Refresh: The Waterfront development in Hamilton, recently refinished by Kaissa Ltd. *Photo supplied
Refresh: The Waterfront development in Hamilton, recently refinished by Kaissa Ltd. *Photo supplied
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Commercial contracts may be down but one specialty subcontractor is riding out the recession through renovation work.

Kaissa Ltd specializes in commercial roofing, waterproofing, specialty exterior wall cladding systems and interior raised floor systems. But it has had to reduce its staff dramatically in the current economic climate.

Refurbishment of older properties however, is keeping business afloat while the firm awaits word on potential contracts with the new construction projects at Waterloo House and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

Evolution

Kaissa Ltd began as a roofing company in the mid-1980s when it specialized in sprayed polyurethane foam insulation.

Early contracts included several large commercial properties such as the old Bermudiana Hotel.

Charles Dunstan joined the firm 20 years ago this month, and became a partner 12 years ago.

Now the managing director, Mr Dunstan said: “We went from being a one-system roofing company to multiple systems for different applications, then waterproofing basements and tanks, and finally EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish System) wall cladding.”

Over the years, Kaissa’s projects have ranged from pond liners for projects like the signature ninth hole at Ocean View Golf Course to the PW Waterfront development, the XL building and the Atlantis apartment complex.

Mr Dunstan said: “From our roofing and waterproofing roots we evolved into sealing the whole exterior of a building, apart from windows.

“This made us into a one-stop shop for waterproofing and insulation systems.

“The company continued its evolution, as it added scaffolding to its portfolio back in 2004, providing much more visibility to our work.”

More recently, as the construction industry has declined, the focus has switched from new construction to more remedial work, refurbishing older properties.

“That’s what we’ve been focusing on for the last few years as new construction has dried up.”

Mr Dunstan, president of the Construction Association of Bermuda, said: “We’re probably a third of the size we were in terms of revenues and, in the process, we’ve reduced staff quite significantly, from 49 people at our peak down to about 12 currently.

“Part of that reduction has come through a restructuring of the business, with our scaffolding division (Bermuda Scaffolding Company Ltd) spinning off into a separate company.

“Government’s moratorium on construction work permits has not however impacted on the firm too severely,” he added.

“Most of what we do is specialist work so we’re not so exposed to the protected categories, with our specialist plasterers and roofers,” said Mr Dunstan.

“Also, my plastering team is all-Bermudian. We’ve built up a good crew over the years.

“There’s enough work that’s trickling in to keep us reasonably busy at our current size.

“Keeping the business viable has everything to do with cost and making ourselves as efficient as possible.

“As far as new work is concerned we have a raised flooring contract at Waterloo House and we are hoping to get some exterior work at the new hospital.

“But beyond that, we don’t see much influx of investment into the island at the moment, and that influx of foreign money is what is going to drive the economy to improvement.

“In construction we don’t directly stimulate the economy, we can only react to it. We’re seeing what comes next in some respects.

“But we are certainly exploring more avenues for revenue income.

“We’ve returned to our roots in some ways, being back in the business of sprayed polyurethane foam.

“We’ve now gone to interiors with more environmentally-friendly insulation systems for attic spaces. The high-end residential sector still has some activity.

“Although our business is primarily in the commercial sector, some newer-build homes are adopting a more environmental approach.

“Homeowners are taking a greener approach to energy efficiency, and that’s where we can help.

“It depends on what each client is looking for but we have a range of services on offer.

“We are not so much in the business of selling products as in selling a solution to problems, such as to meet a commercial building’s performance requirements.

“Many buildings now develop a lot more detail in moisture and air control, stopping air infiltration so you can better control your air quality and prevent mould.”

Kaissa Ltd has recently moved from its location at Mill Reach Lane, Pembroke, to the former Wheels Cycles building on Front Street, where you can see an example of it’s renovation work.

• Kaissa Ltd, 117 Front Street, Hamilton. Call 495-4242.