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Conversations with the leaders in BIM and digital transformation

Innovation Spotlight seeks to highlight leaders who are changing, challenging, and disrupting the Canadian construction landscape within technology and design. Entering into a new decade of opportunity lends a reflective outlook on how far the industry has come in the past ten years of growth and advancement, while simultaneously engaging us to plan for future development objectives.

We spoke with some of the most impactful and innovative influencers in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Operations and Facilities Management about the significant catalysts for change in the past decade, current practices, and their vision for Canada’s future in BIM and Digital Transformation. Here, their foresights provide a powerful account on what’s in store next.

CanBIM would like to thank all of the contributors for sharing their experiences and insights!

What do you think has been the most creative breakthrough or development in the industry over the last ten years?

Susan Brattberg, Chief Executive Officer, Global eTraining: Although the vast amount of technology and software to enable BIM is innovative and constantly improving, the most creative global breakthrough in the industry is the approaches taken to build momentum to transform the industry culture to accept these changes. All new technology and processes follow the technology adoption bell curve, and it’s refreshing to see. Due to the hard work, collaboration, and compelling messaging from innovators and early adopters, we are seeing the masses of the early and late majority getting on board with BIM. And for anyone not on board yet, don’t be a laggard, get on board before you are left in the dust!

Mark Cichy, Senior Associate, Director of Design Technology, HOK Architects: One of the biggest breakthroughs certainly has to be the ability to interoperate and collaborate across multiple disciplines and platforms in near real-time. This has taken the shape of automated workflows and industry standard class formats, as well as a number of timely open projects/initiatives (IFC, BCF, etc.). These may not initially be perceived as creative in and of themselves, but they do facilitate the transfer of creative content to production based tools which allow us to achieve a higher level of design-execution.

Craig Curtis, Chief Architect, Katerra: As part of a range of mass timber products, Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) is a pre-fabricated, engineered wood building material with unique and often superior building, aesthetic, environmental, and cost attributes. In my 30+ years in design, I haven’t seen a material like mass timber come around that has opened up so many design possibilities while also having the potential to significantly benefit the environment. As a building material, mass timber has checked all the boxes to gain acceptance on an international scale, and CLT is fundamentally changing the way we design, manufacture, and build.

North America is in the early stages of a CLT construction boom, driven by increasing demand and expanded building code acceptance of mass timber structures. Katerra recently opened a CLT factory in Spokane Valley, Washington, which is the largest facility of its kind in North America. We envision our investments and innovations will help CLT become the backbone for future generations of high-performance, low-carbon buildings. 

Marc Devlin, Executive Vice President and Region Executive for Canada, AECOM: We have found that the most significant breakthrough is the implementation of Cloud Computing. We witnessed a significant transformation introducing BIM in our industry, which require complex IT solutions to be able to collaborate between teams. With tighter deadlines our teams need to collaborate and transfer design information efficiently with no restriction that are subject to office server limitations. Cloud Computing solutions has been the key contributor to today’s design workflow. It has enabled project team members to share data and information with each other, regardless of location and devices, by simply connecting to internet. With the help of this, the data has become easily accessible from early stage of design to final handover to all stakeholders involved in the project.

Helen Goodland, Head of Research and Innovation, SCIUS Advisory Inc.: Many great apps and gadgets have hit the street over the last few years, but underpinning the construction industry’s shift from analog to digital has been the exponential increase in available and cheap computing power. Whole buildings can now be modeled at 1 to 1 scale, and with that comes all the enabling tools from advanced visualization to automated fabrication and assembly to facility management.

Now, it is fair to say that historically the construction industry has been quite resistant to investing these tools. So, the impacts haven’t been felt yet. AECOO firms are culturally risk averse and most do not invest in innovation and R&D as a corporate strategy. Instead, they try to expense any learning and/or experimentation to a particular project.

However, there is a series of very compelling and unprecedented drivers of change that are forcing companies to take note that business as usual will very soon no longer be an option:  (1) Building codes that are driving towards zero energy and zero carbon buildings in the fight against climate change. Delivering the performance level required to meet these codes will be increasingly difficult using traditional site-built methods; (2) Stagnant productivity. Every other major industry has seen productivity increase steadily over the past 50 years. Yet construction remains one of the most inefficient and wasteful processes with less than 50% of the average project actually adding value for the client; (3) Industry reputation and the industry’s struggle to attract the technically savvy workforce needed to meet demand. One in ten Canadians work in construction (1.4 million people), but more than half of them are over 45 years old. Less than 5% of construction workers are women. Accident rates are among the highest and are not going down.

Investing in technology has the potential to address all of these challenges. Whether it is to help companies deliver better quality projects affordably and reliably, improve productivity or attract a young diverse workforce, digital solutions will be critical to success.

Rory Kulmala, Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Island Construction Association: Certainly, technology is opening up to our industry and we are seeing many new innovations being applied to the construction sector. Augmented Reality(AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and innovations around Building Information Modeling (BIM), to name a few, are allowing designers, planners and builders to create projects in a virtual or semi-virtual environment before a shovel even hits the ground. Such innovation brings aspects of design, coordination and constructability to the construction team to allow people to not only see how the project may end up in a true 3D perspective, but build teams can streamline construction processes, improve scheduling and site efficiency and reduce waste to ensure that a project is constructed to the highest standard possible.

Add to this, robotics, 3D printing, modular construction, and myriad of other technologies, there are new ideas being developed to augment or assist the human involvement in construction; all of which may be necessary as the industry seeks to meet the demands, cost constraints and complexity of delivering our future built environment.

David LeMay, President and Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Olson Inc.: Technology and innovation have played a huge part in reforming all aspects of construction over the years, and today it is reshaping our industry.

A significant breakthrough over the past ten years is that the availability of information and insight resulting from a fully-digital workflow (BIM, VDC, agile, etc.) has allowed us to spend less time theorizing, making our teams more productive. Technological advancements in software and programming have afforded us efficiencies which years ago, we would’ve never thought possible. Through more collaborative delivery methods, we are seeing improved productivity because all stakeholders are on the same page from the early project stages; and most importantly, the advances in safety and training allow our crews to go home safe every day.

John Marcovecchio, Chief Executive Officer, Magil: The widespread adoption of mobile devices and their integration with cloud-based construction management platforms (known as “Common Data Environments” or CDE) has greatly improved construction management (CM) workflows, collaboration and communication between stakeholders, enabling live access to all project information from anywhere.

Also, more and more applications are able to exchange information within the CDE, which enables us to integrate all CM processes in a seamless workflow: from estimation to financials, from on-site to management activities, from project kickoff to final handover. The creation of a well-managed project database has a positive impact on facility construction but also in its future operation and maintenance. Finally, as we collect more and more data, we will soon be able to use AI to better understand trends and manage project risks more proactively through Big Data.

Brad McAninch, Chief Executive Officer, Modern Niagara Group Inc.: Certainly mechanical/electrical projects have become increasingly complex and that has led to the development of technology solutions. From advanced third party products and materials to pre-engineered systems, from just-in-time delivery to digital supply chains and advancement, we have made significant gains in productivity and schedule and cost reductions; all of this has meant we’ve been able to address these complex projects effectively.

Geoff Miller, Partner, RDHA: Cloud-based BIM has fundamentally changed the architects’ approach to document coordination. At the same time, it has already begun increasing owners’ and general contractors’ expectations around document quality. The design and construction industry is notoriously slow at making productivity gains, but this feels like a paradigm shift that could finally begin to reduce changes and conflicts during construction; in turn, bringing down both the owners’ and the consultants’ costs.

Steve Nonis, Principal, Turner Fleischer Architects Inc.: The pace of change is staggering to reflect on. Thinking about the past decade, there has been a total digitization that has impacted all aspects of how we work as architects and how the industry operates as a whole. Specifically, the most creative breakthroughs that standout are the rising prominence of scripting/programming and open Application Programming Interface (API).  With the progressive stance in releasing Revit’s API, companies were given access to a multitude of powerful new ways to customize software to their specific use-cases.

Being able to go beyond customizing simple commands and developing toolbar functions such as automated area statistic calculations and integrated digital content search, allows for better efficiencies. This concept of customization has now extended to realizing the power of programming and scripting within the AECOO industry, allowing firms to capitalize on the interoperability between design programs and other software utilized within organizations. Broader uses of these customized tools can now help data-oriented studios learn about the needs and habits of their staff. We can now analyze and enhance user experience, critical to assessing training and other staff needs in an ever-advancing industry. The creative potential is endless in transforming workflows and encouraging automation.

Terry Olynyk, President and Managing Director, Multiplex: The most creative breakthrough has unquestionably been Revit and the BIM model. BIM has revolutionized the way in which we make design and construction decisions. A BIM model is our industry’s single source of truth that facilitates the connection and alignment of designers, trades, construction managers and owners like never before. Extending a 3D model to 4D gives us certainty on schedule, to 5D on cost and estimating, and to 6D on the embodied carbon of our buildings. All of this can be ascertained, reviewed, modified or improved before breaking ground. As our industry continues to face resourcing and time certainty challenges, the confidence this data provides us is enormous. BIM has also been foundational to the development of modular and prefabrication construction processes. Never before has our industry been able to guarantee with absolute certainty that prefabricated modules will fit when they are delivered to site – and now we can. And finally, the BIM model also provides owners with a digital twin-ready model for their use at handover, offering data insights invaluable to facilities management and the sales process.

Pierre Pomerleau, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pomerleau: Without question, it would be technology, and its influence on our ability to adopt different contract types and rethink project workflow.

Technology has had a massive and unprecedented impact on timelines and cost — two crucial elements from our clients’ perspective. It enables us to anticipate problems, manage relationships and conflicts, and enhance collaboration at every level, which are all key factors that significantly affect how clients perceive value.

There’s no doubt that compared to other sectors, our industry has been slow to embrace technology. As a result, we have not yet fully understood its potential benefits to our milieu. I believe it will likely be a mix of technologies (rather than a single one) that will create the highest value and generate the most synergies, as well as the radical mindset shift required to truly drive collaboration.

Brock Schroeder, Managing Director, Entuitive: Custom software development and the use of a variety of BIM tools such as REVIT, Tekla and Rhino has had a great impact on how we produce and document our work and how we provide value outcomes for our clients. In the construction process, we have noticed an increased reliance on models over drawings where many industry partners are working in the 3D model space. Data is the new currency and the industry is recognizing the power of it  buildings are constantly quantified, and our trust of digital information is growing rapidly. However, there remains a barrier to fully realizing the potential of data due to the aversion to share data across the industry. Changing this mindset and focusing on new technologies in the industry needs to be a focus.

Geoff Zeiss, Founder and Author, Between the Poles: The effects of population growth, urbanization and climate change are motivating us to contemplate serious changes in how we build and maintain buildings and infrastructure. This change will require new tools. There are important industry drivers that suggest that AECOO and geospatial interoperability is one of them. A specific challenge currently facing the AECOO and geospatial industries is integrating BIM and geospatial models. There are parallels between what happened in the 1990s when the industry was unsuccessful in addressing CAD+GIS interoperability and the current challenge of BIM+geospatial interoperability.

But there are also important differences which provide grounds for optimism that the availability of both BIM and geospatial standards, a vibrant open source geospatial community, and a new willingness on the part of major software players in the BIM and geospatial industries will make it possible to successfully address the latest interoperability challenge facing the AECOO and geospatial industries.

Do you think the industry standard of project design, procurement, and delivery is working or is it broken? What do you think is a more efficient way to design, procure, and deliver built assets?

Susan Brattberg, Chief Executive Officer, Global eTraining: The industry standard of project design, procurement, and delivery is absolutely the most efficient way to complete projects as long as all stakeholders are truly on board upfront.  The hold-ups happen when one party wants to revert to the “old way” and others are invested in the “new way”.  In my mind, this is the most important lesson — collaborate and ensure buy-in upfront and on an ongoing basis.

Mark Cichy, Senior Associate, Director of Design Technology, HOK Architects: I’m not sure if I would classify the current state procurement as broken; I’d argue that a better term would be dated. The real answer, of course, is—it depends. I think you need to evaluate the market sector of the build to determine a best fit. Extremely large, complex, and lengthy projects benefit from connected forms of engagement—every party needs to be held accountable for their bit of the “action”, as the scale of risk is much greater than say, a single family dwelling. It’s all relative of course. Do IPD/Design Build address every single scenario? Definitely not. Are they perfect? No. As a design professional I see the pit falls of those two specific processes as they tend to muddy the waters with what has traditionally defined :our client”. I do believe that a more collaborative approach to project engagement and procurement will result in a more unified and precise solution for the owner, however. The dispersion of win/lose is more evenly distributed which usually promotes a higher degree of teamwork.

Craig Curtis, Chief Architect, Katerra: At Katerra, we believe the $1.3 trillion construction industry is ripe for disruption. We are pursuing transformational change on a massive scale by putting modern technology to work at each step of the building process, from supply sourcing to design, manufacturing and construction for a growing number of building markets. Katerra designs to manufacture building components as repeatable products and streamline field assembly. We’ve found this approach allows us to offer improved efficiency to customers buildings at scale, without sacrificing the freedom and configurability needed to make each project a distinct, holistic design.

Marc Devlin, Executive Vice President and Region Executive for Canada, AECOM: For the most part, it is working, but we are still facing challenges within projects with some parties continuing to hold on to traditional processes to meet design criteria and deliverables. BIM is a process that can overcome most challenges we face today, but this requires the involvement of all parties. This can be remedied if owners have a detailed BIM mandate included in their proposals that defines the expectations.

Helen Goodland, Head of Research and Innovation, SCIUS Advisory Inc.: The traditional project delivery process is not broken so much as becoming out of date. The collaborative platforms afforded by digitization results in a different set of relationships — more of a dynamic web as opposed to a linear chain of responsibilities. So, all the procurement arrangements, the allocation and management of risk, etc. need to evolve. It is early days, and much has to be bedded down into established industry practices. We just finished a series of case studies on collaborative strategies for BC Housing and we found that early success is really found in construction companies embracing lean planning methods. This cultural shift opens the door for new project delivery methods such as multi-party contracts and full use of BIM.

When it comes to extending the digital continuum into fabrication and assembly, there is tremendous potential to tighten up the supply chain, but we are not seeing this yet. Even though it is possible to send a BIM file straight to the factory, most architects and engineers are not thinking like industrial designers where standardization is key, and very few of Canada’s prefabrication and modular plants have any level of automation (CNC machines, robotics, etc).

Rory Kulmala, Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Island Construction Association: I do not think that is necessarily broken, but I do think that the typical Design-Bid-Build (DBB) process, when adequate time is allowed, has proven to be the go-to method for many years. When owners are clear on their objectives, have appropriate capacity to manage designers and constructors alike, and often have adequate time for design and procurement, the DBB method does have the benefit of higher cost certainty. That said, newer models such as an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model are certainly demonstrating that this collaborative method is proving to promote innovation for all elements of design and construction while considering costs and risks.

David LeMay, President and Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Olson Inc.: Our industry, like many others, is undergoing an evolution and to be successful, we must remain collaborative. We believe in collaborating with all stakeholders right from inception. This collaboration provides our client with not only the foundational aspects of the project, but the insight required for them to align their vision, expectation and budget. 

For this method to be successful, the supply chain must be established with the intention to support the common goal. BIM serves as the primary portal for innovation and development as the timely and granular data we have access to facilitates accurate support to the entire procurement process. A collective approach with proper risk allocation and reward ensures everyone is aligned to the best practices to meet the clients’ expectation and budget.

John Marcovecchio, Chief Executive Officer, Magil: The industry standards for project design, procurement, and delivery are constantly evolving. As an example, technology has become essential to thoroughly study constructability issues. Using BIM supports a paradigm shift towards more comprehensive solutions by enhancing investments and collaboration in the early stages of project development (front-end activities).

Also, delivery methods such as Design-Build, or Integrated Design Process (IDP) can greatly improve collaboration and planning. The most definitive delivery method is IPD (Integrated Project Delivery), in which all stakeholders work together from the beginning, sharing risks and opportunities.

The classical project delivery methods, such as lump sum, often fail to create a climate favourable to reaching all the project’s targeted goals, due to the discontinuity between the design and construction stages.

Brad McAninch, Chief Executive Officer, Modern Niagara Group Inc.: At Modern Niagara, it’s about continuous improvement, and assigning risk and scope to those organizations best equipped to manage them. We see a reallocation of traditional roles, particularly around the design build model. We are expanding what we do with the goal of reducing duplication and removing unnecessary steps, all to our clients’ benefit.

Geoff Miller, Partner, RDHA: In the public sector we are seeing more projects shifting to the alternative delivery methods. For civic design to endure, we believe there is a danger here of finding false economies. The traditional Design-Bid-Build approach remains the most effective path to architectural quality and overall value.

Alternative contracts, in particular P3, have reduced risk and uncertainty around spending of public funds, but we have seen few examples of built work using these models that reach high levels of design quality or ingenuity. To the contrary, design suffers when value is equated with low cost. While some clients have tried to integrate design quality requirements into P3, these don’t have sharp enough teeth and, as a result, are often not taken seriously by the main decision makers on the design/build/finance teams. We are hopeful that Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) might be more successful, but so far the results appear mixed at best.

At the same time, governments across Canada have generally been slow to take up BIM as the standard delivery model. Alberta is a leader in this respect, but some other provinces are still grappling with the implications of BIM for information sharing, both in design and construction, and for long term facility management.

Steve Nonis, Principal, Turner Fleischer Architects Inc.: It is absolutely broken. Our industry is reluctant to change and embrace new delivery methods and harness the power of data and technology. We see this reluctance in all areas of practice, from the creative concept to the contractual side of a project. Integrated project delivery has the potential to get entire teams working together, optimizing workflows, building efficiencies and increasing accountability to each other. Unfortunately, in Canada we’re still working in a siloed state where the design, procurement and delivery of built assets are considered industry secrets. We need to change and open up to the greater potential of sharing and adding transparency to how studios operate, allowing emerging and established technology help, rather than viewing it as a hindrance to protocols.

Terry Olynyk, President and Managing Director, Multiplex: The process to design, procure and deliver quality buildings works well currently on Design and Build projects. But in other contractual forms, the process breaks down too easily. From a BIM perspective, the model can easily lose integrity between the design and construction phases. We need to close the gap between the level of development by architects, and that needed by contractors to build from it. As builders, we rarely receive a truly federated, coordinated BIM model that has the fidelity needed to support construction. Often, this is because owners did not set out to contract this at the start. If owners invested in a Level of Development (LOD) 300, contractors would save rework time and be able to rely on the model for quantities and material selection. Improving this transition from design to construction would make the design, procurement and delivery process more efficient.

Pierre Pomerleau, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pomerleau: It’s clear our traditional model must be reimagined and adapted to modern reality. Nearly every industry has undergone a radical transformation —through technology, globalization, or other factors — and we need to follow suit.

For example, most past public projects were awarded to the lowest bidder. There was no guarantee of quality, adherence to deadlines or budgets, sustainability, cordial stakeholder relationships, or safety. At Pomerleau, these six elements are crucial in delivering value to our clients.

We’ve been moving to integrated, collaborative contract models (including design-build, design-build-operate, and IPD) that promote quality through the sharing of best practices and expertise. By creating an ecosystem where key players gather around a table at the project’s outset, we generate added expertise and therefore, added value. We’re also adding more pre-fabricated elements to save time, improve jobsite OHS, and raise quality.

The impact on results, timing, pricing, and ultimately the value of our built assets is inestimable.

Brock Schroeder, Managing Director, Entuitive: Perhaps not broken, but still very fragmented and not as nearly efficient as it has the potential to be — or needs to be. The challenge is in finding a consistent way all participants can collaborate more effectively; IPD and CM to GMP are delivery methods that have been employed to help but they aren’t a perfect solution. Perhaps there is room for standardization of collaboration tools to encourage broader adoption of a more integrated approach to delivery. Another avenue for improvement could be a pre-fabricated/modular approach to design and construction as a way of understanding how to integrate more repeatability/automation where possible.

Geoff Zeiss, Founder and Author, Between the Poles: The UK Government, as part of its BIM initiative, has said repeatedly that it expects the big payoff of BIM adoption will be during operations and maintenance, which typically represents 80% of the cost of a facility.  On many projects, the information is handed over from contractor to FM months later, despite the highest probability of failure occurring in the first three months. This lack of access to critical warranty or operational information can lead to equipment or facility failure. Over the past decade firms such as Parsons Brinckerhoff, Atkins Global, Arcadis, AECOM and Royal BAM have realized  that BIM+geospatial integration provide greater value to projects that involve not just design and construction, but also operations and maintenance.

However, fashioning BIM and geospatial data into an efficient data flow from planning through design and construction to operations and maintenance has represented a challenge for owners. But in the last few years there has been impressive progress by buildingSmart International, the Open Geospatial Consortium and others in developing open standards for the integration of geospatial and AECOO views of buildings and infrastructure, which provide a standards-based basis for full lifecycle management from design through to operations and maintenance of construction projects. Furthermore, major software vendors Autodesk and ESRI have agreed to partner to enable greater interoperability between their products. The open source community is also addressing the issue of BIM+geospatial interoperability. Very recently we are now beginning to see data from real world projects that offer quantitative evidence for the benefits of an integrated BIM+geospatial full lifecycle approach for construction projects.

What do you think the Canadian building industry needs to focus development efforts on the most?

Susan Brattberg, Chief Executive Officer, Global eTraining: The Canadian building industry is making significant headway to adopt BIM, although we’re still behind other parts of the world. Let’s ALL embrace this change together as an industry, including adopting new technology and processes to make Canadian companies the most competitive not just in Canada, but across the globe!

This means continuous training for your project teams to learn and keep up with the latest, greatest and most-up-to-datest.

Mark Cichy, Senior Associate, Director of Design Technology, HOK Architects: I truly believe that it is a combination of items that will ultimately result in big wins in the building industry. It’s easy for me to say that technology will play a big role because that is where I spend a lot of time. It will. However, the most useful contributing technologies will be those born out of our necessity to deliver on specific facets of our scope. Augmented Reality will play a massive role on site, through contract administration — for both design professionals and contractors, even sub-trades. The ability to visualize assembly and material composition in situ will save time and reduce error. That is just one example. Reducing our embodied carbon footprint and streamlining the assembly of various building components via pre-engineered/designed/fabricated processes is another. Most of the foreseeable big wins are rooted in the verticalization of collaborate delivery. Technology is certainly part of the solution, but applying these in the appropriate circumstances is what will add value and reduce errors/omissions, which ultimately will result in a better built environment.

Craig Curtis, Chief Architect, Katerra: It is an exciting time to be in the building industry. There are many new companies with a technology focus similar to Katerra coming into the space. At the same time, like many industries, there is pressure to be more sustainable in response to climate change. CLT speaks to both of these topics. CLT allows developers, designers, and builders to move beyond the traditional construction tradeoffs — to create buildings that are sophisticated and efficient, rapidly assembled and structurally sound, affordable and aesthetically stunning.

Marc Devlin, Executive Vice President and Region Executive for Canada, AECOM: In practice, our teams leverage digital tools to achieve operational certainty, which provide more informed design and construction outcome; however, at times these tools are referred to as specialty services. When we can achieve a commonality of practice around current technology, it will position Canada to be a leader and innovator of future technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things.

Helen Goodland, Head of Research and Innovation, SCIUS Advisory Inc.: It’s a massive question that is really asking, “how does the construction industry modernize?” At the moment, it’s a bit of a feeding frenzy as technology providers try to solve specific pain points (collaboration, back-office optimization, etc.) and it can be overwhelming for companies — many of which are small businesses without the bandwidth to properly investigate each offering.

Industry leaders and governments needs to focus on providing innovation resources and support to help companies of all sizes get “innovation ready”. The Canadian government did a lot of this for the agricultural sector a few years ago. Business optimization is key for companies to be able to navigate the full range of technology and select the systems and solutions that are right for them.

Fostering a culture of innovation is a people-focused endeavour and is driven by corporate leadership. CEOs have to see the value of investing in innovation and R&D as a basic cost of business and not a project-specific expense. There are all sorts of government incentives and grants to help cover the costs.

Valuing and investing in education on an ongoing basis is equally critical. Not only does education and skills development assist with employee retention, it also helps business leaders keep their finger on the pulse of the latest developments in technology.

Rory Kulmala, Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Island Construction Association: At any given time, various segments of the construction industry see innovation being applied at different times and to different methodologies. The construction building industry is not segmented into a world of its own. We must be mindful of training our skilled men and women with not only current technologies but ensure they are adaptable to new ones. The constructing industry has traditionally been one that has seen slower update when it comes to tech as much of the true skills that are needed reside in the tradesperson’s ability to employ that technology. Further, I think that technology needs to truly demonstrate that it can improve a process or efficiency rather than be seen as a gimmick or needless tool. Having innovation developed is one thing; having proper training and application is another. Technologies are being developed far quicker than can be integrated into construction and we need to find ways to embrace innovation and work to ensure it can be applied in a sustainable and practical manner.

David LeMay, President and Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Olson Inc.: The industry needs to focus on all aspects of technology and innovation, risk management and sustainability. In recent years, we have seen a shift in what our clients and owners expect from their buildings; how they can interact with them, what information they can collect to ensure they are off-setting usage, and how to maximize their building’s performance potential. 

With the rapid pace of tech sector advancements, it is critical for us to stay on top of digital adaptation, and to integrate new tools and options into our business, which ultimately impact our clients’ bottom line, environmental factors and the futureproofing of space. 

We need to put an emphasis on data standards and information exchange capabilities to facilitate a consistent flow of data throughout the project lifecycle and post-occupancy. If we are to evolve into the next generation of building professionals we must leverage information advancements that allow us to build high-value assets for our clients.

John Marcovecchio, Chief Executive Officer, Magil: One of the biggest challenges the construction industry will be facing in the years to come will be the increasing lack of manpower. Not only will construction companies be faced with scarcity of their own staff, but we will also deal with a growing scarcity of specialized subcontractors.

At the same time, the Canadian construction market isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Instead, we’re expecting a rise in infrastructure investments, real estate development and retrofit projects, as several studies have recently shown. This is an opportunity for our industry to implement new and innovative solutions aimed to increase productivity, reduce loss of time and money and optimize construction processes.

Technology can be of great help to overcome these challenges more effectively in a variety of areas: robotization of redundant tasks on site, IA and algorithms to automate simple management tasks, and an increase in the use of offsite prefabrication. BIM-VDC, Lidar, drones, CMD and mobile platforms can help reduce prefabrication risks and optimize construction strategies.

Brad McAninch, Chief Executive Officer, Modern Niagara Group Inc.: The industry needs to focus on a number of competing fronts simultaneously. At Modern, our technology drive emphasizes the manufacturing process. We’ve installed more efficient equipment and strengthened the design link from BIM-to-build by manufacturing directly from a model. Perfecting that process will have the greatest impact on productivity.

Geoff Miller, Partner, RDHA: As we have transitioned to BIM, it has become apparent that the industry has a long way to go in standardizing agreements for the effective sharing of BIM resources during design and construction. 

However, a much more pressing concern is updating sustainability and energy use standards to keep up with our evolving understanding of the climate crisis. Passive House, Net Zero, and other programs are gaining profile, which is encouraging. Our office is moving to get more of our staff certified in the established and emerging standards. We would like to see more of our public sector clients going beyond LEED to make bolder green commitments in their project requirements.

Steve Nonis, Principal, Turner Fleischer Architects Inc.: Canada needs to immediately focus on creating a national strategy and put in place a government mandate on building standards. Beyond code and building standards, we need to establish national level protocol on delivery methods and BIM. Without this our efforts are fruitless and won’t gain traction.

Canada, at a federal level, needs to see what has been successful in other countries. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but rather establish a standard that is based on what is working elsewhere and actively enforce that here. Many firms struggle to incorporate BIM into an effective, cost saving workflow. The pressure of a national standard will force this change and the industry to learn from one another to make it work.

Terry Olynyk, President and Managing Director, Multiplex: The number one focus of our AECOO industry needs to be integrating digital innovation with sustainability. A 6D model brings into sharp focus the true cost of embodied carbon. It gives every person in the building industry a clear understanding of the impacts of building decisions, and the opportunity to make sustainable material selection choices. We are increasingly being held accountable to emissions targets, and our industry has been tasked with reaching the Net Zero Carbon Standard for all new and existing buildings by 2030. This is our reality. Multiplex will not start a new project without a schedule (4D), cost (5D) and carbon BIM model (6D). I truly believe that in future, owners will no longer make decisions about the material of their buildings based on cost, but on carbon.

Pierre Pomerleau, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pomerleau: It’s all of the above. At Pomerleau, we’re exploring all technologies to pinpoint the exact mix that will maximize value for our clients. We must integrate it into our everyday workflow; so the challenge becomes personal will to change your mindset and way of working.

As Gartner pointed out, ignoring disruption means we are failing to innovate and potentially failing as a business. We must look beyond price to understand the value of collaborating differently and then implement these learnings. Shifting our thinking from silos to a collaborative ecosystem that views construction in a more holistic way, and incorporating elements like the environment, the community, sustainability, and long-term maintenance. To do so, all partners must be onboard and working synergistically. This is how you create real, long-lasting change.

Brock Schroeder, Managing Director, Entuitive: There needs to be a focus on technology integration to streamline processes and reduce mundane repeatable tasks throughout the design/construction process. This will speed up the process, reduce errors and risk, and allow more time to address challenges that are noted. As well, considering an industry wide incentive to share data might be considered so that it can be leveraged more meaningfully in addressing challenges like reducing energy use and the carbon footprint associated with buildings.

Geoff Zeiss, Founder and Author, Between the Poles: A major challenge facing the construction industry is low productivity that has not improved in the last 40 years. The risk associated with underground utilities is responsible for a significant portion of the insurance that every contractor must carry, which contributes to the very low margins that are typical of the construction industry and that prevented investment in new technology. Not knowing the location of underground utilities represents a billion dollar drag on the Canadian economy. Unknown or inaccurately mapped underground utilities are one of the top causes of highway construction delays and represents a risk to workers and the public. Reliable metrics make it possible to assess the social and economic impact of incidents and the effectiveness of new technologies and policies in preventing and reducing the severity of these incidents.

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