This Canadian crew proves ICFs are easy to build with. Despite being deaf, they’ve built a number of exceptional homes.

Perrier’s Concrete Homes, headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, is a typical ICF installation company in many ways. For almost a decade, owner Michael Perrier and his crew have traveled the province creating beautiful, high-end, energy-efficient ICF homes. Homes that easily stand up to the long, harsh winters and howling winds common on the Atlantic seaboard. 

In other respects, though, Perrier’s company is anything but typical. Mike and his entire crew are hard of hearing. Some are completely deaf. And despite their handicaps, they have not only survived, but thrived.

A few years back, they built a series of ten duplexes for developer Norm Ganong. He was impressed. “They’re the most experienced ICF builder in the Maritimes,” Ganong says.

Kelvin McPhee, the local IntegraSpec dealer that provides most of the formwork for Perrier, calls him “the best installer this side of Vancouver Island.”

Using primarily word-of-mouth advertising, he and his seven-man crew—all deaf or hard-of-hearing—have worked continuously through the last two winters in order to keep up. This year will be just as busy. 

In recognition of his accomplishments, the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network named Perrier their “Entrepreneur of the Year” this spring.

But it hasn’t always been easy. 

About ten years ago, Perrier was teaching construction at Nova Scotia’s School for the Deaf and preparing to build his own home. Researching options, he discovered ICFs. He was so impressed with how well they worked that he looked at starting his own company. It didn’t look good.

 “He approached a number of different manufacturers, but they all turned him down because he’s deaf,” says McPhee. 

IntegraSpec ICF, however, was willing to work with him, and Perrier soon had his business up and running. There was only one problem.

“Everybody was scared to hire me with (my) hearing problems,” Perrier explained in an interview with the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. “I told them we’re only human beings. We have a gift; it’s our hands. As long as we have a gift, we can do anything.”

And once he started building homes, no one doubted his abilities. His crew grew to three, then to seven. 

Despite the economic downturn, Perrier’s crews are booked months in advance building exclusive high-end homes. They’ve worked through the last two winters in order to keep up with the demand.

“My crew are all deaf,” explains Perrier on his website. “[But] I must say that they are well trained. We work very well together, and are careful in what we do. We’re very comfortable working with each other.”

His customers agree. 

Perrier himself communicates with a mix of verbal and sign language, and hears well enough that he can conduct business with clients on the phone or face-to-face without assistance.

One client, Suzanne Borovsky, says, “Even though his entire crew were deaf, Mike was able to bridge the gap not only when speaking to my husband and I, but also to our children,” she says. “At no time did I feel out of place in dealing with Mike and his crew.”

Barry Dupuis, another customer, adds, “They met and exceeded every expectation of quality…His team’s work ethics are impeccable.”

His material suppliers, including McPhee, also offer nothing but praise for his work.

“We establish solid relationships with our suppliers, customers and other contractors on a job site,” explains Perrier. 

The suppliers, in turn, have grown to respect Perrier and what he does. Perrier singled out Sackville Ready Mix as one great example. “They’re very good to us and take our deafness into account on the job site,” he says. “They’re very careful with the pump, because of course we can’t hear it.”

While Perrier says he doesn’t want his company to grow so big it “stops being fun,” it’s already greatly exceeded his original hopes. 

“My goal was one house a year,” he told the Herald. “We are into our ninth year and we are completely booked. I discovered that you can always learn no matter how old you are, and that there are always people willing to help.”