensive experience in the same industry. The patriarch of the family, Bob Duermit, Robert’s father, was a key influencer in the decision and became the new company’s first President.
Robert served as Vice President of Operations initially and in 2017 became the company’s President. Bob retired in 2019.
The company name came from Bob’s wife and Robert’s mother, Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen considered city and town names in Ireland and recalled that she always liked the town of Kinsale, a harbor town in southern Ireland that dated back 700 years.
Despite employee changes, as some of the original founders have retired, Duermit keeps the dream alive by guiding the company to operate like a family, unified in their commitment to quality work, satisfied customers and company success. The other Duermit in the company today is his wife, Julie Duermit. She is a Project Manager Coordinator who takes care of licenses, permits, closeout documents and out-of-town logistics.
Valuing What’s Important
Training and continued learning are an important aspect of working at Kinsale. Duermit and his leadership team guide its 90 employees to pursue courses, certifications and licensing and cross-training. This helps them be aware of best practices and advances in technology.
Duermit said asbestos in older buildings is an issue that continues to require attention from both longtime workers and the newer generations of crew members too. “Thirty or 40 years ago, we thought asbestos wouldn’t be around long, but there’s still so much of it. The newer generations think asbestos is gone and that causes them to let their guard down.”
According to Kinsale, some 1,000 common building products were made with asbestos over the years. Extensive use of the fibrous minerals that retard heat and corrosion and were once common in construction material and insulation has indirectly given the company many repeat customers. Ongoing projects include hospitals, high-rise residential and office buildings. The asbestos often can be encapsulated and contained, but the long-term solution of total removal is often necessary.
“We have built many long-term relationships with clients,” Duermit says.
Kinsale brings its complete knowledge and experiences to bear for asbestos-related projects, including assigning the work to crew members who are fully licensed and trained through local, state and federal regulations. First, crew members work closely with independent consultants that have conducted a thorough asbestos inspection, testing materials at the site with the help of a qualified laboratory. Once that’s determined, the crew uses state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to control dust, water and any contaminated materials during the asbestos abatement process so as not to disturb other areas of the building or its occupants.
Lead mitigation and removal is also a specialty for which contractors call on Kinsale. Industrial, governmental and commercial structures built before 1978 may contain toxic lead-based paint that can cause several health-related problems if absorbed into the body. On-site crew members comply with regulations to identify and then remove the lead component or use a chemical stripping procedure for removal, most commonly for new steel tie-ins for building additions where the new structure meets the old structure.
Crews are also trained in the latest procedures and techniques in proper cleanup and disposal of hazardous materials including animal and bird excrement, PCB materials, mercury spills and other hazardous items.
This year, Kinsale has expanded its floor grinding and scarifying division to accommodate the needs of its customers for this service. During or after a selective demolition project, the crew can grind the concrete base to prepare the surfaces for the preferred material that comes next. Grinding removes adhesives, asphalt and epoxies so flooring subcontractors can have the best prepared surface for their work.
Building on Success
For proof, he points to the company’s participation early on for the major construction work inside Macy’s on State Street in downtown Chicago. Plans called for turning the top seven floors of the 14-floor landmark department store into office space with separate utility units and adding a fitness center and rooftop amenities, but leaving intact the bottom seven floors for the public to continue to shop and dine on a daily basis.
The general contractor had the foresight to realize that Kinsale brought organizational and strategic skills to the project and so signed the company on. Kinsale worked to ensure teamwork from all subcontractors and monitored air quality in addition to its key job of removing vast amounts of debris—nearly 8,000 tons total—from all floors as several escalators were extracted from an open 200-foot high grand entrance atrium.
Reconfiguring floor-to-floor transportation was of paramount importance. Kinsale removed a total of 29 escalators and worked to clear the way on the first seven floors to add elevators, including some that provide a direct route to the top seven floors and rooftop amenities space.
Kinsale is equally proud of its work to repurpose the dilapidated Old Cook County Hospital. The historic facility at 1825 W. Harrison St. had been vacant for 16 years, but was slated for adaptive reuse, requiring extensive interior changes.
Kinsale constantly had to find solutions to do its job due to the building’s deficiencies. Many sections had no electricity, elevator use or even water. Other subcontractors relied on Kinsale for answers and for setting the standard for safety during the building’s 75-day transformation.
Keeping up to date with more effective technology pays off for Kinsale. Kinsale’s demolition machinery is robotic and many pieces of equipment are battery-operated, and thus better for the environment, and offer advanced mobility. Robotic machinery lessens the potential of on-the-job injuries or exposure to harmful elements.
When the company was dispatched to the Old Chicago Post Office, 433 W. Van Buren St., the firm’s Brokk 110 demolition equipment arrived, too. The remote-controlled robotics of the equipment was used to take down a large concrete wall while the crew was a safe distance away.
The firm prioritizes a team spirit in everything its employees do—whether it’s working, playing or even giving back to the community. The company hosts weekend trips to a local campground, incentive programs and charitable projects in the community.
“I love our work environment,” says Danielle Puente, Office Manager who has been with Kinsale for nine years. “It’s a great team and a family. When one employee needs help, we pitch in. When we get recognized for a project well done, we all celebrate.”
The list of worthy organizations that have seen Kinsale’s giving spirit include the People’s Resource Center, the Northern Illinois Food Bank, the Center for Hope & Healing, Habitat for Humanity, ACE Chicago Mentor Program, Ronald McDonald House Charities, The Salvation Army and the Lupus Society of Illinois.
Last Christmas, in lieu of sending gifts to customers and vendors, Kinsale honored them by giving donations in their name to four charities: the Alzheimer’s Association, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the American Red Cross.
“It’s all about service and dedication,” says Duermit.