Don Pinchin

Real estate industry loses environmental guide

Don Pinchin translated scientific data into the practicalities of property management
Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dr. Donald (Don) Pinchin was a man equally at ease with the microscopic specimens and the big picture of environmental hazards and abatement. As a scientist, founder and president of Pinchin Ltd., he provided professional services that real estate owners/managers relied on for the safety and surety of their properties. As a guide and communicator to laypeople, he explained the risks, interpreted the data and steered the industry to comply with its regulatory obligations.

Don died from cancer, July 29, 2015, leaving his clients, colleagues and industry peers saddened at his loss, but grateful to have known him.

“Don was a long-term BOMA Toronto member and a valuable resource to our membership. He will be dearly missed,” says Bala Gnanam, director of sustainability and building technologies with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Toronto.

Recognized as one of North America’s foremost experts on asbestos, Don wrote the influential text, Asbestos in Buildings, in conjunction with the Ontario government’s 1982 Royal Commission. Regulators across Canada have since drawn on his insight in drafting their own provincial asbestos regulations.

He was also instrumental in helping Canadian claimants secure the major share of compensation that U.S. manufacturers of sprayed asbestos-containing fireproofing paid out in liability settlements — identifying and organizing prospective beneficiaries, coordinating their claims and persisting through lengthy U.S. bankruptcy court proceedings. “The Canadian awards ranged from $14,000 up to $3.2 million per individual building,” Don reported to Canadian Property Management in the fall of 2011.

Don’s expansive knowledge, eloquence and commitment to raising public awareness made him a popular speaker at industry educational events. He also patiently and cheerfully answered journalists’ questions and made sure his staff did likewise.

“Don was a giant in the environmental business and a willing mentor,” observes Marc McAree, a partner and certified environmental law specialist with Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers, recalling when they teamed together to offer a course on contaminated land issues to the Toronto Real Estate Board and Ontario Real Estate Association. “Don’s wisdom, energy and enthusiasm for anything and everything environmental has stayed with me since those days.”

Don obtained a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in physics and chemistry from the University of Toronto before earning a PhD in physics from Cambridge University. He founded Pinchin Environmental in 1981, guiding it to today’s status as an employee-owned, multi-disciplinary consulting firm providing environmental, health and safety and engineering services. Through its network with Pinchin LeBlanc Environmental, Le Group Gesfor Poirier, Pinchin Inc. and Pinchin West Ltd., the Pinchin Group now employs nearly 750 people in 36 offices throughout Canada.

“All of us are deeply saddened by Don’s passing,” says Jeff Grossi, Pinchin Ltd.’s chief operating officer and acting president. “Pinchin is admired and respected for the family-like culture that Don built.”

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