Eglinton Crosstown West Extension-Integrated Digital Controls

Without a clearly defined strategy to align project data from the very beginning, different teams involved in delivering the same construction project typically break down scope in a way that fits their own processes and systems. As a result, design, schedule, and cost cannot be compared one-to-one. These conflicting project data structures open the door to miscommunication and unnecessary work down the road. 

Strategically focused on Building Smarter, Aecon introduced a new, custom Advanced Work Package methodology on the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE) Advance Tunnel project to integrate the data structure before the project start date. This new way of working meant that the project controls system could be launched on the same day the contract was finalized, and the execution team was able to hit the ground running. 

Since the start of construction in summer 2021, Aecon has demonstrated the strength of this methodology to keep project costs, schedule, and safety on track — successfully delivering on two early-performance milestones, and having completed, thus far, 370,000 labour hours with zero lost time Injuries (as of Sept 2022).

Driving integration from bid to build through ONE project data structure

Often on large projects in the construction industry, there is no guiding system for breaking scope down into sections that are easier to manage. The various disciplines involved end up segmenting the scope into opposing data structures. As a result, designs, estimates, execution, and costs cannot be compared one-to-one. 

To compound this challenge, Design-Build-Finance projects are typically bid with just 30% of design completed, which opens the door for uncertainty and risk. Often in this industry, it can take months to get operational controls systems in place once the contract is signed, and projects end up falling behind before even getting started. 

High-Level Solution

To get ahead of this persistent challenge, Aecon brought together all relevant disciplines as early as the bidding phase to define how ECWE would be executed. There are three connected elements of the ECWE end-to-end digital delivery system: an initial Project Storyboard, a common Project Data Structure, and a resulting Aecon Advanced Work Package (AWP) methodology.

Collaborating on the Project Storyboard

On a typical project, all stakeholders —including construction, estimators, planners, managers, directors, designers — have different definitions of value. To develop the ECWE Project Storyboard, all relevant disciplines were brought together to define how the job would be executed. By creating the Project Storyboard together, it served as the guide for how Aecon’s Integrated Digital Delivery (using BIM and GIS) and Project Controls teams would collectively build out the Aecon AWP.

Aligning the Project Data Structure

Following completion of the Project Storyboard, the Project Data Structure was developed to break the ECWE scope down into more manageable pieces to be designed, estimated, constructed, and cost-controlled. This way, with one, common data structure, all steps of the project can be connected one-to-one.

Integrating the Aecon Advanced Work Package

Aecon’s AWP fully integrates digital project systems, including 3D design, with cost and execution plans. It incorporates tools such as 3D modelling, digital twin, GIS including satellite imagery, computer-aided design, and construction analytics to support survey, design, and construction management throughout the project lifecycle.

Business Benefits

The ECWE project is a clear example of how important it is for all project stakeholders to be able to speak the same language through planning and delivery. When construction project teams fail to make a conscious effort to address the naturally differing interpretations of scope, they face misalignment and uncertainty. 

The Aecon Advanced Work Package (AWP) methodology is about getting off on the right foot. By establishing our custom solution at the very onset of a project, we set the stage for the project to be successful. Aecon’s Integrated Digital Delivery team, together with the Project Controls team, are collectively focused on doing everything possible to support proper planning at the front-end. 

As with most Design-Build projects, challenges that are not envisioned from day one must be dealt with during execution. When teams have to do this over and over again, they are in constant firefighting mode. They can never get ahead, and this leaves no space for planning. When there is no room for planning, schedule goes out the door, and so does cost. It snowballs into a problem that is extremely difficult to fix, and this is frustrating for everyone involved.

To varying degrees, the Aecon AWP methodology has been used on several other projects across Aecon’s operating sectors and is rapidly becoming the way we do business. Following the success of the ECWE project, future major projects will also benefit from our fully end-to-end digital delivery system founded on an aligned project data structure.


The Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE) Advance Tunnel is a Design-Build-Finance project valued at $729.2 million, with a start date of 2021 and estimated completion of 2025. It is the first phase of work for the 9.2-kilometre extension of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit (LRT). The scope of work includes the design and construction of launch and extraction shafts, tunnels and headwalls, the installation of precast concrete tunnel liners, as well as other ancillary work.

The ECWE project is the first time Aecon’s innovative digital approach to project delivery and construction management. The Aecon Advanced Work Package has been integrated from the earliest stage of bidding through project execution. 

The approach brings all project stakeholders together — from design to cost control — to create a Project Storyboard for how the work will be carried out. This enables one fully aligned Project Data Structure, that is common across all disciplines, to be created from the onset of project planning. 

As a result, all project data can be compared directly every step of the way, reducing project risk through better planning, collaboration, information quality, and communication. Since construction on the ECWE project began in summer 2021, this methodology has succeeded in keeping the schedule, budget, and safety firmly on track.

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