North Ridge Development

Where a Handshake Means a Promise

North Ridge Developments, a residential custom building company, was founded 25 years ago by a gentleman named Wally Mah. Not unlike the present, custom homes were very expensive back then but Mah wanted to change that. He believed that home buyers should be able to make the changes they wanted, as long as it fit within their budget and his capabilities.

As North Ridge has grown and seen much success in their industry, affordable custom building remains their philosophy to this day. Business trends may come and go, but North Ridge keeps a time-honoured business mentality and that’s the importance of keeping their promises and customer service.

As Doug Durrant, Senior Vice President of North Ridge, says, “there’s nothing we won’t do to meet or exceed the needs of those we’re working with.”

“When we make a commitment, we honour every element of it,” Durrant continues “It’s a level of trust we maintain and we are known throughout the industry for that. Even when warranties expire, we’ve been known to go back and check in. Our clients are valuable to us; if they need help we’re not going to say no. Because of that kind of service, I believe North Ridge has redefined going the extra mile.”

But don’t mistake old-fashioned manners for a company that lives in the past. It’s quite the opposite.

North Ridge has a modern In-House Design Department that uses CAD technology (computer aided design) on a daily basis. Their system allows the design team to develop plans and incorporate changes in a very quick time frame, keeping everyone on schedule. As far as home style goes, North Ridge does virtually everything. From single detached homes and town houses to luxury condos and penthouse apartments, if you can name it, they have built it. Employing a number of highly skilled trades people, North Ridge remains up to date with best business practices and new industry methods.

Sometimes there’s nothing like industry recognition to let you know you’re doing your job right. With the amount of awards North Ridge Developments has received over the past decade, they have a pretty good feeling they’re on the right track.

In 2008 alone, the company won 18 Bridges Awards in 13 categories, as well as two finalist positions in the CHBA National SAM Awards. These prizes celebrate excellence in new homes and renovation design, innovative technology and construction techniques, and marketing activities across Canada.

“Our recognition is specifically performance related,” says Durrant. “Awards have been consistent over the years, because our work ethic has been consistent.”

One of the company’s proudest achievements was when it won an award of distinction from the Saskatchewan Masonry Institute.

“The awards are held once every five years,” Durrant explains, “and two of our riverside apartment-style condos won. That’s pretty huge, especially for a little guy in Saskatchewan.”

Giving back
North Ridge Developments doesn’t take their success for granted. They know their growth depends on people in their community, which is why the company is mindful to give back whenever they can. Each year, the company picks at least one cause and helps out with a prop bono project.

Many of their volunteer projects involve affordable housing, as well as accessible home designs for those that need special equipment to get around.

“Last year, we were particularly proud of Hunter Crossing, low-income housing for those with physical disabilities,” says Durrant. “It was a 40-unit townhouse condominium project that included 12 fully accessible, attached bungalows.”

“Other companies give to charity by writing a cheque,” he says. “It’s a nice gesture, but we prefer to go in and do the work. Sometimes that’s the most helpful thing we can do—volunteer our time and talent. We’re not always out to make money. We have done well in Saskatchewan and we got that way being humble and giving where we can. In a lot of cases, we receive back tenfold.”
Saskatchewan pride
If you talk to Durrant for any length of time, you just know the company is proud of where it comes from—perhaps it’s another reason why North Ridge is so invested in its community. North Ridge is located in a province that is more than just weathering the recession and Durrant is excited about the regional growth.

“Saskatchewan is all over the media right now and it’s pretty incredible,” he says. “We sensed a boom a in 2006 and, in 2007, the lid blew off and the city accelerated. So, we all banded together to try to put as much housing on the market as we could. In the past year, we have had the best company and industry representation that we ever had in the last 25 years.”

“We’re not feeling the same affects as everyone else in Canada,” Durrant goes on. “This month, Saskatchewan has employed more people than anywhere else in the country. Others are laying off, but we’re hiring. Our industries are growing; we have an abundance of uranium and potash. Now we have the housing to go along with the industry for those that want to move here.”

Prioritizing safety
Safety is always going to be an important issue for building companies. As with all varieties of construction, home building comes with inherent risks that both employers and employees need to constantly be aware of. Fortunately for workers, North Ridge is more than aware of the challenges and is doing all it can to set the bar for safety in the building industry

North Ridge employs a lot of both permanent and contract workers, they don’t always know what level of knowledge their employees are at. Coming from different backgrounds, you can’t be sure that all workers have a basic understanding of what workplace safety, and assuming isn’t an option. Even when workers are aware of potential danger, some don’t take it seriously enough, believing they won’t get hurt. But all it takes is one accident to result in an injury.

That’s why North Ridge takes an aggressive approach to its safety procedures. In fact, the company has a zero-tolerance policy for unsafe work practices. “If suppliers don’t want to work safely, we won’t work with them,” says Durrant. “It’s that simple.”

Even though safety is a concern across the industry, North Ridge has noticed that there is a lack of standards that are enforced in other companies. From time to time, North Ridge workers will look across the street and see someone from another company working on a roof with no protective gear, which should be a wake-up call to the entire industry.

To demonstrate just how serious they are about safety, North Ridge has hired a full-time safety coordinator to fill the position permanently. When the safety coordinator is touring other project sites, it is up to the site supervisors to watch for potential issues and solve them before they happen. After all, most incidents are preventable. The supervisor’s role is an important one, because project sites are spread out across the regions and the safety coordinator can’t always be present. The supervisor, then, must be sure to continually make rounds, ensuring everyone is following safety protocols. If necessary, the site supervisors will report any concerns at a weekly “tool box” meeting with the Vice President of Construction,

The importance of well-established safety policies is becoming clearer as the provincial economy continues to grow. As North Ridge finds new employees, some have little to no experience, so the company must make certain everyone is properly trained. Workers will use the buddy system to help with the training, pairing inexperienced workers with those who have been around long enough to understand the need for preventative measures. To North Ridge, training is vital. The company doesn’t even let its workers onto a site until they’ve been thoroughly trained about safety.

“We measure our success by the new reverence our workers have for safety,” states Durrant. “Whether it’s a tradesman on the roof or someone pushing a broom, everyone is thinking about working safely.”

Energy star
On the environmental front, North Ridge is committed to using best building practices available for conserving energy and building sustainable homes and buildings. In fact, North Ridge is a fully certified ENERGY STAR® qualified home builder.

For those that aren’t aware, ENERGY STAR is an energy efficiency program promoted by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). In 2005, the program was expanded to include energy-efficient new homes. The goal is to help people protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices—without compromising style or comfort. ENERGY STAR is internationally recognized, carrying a lot of weight in the building industry.

For North Ridge, the benefits are two-fold. Homeowners have the opportunity to make better choices for the environment, and they save about 30 per cent every year on energy bills.

“By using proper insulation, high-efficiency furnaces, heat-recovery systems and so on, we can save the home owner all sorts of money,” says Durrant. “With the right budget, we can do all a lot to minimize energy consumption and ENERGY STAR you the biggest bang for your buck.” “As a company, we’ve been committed to green building for a long time. Back when they had the R-2000 standards, we had that certification. In my opinion, we demonstrate a higher interest in going green than anywhere else. Our houses are ENERGY STAR qualified and, by 2010, our subdivisions will be as well.”

North Ridge Developments has a lot to be excited about. They have grown in scale and size, becoming the largest residential home builder in their booming province for the past 12 consecutive years. In their Saskatoon trading area, comprised of 230,0000 to 240,000 people, their market share is incredible on a per capita basis, as it is with Regina. Measured in new home warranty registrations, it is clear that North Ridge has maintained its success even before one big year.

“We became big because we’re the best at what we do, which has largely been through referrals and positive experiences with people,” explains Durrant.

How does North Ridge plan to move forward with new achievements? Durrant says they will continue to do business the way they always have. It hasn’t failed them yet.

“The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour,” says Durrant, “so if we continue in this way, then we’ll continue to grow. As long as our growth is never at the expense of people. We make money as a result of people, and we enjoy our growth because of people. So we will always be mindful of how we treat others.”

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