From small beginnings

By Lindsay Gale22 October 2015

The G. Tscherning A/S management team, from left: chairman and owner Søren Tscherning, demolition an

The G. Tscherning A/S management team, from left: chairman and owner Søren Tscherning, demolition and environmental director Klaus Bodilsen and CEO Søren Refsgaard

Georg Tscherning established what grew into G. Tscherning A/S in 1975 when he bought his first excavator and set up as a rental operation working from home with the help of his wife. Within a short period of time he had expanded the operation to five machines and a small number of employees, working largely with the roads department of the Copenhagen municipality. By this time, (1978) G. Tscherning A/S was established as a public limited company.

Georg was the first contractor in the country to be able to offer hydraulic breakers with his machines, in his case from Montabert. He and his wife further grew the company, however for the first 15 years the company still worked from the family home. By 1995 this was no longer appropriate, so a company headquarters was established in Molestein in the southern harbour area of Copenhagen. By this time, Georg had been encouraged by some of his previous demolition contractor clients to become active in the sector. In time, the company outgrew its Molestein facility and moved once again, this time to its current location in Hedehusene but the bulk of the work it carries out is still in and around Copenhagen, since as Klaus Bodilsen succinctly put it: ”that is where the money is. If you go 50 miles west from here, there is no money.”

Georg’s son Søren joined his father in the company in 1997 from working with other construction companies in the country to re-establish the father-son connection, and in 1999 Georg received his first Børsens Gazelle award, a Danish prize presented to recognise management of the successfully growth of a business, a feat that was repeated in 2003.

By this time, the company was becoming involved with the more large-scale and prestigious demolition projects in Denmark. In 2005, it won the contract for the decommissioning of the DR-1 nuclear reactor at the Risø nuclear research facility, in 2006 it undertook the ’largest demolition ever carried out in Denmark’, which was a project for the Rigsarkivet (state archives), in conjunction with another Danish contractor, Willy C Petersen. This collaboration has been repeated on a number of occassions, including a number in southern Sweden and notably ”the most polluted building in southern Sweden” - the Kemira sulfur plant in Helsingborg. In 2007, Tscherning gained its second nuclear desommissioning project, again at Risø, where this time it removed the DR-2 reactor.

The company’s growth path during this time was organic and the result of internal developments, but this changed in 2014, when it had the opportunity to acquire two other leading Danich contractors, Brandis A/S and former partner Willy C Petersen. Currently these are being integrated into the Tscherning structure but still operate under their respective names. Klaus told D&Ri that these names will disappear within a few short years, however. Owner Søren said of this: ”At one point, we did consider retaining the names, but Tscherning is the biggest name in demolition in Denmark and it is easier to focus on one brand than three.”

Tscherning today

Today, G Tscherning A/S has effectively four legs to stand on, said Klaus Bodilsen: ”First there is general construction, then there is the road work we do, then demolition and finally, our rental operations,” The compay is also planning to look into establishing a recycling operation, but Søren Refsgaard said: ”Getting the necessary environmental permists is a big issue. The question is whether you can get a sufficient return on the investment that will be required.”

He went on to say of the company’s short term goals: ”Our goals include stabilising our acquisitions but this process is almost completed. Then, we want to see more organic growth and this will have to come from special applications in the demolition sector, espicially building sanitisation. The kind of work we are currently carrying out for the DTU will be the new thing.” Currently, Tscherning is carrying out decontamination work for the Technical University of Denmark, where it is removing PCBs, asbestos and most kinds of heavy metals prior to a 15.000 m2 (162,000 ft2) major renovation of two buildings that include laboratories.

A spokesperson from the University said: “DTU (Technical University of Denmark) wish to cooperate with contractors where trust and skills are indisputable, and I am very satisfied that Tscherning won the contract on demolition and environmental works on building 201 and 204.”

“We are experiencing a very proactive dialogue with Tscherning project manager, Brian Møller-Larsen, who is continuously ahead on detecting and taking responsible care of possible issues in the complex process. His thinking is like a builder, not just a contractor, resulting in the high quality we aim for. Tscherning has been a contractor on DTU for several years, also doing drainage, gabions, tiling etc. and their overall approach and consideration of environment in general and the technical execution on this project in particular is professional and corresponds perfect with DTU high priorities on safety, environment and sustainability in all aspects. I have great respect for the theoretical and practical knowledge Tscherning possess.”

Klaus went on: ”The new Danish building regulations are stringent. If you will produce more than one tonne of waste during a demolition or it has a scope of work greater than 10 m2 (110 ft2) then the structure will have to be screened off. with this being certified and approved by the authorities before you can get a demolition permit. This is a good business opportunity for us. The more challenging in terms of regualtion the work will be, the more likely it is that we will get the contract. For smaller companies, it will be too difficult. Local authorities can make their own rules when it comes to noise, emissions and so forth, as these are often more stringent that those laid down by central government.”

Recycling and reuse in the country is a big part of a demolition contractor’s operations, as it is in most well developed market. In 1987, a Waste Tax was introduced on any materials that were to be disposed off. Nowadays approaching 67% of waste is recycled with a further 30% being reused, said Søren.

One key to the company’s success, current chairman Søren Tscherning believes, is the fact that in 2003, the company was the first demoliton contractor in Denmark to gain three separate ISO Occupational Heath and Safety Advisory Services (OSHAS) standards in a single year [ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 18001]. He said: ”The demolition business at that time was not so professional, and we felt that if we wanted to prove to potential customers that we are serious about what we do, we should go through these certification processes. By showing we were willing to have outside bodies examine how we carry out our work and look after our people sent a strong message. The problem with demolition is that the product we sell is air so once the work is done, there is nothing tangible to show for it, so it is hard to compare one job with another.”

The company now currently directly employees almost 300 personnel and has an equipment fleet numbering in excess of 100 units. Looking to the future, chairman Søren said: ”The challenge is that we have to be more and more professional because of the environment and that we are getting bigger. This means that the way we operated in past years may not be the best way to operate into the future. We need to make sure that the organisation is in place to ensure that everybody knows how we should operate and putting this in place will be the next step. Once this is competed, we can then look at other opportunities. We wil likely make another acquisition but not tomorrow!”

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