Wales offers insight into state of construction innovation

It’s clear that some industry innovation is needed to to hit sustainability goals, overcome labour shortages and address cost challenges. But will that change come rapidly and disrupt the sector? Or will it be a more gradual process?

Darren Sauer, director of development at Wales McLelland, gave his thoughts on the state of industrial and commercial work in Western Canada where Wales works exclusively doing commercial and industrial projects.

He believes innovation is moving at a manageable pace, thanks to the regulatory environment, maturity of the construction sector and the conservative nature of the industry.

“Overall the construction industry is pretty conservative,” said Sauer. “These are huge capital outlays. Like other industries, you’ll get some early adopters for business or marketing reasons. They will be able to absorb the long payback or the upfront capital. We are constantly analyzing things like mass timber, solar panels, electrification and we aren’t seeing any of it on a mass scale yet.” 

Sauer said this means there is time for companies to adjust as different technologies and methods are being proven in the field. 

He explained that Wales believes builders will see incremental change occurring where use cases are tested on select projects, lessons learned are gleaned, and actual ROI is quantified and understood before wider industry adoption. The following are some technologies and methods that show promise for wider adoption in the future. 

PC Urban
Evolution is a four-storey industrial project Wales McLelland completed for PC Urban in Vancouver. – Wales McLelland

Some electrical innovations now standard

Things like LED lighting, integrated lighting controls and occupancy sensors that used to be considered innovative are now becoming ubiquitous thanks to the adoption of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.

“These things were cutting edge 10 to 15 years ago,” said Sauer. “They were extremely expensive and nobody was doing it in warehouses. But the cost came down significantly and with stricter ASHRAE codes they became spec. All had plenty of time to understand it and make it standard. There isn’t a new building now that isn’t LED.”

However this still isn’t the case for solar panels, which remain expensive. But Sauer said he is seeing some clients anticipating the future of electric vehicles by installing underground conduit for future charge station upgrades. 

Mechanical systems get more efficient

Mechanical systems have seen a similar trajectory. As energy bylaws are changing with ASHRAE, manufacturers continue to upgrade and improve the efficiency of mechanical units. As a result,  units are much more efficient than they were five years ago. Sauer explained that reducing energy consumption continues to be the main focus of sustainable initiatives in mechanical systems. For example, suppliers are able to provide the same amount of air flow but now with less horsepower on the motor with little added cost.

“In Vancouver in particular, the bylaws are almost mandating you go all electric,” said Sauer. “In multi-storey it certainly makes a lot of sense to use all electric mechanical systems, heat pumps and VFV refrigeration systems. Again, we are seeing that technology potentially being applied to larger scale industrial projects like warehousing and distribution. But there is a huge capital premium up front so you really have to run analysis on the payback to see if that makes sense.”

Reflective roofs bounce heat away

Wales has seen groups installing white high-albedo TPO roofing in lieu of ballasted EPDM at a premium. 

“This is important to industrial developers and users,” said Sauer. “White TPO is a $5 to $7 premium over traditional options so if you have it on a 400,000 square-foot warehouse, that’s a huge premium of over $2 million. But it has a lot of benefits.”

He explained that white reflective roofing reduces the heat island effect by reflecting solar energy away from the building. In theory this also reduces the heat gain on the building during the summer months, reducing cooling load and improving occupant comfort. LEED points are also available with high-albedo roofing. 

Sauer added that he is also seeing a shift away from the installation of green roofs as they are proving to be a maintenance issue for users and come with a significant premium. For example, Port Coquitlam rescinded their green roof bylaw several years ago in favour of improved stormwater management practices.

Wales employees check a tablet while at a job site. – Wales McLelland

Government tightens stormwater management

Municipalities across the Lower Mainland are mandating stormwater be managed in such a way that limits pre- and post-development flows. Stormwater detention that stores site runoff to a certain design event and releases slowly back into the ground aquifer are now common. 

“All the municipalities have mandated pretty high-level requirements which add hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to a project,” said Sauer. “This is no longer a new initiative. It’s just being built into the cost and design of projects. It’s something that was considered a premium or an environmental standard that is now just table stakes.”

Concrete innovating to reduce carbon emissions

According to Sauer, many of the more interesting innovations are happening in concrete as efforts to decarbonize the material pick up steam.

Sauer explained that suppliers are looking to reduce their environmental impacts caused by their operations. For example, increasing the amount of Portland limestone cement to concrete mixes reduces the amount of general Portland cement that needs extracting, lowering the overall footprint of the product. 

He noted that the global cement producers have either announced net zero commitments or are moving towards making these pledges. Groups with large multi-national client backing have successfully implemented carbon sequestration into concrete through injecting CO2 into the concrete mix at the batch plant.

“The massive, multi-nationals aren’t going to take this transition lying down and they are spending billions to innovate,” said Sauer. “The big suppliers want their own technology and innovation. Each group is pursuing their own better mixes, extraction processes and carbon capture on their plants.”

He believes this could make it difficult for tech companies like CarbonCure to break into established markets like the Lower Mainland.  

“Mass timber loves talking about how bad concrete is and how they produce huge amounts of C02 each year,” said Sauer. “But they aren’t sitting idle. They are actively trying to improve their systems and I think that’s a space that’s going to be watched and it will be super interesting.”

Emerging innovations to watch

Sauer offered the following list of project delivery innovations worth keeping an eye on: 

  • New delivery methods borrowed from manufacturing and software such as Lean and Agile
  • BIM and clash detection software
  • Virtual Realty
  • Document manage software
  • Drone surveying
  • Artificial Intelligence in Estimating and Project Management (auto quantity takeoffs, machinery and equipment tracking sensors, wearables, etc.)
  • Cloud based design and project management collaboration tools
  • Cloud based contract management (reviewing and editing contracts, e-signing, automation of
  • progress payments)

Sauer noted that this list of material innovations is also worth tracking:

  • Use of mass timber for the super-structure (medium term time horizon)
  • Use of modular construction (Wales has seen an increase in this delivery method in residential but with little to no use cases as of yet for industrial work)
  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of buildings to understand the asset holistically
  • Smart Buildings (increased use of data sensors, BAS, internet of things applied to buildings)

EllisDon Community Builders (EDCB) is partnering with local Habitat for Humanity organizations to accelerate homeownership projects.

“There are several obstacles to homeownership in Canada today, including financial impacts from the pandemic and inflation,” said Nicholas Gefucia, vice president EllisDon Community Builders. “Because EllisDon and Habitat for Humanity Canada work on a national scale, we are collaborating to streamline the development process, so more individuals and families will be able to buy a Habitat home of their own.”

Under the partnership, EllisDon will provide advisory services over the next four years. The services will help local Habitat organizations evaluate how to best build for the most impact on specific pieces of land, with key information and advice on planning restrictions, permitted density, and potentially available financing.

EDCB, a division formed within the EllisDon group of companies, provides development management services for clients who wish to deliver affordable and supportive housing to their communities. According to the EDCB website, by combining decades of construction industry experience and development expertise, they provide a holistic and comprehensive approach to delivering high-quality affordable and sustainable community developments across Canada.

Key Takeaways:

  • The funds will go towards small and medium businesses who want to hire first-year apprentices.
  • Extra support will be given for equity deserving groups.
  • The funding will target construction and manufacturing Red Seal trades.

The Whole Story:

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters Canadian District (UBC) has received $37 million in funding to support employers hiring first-year apprentices.

This program will assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with hiring new, first-year apprentices in the skilled trades and provide extra support for employers to assist apprentices from equity deserving groups.

“As the demand for skilled trade workers outpace the need in our country, it’s critical that we do everything we can to recruit and retain the next generation,” said Jason Rowe. “The UBC is working hard to eliminate barriers and provide an equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace for all Canadians. This program supports small businesses by equipping them with the necessary tools and resources to help apprentices succeed.”

UBC explained that the funding is critical as many SMEs do not have the resources to offer apprenticeship training opportunities. The two-year, $37-million program funded by the government of Canada’s Apprenticeship Service to provide support to SMEs in Canadian construction and manufacturing Red Seal trades to help them to hire new, first-year apprentices.

The funding enables SMEs to hire up to two new first-year apprentices per year. Under the program, SMEs can receive up to $5,000 for every new first year apprentice they hire and an additional $5,000 if that apprentice identifies as a person from an equity deserving group such as women, Indigenous people, newcomers, persons with disabilities, including LGBTQ2 and Black communities.

In addition to financial supports, the program provides assistance to help employers navigate the apprenticeship system, onboard new apprentices and set up the appropriate workplace training via a digital toolkit that can be found on their website at

The UBC Canadian District Apprenticeship Service program partners with the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) to offer Be More Than a Bystander training to SMEs that sign up for the program. The Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) is a provincial association based in Vancouver. They train and support close to 300 anti-violence programs and cross-sector initiatives across the province.

Construction is hard work and years of physical labour can take their toll on the body.

One of the most common complaints is lower back pain. Experts like Jack Liney, a physiotherapist at Westcoast SCI Physiotherapy in Vancouver, believe that workers can do a lot to address this kind of pain when it arises and prevent it from happening in the future.

Liney honed his skills working across a whole spectrum of hospital and rehabilitation settings, while also as a pitch side Physiotherapist in semi-professional rugby. Jack has worked with a wide variety of clients, including professional and olympic athletes, and construction workers.

Back pain causes and risk factors

“Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major cause of work-related disability and lost-time illnesses in the construction industry,” said Liney. “Lower back pain is the most common reason for a construction worker to seek professional input from a physiotherapist. It’s also the number one cause of pain globally and number one cause of disability, affecting 80-90 percent of the world’s population.”   

Despite being such a common problem the causes of lower back pain can be hard to determine. Liney explained that this is because the vast majority of time, lower back pain is what we class as non-specific, meaning there is not a single specific structure that we can reliably say for sure is what is causing the pain.

“When it comes to lower back pain, of course the biomechanical and physical factors are important to consider: limb shapes, intensity of the task, a person’s age and experience. However, because of the complexity of pain, this is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Liney. “There are so many other factors to consider other than biomechanical and physical factors, things like: the individual, psychology, tissue pathology, behavioural lifestyles, contextual factors, social and work environment factors. All of these things can increase or decrease someone’s chances of having lower back pain.” 

According to Liney, despite the complexity around the causes and risks for back pain, work can often be done to address it.

He explained that lower back pain can be reduced through a gradual exposure to the imposed demands of the job, things like bending forwards and lifting heavy items.

“Injuries occur when the demand placed upon the tissues exceeds its current capacity,” said Liney. “Task specific strength and conditioning, lifestyle modifications and behavioural changes can increase one’s capacity and tolerance and this can reduce the risk of developing lower back pain.” 

Back pain misconceptions

Not all back pain advice is created equal. Liney noted that modern research has shown that some common advice may not be that useful. Here are some misconceptions Liney says many have about lower back pain:

  • Back pain is not caused by poor posture.  
  • There is no evidence that lifting with spinal flexion is associated with more risk of injury or pain. 
  • There is no evidence that certain postures are causative of lower back pain, back pain affects all postures.
  • Pain with movement and exercise doesn’t mean you’re doing harm. 
  • Pain flare ups don’t mean you’re damaging yourself. 

Liney offered this advice for someone suffering from lower back pain:

  • Have the injury assessed by a professional. A physiotherapy needs to screen for serious circumstances that may require urgent medical intervention or referral to specialist. 
  • Find a physio that you connect with and that you can trust to make these important calls. 
  • Once cleared to start rehabilitation, begin with body weight functional movements, mobility and core exercises before trying resistance based exercises 
  • Find an employer that values good working conditions, with decent pay and regular breaks. 

Back stretch routine for construction workers

When it comes to doing regular movement and exercise to prevent lower back pain, Liney said it’s often a no one size fits all approach. 

“Human movement is individual based on lots of factors: age, experience, limb morphology, we are all shaped differently and this will affect the way we move,” he said. “For me personally, I like to focus on joint mobility exercises. I like them because they are low intensity and can be done regularly throughout the day. This helps me to avoid sedentary behaviour, a factor that can reduce physical capacity.” 

Liney said he thinks of the spine as a multidirectional bike chain, and he offered this set of stretches to cover all directions that the lumbar joints are designed to move in:

Lumbar rotation

Lie on your back. Bend your legs, keeping your knees and feet together. Keep your knees together while allowing your top foot to peel off of the floor as you roll your knees from side to side. Keep your shoulder stable on the floor and rotate at your spine.

Active repeated cobra

Lie on your stomach. Place your hands underneath your shoulders. Maintain your elbows near to your rib cage and keep your shoulders down throughout the movement. Rest the top of your feet down into the floor and relax your legs. Press through your hands and lift your head and upper body, opening your chest and allowing your spine to arch into the Cobra position. Breathe in while arching your spine and breathe out while returning in starting position.

Child’s pose

While on your hands and knees: Move backward, bringing your buttocks towards your heels, lower your forearms to the floor and let your back round. Hold the position for a moment while breathing smoothly. Return to the starting position.

Pelvic tilts

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly-button towards your spine and clench your buttock muscles to roll the tail bone up off the floor. Slowly return to the starting position. Roll your tailbone on the ground until the tip of your tail bone touches the mat. The majority of the effort should come from your abdominal and buttock muscles. Relax and repeat.

Knee hugs

Lie on your back. Draw one foot up and then the other. Bring one knee in towards your chest and then the other, using your hands for assistance to curl yourself in to a ball.

*Editors note: Does your business or employer have a unique way they are addressing workplace injury prevention? Let us know at

Calgary celebrated the best of the city’s built environment with the ninth edition of the Mayor’s Urban Design Awards (MUDA).

“Thank you to all the participants of MUDA for striving to make Calgary a more beautiful, accessible and welcoming city through design,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “The success you’ve achieved here in this wonderful diverse city we call home is from your bright minds and compassionate hearts. Thank you for keeping the world’s eyes on Calgary.”

This year’s awards saw a record 87 applicants compete in the 11 MUDA award categories. Officials noted that creating high quality public spaces that are inclusive and accessible was a common theme for this year’s  winners and honourable mentions. 

“It is an incredible time to make a life in Calgary and this event demonstrates real change that is happening right now in our city,” said Stuart Dalgleish, general manager of Calgary’s planning and development services. “Together, we are creating better spaces and places that are more accessible, equitable and environmentally sustainable. Your efforts contribute to a beautiful city where people want to live and make a great life.”

MUBA Winners:

Conceptual Theoretical Urban Design: Office retrofit by Sturgess Architecture.

Urban Design Plans: Balmoral Circus by DIALOG and city of Calgary.

Urban Architecture: The District at Beltline by Spear Street Capital; and Kasian Architecture, Interior Design & Planning Ltd.

Civic Design Projects: Dale Hodges Park by city of Calgary, 02 Planning & Design, Sans Facon, Source2Source and AECOM.

Urban Fragments: Flyover Park by Parks Foundation and Stantec Consulting Ltd.

Community Initiatives: High Park by Beltline Neighbourhoods Association, Public City Architecture.

Confluence Award: Century Gardens Redevelopment by city of Calgary parks, Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative, PFS Studio: CMAL.

City Edge Development: Plaza by Truman Homes and Lola Architecture.

Green City: Grow by Dr. Andrei Metelitsa and Modern Office of Design & Architecture.

Housing Innovation: Peaks & Plains by RNDSQR and Vera Architecture: BBLOC Interior Design.

Student Projects: Urban Acupuncture by Alima Pal, Deepali Dang, Garima Chaudhary, Madiha Mehdi, Mona Meschi, Pranshul Dangwal and Shabnam Seifhamedan.

Alberta is looking to twin the final 215 kilometres of Highway 3.

Officials have released a request for proposals for the first of eight sections of this stretch. The remaining seven sections are at various stages of project readiness.

“Alberta is focused on visionary province and nation-building projects that support local businesses, secure people’s jobs and strengthen communities,” said Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. “Our economy relies on our highway network and the ability to connect Alberta to markets outside the province.”

Officials explained that the project will have several stages of development, including consultation, planning and design, land acquisition, environmental assessment, engineering, contract tendering and construction through challenging terrain. The Highway 3 twinning project is being done in a phased approach to maintain cost effectiveness and limit disruption. 

The eight phases of this project include:

Phase 1: 46 kilometres – A request for proposals has been issued to the shortlisted design build proponents to twin Highway 3 between Taber and Burdett. Construction is expected to start in 2023.

Phase 2: 10 kilometres – Highway 3X/Coleman Bypass. Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in spring 2023.

Phase 3: 15 kilometres – East of Seven Persons to Medicine Hat. Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in spring 2023.

Phase 4: 47 kilometres – Blairmore to east of Highway 6 at Pincher Creek. Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in 2023.

Phase 5: 28 kilometres – East of Bow Island to east of Seven Persons. Functional planning studies have been completed and detailed engineering design will begin in summer 2023.

Phase 6: 23 kilometres – East of Burdett to east of Bow Island. A functional planning study has been completed and the province will continue to consult with the Town of Bow Island and other stakeholders in order to finalize the alignment.

Phase 7: 38 kilometres – Pincher Creek to west of Fort Macleod. A functional planning study through Piikani Nation is underway and will continue for some time.

Phase 8: Eight kilometres – Alberta-B.C. border to Highway 3X. Continued engagement with B.C. is necessary to consider alignment with improvements being planned through the B.C. portion.

VIDEO: Alberta officials announce Highway 3 plans

Key Takeaways:

  • The first tunnel-boring machine is progressing towards its first breakthrough while a second machine has been assembled and is set to launch.
  • A strike limited access to concrete, pushing the project completion date into 2026. Despite this, officials say the project remains on budget.
  • A precise update on the project timeline will be provided in the spring of 2023 when station excavation and tunnel boring are further advanced.

The Whole Story:

Work on the Broadway Subway project has reached another milestone with the imminent launch of the second tunnel-boring machine for the new rapid transit line.

The first machine launched Oct. 7 and has made significant progress toward its first breakthrough at Mount Pleasant Station, while the second machine is now fully assembled and set to launch.

The custom-designed tunnel-boring machines measure about six metres in diameter, 150 metres in length and weigh almost one million kilograms each. Named for Elizabeth (Elsie) MacGill and Phyllis Munday, the machines were manufactured in Germany, shipped to Canada in spring 2022, and assembled on concrete slabs at the launch site near Great Northern Way.

A five-week strike in June affected the concrete supply in the Lower Mainland, which affected the start of tunnel boring. As a result, the overall schedule for project completion has been moved from late 2025 into early 2026. A precise update on the project timeline will be provided in the spring of 2023 when station excavation and tunnel boring are further advanced. Despite the delay, officials say the project remains within budget.

Progress continues to be made on tunnelling work; more than half of the columns for the guideway between VCC-Clark and Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station are complete. Construction and fit out of the stations and tracks will begin once tunnel boring has finished.

The Broadway Subway will extend the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark Station to the future Broadway and Arbutus station, providing fast, convenient SkyTrain service along the Broadway corridor, home to B.C.’s second-largest jobs centre, world-class health-care services, an emerging innovation and research hub, and growing residential communities.

The project will result in faster travel, better access and fewer cars on the road in this heavily used corridor. Once in service, the trip from VCC-Clark to Arbutus Station will take 11 minutes, saving the average transit commuter almost 30 minutes a day and relieving congestion along Broadway.

The Broadway Subway will also support new transit-oriented developments, which create efficient, livable communities and maximize the opportunities provided by the investment government is making in public transit.

It’s estimated the Broadway Subway project will create more than 13,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, supporting economic development within the region and beyond.

VIDEO: How the Broadway Subway tunnel-boring machines work

Canada has announced its first National Adaptation Strategy which establishes a common direction for preparing for climate change events.

Canadians in every region of the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, and the costs of these impacts are projected to rise to $25 billion by 2025 and to the range of $100 billion annually by 2050,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of natural resources. “Inaction is not an option. Through the National Adaptation Strategy, we will advance key resilience and adaptation measures to mitigate these changes, preserve livelihoods and protect our communities and the critical infrastructure we depend on. The result will be a stronger, safer and more prosperous place to call home.”

The strategy focuses on five key systems:

  • Disaster resilience
  • Health and well-being 
  • Nature and biodiversity 
  • Infrastructure 
  • Economy and workers.

Officials noted that climate change is warming southern Canada at twice the global average and approximately three times as quickly in the North.

The strategy was announced this month by Bill Blair, president of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and minister of emergency preparedness. Blair also unveiled the Government of Canada Adaptation Action Plan, which sets out the federal role in preparing Canadians for climate hazards and outlines specific investments, programs and initiatives that are making Canada more resilient to climate impacts. Blair announced over $1.6 billion in new federal spending to support climate adaptation.

If action isn’t taken, it’s going to cost Canadians. The Canadian Climate Institute estimates that by 2025 Canada will experience annual losses of $25 billion as a result of climate change. This is equal to 50 per cent of projected 2025 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

Resilient Infrastructure

Some of the infrastructure-related actions being taken in the plan include:

  • Delivering the national Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund to mitigate current and future climate-related disasters and the Natural Infrastructure Fund to support nature-based climate solutions.  
  • Investing in climate-resilient infrastructure by topping up the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund by up to $489 million over 10 years.
  •  Spending up to $60 million over five years to accelerate the use of climate-informed codes, standards and guidelines for resilient infrastructure in Canada.  
  • Investing up to $95 million over five years to deliver climate toolkits and services that increase the uptake of climate resilient practices and investments in communities.

The strategy is now open to the provinces, territories and National Indigenous Organizations for a final 90 days of engagement on the strategy’s common goals and specific measurable targets and objectives. Officials said that the strategy is a result of extensive engagement since 2021 and presents a shared vision for climate resilience in the country and a framework to measure progress nationally.

Crews work to repair damage from devastating Alberta flooding in 2013. – Government of Alberta

Investing now to save later

Making adaptation investments now will have major economy-wide benefits later. Federal officials noted that expert research suggests that every dollar invested in prevention and preparation can save up to 15 dollars in costs. 

Researchers found that implementing new flooding and wildfire guidelines and standards for new construction could save Canada an estimated $4.7 billion a year — saving nearly $12 per $1 invested. They also discovered that climate-resilient building codes implemented in Canada have an estimated benefit–cost ratio of 12:1 — equivalent to a 1,100 percent return on investment.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lafarge is donating $50,000 worth of low carbon concrete to Pic Mobert First Nation in Ontario.
  • It is being used to build an on-reserve recreation sports park.
  • The project will be used by more than 1,000 members of the local Indigenous community.

The Whole Story:

This holiday season, Lafarge Canada is giving the gift of concrete.

Lafarge announced it is donating $50,000 worth of ECOPact low-carbon concrete for the construction of Pic Mobert First Nation on-reserve recreational sports park. 

The park will benefit a local Indigenous community of over 1,000 people in the long-term and it is part of the company’s commitment to support the development of local communities and the future generations.

“We acknowledged the historic challenges experienced by Indigenous Peoples when we developed our organization’s Human Rights action plan for Canada. We recognize the need to support First Nations & Métis Communities as a key focus group, especially when it comes to mental health support for youth. We feel honoured to be part of such an important youth sports initiative in Ontario”, commented David Redfern, president and CEO, Lafarge Canada (East).

ECOPact is sold at a range of low-carbon levels, from 30 per cent to 100 per cent less carbon emissions compared to standard concrete. Where regulatory conditions allow, ECOPact products integrate upcycled construction and demolition materials

“Our community is united in our resolve to provide hope, healing, and health to our People who continue to struggle in so many ways.  Increasing opportunities for sports and recreation, especially for our children and youth, is a high priority that  will be facilitated by the development of the new sports park.  We could not have made this important project happen without the generous donation made by our friends and neighbours from Lafarge,” commented Chief Louis Kwissiwa, Pic Mobert First Nation.

Jared Paris, plant manager for Lafarge’s Hemlo ReadyMix Concrete Plant, noted that the facility has been operating and servicing the traditional lands of the Pic Mobert First Nation for more than 20 years, supplying concrete for new homes, a water treatment plant, and many other projects. The $750,000-project on the Pic Mobert First Nation reserve is being sponsored by a number of companies, including Lafarge Canada customers, showing their support for the Indigenous community.

 Pic Mobert First Nation (Netmizaaggamig Nishnaabeg) is an Ojibwe community with two land bases, Pic Mobert South and Pic Mobert North, which lie off Highway 17 approximately 55 km east of Marathon, Ont. along the eastern shores of White Lake. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The changes include empowering the province to set housing targets in key municipalities and changing strata rules to allow more renting.
  • The new housing targets could come into effect next year while the strata changes would go into effect immediately.
  • The province is also forming a standalone ministry to address housing issues.

The Whole Story:

B.C.’s new premier is looking to introduce law changes and establish a standalone ministry to address housing supply and affordability. 

“B.C.’s housing crisis is stressing out and hurting people while it holds back our economy,” said Premier David Eby. “As a first step in my 100-day plan, we are making changes to deliver more homes for British Columbians, faster.”

Speeding up approvals

The first piece of legislation, the housing supply act, aims to help speed up housing development and increase supply by giving the province the power to set housing targets in municipalities with the greatest need and highest projected growth. Eby says targets will be based on information provided by and in consultation with municipalities. The new housing targets will encourage municipalities to address local barriers to construction so that housing can get built faster, including updating zoning bylaws and streamlining local development approval processes.

A recent study commissioned by the Canadian Homebuilders Association of B.C. recently analyzed 650 individual approvals from13 municipalities. The data showed that it takes on average 13-14 months to approve rezoning and development permits and over 20 months for a subdivision application.

The province plans to monitor progress and work with municipalities to help address barriers to meeting housing targets and to support the increased community needs associated with targeted growth. The act enables compliance options as a last resort, should municipalities with the highest need struggle to create the conditions that are necessary to ensure housing gets built.

If passed, the housing supply act is scheduled to be brought into force in mid-2023. To support implementation, the province will continue to help local governments speed up local approval processes through the continued implementation of the Development Approvals Process Review and work underway to accelerate provincial approvals. 

Amending Strata laws

In addition, the province is making amendments to the Strata Property Act to end all strata rental-restriction bylaws and to limit age-restriction bylaws so that the only permitted age restriction is to preserve and promote seniors’ housing through the “55 and over” rule in strata housing. Some buildings have “19+ only” age restrictions that mean couples starting a family have to plan to move out as soon as they become pregnant. Stratas will be able to appear at the Residential Tenancy Branch to evict problem tenants and recover costs of those appearances. 

“There’s a lot of things on your mind when you are getting ready to start a family. It can be a very stressful time,” said Sarah Arnold, an expectant mother and condo owner in Victoria. “The last thing you need to think about when you’re preparing to welcome a newborn is finding a new place to live. These unjust age restrictions have hurt a lot of families, and I am pleased to see the Province is taking action to make sure no more couples have to uproot their lives and leave their homes if they decide to start a family.”

In areas where government has data through the Speculation and Vacancy Tax, there are approximately 2,900 empty condos that cannot be rented out because strata rules prevent them from renting out their condo, and government expects there are more empty units in strata buildings in other parts of the province. This amendment will enable owners to rent out these badly needed homes immediately. Government also expects that some owners in strata buildings would choose to rent out a room in their condo if they were given the opportunity to do so.

“Rules that prevent families with children from living in a home or prevent people from renting the unit they own are no longer acceptable in our current housing market,” said Murray Rankin, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “These amendments will open up more rental and homeownership options for people at a time when they’re needed the most.”

If approved, the changes to the Strata Property Act would take effect immediately. Bylaws restricting short-term rentals, such as AirBnBs, will continue to be allowed.

New ministry for housing

Eby also announced a new housing ministry as part of his plan to address the province’s housing crisis.

“For too many British Columbians, owning or even renting a good home feels out of reach,” Eby said. “The housing crisis deserves the attention of a full ministry and the resources that come with it. As premier, I am committed to making meaningful progress to make sure everyone in B.C. can afford a good home.”

Premier Eby made the announcement on Tuesday, Nov. 22 during a speech to about 1,400 attendees at the Housing Central Conference at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel in Vancouver. The annual conference on affordable housing is held by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, and the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC.

The minister of housing will be named when Premier Eby announces his cabinet on Dec. 7.

Before being sworn in as premier, Eby was the attorney general and the minister responsible for housing. The current minister responsible for housing is Murray Rankin, MLA of Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

PCL is on its way to hit a home run in Toronto with this renovation project. 

While the Toronto Blue Jays rest during the off season, PCL Constructors Canada is hard at work on the multi-year Rogers Centre renovation. The contractor was awarded the first phase renovation contract by Rogers Stadium Limited Partnership in October. 

The work is part of a $300 million multi-year renovation that aims to transform the 33-year-old multi-purpose stadium into a ballpark through a series of projects focused on modernizing the fan experience and building world-class player facilities.

Rogers Centre was conceptualized as a multi-purpose stadium when it opened in 1989 and has not undergone a large-scale renovation in its 33-year history. 

“PCL and our partners are passionate about bringing the Toronto Blue Jays’ reimagined vision for Rogers Centre to life,” said Monique Buckberger, vice president and district manager, PCL Toronto. “Following months of preconstruction planning, our team hit the ground running on the first phase of renovations to give the home of Canada’s Major League Baseball team a new look for the 2023 Home Opener.”

To meet the fast-track schedule, PCL’s work is being sequenced in two shifts over a six-day work week. Officials say demolition to bring portions of the stadium back to base is already nearing completion, enabling next steps, which opens to fans on the 2023 season Blue Jays home opener on April 11, including:

Field level:

  • Players’ family room.
  • 5,000 sq. ft. weight room.
  • Staff locker rooms.

100 level and 200 level outfield:

  • Creation of multiple new social spaces with patios, drink rails, bars, and viewing platforms
  • Raised bullpens surrounded by traditional and new bleacher seats, as well as social viewing areas that look into the bullpens to increase fan and player interaction.
  • 100 level seats brought forward to the new outfield walls to brings fans closer to the game.

500 level:

  • Two new social decks in right and left field.
  • Replacing every 500-level seat from the originals when the building opened.

The demolition work began Oct. 14 with 500 level seat removal (all to be replaced for the 2023 season), followed by structural demolition of the outfield beginning on October 20. Demolition work was completed Nov. 18, culminating in 35 days of work and approximately 21,000 worker hours. An average of about 110 workers have been on site daily, six days per week, including about 50 workers dedicated to demolition.

The demolition work has resulted in 2.2 million pounds of materials getting recycled, including 1.3 million pounds of concrete. 900,000 pounds of steel and metal. 

Crews used a 200-tonne crane for heavy structural removal, while small machinery was utilized to break up concrete.

The outfield turf has been protected or removed in certain areas to facilitate construction, while the infield remains accessible to the Blue Jays Field Operations team to continue offseason work.

PCL says it took approximately one month to remove the 500 level seats (around 17,000 of them) and railings. Two mobile cranes (90 tonne and 50 tonne) were used to bring the seats down from. New seats will be delivered in January.

PCL noted that the size of the stadium allows for multiple projects to progress at the same time, so while demolition was being completed, building began the second week of November with concrete poured in the 500 level and new structural steel installation.

PHOTOS: PCL crews working at Rogers Centre

Burnaby is in the midst of a construction boom that is destroying records.  

The latest data from the city shows it continues to set a record pace for construction. Earlier this month it surpassed $2 billion worth of building permits so far in 2022, smashing all previous full-year records.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic when much of the world went on pause, our staff worked hard to continue to process permits and applications, carry out inspections, and establish the master plans that will guide Burnaby’s future development,” said Mayor Mike Hurley. “This report shows that our approach is generating real results – we’re building much-needed new homes and helping to drive economic growth in Burnaby.”

As of November 15, the city has issued 1,133 building permits for a value of $2.105 billion – already a substantial increase over the annual (full year) totals over the last five years. Last year’s total building permit value was $1.02 billion and the year before that it was $1.45 billion.

The city attributed some of its success to innovative housing policies. They noted that these policies are also driving the creation of a record amount of rental housing in Burnaby, with more than 12,000 units of rental housing now being built or in the development stream. The city added that more non-market rental units are being built than market rentals – a first for the city.

Burnaby building permit value totals:

  • 2022 (to Nov. 15) 1,133 permits – $2.105 billion
  • 2021 1,095 permits – $1.02 billion
  • 2020 1,007 permits – $1.45 billion
  • 2019 1,116 permits – $1.22 billion
  • 2018 1,520 permits – $1.69 billion
  • 2017 1,649 permits – $1.05 billion

Alberta plans to start work upgrading one of the province’s busiest roads, Deerfoot Trail, next year. 

According to the province, 180,000 vehicles use Deerfoot Trail each day as the major north-south route through Calgary and as an important trade corridor for moving goods across the province. To improve the commutes of Calgarians, visitors and truckers, Alberta’s government is targeting key bottlenecks on Deerfoot Trail between Glenmore Trail and Anderson Road/Bow Bottom Trail in a large expansion project.

Officials say improvements to this section of Deerfoot Trail will enhance safety and, when completed, are expected to reduce driver commutes by about 15 per cent during peak morning travel hours and by about 22 per cent during peak evening travel hours. In total, the upgrades mean travellers will save about 900,000 hours a year, which will provide an annual economic boost of about $23 million.

The Deerfoot Trail expansion project will include:

  • Improving the Bow Bottom Trail and Anderson Road, Southland Drive and Glenmore Trail interchanges.
  • Seven new bridge structures at Anderson Road and Bow Bottom Trail, Bow River, Southland Drive and Glenmore Trail.
  • Adding more lanes to Deerfoot Trail along the highway and through the Anderson Road/Bow Bottom Trails and Glenmore Trail Interchanges.

Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors has amended its existing public-private partnership procurement process to address critical improvements for this expansion. The process will continue with pre-qualified teams with the intention that the successful proponent will be selected and the contract will be awarded in spring 2023.

Construction is expected to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2027.

Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors Devin Dreeshen announces major improvements to Deerfoot Trail. – Province of Alberta

Editor’s note: This project was also featured in the “Project Updates” section of our newsletter.

Key Takeaways:

  • Collaboration between government and industry will be key to hitting targets.
  • Huge progress can be made right now without waiting for future technological advancements.
  • An action plan is expected to be released in the coming months.

The Whole Story:

The most-used construction material on the planet is on a mission to decarbonize and Canada wants to do its part. 

This fall the Cement Association of Canada took its first major step after years of coordination and planning with the federal government and industry stakeholders by releasing the Roadmap to Net-Zero Carbon Concrete by 2050.

The document provides guidance on the technologies, tools and policies needed for the Canadian cement industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions while ensuring it remains competitive in a global net zero economy.

It can’t be done alone

The roadmap was spearheaded by a joint government-industry working group, co-led by the Cement Association of Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The working group includes key players from the federal government, the Canadian cement and concrete industry, and relevant environmental experts.

The team effort was indicative of what will be needed in the coming decades to achieve the net-zero goal. 

“One of the common themes of the roadmap and really any part of our journey is it’s something we can’t do alone,” said Adam Auer, president and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada. “There’s no possibility to achieve this without the collaboration of government and different folks in the construction value chain and ultimately technology providers.”  

He noted that the industry has been working on decarbonization since the 1990s and that Canada’s effort is just one piece of an entire global effort. Last year, dozens of members of the Global Cement and Concrete Association announced their roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

According to the Canadian roadmap, decarbonization pathways for the cement industry include low carbon fuels, performance-based codes, standards and procurement policies, material efficiency, and carbon capture (CCUS). With approximately 60 percent of cement emissions resulting from industrial processes in the manufacturing of clinker (the key ingredient in cement), clean technologies like CCUS are needed for the industry to meet net-zero emissions.

Government key to early work

Auer noted that while the decades-long effort will involve many different stakeholders, much of the early work lies with the government. 

“Things are starting to change with progressive developers but all three levels of government in Canada purchase about 40 per cent of the concrete the country uses. They have an opportunity to be a market maker for innovation and it’s a big focus of our work,” said Auer. 

The association believes the government and its various agencies could help incentivize and streamline innovation. 

The association is currently working with François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, to foster innovation through procurement, derisk low-carbon ideas and find the pinch points that are hindering decarbonization. 

An infographic shows the timeline of decarbonization efforts. – Cement Association of Canada

A good example of this was the Department of Finance’s Fall Economic Statement which helped close the gap with the Inflation Reduction Act thereby ensuring Canada remains a first choice for the trillions in private capital waiting to be invested in clean technologies around the world. The association believes the financial incentives and tools put forward in the FES will help Canada’s industrial sectors thrive in a competitive global green economy.

Auer noted that the collaborative attitude from government and industry bodes well for the net-zero goal. 

“It’s very encouraging. This has been a bit of a missing ingredient up till now. I think a lot of folks in the construction sector are starting to look at the challenge and opportunity of embracing an industrial decarbonization agenda for concrete,” said Auer. “Some fantastic people are coming to the table to learn about how we can do this. It’s extremely encouraging and i think the industry as a whole finds it encouraging. That collaborative spirit is something we’ve been trying to foster for many years.”

But it’s not going to be easy. Auer explained that going forward, ambition and momentum need to be maintained among the many different groups. 

“The challenge is there are a lot of moving pieces,” he said. “There are lots of players even within the government. There is no single government department with all the tools to unlock decarbonization.” 

These departments include the National Research Council, Standards Council, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and many others. 

“There’s a huge number of institutions that have their own structures that have to coalesce around this agenda. That’s a hard thing to do. Government is a largue bureaucracy and there is a lot if siloing that needs to be broken down.”

There is no silver bullet to save us

Auer explained that instead of a silver bullet, it will take a load of buckshot to achieve decarbonization goals. CCUS gets a lot of buzz and with 60 per cent of concrete emissions coming from how it’s manufactured, Auer said reaching net-zero simply cannot be done without it. There’s even a large-scale carbon capture project underway in Edmonton that could make it the world’s first carbon neutral concrete plant. 

But Auer says that while these advances are exciting, there is no reason to wait. The industry can get 60 per cent of the way to net zero without CCUS. This includes using greener fuels to heat kilns, extracting value from waste products, optimizing mixes and designing infrastructure with only the amount of concrete necessary. 

“If you want to hit targets you have to take advantage of stuff we can do immediately: optimizing existing technology and being more efficient in how we design infrastructure,” said Auer. 

The next step will be completing an action plan for the net-zero goal, which Auer said is expected in the coming months. The plan will include significant milestones, including cutting carbon emissions up to 40 per cent by 2030.

“Canada could be a leader in this space,” said Auer. “The trick will be making moves that are matching the ambition of similar efforts in the U.S. and other jurisdiction. Cement producers are all multi-national and competing for internal capital as well. We want to make sure Canada is the most attractive region for our companies to invest in.”

*Editor’s Note: The cement industry’s journey towards net zero was recently featured in our newsletter.

Key Takeaways:

  • The contract was snagged by Connect 6ix, which was led by Hitachi Rail, Plenary Americas, WeBuild Group and Transdev Canada Inc.
  • The contract involves design, build, operations and maintenance work that will extend for 30 years.
  • The Ontario Line is being delivered through various P3, progressive design-build and traditional procurement contracts.

The Whole Story:

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Metrolinx have awarded a massive, $9 billion contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Ontario Line Rolling Stock, Systems, Operations and Maintenance (RSSOM) package for a 30-year term.

The contract, won by Connect 6ix, consists of $2.3B for capital costs and $6.7B for short-term construction financing and transaction costs, train costs and 30-year operations and maintenance, lifecycle, and long-term financing.

Meeting the team 

The Connect 6ix team includes:

Applicant Lead: Plenary Americas, Hitachi Rail, Webuild Group (Salini Impreglio Canada Holding Inc.), Transdev Canada Inc.

Design Team: Hitachi Rail, IBI Group Professional Services (Canada) Inc.

Construction Team: Hitachi Rail, Webuild Group (Astaldi Canada Design & Construction Inc. and Salini Impreglio Civil Works Inc.), NGE Contracting Inc.

Operations, Maintenance and Rehabilitation Team: Hitachi Rail, Transdev Canada Inc.

Financial Advisors: National Bank Financial Inc., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation

“As a world leader in autonomous metro systems, we’re hugely excited to help transform Toronto’s transit network by delivering the new Ontario Line,” said Andrew Barr, CEO of Hitatchi Rail. “This will be the second major program that we’ll be bring our digital expertise and engineering excellence to deliver in Canada, after the Hurontario light rail transit project. Our role delivering maintenance and operations for the next 30 years will see us having a lasting presence in Toronto for a generation to come.”

A map shows the route and stations for the Ontario Line. – Metrolinx

According to the province, the team was chosen through an open and competitive procurement process overseen by a third-party fairness monitor. 

“Connect 6ix submitted the proposal which delivers the best value for Ontario taxpayers,” said officials. “The project is being delivered through IO’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) model, which transfers appropriate risks associated with design, construction, financing, operations and maintenance of the project to the private sector.”

The team will begin mobilizing their design and construction crews, with work to commence in 2023. The project is anticipated to be completed in 2031. Once all the civil infrastructure elements and systems from Ontario Line North and South segments have been completed, integrated and certified, Connect 6ix will then begin operating and maintaining the Ontario Line for a 30-year term.

The Connect 6ix team stated that it anticipates that the work on the RSSOM contract will strengthen Ontario’s economy by supporting an estimated 800 jobs, the majority of which will come from the Greater Toronto Area.

The scope of the work

The Ontario Line RSSOM package is a design, build, finance, operate, maintain contract that covers a 30-year term. It includes:

  • Designing, supplying, operating and maintaining the rolling stock (trains).
  • Designing, building, operating and maintaining all track and systems (communications and train control).
  • Designing, building, operating and maintaining the Maintenance and Storage Facility (where the trains are stored) and the Operations Control Centre (where staff control train operations and are connected to TTC and GO Transit systems) and backup operations control centre.
  • Working collaboratively with TTC according to future operations and maintenance agreements.
  • Integrating fare equipment with the PRESTO system.

The province noted that the Ontario Line project is being delivered through various P3, progressive design-build and traditional procurement contracts, which are all being staged accordingly for their successful delivery.

The Ontario Line will be a 15.6-kilometre new rapid transit line running between the Ontario Science Centre and Exhibition/Ontario Place in Toronto, with 15 stations, including six interchange stations. The new line will provide more than 40 connections to other subway, bus, streetcar, light-rail transit and regional rail services. When in service, the Ontario Line will be operated by Connect 6ix and owned by the provincial transit agency Metrolinx.

The trains will travel at speeds upwards of 80 kilometres per hour and will be powered entirely by electricity. The Connect 6ix anticipates the project will take roughly 28,000 cars off the city’s roads each day.

Ontario Line renderings show what the new stations, tracks and vehicles could look like. – Government of Ontario

Alberta construction leaders believe the province is making an effort to address major concerns in the premier’s latest mandate letters to ministers. 

The Alberta Construction Association (ACA) stated that Premier Danielle Smith’s recent direction to ministers is a solid step towards addressing long standing and emerging issues in Alberta’s construction industry. The ACA explained that the ministerial mandate letters across Government address key issues for Alberta’s contractors. 

Highlights include:

  • Sustained infrastructure investment including a focus on trade corridors.
  • Best value procurement and standardized contracts to reduce risk.
  • Extending prompt payment provisions to Government of Alberta contracts.
  • Promoting trades education, working training, recognition of out of province credentials, fostering opportunities for people from under-represented communities, and expanded Provincial Nominee Program.
  • Continued red tape reduction with an emphasis on streamlined permitting and Land Titles processes.
  • Complete Occupational Health & Safety Code review and more focus on mental health supports to keep workers safe.
  • Review Building Code changes to ensure safety and affordability.

The Alberta Construction Association and the province’s regional construction associations offered their expertise to partner with the government to rapidly implement the directions. They added that numerous meetings with ministers are imminent to advance the work.  

Key Takeaways:

  • Ontario will build the first 2+1 highway project in North America.
  • The road design was first conceived in Sweden where vehicle accident death rates have plummeted.
  • The change has long been advocated for by road safety groups.

The Whole Story:

Ontario is embarking on an innovative road project that will see North America’s first ever 2+1 highway. While it’s a first for this continent, it has been widely used elsewhere in the world.

What is a 2+1?

No, it’s not a math problem from your first grade textbook. 

A 2+1 highway is a three-lane highway with a centre passing lane that changes direction approximately every two to five kilometres. Officials stated that the highway model is used in other jurisdictions around the world and is more cost efficient than twinning a highway.

An infographic shows how a 2+1 road system works. – Ontario Ministry of Transportation

“This first of its kind highway pilot in North America will keep people and goods moving safely across Northern Ontario,” said Caroline Mulroney, minister of transportation. “This is a key next step to get shovels in the ground on critical infrastructure projects that will support a strong transportation network and create jobs.”

RFP issued by Ministry of Transportation 

This November the province issued a request for proposals (RFP) to implement the model on Highway 11 north of North Bay.

Qualified highway design consultants can submit their proposals for design and environmental assessment work through the Ministry of Transportation’s e-tendering portal until December 2022. The province will evaluate submissions and announce the successful bidder in 2023.

“The 2+1 highway project is an important part of our government’s plan to build Ontario,” said Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job Creation and trade, and MPP for Nipissing. “This pilot project will help address the unique transportation needs of people and businesses in Northern Ontario that rely on our roads and highways to get where they need to go. Together, we’re strengthening the economy and growing the North.”

Made in Sweden

The concept is widely used outside of North America. It was first built out in Sweden which was experiencing high rates of vehicle accidents and deaths. In the 1980s, comprehensive accident data by road type became available revealing wide two-lane roads and especially semi-motorways had the worst safety records of all road types in terms of fatalities and severe injuries. Almost 100 out of a total 400 people killed per year on state roads died on these wide two-lane roads making them an extreme fatality risk. 

Dramatic safety results

The Swedish Road Administration proposed the 2+1 concept as a low-cost solution and it was implemented in the 1990s. Now thousands of kilometres of Swedish roads are 2+1. A study that analyzed accident data before and after the implementation showed the total number of fatalities and seriously injured decreased by 50 per cent and the total number of personal injury crashes decreased by 21 per cent.

Researchers also found the severity consequence – the rate of the number of killed and seriously injured divided by the number of personal injury crashes – decreased by 38 per cent.

The concept has since been adopted in many other countries. Sweden was presented with the Global Innovation Award in 2020 for the 2+1 road concept. 

Going the Extra Mile for Safety (GEMS), a road safety advocacy group based in Ontario, has long advocated for the 2+1 system.

“We’re excited to see the 2+1 pilot project moving forward. We’ve been working with Ontario for several years regarding safety on Highway 11 and have advocated for the 2+1 model,” said Helene Culhane, chair of GEMS. “It is gratifying to see our hard work is paying off. Our main goal has always been the safety of our roads and our travellers, and we can’t thank the Ministry enough for delivering on their promise.”

Construction has become so much more than just hammers, shovels and hardhats. Companies have begun to wield computers, artificial intelligence and virtual reality as well. Modern projects are getting so big and complex, and the pressure to find labour, materials and savings is so great that high tech solutions are popping up left and right. And many of them are right here in our backyard. Here is just a sample of Canadian digital horsepower being let loose on the industry.

Faber Connect

General labour, framers, concrete formers, carpenters – whatever worker you need, Faber wants to connect you to them through their app. Faber has created a marketplace where employers select what kind of worker they require and then find matches based on ratings for skills, experience, references and more. The Vancouver company drew its inspiration from DoorDash and gig economy work. The company is now looking to expand in Canada and even the U.S. 


PayShepherd’s initial mission was simple: give operations teams at industrial facilities a tool to efficiently and effectively manage contracted services. The result was something that ensures that a facility is billed the right amount, avoids overages that can escalate quickly, improves communication between facilities and contractors and more. According to PayShepherd, most billing overages are small, valued at an average of $100. The problem is, there are hundreds or thousands of these billing discrepancies every year. They believe their platform can help facilities save 15 per cent a year on maintenance costs. Back in July, the company announced it had secured US$3 million in seed funding led by Nashville Capital Network, with participation from existing investors Thin Air Labs and the Accelerate Fund, managed by Yaletown Partners with support from the A100.


Sitemax is a software product designed for the field-to-office communication needs of a commercial general contractor. The full construction management software solution has generated millions of daily logs, safety reports, photos records, time entries and more, all over the world. And they are starting to turn heads. This November, Plank Ventures announced an investment in the business and GroundBreak Ventures welcomed SiteMax into their portfolio of companies.

Mercator AI

This start-up recently raised a $1 million pre-seed round to expand its technology beyond Calgary and Toronto. Their goal is to help the business development teams of general contractors identify project opportunities early on. Mercator does this by using artificial intelligence (AI). The AI mines and analyzes millions of data points across the construction process to identify indicators that signal early project development. In a recent interview, the Mercator team explained that without their tools, finding new business in the industry usually requires a mix of grinding out manual research and dead-end cold calls. 

Serious Labs 

Imagine being able to train heavy equipment operators without needing to use any heavy equipment? Serious Labs does just that. The company says its simulators are 97 per cent predictive of actual operator skills, allowing users to build competency and even earn credentials – all in convenient, risk-free virtual reality. 


This all-in-one platform enables the consumer to buy construction services with a similar e-commerce experience to what they are used to when buying other goods and services online. And it allows the contractor to provide interactive, accurate quotes in minutes. According to CostCertified’s team, the core platform has allowed payment facilitation and automation for the first time, meaning the consumer has full visibility over their funds. 


Biiibo founder and CEO, Roger Sabat.

They have the cutest mascot of anybody on this list and it’s not even close. Finding building supplies is one of the industry’s biggest challenges. This company’s team has created an on-demand, digital marketplace and platform to buy construction supplies and then get them delivered. It’s basically UberEats but instead of pizza and tacos, it’s drywall and lumber. The company began in Toronto but expanded into Vancouver in 2021.


The future of construction safety is digital and Salus wants to help lead the charge. Their platform enables digital forms, asset management, certificate management, tracking corrective actions, incident management and more – all without a scrap of paper.


The company was co-founded by Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake in 2014 with the goal to boost profits and reduce risk for general contractors.. The result was the Bridgit Bench platform. It is designed to simplify project allocations, capacity management, project tracking, utilization reporting, forecasting, skills tracking, and more. Bridgit is a privately held company, having raised over $35 million USD in equity financing, with capital from investors such as Autodesk, BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund, Camber Creek, Export Development Canada, IAF, Nine Four Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, Sands Capital, StandUp Ventures, Storm Ventures and Vanedge Capital.

With the industry in the midst of a construction labour crunch, it’s easy to only focus on technical qualifications when conducting a job search. However, talent acquisition experts believe that a candidate’s soft skills are also important and often overlooked.  To learn more, SiteNews chatted with Tim Spindlove, a senior search consultant with DMC Recruitment group. Spindlove has 15 years of experience and focuses exclusively on searches within the real estate development and construction industry across Canada and the U.S.

SiteNews: Can you define soft skills and technical skills in the world of construction professionals?

Spindlove: Soft skills are non-technical skills that describe how you work with and interact with others. Technical skills are the specialized knowledge and expertise to perform a certain task or use specific tools or programs.

In the context of a construction setting, we could use a high-rise superintendent as an example. The soft skills required in this role are good communication, problem solving, negotiation, leadership skills, etc.

The technical skills would be experience using concrete to build multi-story buildings, occupational first aid, construction hand and mechanical tools, computer programs, etc.

Do you feel that soft skills are often not as high a priority as technical skills in the industry?

As there is such a shortage of skills in the construction sector in today’s market, hiring managers are so highly focussed on finding the right technical skills, that the equally important soft skills are often overlooked in the interview process. 

Taking the time to implement soft skill interview questions will help you weed out capability on the soft skills side of the ledger. Soft skills will help you hire a candidate who can adapt to multiple situations. 

Some example interview questions could be:

“Can you discuss a time where you had to manage your team through a difficult situation?”

“How do you prioritize your tasks when you have multiple deadlines?”

“How do you handle an employee who disagrees with your direction?”

“Tell me a bout a time you had to make a decision without managerial approval.”

“Tell me about a time when you failed at a task. What did you learn from this experience.”

For candidates, you want to think about answering these questions using the STAR technique:

S – situation: what was the situation you faced?
T – task: what were you tasked with?
A – action: what action did you take?
R – result: what results did you see as a result?

 What are some of the most important soft skills for construction professionals to develop?

The top three, in my opinion, are communication, critical thinking and problem solving, and conflict management.


  1. Both verbal and nonverbal communication skills are valuable in construction due to the intricate nature of the work that is performed. Nonverbal skills can mean the difference between a successful crane lift and an accident, while verbal communication skills assist in giving and receiving instructions, training, and so much more. Effective and clear communication methods keep people safe, and the projects more effective, making clear communication skills essential.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving are also important soft skills required by construction professionals. The ability to envision the project as a whole and adjust as needed is critical to the overall schedule and budget, as well as the ability to adapt when problems arise. Problems are a normal part of any business and knowing what to do when they arise is crucial to solving them.

Conflict Management

  1. Projects do not always run smoothly, and conflicts are bound to happen in any workplace. As a result, the ability to innovate and make the right decision is essential and can mean the difference between a safe and unsafe work environment. Managing conflict effectively will create a more comfortable, safe, and effective environment, and is a vital skill of any construction professional, particularly in a leadership capacity.

What are some common situations in construction where soft skills can be employed?

Let’s use the site superintendent as an example again. 

A site superintendent must be able to communicate effectively to develop relationships with employees, contractors, suppliers and other involved parties.

A site superintendent must and utilize problem solving skills daily. When working on projects, you will inevitably face many situations where the answer is not obvious, or there may be various opinions or perspectives that could be correct. Being able to problem solve and produce a solution to that problem is essential to the success of the site superintendent’s job, and ultimately the project as a whole.

What are some ways the soft skills have helped you in your career?

Throughout my career, I’ve always worked in roles that have required high levels of communication, leadership and problem solving. From a young age working in labour type roles, I found communication was so important to not only explain your situation, but also to ask questions effectively, to ensure I understood the jobs I was being tasked with.

As I’ve taken on leadership roles, I’ve really had to hone my communication and problem-solving skills. As I’ve learned over the course on my career, being able to communicate clearly under stressful situations is a game-changer. Then, being able to have the ability think on my feet and problem solve on the go, to deliver results has been vitally important to daily success throughout my career.

What is your advice for professionals or organizations that want to develop better soft skills? 

I think there are a few things you can do to improve your soft skills.

  1. Prioritize which skills to develop. Know the areas that you need to improve upon! Take the time to take stock in your own strengths and weaknesses and analyze both lists. Then compare those areas to areas you feel you need to improve upon to be successful in your career path.
  2. Ask for feedback from friends, colleagues, and managers. By asking for feedback, you’ll likely uncover some blind spots.
  3. Don’t be afraid to step out of your daily comfort zone and challenge yourself. We are all likely more confident around close friends than we are in uncertain situations at work. So, get into a setting where you must step out of your comfort zone. As an introvert, this might look like joining a group project or activity.
  4. Finding course online. There is a wealth of educational tools online to help you fill in skills gaps. LinkedIn for example has a wealth of free learning resources to help with soft skills like leadership or business communication.
  5. ABC. Always Be Communicating…? Doesn’t sound quite as cool as the movie line, but I digress. The more you communicate, the better you’ll become.

Tim Spindlove, senior search consultant at DMC Recruitment Group

Key Takeaways:

  • B.C. will spend $7.1 million to support Métis citizens seeking jobs training.
  • The funds will support apprenticeships, trades, skills upgrades, certificates and recertifications, micro-credentials and other courses.
  • The province anticipates the funding will assist approximately 1,000 participants.

The Whole Story:

B.C. wants to provide more trades training opportunities to the Métis community.

The province announced changes that will allow more Métis citizens to access funding support to gain job-ready skills training. 

Officials are contributing $7.1 million to the Métis Nation British Columbia’s (MNBC) Ministry of Skills Training, Employment, and Post-Secondary to support Métis learners. Anna Kang, minister of advanced education and skills training made the announcement during a reception commemorating the life of Louis Riel. Riel was a Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba and a political leader of the Métis people.

“We honour Louis Riel’s sacrifice and courage. We honour the significant contributions of the Métis people to British Columbia, and we acknowledge the struggles that Métis people continue to face,” said Kang. “Our government is committed to working together to make life better for Métis people throughout B.C., including through critical investments in education and skills training.”

The funding will support Métis learners in occupational skills training programs, such as apprenticeships, trades, skills upgrades, certificates and recertifications, micro-credentials and other courses leading to employment. Approximately 1,000 people are expected to participate in the program. This program will support Métis citizens looking to advance their education and training, and equip them with job-ready skills.

“At a time when we see such a large investment in infrastructure from the Province, it is paramount that we can equip our citizens with the job-ready skills needed for these projects,” says Paulette Flamond, MNBC’s minister of skills training, employment, and post-secondary education. “This additional round of funding will pay dividends and benefit our Nation for generations to come.”