Development partner chosen for Calgary megaproject

Key Takeaways:

  • The Bow Transit Connectors team will work with the Green Line to design, build and finance the project.
  • During the development phase the two groups will collaborate on design, costs and scheduling before a project agreement is signed.
  • The project is expected to cost $5.5 billion, making it the largest in Calgary’s history.

The Whole Story:

A development partner has been chosen for Calgary’s Green Line project.

Following a successful procurement, the Green Line Board has approved the development phase agreement and selected Bow Transit Connectors (BTC) as Green Line’s development partner.  BTC brings together Barnard Constructors of Canada, Flatiron Constructors Canada Ltd, and WSP Canada Inc, along with their financial advisor EllisDon Capital. Collectively they will bring shared expertise in underground, above-ground structures, and LRT design and construction to deliver Phase 1 of the Green Line LRT Project.

“The selection of our development partner and launch of the development phase is an important milestone as we move forward with BTC to design, build and finance the Green Line LRT. The Green Line Board has confidence in BTC and their ability to work collaboratively as we collectively ensure we balance costs and risks with the long-term city shaping benefits of Green Line” said Don Fairbairn, Chair, Green Line Board.

Officials explained that the development phase will allow for collaboration, design progression, and agreement on project costs, risks, and overall schedule between Green Line and BTC, before signing a project agreement. As part of negotiations, Green Line agreed to extend the Development Phase from approximately 12 months to 16 months to allow for greater design progression and cost certainty. The implementation phase remains on track to begin in 2024.

In addition to the lead construction and design team, BTC are proposing their subconsultants, which, to date, include: Delve Underground, Platinum Engineering, Egis, IBI, GEC Architecture and Architecture 49. “As part of the Bow Transit Connectors team, we look forward to bringing our expertise in delivering large scale transportation projects to the Green Line LRT Project. We are proud to share the trust of the City of Calgary as we significantly improve mobility for Calgarians” said Ken Tanner, VP of operations for Flatiron Constructors. 

Green Line officials stated that they plan to share updates as additional agreements are finalized with the local contracting community.

“This is a crucial project for Calgary’s future.  As a partner of Bow Transit Connectors, we will work collaboratively with the City of Calgary and local communities to deliver this exciting and important city-shaping project” said Dan Schall, VP at Barnard Construction Company.

At 18-kms, Phase 1 is the longest LRT project and largest infrastructure investment in Calgary’s history. Officials expect it to create almost 20,000 jobs throughout construction, $2.2 billion in long-term city-shaping benefits and more than $6 billion in property value uplift by 2040.

Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation is filing for bankruptcy. 

The company announced  it has entered into a stalking horse asset purchase agreement (APA) with Mercer International Inc. to sell its assets in B.C. and Arkansas for US$60 million. Mercer is one of the world’s largest producers of market pulp.

In conjunction with the APA, the Company has voluntarily filed petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. code. Recognition of the Chapter 11 proceedings will be sought in the Supreme Court of British Columbia shortly thereafter.

The company explained that APA is subject to higher and better offers as part of a court monitored auction process. In addition, the company secured a C$7.5 million debtor-in-possession (DIP) facility from the Bank of Montreal to fund its operations throughout the court process.

“I am delighted and grateful for Mercer’s vote of confidence in Structurlam and in its leadership in the mass timber industry. It is especially rewarding given the difficult period the company has had since suspending its operations in Arkansas mid-January, and it will help in normalizing the plant operations going forward” said Matthew Karmel, CEO of Structurlam.

Operations were suspended at the Arkansas plant due to a customer contract cancellation.  Local news outlets reported Walmart cancelled its contract due to production delays. Walmart’s headquarters is also in Arkansas.

Structurlam products have been used on many Canadian projects, including:

  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Prince George’s Wood Innovation and Design Centre
  • Brock Commons
  • The Richmond Olympic Oval

The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver has unveiled the design of a new, state-of-the-art outdoor amphitheatre with a capacity of approximately 10,000. 

It will be one of the largest free-span timber roof structures in the world. The non-profit explained that the new facility will be nestled in the heart of the park with panoramic views of the North Shore Mountains.

“This world-class open-air venue will provide much needed mixed-use venue space for top-tier concerts, arts and culture programming, community events, esports events, and more,” said the group.

The team is expecting to finalize the design this year and start construction in 2024. The facility is scheduled for completion in 2026. 

By the numbers:

  • Maximum capacity of approx. 10,000
  • Estimated annual attendance 340,000+
  • Projected 75+ performances per year
  • 24 Commercial Shows
  • 22 Community, Arts, and Culture Shows
  • 14 Corporate Shows
  • 15 PNE Fair Shows (Summer Night Concerts)

The PNE added that the facility feature covered seating, hospitality suites, banquet/lounge space, common areas, and fully integrated premium catering options. They plan to use sustainable products and design, and build to Passive Haus, LEED, and Salmon-Safe certification standards.

“The crown jewel of the PNE and Hastings Park, the new PNE Amphitheatre will enable us to showcase and celebrate BC’s talent, diversity, and enthusiasm for live events,” said Shelley Frost, PNE president and CEO.

Lafarge Canada is acquiring Westridge Quarries’ operations. 

In its announcement, Lafarge explained that Westridge is a well-established supplier of construction aggregates and contract crushing services for the Okanagan Valley. The acquisition is in alignment with Lafarge’s Strategy 2025 to expand its aggregates business through critical acquisitions of pits, quarries, docks, and depots in strategic high growth markets.

“This is an exciting step forward in our 2025 growth strategy,” said Brad Kohl, president and CEO, Lafarge, Western Canada. “This acquisition will allow us to expand our operating footprint and product offerings for our customers in the Okanagan. We will leverage significant synergies with our existing footprint that will strengthen the combined business.”

The deal includes the addition of two quarries and one sand and gravel reserve in the Okanagan, which will provide long-term reserves in an established market as well as other real estate. 

“We are thrilled to make acquisitions that anticipate our customers’ needs, and look forward to welcoming our 70 new colleagues into the Lafarge family,” added Lincoln Kyne, senior vice president, B.C. and Pacific Northwest U.S., Lafarge.

“We are excited to watch our organization joining forces with the Lafarge family, a company with strong values and a clear vision for the future,” said Trevor Isaac, general manager and co-owner of Westridge Quarries. “This acquisition represents a tremendous opportunity for our staff and partners and will ensure that Westridge Quarries remains an industry leader in service, quality, and sustainability. We look forward to watching them continue building from the foundation that has been established.”

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Metrolinx have released a request for qualifications (RFQ) for the Advance Tunnel Contract package for the Yonge North Subway Extension.

The Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE) will extend the TTC’s Line 1 subway service approximately eight kilometres from the existing terminus at Finch Station into the city of Richmond Hill.

The project runs through the Toronto and York Region, including sections within Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. It will include an approximately 6.3-km tunnelled segment as well as an above-ground segment that will run along the existing rail corridor in the northern section of the route.

The RFQ outlines the scope of work to design, build and finance the tunnels. This includes the following:

  • Approximately 6.3 km of tunnelling works.
  • Design and construction of launch and extraction shafts, tunnels, as well as headwalls for stations and support of excavation for emergency exit buildings.
  • Design, procurement, and supply of tunnel boring machines and tunnel liner segments.
  • Reinforcing and improving soil and works necessary to facilitate tunnelling under and next to the CN Railway tracks and the York Durham Sewage System.
  • Construction of CN right-of-way separation barriers to expedite safe corridor access and construction.

Officials stated that the RFQ is the first step in the procurement process to select teams to deliver the YNSE advance tunnel contract for the project. Companies interested in bidding on this contract must register with to download the respective RFQ.

The Yonge North Subway Extension is one of the priority transit projects announced by the province for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, including the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Subway Extension, the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension and the Hamilton LRT.

Key Takeaways:

  • Industry groups in Alberta are calling on NDP leader Rachel Notley to be specific about the party’s stance on community benefits agreements and “double breasting”.
  • The next Provincial General Election is scheduled to be held on May 29 unless an election is called earlier.
  • The groups include the Progressive Contractors Association, the Alberta Construction Association and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of Alberta.

The Whole Story:

Alberta construction groups are calling on NDP leader Rachel Notley to clarify the party’s position on labour issues as a general election for the province looms on the horizon.

In a letter signed by the Progressive Contractors Association, the Alberta Construction Association and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of Alberta, the groups asked Notley to explain two potential policy changes that they predict could harm the industry and taxpayers.  

“We are reaching out to you on behalf of several Alberta construction associations, who would like clarification on two policy changes that you promise, should you be elected in the upcoming Alberta general election,” wrote the groups. “We are concerned that if implemented, these changes could increase taxpayer costs and limit the access of thousands of Alberta companies and construction workers to public and private projects, during a critical time when demand for their skills is at an all-time high.”

The letter focused on two main issues: Community benefits agreements and “double breasting”.

Community benefits agreements

The groups noted that on multiple occasions the NDP has signaled its intention to implement a community benefits agreement” regime in Alberta to maximize the participation of underemployed worker groups. 

“We believe CBAs, when designed to be fair, open and transparent, can achieve meaningful social procurement objectives,” wrote the groups. “However, these reports note that a new NDP government may look to B.C. as a template for a broader CBA program. We sincerely hope this is a misprint.”

The groups explained that they believe the B.C. program, designed by former Premier John Horgan’s NDP government, is in reality a “grossly coercive program aimed at giving select B.C. Building Trades Unions a monopoly over large parts of the province’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects.”

They explained that companies wishing to do work on these projects must do so using exclusively Building Trades Union (BTU) labour and terms, regardless of which labour model they are affiliated with. 

“Given that B.C.’s BTU workers constitute no more than 15% of the province’s skilled construction workforce, this means that the other 85% are excluded from public work that is paid for by their own tax dollars,” they wrote. “We trust you will agree that this arrangement is grossly unfair, anti-competitive and punishes companies and their workers for choices they have freely made.”

The groups called on Notley to clarify the NDP’s stance on CBAs and if it will differ from B.C.’s approach.

“Our industry associations are ready and willing to constructively work with parties across the political spectrum, to pursue social procurement objectives that are fair, meaningful, and productive,” they said.

Double Breasting

The groups stated that the NDP has also pledged to do away with “double breasting” in the construction and maintenance sectors.

They explained that the term arises out of Labour Relations Board decisions across Canada. 

“It is not – and lawfully cannot be – a creation of employers. It arises only when employees, within a group of businesses, decide to be represented by a union that is different from another union representing the employees of another company within that corporate group,” they wrote. “When there are different unions representing separate employees within separate companies – or there is a non-union business in the group – the ‘label’ that is applied from the labour relations perspective, is that the overall business is “double” or ‘triple breasted.’”

The groups explained that no single source of workers has been sufficient to meet the workforce required to construct all of Alberta’s capital and infrastructure projects, whether those workers are craft or progressive, union, non- union, from employee associations, or from outside the province. 

“Healthy competition has resulted in union and non-union employers offering high pay, comprehensive benefit packages, training and learning and development including outstanding workplace health and safety, family counselling services, and other employee supports,” they argued. “Indeed, construction is among the highest paying professions in Alberta, well above the average for all industries and occupations.”

The groups called tinkering with the corporate structure of construction and maintenance firms a misguided attempt to address perceived issues with double breasting .

“At minimum, we would want to see industry-wide consultations before such drastic policy changes are enacted,” they said. 

The groups concluded by highlighting the province’s “Alberta is Calling” campaign aimed at attracting workers from other provinces, including skilled trades workers from under-utilized groups such as youth, women, immigrants, and Indigenous Peoples. 

“The policy changes under consideration could send a very different message: that Alberta is really only calling upon a select few, at a time when the province’s construction industry faces a dire and growing shortage of skilled labour,” they wrote.

It’s no wonder bridges make great metaphors. They connect two places, help thousands overcome major obstacles and often stand for decades.

They are some of the most vital pieces of infrastructure and are relied upon by millions to move goods and services through the country. But they don’t stay standing without some help. Here are 10 major bridge projects that aim to repair, replace or create new crossings in Canada.

The Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project -Surrey, B.C.

Built for $4 million in 1937, the Pattullo Bridge is a key connection between the communities of Surrey and New Westminster. But it’s reaching the end of its life and is being replaced by a new four-lane bridge that includes modern, wider lanes, separated by a centre median barrier for safety. The new bridge is scheduled to open in 2024. Once the new bridge is open, the existing bridge will be removed.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge – Windsor, Ont.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge – named after the late Red Wings legend – will connect Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Michigan, south of Historic Fort Wayne in southwest Detroit. Running one-and-a-half miles in length and spanning six-lanes, the project will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America. It is on track to be completed in 2024. Recent drone footage showed off construction progress so far. 

Limberlost Place pedestrian bridge – Toronto, Ont.

Crews lift a pedestrian bridge into place in downtown Toronto. – PCL

A two-story mass timber pedestrian bridge has been installed at Limberlost Place, marking a major milestone for the Toronto project. PCL announced that the bridge was erected 65 feet above street level, connecting level five of Limberlost Place to level six of the college’s Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences at George Brown College (GBC). Because the bridge was prefabricated off site, installation only took one day.

Groat Road Bridges – Edmonton, Alta.

Crews use gantry cranes to keep bridges open during work.

When Edmonton’s Groat Road Bridges and Road Renewal Project needed traffic to keep flowing while work was being done, Graham rose to the challenge. The team used two mobile gantries mounted in tandem to complete work on several bridges while not interrupting the more than 40,000 drivers who use the route daily.  They were able to complete the work on-budget at $45.6 million and within the 33-month schedule.

Nisutlin Bay Bridge – Teslin, Yukon

A rendering shows the design of the new bridge. – Yukon Government

Graham Infrastructure LP is working to replace an aging bridge in the Yukon. The $160-million Nisutlin Bay Bridge project is the largest capital project in the territory’s history. The original bridge was built in 1953 and traffic along the Alaska highway has increased. The new bridge was planned with input from the community and in collaboration with the Teslin Tlingit Council. Indigenous art is being incorporated into the design. Work is expected to wrap in 2026.

 Île-aux-Tourtes Bridge project – Montreal, Que.

The  existing Île-aux-Tourtes Bridge has already undergone reinforcement work to prolong its life.

Quebec officials recently announced they have finalized the selection process for work on the new Île-aux-Tourtes Bridge reconstruction project. The $2.3 billion project will have two separate structures and accommodate three lanes of traffic each way, a multi-purpose lane and wide shoulders for buses. Officials plant to gradually put the new infrastructure into service near the end of 2026.

Saint John’s Harbour Bridge – Saint John, N.B.

The project to rehab this New Brunswick bridge is entering its fourth and final phase. Work includes deck rehabilitation of both ramps located on the east end and replacement of bearings and pier repairs on the underside of the bridge. It’s expected to be completely refurbished by 2026.

St. Vital Bridge Upgrades – Winnipeg, Man.

Crews began working on St. Vital Bridge improvements in Winnipeg earlier this year. The $52-million upgrades include a bridge surface to extend the structure’s lifespan by 50 years, a widened multi-use pathway on each side, improvements to the pedestrian tunnel under the bridge and more. Work is expected to wrap next year.

Granville Bridge Upgrades – Vancouver, B.C.

A rendering shows upgrades being done to Vancouver’s Granville Bridge. – City of Vancouver

The Vancouver bridge work is part of the Granville Connector project, which includes converting two west-side travel lanes on the bridge to separated walking, rolling, and cycling routes, similar to the protected lanes on the nearby Burrard Bridge. Additional improvements include the installation of new traffic signals, wayfinding signage, and the creation of a pedestrian and bicycle connection to the Arbutus Greenway at the south end of the bridge. Work is scheduled to wrap in fall 2024. The contract is being carried out by Pomerleau.

Wildlife Overpass – Canmore, Alta.

Last year crews broke ground on a 17.5-million wildlife overpass east of Canmore. It is the first wildlife overpass to be built outside of Banff National Park. Officials say it will greatly improve safety as there are an average of 69 vehicle-wildlife collisions annually on the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff National Park and Highway 40.

Key Takeaways: 

  • City administration will begin formal discussions on definitive agreements with all parties, which is expected to be underway through spring and summer 2023.
  • The project includes an event centre, community rink, potential commercial development parcels, gathering spaces, street improvements and more. 
  • Work on an events centre was set to start in 2022, but the deal was terminated over budget disputes.

The Whole Story:

A $1.22-billion deal has been struck to develop Calgary’s Rivers District and create a new event centre. 

The city has reached agreements, in principle, with the province, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) and Calgary Stampede to proceed with a significant phase of the Culture + Entertainment District in downtown Calgary. 

The area will feature a suite of public amenities and public infrastructure, including a new community rink, improvements to public spaces and connections to the district, and commercial opportunities, all of which will be anchored by a new publicly-owned modern event centre.

The Calgary Construction Association (CCA) stated that the new development will not only enhance the entertainment options in the area but also provide significant economic benefits for the construction industry through jobs and follow-on investment in the Rivers’ District.

“The construction industry is poised to play a major role in bringing this new facility to life, and we are proud to support this project,” said the group. “Our association is committed to working closely with all stakeholders as an advisor to ensure that this project is delivered on time, within budget, and to the highest level of quality.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the project is another signal to the market that Calgary is making strong investments in its future.

“The partnership approach we have taken accomplishes two things: we are building an event centre, and we are also creating the public amenities needed within the Rivers District to build community and enhance quality of life for all Calgarians,” she said. 

Premier Danielle Smith stated that the new arena and event centre will be at the heart of Calgary’s sports, entertainment and cultural scene for generations, and will result in billions of dollars of economic activity and a higher quality of life for millions of Albertans.

A map shows the layout of plans to develop the Rivers District. – City of Calgary

“The memories experienced here by families and friends will contribute invaluably to the fabric and spirit of this city for decades,” she said. “Calgary is a vibrant world class city deserving and in need of world class facilities. Along with Edmonton’s Rogers Place, Alberta will now have two of the best and most modern event centres in all the world. 

She noted that one of her first actions as Premier was to publicly encourage all parties to return to the negotiating table and to appoint MLA Ric McIver along with her office’s executive director to work with the city and CESC to get a deal done.

“Six months later, we have results and I am grateful to the city, CESC, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, MLA McIver and everyone else involved who came together to get this job done,” she said. “I can’t wait to get the project started.”

This project includes a number of improvements to the area:

  • New mobility connection: A new 4-lane underpass under the CP train tracks with wide sidewalks at 6th Street S.E., providing pedestrian, wheeling, and vehicle connections.
  • Community rink: Shared facility for public booking and training facility for CSEC teams with seating for 1,000.
  • Outdoor and indoor gathering spaces: More opportunity for community events onsite and in The District.
  • Event centre: New city-owned building, capable of accommodating “A-class” events and additional hosting space on a 10-acre parcel of land.
  • Street and public realm improvements: Improvements to 5 Street S.E and 15, 17 and 25 Avenues S.E.
  • Land: Potential commercial development parcels.

“We are excited to be part of the announcement of a new event centre and community rink that will both be home for the Calgary Flames, Calgary Hitmen, Calgary Roughnecks and Calgary Wranglers. And this announcement will help us put Calgary and the Province back on the map for all major North American concerts,” said CSEC President and CEO John Bean. “We would like to thank Premier Smith, Mayor Gondek, Councillor Sharp and CEO Cowley for their leadership in helping to create the vision for this project and the environment for it to proceed.”

The city stated that the agreements position the event centre to be a complementary anchor to the BMO Centre Expansion and together, these two modernized facilities will work with other improvements in the area, such as 17 Avenue S., Victoria Park Station, Central Library and Studio Bell, as well as the Arts Commons Transformation, to support and contribute to Calgary’s downtown recovery. It will be a place where visitors and a whole new generation of Calgarians will make lifelong memories.

The city of Calgary’s contribution is 44% of the total cost with the province of Alberta and CSEC contributing the remaining 56%. For every $1.00 invested by the city, the province and CSEC together will invest $1.28. CSEC, in addition to their event centre investment, will continue to make community sports payments, to the tune of $1.5 million annually.

Calgary Stampede will support land exchanges and transactions to ensure the district can grow and develop as planned in the Rivers District Master Plan. 

City administration will begin formal discussions on definitive agreements with all parties, which is expected to be underway through spring and summer 2023. The project team is preparing to begin the design and development of the event centre, as well as the supporting infrastructure in the area. 

Key Takeaways:

  • B.C. is spending $20 million to fix the aging Science World building in Vancouver.
  • Work includes replacing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and electrical systems. Crews will also repair the buildings iconic dome, which is leaking.
  • The funding is part of a larger effort to repair and upgrade tourism infrastructure in the province.

The Whole Story:

Vancouver’s iconic Science World building is getting repaired. 

Repairs to the dome are part of $50-million worth of tourism infrastructure upgrades the province is helping fund. 

“If you live in B.C., you have a couple special places you love to visit with family and friends. For my family, Science World is one of those spots,” said Premier David Eby. “If you’re visiting B.C. you know how much there is to see – but all this doesn’t happen by accident. That’s why we’re building a strong tourism sector where visitors can experience all our province has to offer and British Columbians can enjoy their favourite places as well as the benefits of a strong, diverse economy.”

Critical systems housed in Science World’s dome are at the end of their life, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and electrical systems, and repairs to these systems must be addressed. The dome is also leaking, rendering the theatre unusable.

The province is investing $20 million in Science World to support priority infrastructure repairs and improvements to its dome and other parts of the building. Updates will include new electrical energy efficiencies and other critical infrastructure upgrades.

Science World under construction in the 1980s. – Science World

“The past three years have been incredibly difficult for people in the tourism industry,” said Lana Popham, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport. “Our government is proud to invest in the tourism sector to support the people who work in it and to support its sustained recovery. By supporting Science World, we are ensuring families throughout B.C. and all our visitors can continue to create lifelong memories together.”

Science World first opened for Expo 86 and has been welcoming more than 860,000 visitors each year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also a learning institution for students and teachers throughout B.C., highlighting careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and math (STEAM) and preparing students with skills for the future.

“This funding will allow us to continue to make critical infrastructure updates to the iconic dome,” said Tracy Redies, CEO, Science World. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Province to ensure we can keep welcoming millions of visitors from B.C., Canada and around the world for another 35 years.”

The province is also providing $30 million to enhance existing tourism infrastructure throughout the province, foster globally competitive destinations, strengthen a year-round visitor economy, and to support sustainability, accessibility and inclusion. Projects include new tourism attractions, campground developments, incorporating Indigenous culture and language, accessibility improvements, and climate change adaptations.

Tony Brock doesn’t back down from a challenge. 

He embraces it.

As a principal at Centre Group Electrical & Communications, he is always on the hunt for the hardest, most complex jobs in B.C’s Lower Mainland. 

Opportunities in life sciences 

The company started as a two-person operation that exclusively serviced Vancouver’s iconic Harbour Centre building. But it has since grown into a much larger design-build, end-to-end electrical contractor. In addition to designing, building and maintaining electrical systems, Centre works on data/communications systems and security/alarm systems. 

Recently, the company has been tackling healthcare, science and laboratory space opportunities that are on the rise in the region. 

“What makes those projects so complex is the fact that there are so many different systems that run through tight spaces,” said Brock. “It’s a significant amount of various building systems that all have to use the same space.”

One recent example is a 75,000 square foot buildout with office and laboratory rooms Centre worked on for biotechnology company Zymeworks. Brock explained that Centre’s team used BIM technology, Bluebeam software, prefabrication and lots of pre-planning to make the challenging build go smoothly.

“We were heavily involved in pre-construction,” said Brock. “We designed the system before we even had boots on the ground, pre-purchased a majority of our system materials and prefabbed a lot of the assemblies that went to site.”

He explained that the power of combining BIM and prefabrication means racking, conduit raceways and common assemblies can all be designed ahead of time, shared with other trades and then prefabricated before being assembled on site. 

“That’s why Zymeworks went so well,” he said. “We are able to design our jobs so we coordinate with the mechanical people so we can avoid any clashes. Where we putting boxes or pipes is exactly where they went. We installed it once. The construction industry is horrible for letting issues be handled at site level which creates a lot of down time. You want to be able to be productive every step of the way, push the construction schedule and deliver the project as promised. This is important to our customers.” 

A new direction 

He had a vision to transform the company into an elite contractor that specializes in highly complex jobs that scare off others. 

“I wanted to do the cool and unique projects, not the run-of-the-mill stuff, the interesting jobs that our people can really get behind,” said Brock. “They are fairly sophisticated jobs, the design is usually intense and that really plays to our strong suit. We feel better delivering those projects at a fair price. We don’t like to compete for the bottom and that’s where a lot of those average jobs usually go.”

The strategy is working. Since Brock took the reins, the company has more than doubled its revenue and its workforce has grown to more than 95. He believes that one of the reasons the company has been able to attract workers in an extremely tight labour market is its approach to building, as it takes away much of the stress of being on site. 

“Nobody likes to redo their work,” said Brock. “People are happy when they can be efficient and have all the materials they need. They aren’t frustrated on a day-to-day basis.”

Doing what you say

One of the biggest values Brock has tried to instill in the company is transparency with customers. 

“If we say we are going to do something, we do it to the best of our abilities. I’ve always been against over-promising and under-delivering,” said Brock.

This means properly forecasting labour, not taking on too much work and having the right team that can deliver projects. Because of the variety of work out there, it’s important that the right team is allocated to the right project for it to be successful. 

“We get a lot of requests for our foreman from our customers to work on their project which is very rewarding and speaks to the talent of our field team,” said Brock. 

There is also a family aspect to the company that keeps the team motivated to do their best. 

“We are a team with young families and would love to see our children move into the business. I have two boys and seeing them as electricians and involved in Centre would be really rewarding. So it’s important to me that we don’t fail.” 

Brock added that his vision is to grow and develop the company’s skills to become the province’s premier electrical, data/communications and security systems partner while pushing forward the team’s commitment to efficiency and delivery.

Kieran Hawe will take over as CEO of EllisDon the end of June. The company announced that Geoff Smith will be stepping down as president and CEO. The company stated that Smith will continue to play a pivotal role as chair of the board and will retain responsibility for the company’s digital and data strategy and execution.

Joseph Mancinelli will take over as Canadian Director of LiUNA Canada in addition to his role of LiUNA international vice president. LiUNA represents construction workers, waste management workers, show service workers and healthcare workers.

Dave Reynolds announced that he will retire as CEO of NorLand, where he has worked for nearly 40 years. The company stated that his contributions to NorLand have been immeasurable, and his leadership has helped shape the company into the success it is today. The company is currently conducting a search for the next CEO.

Michael Tymko has been promoted to vice president, business development and Indigenous relations at Inline Group Inc. In his announcement, Tymko said the growth of Inline’s business across five provinces and three territories in the last two years has been the most rewarding experience of his career.

Patrick Laurin has been appointed managing director for Avison Young Canada‘s Montréal team. Mark Fieder, the company’s president, called Laurin “a natural leader with a track record of working collaboratively to drive business across all service lines to produce positive outcomes.”

Dom Costantini has announced the formation of his own consulting practice BLDR Consulting Corporation. Its core services are fractional construction, executive leadership and construction project consulting. Previously, Costantini served as Bird Construction‘s vice president of operations.

Ruffy Ruan has joined Focal Engineering as a senior energy analyst. Ruan stated that she will be working with the firm’s team of experts to revitalize the role of energy modelling and continue to improve building performance in the construction industry. Ruan added that the goal of her work is to minimize the gap between actual and modelled building performance.

Jason Kenney, a former Alberta premier, has been nominated to ATCO’s board, which is to be voted on during the company’s upcoming annual general meeting on May 10 at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary. Nominees are identified by the board and its chairman.

Michael Ferreira, founder of Urban Analytics, has joined Anthem Properties as senior vice resident of the finance and corporate affairs team

Nicholas Wong has been promoted from site superintendent to field manager at Wales McLelland. Wong has been with the company since 1995. During that time, he’s completed over 28 projects.

Steve Chaplin, EllisDon’s vice president of health, safety and environment, has been named chair of the Prevention Council of Ontario. Chaplin said the council has an opportunity to help bring forward and advise on standards and practices that are practical, meaningful and make a difference to worker health and safety.

Navid Jalali has been promoted to manager of quality and inspections services for the B.C. region at RAM Consulting. Jalali stated that it a challenge he is excited to take on is to continue to grow RAM’s services to new clients and maintain delivery excellence.

Scott Adkins is now the Vancouver Regional Construction Association’s board director and vice chair of the general contractors division. Adkins is a professional engineer and has been in the industry for over 27 years working in Western Canada and the Northwest US within the heavy civil, commercial and institutional sectors. He has been with PCL Construction since 2005.

Jessica Toppazzini has been named the managing director of Avison Young‘s Vancouver office. She is the first female to hold the position at the company at the market level in Canada. Toppazzini is taking over the position from Michael Keenan, who is retiring.

Olivia Poulsom is starting a new position as Marketing Manager at Stack Modular. Before that, Poulsom, did marketing work for Professional Custom Homes and CIR Realty.

Kieran Ryder has been hired as project coordinator at Graham. Previously, Ryder worked as a recruiter at Graham.

Jack Priestley has joined Astria Properties this month as its head of development. Priestley oversees all of Astria’s development pipeline and is involved in strategically managing new projects. Priestly previously worked at Orion, a sister company of Astria.

Byron Lambert is Nomodic‘s new chief financial officer. Lambert is a Chartered Accountant with over 12 years of progressive experience in the construction industry. Nomodic says he brings extensive experience in corporate strategy, financial and risk management, reporting, ESG, contracts, and insurance.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Canadian Construction Association says Ottawa Hospital’s project labour agreement is unfair to non-union employers.
  • They cited a new report that suggests the approach could lead to large budget increases.
  • They believe it is part of a larger trend of unfair public sector procurement practices happening across the country.

The Whole Story:

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) is sounding the alarm on a major Ottawa Hospital project.

In a press release the group stated that Ottawa Hospital’s $2.8 billion Civic Campus project will likely cost taxpayers hundreds of millions more and leave a majority of Ottawa-area construction workers ineligible to work on the vital project.

The CCA explained that an exclusive project labour agreement (PLA) between the hospital and the Unionized Building and Construction Trades of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec prohibits contractors and workers who are not affiliated with these specific unions from bidding on, or even participating in building, the hospital’s new $2.8 billion Civic Campus.

The group cited a report by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) that concluded the Ottawa Hospital’s restrictive PLA will stifle competition, escalating project costs by between $168 million and $525 million by 2028. The authors of the report find it unacceptable for a public entity to make taxpayers pay more by granting exclusivity to a specific group of affiliated workers.

“Not only are a large number of talented workers — many from small and medium-sized firms — barred, but, as the MEI points out, the projects are likely to cost taxpayers more than necessary as a result,” said Mary Van Buren, CCA president.

The CCA stated that the Ottawa Hospital project is the latest in a series of concerning examples, like B.C.’s Pattullo Bridge, where public sector procurement is “falling short on fair and open practices”. 

The CCA added that an even more concerning issue is the labour requirements attached to the newly introduced federal clean tax credits established in Budget 2023, which again exclude non-unionized construction workers.

Union workers pose in front of the Pattullo Bridge replacement project in B.C. the CCA says it is another example of non-union workers getting excluded. – Province of B.C.

“The Canadian Construction Association takes issue with these examples and others that either categorically exclude or strongly disadvantage one group of workers,” said Van Buren. “We would take a similarly forceful position if the reverse had happened and union workers had been excluded or disadvantaged.”

When the agreement was announced in January, officials argued that it would be a positive move for the project. 

“The Ottawa Hospital wants to do all we can to create a positive and safe work environment for the thousands of workers that will be on site every day during construction of our new campus,” said Cameron Love, president and CEO of the Ottawa Hospital.  “We’re thrilled to have partnered with trades unions on this landmark agreement that will help keep the project on schedule and avoid costs and delays associated with work stoppage.”

According to the hospital, the agreement sets out the terms and conditions that will apply to all employers and all trades working on the project. The hospital believes that agreement sets a high safety standard for working conditions for all building and trades workers on the site, increasing safety and job stability, while still following Ontario’s requirements for an open and competitive procurement process. 

Officials explained that the agreement ensures compliance with bargaining rights and that all workers on the site are properly trained and certified and will create apprenticeship opportunities for populations underrepresented in the construction trades, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, women, and diverse and at-risk youth. The agreement lasts for the duration of the project.

There’s no substitute for experience.

Years of renting and selling equipment gave Axiom Equipment Group a huge leg up when it decided to manufacture its own brand of equipment. 

Randy Gay, general manager for Axiom, got his start at a small, family-owned contracting company that had equipment. Around 2010 they decided to start Axiom Lift Equipment to rent and sell scissor and boom lifts. That continued until late 2017 when they merged with Saskarc Equipment Group to form Axiom Equipment Group. 

Randy explained that Saskarc, a steel fabrication company, ended up getting into equipment as it was needed on the sites they were fabricating for. They started Saskarc equipment in 2012 which retained light towers, generators, air compressors and more. 

Randy explained that the acquisition strategy was to add different types of equipment to the fleet and diversify the product range.

One of the initial major projects Axiom helped out with was the Keeyask Hydro Dam in Manitoba. The team rented lots of equipment to projects near Kitimat in B.C. and elsewhere in the west.

“We are based in Oxbow, Saskatchewan, basically in the middle of nowhere, so those remote, Western Canadian projects were kind of the speciality,” said Randy.  

The company took a major turn when they began to investigate the possibility of manufacturing their own line of equipment to sell. In 2019, Axiom’s team went to the Bauma equipment show in Germany to take the next step.

“We connected with some manufacturers in Europe that were building products and we partnered with those companies to build a generator and light tower based on our specs,” said Randy. “We started developing the products and building relationships with manufacturers.”

He explained that Axiom’s years of dealing with rental customers was invaluable in the manufacturing process. 

“Being a rental company, we kind of knew what all the competitors were building, what was good, what was bad. We took all the good ideas, put it into a prototype,” he said. “We towed those units around Western Canada and visited all of our customers.”

Axiom’s fuel tank storage units go all the way up to 3,000 litres. – Axiom

The team asked them for their thoughts, incorporated those changes and then in 2021 they started sending production models out into the field. 

“Having that knowledge probably saved us years of time,” said Randy. “We are still improving and changing and that’s even with knowing what we know from ten years of rental experience. If we didn’t have that we would be years behind.” 

One major factor that Axiom didn’t count on was the COVID-19 pandemic. Shipments of product experienced some delays so the team pivoted. 

“We recognized that this was a problem and we tried to be proactive,” said Randy. “We stuck our necks out a little bit and in 2021 we ordered all the product for 2022. It was a risk but it definitely has paid off and we are pretty much continuing to do that every year now.”

The company has since quadrupled in size and continues to refine its equipment. Randy believes that in addition to the company’s previous rental experience, another major factor in Axiom’s success is customer service.  

“Customer service has been something we have done since day one,” said Randy. “When you are in the rental business you have to react pretty fast to customer issues and concerns. The second thing is we have taken all that experience to understand what goes wrong, what the biggest pain points are for customers in the field, and we have tried to solve those and put that into our machines.”

The company is also part of the industry shift towards more sustainable practices. They have developed an electric light tower, a hybrid light tower (diesel engine but also has solar/battery), and also have some technology on their generators that lets customers store power. 

Randy noted that Axiom is also looking at expanding. 

“From a territory point of view, we are trying to solidify our market share in Canada,” he said. “I think we have done a pretty good job of that these past few years. Then we will be looking at going down south.”

Key Takeaways

  • The work includes building new land and a new three-berth marine container terminal.
  • The project will end up increasing Canada’s west coast container capacity by approximately one-third.
  • It will generate an estimated $3 billion in GDP annually once built. 

The Whole Story

A major port expansion project in Delta, B.C. got one step closer to getting shovels in the ground.

The Government of Canada has approved the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project following an environmental assessment process that started in 2013. 

The decision comes as Canada’s container trade remains on a long-term growth trajectory, with west coast marine container terminals forecast to hit capacity by the mid- to late-2020s. 

“With this approval, we can advance one of Canada’s most important trade infrastructure projects to date, bolster our national supply-chain resilience, and deliver generational economic benefits for Canadians and Canadian businesses,” said Robin Silvester, president and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency mandated to enable Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver. “I’d like to thank Indigenous and local communities, scientists, industry, chambers of commerce, and all tiers of government, who have played such an important role in shaping the project to date.” 

The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project includes building new land and a new three-berth marine container terminal near existing port terminals at Roberts Bank in Delta, B.C. The project will incrementally deliver an additional 2.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of capacity, ultimately increasing Canada’s west coast container capacity by approximately one-third.  

Port officials stated that additional container terminal capacity at the Port of Vancouver will strengthen national supply-chain resilience, by creating additional “buffer” to handle cargo surges, such as those experienced through the pandemic, and support recovery from weather-related disruptions, such as the severe flooding that B.C. experienced in late 2021 that contributed to port cargo backlogs well into 2022. 

Officials added that the project will deliver substantial economic benefits, including more than 18,000 jobs during construction; more than 17,300 ongoing jobs; an estimated $3 billion in GDP annually once built; and $631 million in tax revenue.

The port authority is leading the project under its public-interest mandate as a federal agency. 

“Roberts Bank Terminal 2 has been designed in a way that ensures it aligns with our work toward our vision to make the Port of Vancouver the world’s most sustainable port, including protecting and enhancing the natural environment and reflecting Indigenous priorities,” said Judy Rogers, port authority board chair. “The port authority has collaborated with Indigenous groups on the project for more than a decade and now we look forward to working together to deliver economic, cultural and environmental opportunities and initiatives.”    

The port authority stated that it will continue to work closely with Indigenous groups on environmental mitigation and training, employment, contracting opportunities, as well as providing benefits through the Indigenous Legacy Benefit Fund and signed agreements with 26 Indigenous groups.

The new marine terminal will be located in subtidal waters to minimize environmental effects. It will be funded by the port authority and private investment.  

In line with the port authority’s commitment to support local communities, the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 community investment program will provide $6 million to Delta organizations and students as part of the project.  

The port authority says it will now continue to work toward obtaining other applicable approvals and permits to advance the project.  

More offices in downtown Calgary are getting converted to other uses. 

Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program has approved five new projects that will provide housing to more than 1,000 Calgarians and eliminate nearly 500,000 square feet of office space in Calgary’s downtown. These five projects will convert empty office space into new homes for future downtown residents. The five projects are:

  • Taylor Building (805 8 Avenue SW) – Cressey Developments
  • Petro Fina Building (736 8 Avenue SW) – People First Development Company
  • Eau Claire Place I (525 3 Avenue SW) – Cidex Group of Companies
  • Eau Claire Place II (521 3 Avenue SW) – Pacific Reach Properties
  • The Loft (744 4 Avenue SW) – Institutional Mortgage Capital

“One of Calgary’s biggest successes, and one that we are receiving international acclaim for, is our Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “This program is ensuring that nestled in the centre of our city, Calgarians and visitors can discover welcoming neighbourhoods, unique businesses and active streets. The five office-to-residential conversion projects announced today will be key to supporting this vision as well as expanding the economic engine of the city.”

Three of the five projects will bring new life to buildings in the west end of the Downtown Core – an area that has the greatest amount of empty office space. According to the city, these projects complement three previously announced residential conversion projects in the area. To support current and future residents in this area, the city is making additional investments to improve public spaces and amenities, including redesigning Stephen Avenue and 8 Street SW, West Eau Claire Park and Eau Claire Promenade, and Century Gardens.

“Added vibrancy in west end of our downtown, an area that has considerable vacancy and that is traditionally dominated by office buildings, goes a long way in making Calgary safer for everyone at all hours of the day and enables our local businesses to thrive within complete communities,” said Sheryl McMullen, manager, investment & marketing for the city’s downtown strategy. “These five projects, along with previously announced projects, will help transform the Downtown West and Eau Claire neighbourhoods into key destinations for Calgarians and visitors alike.”

Upon completion of construction, the five new projects will receive roughly $36.3 million combined from the program. The estimated grant amounts are based on a rate of $75 per square foot of office space being converted to living space. Final amounts will be confirmed and disbursed at project completion.

Key Takeaways:

  • The mass timber pedestrian bridge was prefabricated off-site and then installed 65 feet above street level in Toronto.
  • After four days of assembly, the bridge pieces were lifted and installed in one day.
  • Limberlost Place is expected to be completed next fall.

The Whole Story:

A two-story mass timber pedestrian bridge has been installed at Limberlost Place, marking a major milestone for the Toronto project.

PCL announced that the bridge was erected 65 feet above street level, connecting level five of Limberlost Place to level six of the college’s Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences at George Brown College (GBC).

“It was incredibly exciting to witness the installation of the mass timber pedestrian bridge at Limberlost Place,” says Nerys Rau, GBC’s Project Director for Limberlost Place. “It was really impressive to see the placement done with such methodical precision.”

Installation of the bridge included prefabricating individual cross-laminated timber pieces at an off-site location before being shipped and built on site. After four days of assembly, the team executed a complex and intricate one-day lift to install the structure. 

Crews life bridge pieces into position at the Limberlost Place project. – Salina Kassam

“Thank you to all of our partners, consultants, and extraordinary tradespeople who have been integral in achieving this significant milestone. This accomplishment truly showcases the exemplary level of skill, and patience it takes to ensure everything goes according to plan,” said Myke Badry, PCL Toronto’s district manager. “Congratulations to the entire project team as we move one step closer to the completion of this revolutionary project that is setting a precedent in mass timber construction.”

Designed by Acton Ostry Architects and Moriyama Teshima Architects, Limberlost Place is a tall wood, net zero carbon emissions building and PCL’s largest mass timber project to date. Home to George Brown College’s School of Architectural Studies, the School of Computer Technology and the Brookfield Sustainability Institute, students will learn in and from this innovative and future-proof facility. The 10-storey building is expected to be completed by the fall of 2024 and will open for classes in January 2025.

Earth Day, April 22, is nearly upon us.

It’s is a time to reflect on the planet and ways that we can make it better. As the globe is facing the impacts of climate change, the construction sector has its own role play in reducing its environmental impact. Here are 11 companies that are doing their part to reduce, reuse and recycle rather than throw away and start from scratch.


The Unbuilders team – Unbuilders

It’s not demolition. It’s deconstruction. Unbuilders is a team of former-carpenters, roofers, framers, and tradespeople who have transitioned to recycling buildings. The B.C.-based company deconstructs and salvages most of the building’s components yielding less than 5% waste on average. On each project, Unbuilders diverts 50 tonnes of waste and salvages 10 tonnes of lumber.


CarbonCure wants to transform one of the most-used materials on the planet: concrete. The Nova Scotia company creates carbon removal technologies that introduce recycled CO2 into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint, without compromising performance. Earlier this year, CarbonCure announced it was part of a project team that captured CO2 via direct air capture and permanently stored it in concrete for the first time. 


A pile of gravel sits at GRT’s Nanaimo facility. – GRT

GRT’s recycling facility in Nanaimo takes contaminated soils and muds bound for landfills and cleans them. The material can then be used to make clean clay and gravel for landscaping, construction and even capping landfills. It is one of only three soil reclamation companies in North America. 

ESGold Corp.

A worker examines a rock at ESGold’s Montauban project in Quebec. – ESGold

This mining company plans to take processed tailings from its Montauban project in Quebec and combine them with an organic Polymer. They can then use the mixture to create building materials with shapes including, bricks, cinder blocks, paving stones, patio tiles, Parking Columns and Highway Jersey Barriers used to define traffic lanes. 

Wall to Wall

Lighting fixtures sit on the shelves at Wall to Wall in Prince George where they will be sold instead of thrown away. – Wall to Wall

When Christina Wall couldn’t find any option for budget renovators to reuse construction materials, she decided to do it herself. Wall to Wall in Prince George is a hub for those looking for used construction materials like nails, light fixtures, air duct covers, cabinets and more. According to the Prince George Post,  since 2019 Wall has collected and sold more than 47 tonnes of construction material that was bound for the dump. 

Lafarge Canada

Lafarge Canada

Last year Lafarge Canada announced it had fully transformed its Brookfield Cement Plant’s cement production in Nova Scotia to produce a reduced carbon portland limestone cement – branded as OneCem – the company’s eco-efficient alternative. It is one of several plants that Lafarge has converted over the past few years. 

New West Gypsum Recycling


Saint-Gobain’s subsidiary, CertainTeed, announced this month it had achieved a major milestone: returning one million tonnes of recycled gypsum back into production. The company’s Delta, B.C. facility achieved this by partnering with New West Gypsum to process old gypsum into new products. New West has facilities all over Canada and internationally. 

Renewal Home Development 

Co-founder Glyn Lewis stands in front of the newly implanted home. – Renewal Home Development

Where some see the past, Renewal Home Development sees the future. The Vancouver company seeks to save, relocate and repurpose high-value homes for new owners in coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest. Renewal estimates that as much as 20% of the 3,800 single family homes slated for demolition each year across coastal B.C. are in good to excellent condition and worth trying to physically relocate and repurpose.


Nexii’s manufacturing facility is in Squamish, B.C. – Nexii

B.C.-based green construction company, Nexii Building Solutions Inc. has achieved the TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Gold Certification for Zero Waste for its Squamish Manufacturing Plant. This achievement makes Nexii the first construction manufacturing company in North America to receive this prestigious recognition. In addition to leading the industry on Zero Waste certification, Nexii designs and manufactures its products for deconstruction and reuse.

PLAEX Building Systems Inc.

Dustin Bowers (centre in sunglasses) poses with his team. – PLAEX

Drawing on his more than two decades of building experience, PLAEX founder Dustin Bowers collaborated with industry leaders to develop a new sustainable building material. The New Brunswick company’s interlocking construction system is made from more than 90% recycled waste including agricultural, marine, and industrial plastic waste and dry aggregates such as plaster, concrete, brick, and/or glass.

North Star Clean Technologies

North Star recently received an Environmental Awareness Award from the Waste Management Association of B.C. (WMABC) for its efforts to recycle roof shingles. The company’s proprietary reprocessing technology recovers 100 percent of the constituent components of asphalt shingles, otherwise destined for landfill, for reuse in the circular economy.

Key Takeaways:

  • A 129-unit mixed supportive housing and affordable housing development in Vancouver is facing a lawsuit from a community group that opposes it.
  • The province has stepped into to make legislative amendments so the rezoning for it can proceed.
  • Officials say the project could break ground in 2024.

The Whole Story:

B.C. is introducing legislative amendments to allow rezoning for a housing project that has been tied up with a lawsuit.

The province announced it was making the amendments through the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act. 

“We are taking legislative action to avoid further delays for the creation of much-needed homes in this Province,” said Ravi Kahlon, minister of housing. “Too many people are sheltering outside. We know it is not safe and we are helping to create badly needed supportive housing in Vancouver. These amendments, if passed, will ensure the City of Vancouver can approve homes for people without delay.”

In July 2022, Vancouver city council approved, in principle, a rezoning bylaw to allow a 129-unit mixed supportive housing and affordable housing development, known as the Arbutus Project, at 2086 and 2098 W. 7th Ave. and 2091 W. 8th Ave.

The approval followed a public-hearing process that invited local residents and other interested participants to comment on the proposed development. The adoption of the rezoning bylaw has been delayed due to legal action by the Kitsilano Coalition, a neighbourhood advocacy group that opposed the project. Last fall, the Kitsilano Coalition filed a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking judicial review of the rezoning. They argued that the city’s process did not ensure transparency, fairness and disclosure of key information.

“A fundamental principle governing the conduct of public hearings is that members of the public are provided with an opportunity to make submissions to Council, and that they are provided with all the information that Council has before when making its decision,” said Karen Finnan, a spokesperson for the group. 

The coalition argued that it wanted an “alternative model that would be successful for the residents of the project and the surrounding neighbourhood, which includes an elementary school, daycare centre, toddler playground, and a women’s supportive recovery home in the immediate proximity.”

The province stated it is making the changes to the act as a direct response to a request from the city of Vancouver for legislative intervention to allow the Arbutus Project to move forward as soon as possible. With the legislative intervention, construction could begin in early 2024.

“We are thankful for the ongoing support from senior government partners to expedite the delivery of much-needed affordable housing in the city. This project will deliver 129 studio homes and make a huge difference in the lives of people in the community,” said Ken Sim, mayor of Vancouver. “We look forward to continuing conversations and working with the community via the neighbourhood Community Advisory Committee as the project progresses.” 

Tony Yang, a civil engineering professor in University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Applied Science, is on a mission to usher in the next generation of construction technology. 

He is leading a multi-university research project to reset national building standards for mass timber construction. Yang believes his latest research into carbon neutral, disaster-resilient timber construction may be the answer to addressing Canada’s urgent housing needs and climate change commitments by 2030. 

The “Next Generation Wood Construction” project – a collaboration between 13 universities and 12 government and industry partners – has received $6.25 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), the largest NSERC Alliance grant in history. 

Yang’s focus is to ensure that new materials, technology and guidelines for mass timber construction of up to 20 storeys are viable, economical and robust by 2028. 

“Traditional construction has a lot of significant issues. There is a lack of skilled workers, there are long construction times, lots of waste with materials, poor quality assurance, and it’s affected by weather,” said Yang.  “This next generation of mass timber construction will mark a turning point for how we build in this country – and potentially the world.” 

Multiple challenges 

Yang explained that Canada, like many other countries, is facing multiple challenges: build more housing and replace deteriorating infrastructure while reducing carbon emissions. 

“The truth is, we are at the core of it, we are producing it and we must address it. If we don’t, many coast areas will be underwater,” said Yang. 

He explained that the United Nations is projecting a rise in global population to 9.7 billion by 2050, more than 195,000 square kilometres will be needed to house this new population worldwide – equivalent to building the city of Vancouver five times every month for the next 30 years. 

Yang believes that given the building industry is Canada’s third largest carbon emitter – and with Canada expected to spend $11 trillion by 2067 on new infrastructure, as well as to replace deteriorating infrastructure – there is more need than ever for smart, sustainable building innovation. 

According to Yang, wood could be the answer to multiple problems. 

He explained that with a much lower environmental footprint than concrete, or even recycled concrete, mass timber constructions holds enormous potential in helping Canada meet its climate goals of a 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Currently, mass timber construction goes up to only 12 storeys under Canada’s national building code. The project will deal with four key themes to enable safe, energy-efficient and sustainable mass timber construction of up to 20 storeys: 

  • Structural and serviceability performance 
  • Fire safety 
  • Building envelope and energy performance 
  • Sustainable construction technologies and practices

Other new technologies

In addition to leading the work on structural and serviceability performance, Yang is heavily involved in the research to develop sustainable construction technologies, such as quake-resilient modular construction, robotics and AI.   

Yang explained that while modular construction is already used Singapore, the U.K., U.S. and Canada, these methods are not applied in quake-prone regions. Yang’s team aims to develop new modular construction that will excel at withstanding earthquakes in high seismic zones, while reducing the carbon footprint of such construction. 

Yang and his collaborators are months deep into the research, and his team has already developed a prototype for a high-performance timber modular building. 

When it comes to AI and robotics, Yang and his team are already working on prototypes. 

“In the old days, that technology was not ready, but now it is. In the next few years we can develop design guides and codes. The whole goal is to replace the need for skilled workers on sites. Using robots is quick and efficient.”

They plan to begin testing a large-scale prototype construction robots soon. 

“The next generation of construction technology is here,” said Yang. “We are going to reshape the way we do business to make infrastructure more economical, more resilient, faster to build and be a leading edge industry.” 

He expects that the construction industry will be able to use these technologies in the field as early as 2028.

Key Takeaways:

The Whole Story:

The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) is calling on the federal government to invest more tax revenue it collects from new home construction into housing supply and public infrastructure.

“The federal government is benefitting massively from the growth of the Ontario economy but not reinvesting enough of the tax revenues it receives from new housing development into public infrastructure,” said RESCON president Richard Lyall. “Both now and over the past decades, this has created unprecedented funding challenges for provincial and municipal governments. We are in the midst of a generational housing crisis and it is critical that the federal government finally establish stable, predictable and substantial infrastructure funding for Ontario and its municipalities.”

A report authored by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis and commissioned by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) shows that taxes on the purchase of a new home in Ontario accounts for 31 per cent of the price, up from about 24 per cent in 2012. 

RESCON noted that the federal government’s share of those taxes is 39 per cent, yet it only invests 7.1 per cent in public infrastructure. The report also indicates that the tax burden on new home construction is two times higher compared to other sectors of the economy. RESCON stated that Infrastructure-dependent products and sectors such as cars, electronics and manufacturing are not taxed nearly as much.

While the federal government reaps most of the benefits of growth through the taxation of new homes, the report notes it has not been a significant participant in funding public infrastructure investment. RESCON argued that this puts a strain on local governments and impedes construction at a time when the feds are increasing immigration targets without regard to housing supply. It highlighted that Ontario’s population has grown by 68 per cent since the 1970s, but the number of annual new housing completions has dropped by 23 per cent.

“The present level of federal investment in public infrastructure falls far short of what is needed to sustain our communities and contribute to economic growth,” said Lyall. “Residential construction of new homes and investments in public infrastructure are critical to the economic growth of Ontario and all of Canada. The federal government is contributing too little compared to the amount of revenue it generates.”

The report suggests that public infrastructure investment funding in Ontario required to support growth trends is 30 per cent below what is required. According to RESCON, this only exacerbates the critical need for increased federal public infrastructure investment to help ease housing unaffordability in Ontario.

“This ongoing lack of support is one of the reasons we have the worst housing affordability crisis in Ontario’s history,” said Lyall. “It is very difficult for developers and builders to build more homes – and for the public to afford them – when taxes account for such a large chunk of the cost and the funds are not being properly reinvested into public infrastructure for the future. It’s a travesty.”