Randall K. DeRuiter, President, Cunningham-Limp
Randall K. DeRuiter, PE, has been called a crusader for environmental sustainability in the construction industry. As the president of Cunningham-Limp, a diversified real estate firm that specializes in development, design and construction in Michigan, DeRuiter has championed a commitment to building better, more resilient communities.
DeRuiter is especially satisfied with a project on which he was able to keep sustainability at the forefront as his firm converted three abandoned buildings into senior housing. The original buildings were part of a psychiatric hospital built in 1980, and Cunningham-Limp worked on it in 2012 — nearly 40 years later. “It’s a beautiful setting for seniors now,” said DeRuiter. “We like to repurpose buildings into something cool whenever we can. Saving a historically significant building was challenging but rewarding. The state of Michigan even offered some incentives on it. Everyone who worked on it walked away with a sense of accomplishment. I think saving buildings and tackling the challenges that come with renovating older buildings is an ongoing trend,” he added.
DeRuiter is also passionate about recycling and reusing jobsite materials for future use — he has even authored an article on how businesses and manufacturers are leaning into sustainable work, something that is easier to keep track of with a design-build process. “Internally, we have a commitment to managing the waste stream of a jobsite and recycle whatever we can,”
When Cunningham-Limp demolished a vacant office building in Traverse City in 2020 to make way for a new bank building, DeRuiter found a nonprofit recycling organization that went through the building before work started and recovered $43,000 worth of materials for resale. The funds were then used to help needy families in Wexford County, Michigan. This focus on giving back has made the firm a valued member of its community.
“The industry is built on low costs and speed, so sustainability takes a little more time and a little more work. But while the initial cost of a sustainable building may be higher, it can really help to look at the long-term operational costs — that’s where you save money.”
In addition to the cost saving measures that DeRuiter sees from recycling efforts, he predicts sustainable building practices will become even more popular in the years to come. “I think the general population wants to fix our existing environmental issues and strive to avoid creating more. Future generations are asking for it. Millennials are more in tune to the environment, and they are increasingly becoming the decision makers at every level of the economy,” said DeRuiter. “I love our forefathers, but they didn’t always respect the environment. We all have an obligation to protect the environment while we are here.”
Despite the industry’s hesitation to abandon old principles of building and the competitive bidding process that sees successful companies focusing purely on cost, DeRuiter says that change is coming. “It’s honestly 50-50 now,” he said. “I think it gives [businesses] a leg up to focus on it now.”
Another factor for DeRuiter in building up communities is promoting and practicing design-build practices in order to create a more efficient jobsite. DeRuiter says that design-build is remarkable for its ability to break down barriers on a project and involve everyone in the work.
“I’ve been involved in design-build ever since. I’ve always had a passion for collaboration between design and construction,” said DeRuiter. “Fundamentally, it gets everyone around the table and focused on common goals. It’s based on an element of trust and open and honest communication in all parties and plugs directly into our company mission to have a positive impact on communities, companies and people,” he added.