Modern Niagara partners with procure-to-pay platform

Key Takeaways:

  • Modern Niagara has chosen to partner with Vroozi.
  • The parties will work together to simplify the procurement process while enhancing control and visibility.
  • Modern Niagara noted it that challenges often arise when it comes to procuring essential materials for construction projects and managing on-site inventory.

The Whole Story:

Procure-to-pay platform Vroozi is partnering with Modern Niagara — one of Canada’s largest national mechanical, electrical, building services, and integrated building technology contractors — to simplify the contractor’s procurement process while enhancing control and visibility.

“We are thrilled to partner with Modern Niagara to revolutionize procurement and accounts payable within the construction industry,” said Shaz Khan, CEO and co-founder at Vroozi. “With our flexible and intelligent no-code platform, Modern Niagara’s on-site personnel can easily purchase the materials they need for projects, while central procurement can maintain control and visibility over spending. This partnership will not only enhance operational efficiency but also generate substantial cost savings.”

Modern Niagara specializes in constructing state-of-the-art buildings with a unique approach. By pre assembling essential components, such as pipes and sheet metal, in their warehouses, Modern Niagara says it drastically improves construction efficiency and expedites project timelines. 

Renderings show the Vroozi platform on vairous devices. – Vroozi

However, they noted that challenges often arise when it comes to procuring essential materials for construction projects and managing on-site inventory. Recognizing this hurdle, Modern Niagara sought a forward-thinking solution that would simplify the procurement process and provide more visibility into spending across their job sites. The company landed on Vroozi, whose platform offers a mobile interface that eliminates the need for extensive technical know-how and exposes cost savings opportunities by project.

“The world of construction is evolving rapidly, and to keep pace, it’s imperative we incorporate tools that optimize our processes end-to-end,” said Mo Abdelrahim, senior director of national procurement at Modern Niagara. “Partnering with Vroozi is a strategic move in this direction. We believe this step will not only elevate our procurement and payment workflows but also set a benchmark for the industry.”

What gets measured, gets managed.

That’s thinking from Procore Technologies when it comes to helping transform the construction sector. 

The construction management software provider is on a mission to identify and generate hard data on how builders are faring and areas that can be improved. 

The Procore team recently released its second How We Build Now report. More than 500 industry stakeholders were surveyed about general sentiment of the Canadian construction industry, the digital maturity and adoption of construction technologies, as well as the challenges and opportunities that businesses face.

Data fuels proactive decision-making

The first iteration of the report was released in 2020 right as the COVID-19 pandemic was throwing construction and every other sector into uncertainty. It also came at a time when many other topics were coming to the forefront, including digital adoption, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, labour shortages and supply chain constraints. 

“What we found is that construction is going through a big period of transformation,” explained Nolan Frazier, a sales leader at Procore. “And it’s useful to look at multiple areas at once when thinking about this industry.”  

And while these are things that the industry has been aware of for some time, Frazier noted that having quantifiable data on them is important. When companies have access to real-time and historical data, it allows them to be proactive in making business decisions rather than reactive.

“Our company mission is to improve the lives of people who work in construction,” he said. “We are a member of this industry, and whatever we can do to support as it undergoes this transformation, that’s what we are here to do in every way we can.”

Both iterations explored the general sentiment of the industry, but the first report did have some focus on the impacts of the pandemic. Now that the pandemic’s impacts have been waning, the 2023 report was able to be broader in scope. 

“Those types of events don’t happen as frequently,” said Frazier. “Whereas, what we are dealing with now, people have gone through this cycle before, and some people in the industry are used to moving through this type of situation when it comes to inflationary pressures, interest rates, skilled labour constraints, supply chain constraints and what not.”

Emerging themes

One major data point from Procore’s latest report is the impact of rework.

“Most builders would tell you that rework wastes a lot of their time,” said Frazier. “In this report we were actually able to get metrics for it.”

The survey shows 27% of the total time spent on a project is spent on rework or rectifying issues. The report also found that 25% of executives at general contractors and owners that were surveyed are women. And just 4 in 10 of the companies surveyed have a diversity, equity, inclusion policy in place.

These are just two examples of areas that the industry has been concerned about, but now there is a baseline of data to track growth. 

“This gives us something that we can act upon as an industry,” said Frazier. “We can work on how to move those numbers.”

Zooming in to regions

Procore’s latest report is also offering a unique look into Canada’s specific construction markets. 

Frazier explained that the report shows how the thinking and issues of builders fluctuated by province. 

“When we hear the news, we can all make assumptions about B.C. versus Ontario and so on, but to see the data come out with the survey results, it’s something more quantitative that helps us further the conversation,” he said. 

In the coming months, Procore plans to team up with The Home Depot and industry associations to take their report on the road. They will host panel discussions and networking events around their findings with industry leaders. 

“We are really looking forward to meeting with Canadians in these markets and talking about the issues that they face every day,” said Frazier. 

Self improvement 

He added that connecting with the industry through the report and the resulting discussions plays a critical role for Procore itself. 

“We look to these builders and stakeholders to let us know where they want to go,” said Frazier. “And our role in that is to help them get there. So understanding their priorities, their areas of focus and their strategic priorities helps us understand what we need to be working on and what we invest in as a business.” 

The data shows the industry has immense demand and builders are beginning to embrace technology as a way to deliver more work and overcome some of the limitations of labour, time and budget.

“We are seeing a consistent desire to modernize the industry and the tools it uses,” he said. 

“From the first survey, the results around the adoption of technology, and people involved in software evaluation has increased. As an industry, I think a lot of the builders are accepting that technology isn’t something that is just nice to have. They know that they need to find a way to adopt it and incorporate it into their businesses.” 

Get your own copy of the report and check out its findings here

Key Takeaways:

  • The funding round included participation from Clean Energy Ventures, its angel investor collective CEVG, Amplify Capital, and strategic investors, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, CRH Ventures, and Cemex Ventures and others.
  • The funding will be utilized to deploy multiple commercial projects, including two co-located directly at cement plants.
  • Carbon Upcycling’s technology sequesters industrial CO2, reduces the carbon footprint of cement, and improves concrete performance. 

The Whole Story:

Calgary-based decarbonization company Carbon Upcycling Technologies Inc. has closed a $34 million Series A funding round co-led by BDC Capital’s Climate Tech Fund and Climate Investment.

The syndicate includes participation from existing financial investors, Clean Energy Ventures, its angel investor collective CEVG, Amplify Capital, and strategic investors, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, CRH Ventures, and Cemex Ventures, which are all enhancing their financial support with commitments to strategically-relevant projects. 

Company officials explained that the funding will be utilized to deploy multiple commercial projects, including two co-located directly at cement plants. They expect the projects to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of Carbon Upcycling’s all-electric solution that mineralizes CO2 emissions from industrial facilities and upcycles industrial byproducts into materials that reduce the carbon footprint of cement and concrete. 

“Closing this round is a major milestone on the road to becoming the most impactful carbon tech company of this decade,” said Apoorv Sinha, founder and CEO of Carbon Upcycling. “Over the next year, our mission is to demonstrate our technology’s versatility, scalability, and operational elegance. Proving significant, cost-effective decarbonization potential in the cement industry is possible without a green premium.”

Pascal Lanctot, a partner with BDC Capital’s Climate Tech Fund said that Carbon Upcycling is a prime example of a Canadian company addressing a high-emitting sector.

“BDC’s role is to drive economic benefits for Canada by growing one business at a time. Apoorv and his team have positioned Carbon Upcycling for rapid growth,” said Lanctot. “The scale-up of the company’s technology will enable cross-industrial collaboration between cement, steel, mining, and other heavy industries and help build a clean, low-carbon, circular economy. This is exactly what our Climate Tech Fund II aims to do.”

Technology is changing every aspect of construction. As computers become smaller, cheaper and more powerful, they are being implemented in every corner of the sector. In the case of heavy equipment operation, developers can create powerful simulations that help new operators prepare for the field without fear of hurting themselves, other people or machinery. We reached out to Quebec-based CM Labs to learn more about how these training systems are developed and where the technology is heading.

SiteNews: What services does CM Labs provide for the construction sector?

CM Labs: For more than 25 years, CM Labs has focused on heavy equipment operator simulation training. With over 1,000 simulation installations in 39 countries, CM Labs offers an incredibly realistic experience through patented Smart Training Technology and a motion-enabled platform. Our Simulation Training Packs provide a comprehensive immersive simulation learning program for the safe training and assessment of operators.

CM Labs Smart Training Technology and motion-enabled platform provide users with an incredibly realistic experience. CM Labs offers three types of platforms: a desktop version, a motion-enabled single-screen option, and a fully immersive experience with up to five-screens.

CM Labs sells Simulator Training Packs for use with the platform for earth moving and lifting equipment. Clients can also benefit from our consulting services, SimGuide with our SME for integration, curriculum and to make the most of their CM Labs training. Additionally we offer engineering services that can add additional exercises (such as IBEW and ETA have their own curriculum on Boom Truck), white label training solutions (such as Tigercat), as well as full turnkey solutions through our Partnership Program for OEM’s such as John Deere.

CM Labs says faster, more powerful computers have made it much easier to simulate job sites and equipment. – CM Labs

How has the technology for training simulators changed since CM Labs was founded in 2001?

Over the past 20 years we have seen the following changes: 

  • Improved graphics resulting in better learning retention and more realistic scenarios.
  • More efficient CPUs and GPUs allow us to be more accurate with our models and our physics
  • Higher resolution, lighter, thinner displays mean simulators can be more immersive and portable
  • Improved data processing capabilities allow us to gather additional insights from trainee performances, assessment, and operator benchmarking.

What are the most difficult environments or industries to simulate?

Generally, environments where you are able to deform terrain (soil) can be very challenging to simulate and very few simulators get it right. When simulating deformed terrain, you must take into account dozens of soil properties, like how much air content is found within the soil, how much does the soil spread out compared to other materials, what are the moisture properties of the soil, etc. Then, when you have large fields of deformable terrain, this requires lots of computational strength to compute at over sixty times per second. Our soil simulation is the most accurate simulation of its kind and part of what makes our simulation training so unique and accurate.

Aerospace is generally very difficult to simulate accurately. The laws that govern fluids like air are very complex and have many variables. This makes it require lots of processing power to simulate in real time, since all of those variables must be updated sixty times per second. Then, when you factor in the mechanical properties of the plane itself, with wings that are not perfectly rigid, the difficulty of simulating this environment increases exponentially.

Has demand for this type of training increased?

Absolutely. Over the years simulation training has become more normalized, in part due to the successes of flight simulators (one of the first industries to adopt simulation training). In the aviation industry, simulator time counts towards the time required for the pilot to acquire their pilot’s license. The training industry has taken note of that success, and over the last ten years CM Labs has continued to grow and remained the leader of training simulation. We hope to lead the way into a safer future where simulation plays a regular role in operator training.

What is the Vortex platform and how was it developed?

Our innovative simulation platform, Vortex Studio is the only software on the market that provides the complete package of high-fidelity real-time physics, native support for equipment controls and hardware integration, and user-friendly tools for the creation of rich virtual environments. Along with real-time simulation, engineers can model individual components, including cable systems, powertrain, ground interaction, steering, suspension and brakes, for more accurate simulated vehicles, with real-time simulation of deformable terrain. It is with cutting edge technology, that our patented Smart Training Technology was developed for our simulation training.

The company has a 65-person research team of engineers, PhD physicists, engineers, and mathematicians. – CM Labs

CM Labs’ Smart training Technology accurately replicates real-world machine and materials behaviour,  resulting in effective, efficient operator training. Comprised of proprietary and patented algorithms, the simulation delivers careful modeling and reproduction of machine data that interact with the environment and materials just as they do in the real world. Its precision is backed by more than 20,000 automated daily tests and ongoing research and development. Trainees gain a better feel for engine transmission, crane boom, and jib bending/torquing, as well as wire rope and crane block spin and environmental factors (like wind, precipitation, day and night settings). Learning hook and load management, reducing pendulums, snags, and collisions, operators improve cycle times, and which can ultimately reduce production costs. 

What are some of the advantages of this kind of technology?

Operator training is a critical component of improving safety and limiting liability for all heavy equipment users, especially utilities. Incorporating simulation into a training program offers a safe haven for failure without consequences while easing the transition from theory to practice. CM Labs simulation offers a sustainable solution that prevents novice operators from developing negative habits from unrealistic training situations, which could potentially cause dangerous problems when operating real equipment.

CM Labs solutions present a safer alternative for initial training while mitigating the increased fuel costs and wear and tear that typically result from novice handling. A cost-effective method to train and assess operators, organizations can standardize operator-training practices by tracking, measuring, and benchmarking performance. Trainees practice challenging real-world operations in complete safety, while key operating performance metrics (such as safety violations, load control, and operational efficiency) are objectively logged and recorded throughout training.

The full-motion platform is tied, in real-time, to the simulation and accurately replicates much of an operator’s day-to-day experience: driving on uneven terrain, engine vibrations, throttle, etc. Trainees improve their muscle memory ultimately to be “one” with their equipment: feeling the platform bowing down as they drill or dig, pitching at risk of tipping, or feeling engine vibrations through the seat to avoid choking the throttle. The simulation replicates true engine sounds (including fails and stalls), variable engine RPMs, horns, fork scraping and shifting, alarms and other work site sounds that are important audio cues for safe, steady, deliberate, and precise operations.

Today’s simulators are data and analytics-driven, which is essential to optimizing training time and correcting unsafe behaviours. This means that training techniques move away from a checklist approach, and instead target specific skills that make people more efficient and safer. The company’s patented Smart Training Technology provides real data accuracy and reporting insights. Companies and trainers now can use data collected for each student to analyze past behaviour and then apply that information to create specific learning paths that develop the most appropriate skills. This approach also makes training more personal. With data analytics, training can tackle skill deficiencies for each person, which elevates their individual skill sets to a much higher level, rather than applying a single learning objective across an entire classroom. 

What sort of research goes into the development of a specific training program to ensure that it gives the user a realistic experience?

CM Labs has its roots in R&D, and has a 65-strong in-house research team of engineers, PhD physicists, engineers, and mathematicians. The company has ongoing collaborations with international educational institutions including McGill University and research industry partnerships with NATO, Bombardier, Leddartech, and CNH.

Where does CM Labs see the future of simulation training going in the coming years?

Whether simulated practical testing in North America will be accepted by certification bodies as equivalent to practical testing on real equipment is yet to be seen. But a 2020 study by NCCCO suggests that this type of testing is “a highly reliable measure for predicting a passing score on an actual crane.” 

In Germany, however, the Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV) published guidelines approving the use of simulations for certification. Watch this video to learn more about use of CM Labs simulators in operator training and certification in Germany. 

Simulators are certainly an effective way to practice for certification testing. A number of CM Labs customers report seeing higher success rates for operators who have practiced for a certification exam on a simulator than those who practiced only on live equipment. The Electrical Training Alliance uses its crane simulator to prepare operators for the certification program through Electrical Industry Certifications Association (EICA). The simulation exercises, inspired by the certification requirements, mirror exact applications, such as auger control, and pole control and setting, rather than generic scenarios. This translates directly into higher success rates as trainees are better prepared for both written and practical exams. 

In the future, we will likely be seeing training paths customized to fit individual operator learning profiles. 

While other industries, like aviation, have approved the use of simulation for certification, the construction industry, except in Germany, has not. CM Labs solutions include simulation exercises to prepare for certifications for forklift, as well as the NCCER and NCCCO testing for cranes. Electrical Training Alliance (ETA), the curriculum arm for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), collaborated with CM Labs to add additional specialized training scenarios for boom truck and crane for utility industry certifications.

With the current labor shortages and energy costs, these latest developments in simulation certification look promising for health and safety governing bodies, such as OSHA, and other organized labor groups to consider as alternatives to measure the proficiency of operators.

A whole team of workers train on CM Labs systems at the same time. – CM Labs

Years ago, builders on the Las Vegas strip faced a problem: heavily congested work sites. 

In an effort to speed up work, safety was thrown out the window and bodies began piling up. 

It wasn’t a news aggregator, blogger or even the government that dug into the issue. It was boots on the ground reporting. 

It took a year of writing and more than 50 stories by reporter Alexandra Berzon and her editors at the Las Vegas Sun to get the attention of the nation. The result was a series of congressional hearings and new state mandates for safety training and oversight for construction sites. 

For their effort, the community newspaper beat out giants like the New York Times, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and others for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, media’s highest honour. 

In Canada, not only is this kind of journalism dying out, the work that is being done will soon be much harder to find.

The government recently passed Bill C-18 which essentially requires tech giants like Google and Meta to pay for Canadian news content if they want to include it in their various services. The tech world has dubbed this the “link tax”. 

The result so far has been a tit for tat between these tech giants and Canadians. Google and Meta announced that rather than negotiate deals with news providers, they will just wipe all Canadian content off their services. Firing back, the federal government and Quebec stated they would pull all advertising from Meta. 

The impact on our country’s ability to know things could be devastating. We have come a long way from the days of ink-stained fingers and printing presses. Nearly half of Canadians get their news from social media. With local, original journalism already struggling, this could create a gaping blindspot for the public. How can people know what is happening in their own country if it never shows up in their feed?

Just zooming in on the construction sector, a firehose blast of project announcements, research reports, policy changes and more is happening everyday and it’s a struggle enough as it is to keep up. That chore just got harder because now one of the tools to help people discover relevant content will be gone. 

For most in the media industry, this is just the latest battle in a journalism war that has been raging for decades. Newsrooms all over the world have been shrinking as the industry struggles to figure out how to adjust its business model for a world with the internet. The result has been reporter layoffs, newspapers closing and a consolidation of what is left. Others have shifted to become entertainers rather than informers. 

We would argue that despite the media’s challenges, it remains a critical part of democracy. The alternative is that governments, public officials, law enforcement, companies, advocacy groups and other newsmakers get to disseminate their own narrative that few have the time to question. 

Although the federal government has shown good intentions in trying to support the news industry, the resulting backlash has ironically caused more harm. Attempting to force modern tech giants into a century old media model may simply be a lost cause.

The solution isn’t clear, but what Canadians can do before the bill goes into effect is to make sure they are following and subscribing to all Canadian media that they find useful and informative. In our case, if you want to keep getting Canadian construction news, sign up for newsletter

If there is a local news organization that you want to keep up with, accessing their content directly may soon be the only way you ever see them.

One of Canada’s largest general contractors is on a mission to harness the power of data. 

Graham Construction has embarked on a journey to create a new data platform aimed at transforming data into an enterprise-level asset that will improve the company’s efficiency and deliver better outcomes for project owners.

Data is rising in the construction sector

Annette Cooper, director of data and analytics in Graham’s IT and enterprise applications department, is part of the team leading the project. She explained that like many other industries, construction is becoming digitized. 

“I think construction is no different from any other industry,” she said. “As society becomes more digitized, more data is available. The thing I always say is that data is the byproduct of a business process. So the more we digitize our business processes, the more data we have to track them. There’s just more and more data available in construction.”

The internet of things (IOT) combined with technology like sensors, trackers etc. is adding to the amount of construction data in addition to some of the more traditional data sources. Although Cooper noted that some of these new technologies are not as common as people might think. And often the implementation is in patches. 

“It’s one of those things where if you can harness the opportunity you can do a lot, but it can be very complicated to get some of those things on site and working properly,” she said.

Cooper noted that even if you get these data gathering systems in place, putting that data to work can also be a challenge. The new data platform is being designed to draw in and combine data from disparate systems. The eventual goal is to get up the “analytics maturity curve” to the point where predictive and other kinds of insights can be gleaned. 

Finding structure in the unstructured 

“There was this notion roughly ten years ago that data was this new gold or oil that everyone was going to ride,” said Cooper. “And everyone was going to use machine learning models and the whole business would be automated and predictive. But where society is at now, we have created a bunch of digital swamps that we have to figure out how to clean up and make useful.” 

While the amount of data being generated in construction is growing, there are only pockets of the industry where it is being utilized to a high degree.

One of the keys to achieving this often has more to do with support and buy-in from leadership than figuring out the details of the technology itself. 

Graham crews work on a pedestrian bridge in Calgary. – Graham Construction

“Do we know the decision we are trying to make or the action we are trying to drive from this data and are we actually going to make the decision? Are you at a level of organizational maturity where you are actually going to let that data really inform that decision? I actually think that’s the thing that more often gets in the way than the technical stuff,” said Cooper. 

In Graham’s case, its project began after the company saw it was running behind and didn’t have a formal strategy for what it was doing with its data.

“We wanted to think about where Graham is going to be in five years and what that data profile will look like,” said Cooper. “We were managing mostly numeric data – ones and zeros – but it hadn’t occurred to anyone what to do with unstructured data.”

Unstructured data in construction includes things like plans, pictures, bids or anything else that can’t be easily retrieved and utilized by some tools and systems.  

 “To leap to new technology we had to be able to make room for the unstructured data and its potential down the road,” said Cooper. “Basically we have created a new cloud data platform which utilizes much more modern technology suites to get data out of source systems.

Cooper explained that Graham has been growing by mergers and acquisitions, and every time you bring a new company in, they have their own systems for finance, project management and other aspects of the business. Often, these systems are not fully compatible with each other. 

“Our answer is to pull that data out and put it somewhere else,” she said. “This was an opportunity because Graham didn’t have a lot of this stuff already in the works, it didn’t have to go through the process of decommissioning a bunch of old stuff. We were able to just leap to the new technology.”   

Improving those data ‘muscles’

Graham’s experience building its own project management system in the past gave the team the confidence  to combine several tools to meet its needs, including Databricks and Azure Data Factory. 

“It’s this idea that you don’t have to buy one tool that you pretend is going to do everything. Graham is open to this notion of making sure you are using the right tool for the right job.”

“It’s like this new muscle Graham is trying to build and we will just be building that muscle forever.” 

The first step in the process was assessing what Graham was trying to do with its data and where it was in terms of data management maturity. The first year of the project was also spent being very careful about choosing which technology to use.

“Cloud sounds really good but it can also be incredibly expensive if you aren’t careful about how you are managing your computing,” said Cooper. “So it’s putting things through paces, doing proof of concept with different kinds of technology to understand their ingestion. They all say they can do it but they don’t all do it or do it nicely.”

But what about artificial intelligence, machine learning and these other technologies grabbing headlines recently?

Cooper explained that she sees a lot of consultants out there selling machine learning and artificial intelligence. But the core problem facing many construction companies is essentially a boring one: finding the data, cleaning up the data and putting it somewhere it can be used. That is the work that must be done before some of these emerging technologies can be used. 

“You can’t magically sprinkle machine learning onto something and then all the sudden it is working,” said Cooper.

There is potential for things like AI and machine learning to predict the success of a project plan before shovels are even in the ground.

“Those are the kinds of things we want to get into, but in order to do that you have to have your data in order,” said Cooper. “You have to have enough, the right kind and stored in a way that machines can be trained on it. There are the hopes and dreams of things like AI and then there is the reality of where the technology is at.”

But before things like machine learning or AI, one of the biggest benefits the team wants to realize is simply making information available much more quickly to the people who are making decisions. As Graham has grown massively in the past decade, get information up the chain has become more and more complex. 

“Often, problems take much longer to surface because they just can’t get up the chain quick enough,” said Cooper. “Just being able to have those things escalated and get productivity increases means that we’re delivering faster to owners, we’re safer, less going back and fixing things. I think that is the first challenge for this.” 

Cooper noted that while there is a lot of speculation about how technology and data could impact the construction process, at the end of the day it’s people who build projects. 

“Does this completely change how the construction industry does what it does?” she said. “No. I think that at the end of the day you still have people wielding hammers and pouring concrete. What we want to do is optimize by matching the project that’s coming up with the right team of people, making sure we have the right levels of supervision and how do we do all that in a much faster way.”

Key Takeaways:

  • 502 construction owners, general contractors and subcontractors were surveyed.
  • 9 out of 10 of respondents expressed confidence about industry conditions over the next 12 months.
  • Respondents said hiring and retaining skilled labour is one of their top concerns going forward.
  • Diversity, inclusion and sustainability were also cited as priorities for the industry.

The Whole Story:

A new report digs into general sentiment of the Canadian construction industry, the digital maturity and adoption of construction technologies, as well as the challenges and opportunities that businesses face.

Procore Technologies, a global provider of construction management software, released their construction industry benchmark report How We Build Now: Technology and industry trends shaping Canadian construction in 2023.

In early 2023, Procore partnered with Censuswide to survey 502 construction industry stakeholders in Canada across owners, general contractors and subcontractors. Questions provided to the participants were focussed on market conditions, top challenges, digital transformation and technology adoption.

Industry confident about the coming months

9 out of 10 of respondents expressed confidence (44% very confident) about industry conditions over the next 12 months, with 7 out of 10 construction businesses expecting an increase in the number (70%) or value of projects (72%) over the same timeframe.

A recent poll reveals 92% of Canadians agreed there is an urgent need to build more or update current infrastructure in Canada over the next two years. This new How We Build Now (Canada) report shows:

  • 43% of those who work in the residential sector expect to build more housing units in 2023 compared to 2022
  • Over half of respondents from B.C. (51%) and Alberta (55%) who work in the residential sector expect to build and deliver fewer housing units in 2023 compared to 2022. This is a stark contrast in comparison to Ontario where 60% of respondents expect to build and deliver more housing units in 2023

Labour shortages, supply chain problems key concerns

The survey found that that companies believe hiring and retaining skilled labour as one of the top challenges they face over the next 12 months.

  • 29% report they have been unable to take on more projects in the past three to six months due to labour shortage
  • 27% agree it is hard for construction to compete with other industries for good employees
  • 27% agree there is too much competition in construction for talent
  • 32% fear that some of their most experienced people will retire within the next few years and take valuable knowledge with them

Supply chain problems are also impacting respondents to a different extent across the country. Québec-based respondents report the highest impact, with 41%reporting significant delays due to supply chain issues, compared to 35% of respondents from Ontario and just a quarter of respondents in B.C.

Digital transformation critical to overcoming challenges

Firms stated that they believe digital transformation is required to overcome the labour shortage. 22% of respondents consider themselves a digital-first business and 51% are “well on the way” to adopting digital formats and workflows.

Construction decision makers recognize that technology provides benefits, particularly around resource efficiency through less rework, an enemy of sustainability. The survey shows 27% of the total time spent on a project is spent on rework or rectifying issues. Other findings:

  • Almost half of all projects go over budget (50%) and over schedule (49%) according to respondents
  • Over 30% of respondents identify needing new technology to improve operational efficiency and cost controls amid economic volatility
  • Paper remains a common medium for Canadian construction decision makers. About a quarter of respondents (23-28%, depending on the workflow) still use paper-based records or non-digital processes as part of their workflows

Struggling to harnessing the power of data

According to the report, the industry realizes the value of data yet they are not able to leverage it to the fullest. 41% of respondents feel that they would be able to make better decisions if they had better access to real-time and historic information on project performance.

  • Respondents believe they could save up to 12% of their total spending on projects if they captured, integrated and standardized data more efficiently
  • Respondents report spending 17% of their time on a typical project searching for data or information – clearly too much time on low productivity tasks
  • Half of the respondents say they have a foundation in place to begin learning from their data but don’t necessarily have a dedicated data team in place.
  • One in five say much of their data exists in spreadsheets or on paper and they do not leverage data to drive business outcomes

“We are encouraged to see the Canadian construction industry’s leaders express optimism as they look to consolidate and build on post-pandemic progress,” said Nolan Frazier, regional sales director, Canada, Procore. “In particular, this survey shows half of the respondents see a need to embrace greater collaboration in projects among stakeholders; half of them are also well on their way in their digital transformation journey.

Frazier noted that ultimately, smarter construction empowers construction businesses to have better control of their projects and deliver higher quality builds.

The future of construction technology

Respondents rate construction management platforms, clean technologies involving green, sustainable or innovative materials, and next generation BIM as the top technologies that will drive change in the construction industry over the next three years.

  • Over half of respondents (56%) are either currently using (29%) or plan to adopt a construction management platform (27%) over the next 12 months
  • More than six out of 10 (62%) of Canadian organizations are either currently using (26%) or plan to adopt (36%) clean technologies over the next 12 months

Builders are eager to be more sustainable

Overall, the industry is keen to adopt more environmentally conscious and sustainable building practices. Approximately half of the respondents (50%) have started to focus on strategies like prefabrication and improved material selection to reduce the carbon footprint of their projects. 4 in 10 are either currently tracking or plan to start tracking (within the next 12 months) carbon emissions on their construction projects.

Focusing on diversity and inclusion

Currently, women make up a minority of the construction workforce, particularly in executive roles (24%). Subcontractors have the lowest ratio when it comes to having female members on staff. Only 22% of executive staff at trade contractors are female compared with around 25% at owners and general contractors.

  • Almost 4 in 10 (38%) of construction decision makers believe that there is a need to improve diversity and inclusion in construction workplaces to attract women, minorities and historically underrepresented groups
  • Only 41% of respondents have a diversity and inclusion policy in place with another 45% planning to implement one in the next 12 months

Many organizations recognized the need to improve the well-being of their workforce. 4 in 10 (41%) report having a wellness and mental health practice or policy in place to reduce the likelihood of burnout; 46% plan to implement a process in the next 12 months.

Despite some fundamental labour challenges, respondents are optimistic about the future. Approximately 8 in 10 are confident they will have enough people to meet their organizational needs (79%) and the necessary skills to meet demand (80%) over the next 12 months. For more information, download the report.

Key Takeaways:

  • The British Columbia Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association is embarking on a three-year mission to attract more people to the industry. 
  • A $3.9-million grant will fund a tour that takes simulators across the province to give jobseekers a taste of highway maintenance and road building careers. 
  • Implementation of the talent attraction program is targeted to begin in Spring 2024 and reach completion in Spring 2026.

The Whole Story

A digital, immersive road building experience is coming to a B.C. town near you.

Jobseekers across the province will have the opportunity to learn more about highway maintenance jobs through a $3.9-million grant to the British Columbia Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association (BCRB&HCA).

The three-year grant will provide funding for BCRB&HCA’s talent attraction program, which will utilize innovative training technologies to showcase key jobs within the industry. With a focus on hiring, training, and retaining new employees for the highway maintenance and road building industry, the program seeks to address a critical shortage of skilled workers for trained highway maintenance positions.

“Helping employers remove barriers to the workplace means more people can work and participate in their communities,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of social development and poverty reduction. “Our government is funding this skills training so that more people can get good in-demand jobs in the highway maintenance and road building industry.”

The association explained that highway maintenance contractors in B.C. are facing a shortage of plow truck drivers, heavy equipment operators and mechanics. As part of the program’s outreach to groups that are currently underrepresented in the industry, it will seek to establish pathways for sustained employment and aim to engage women, Indigenous Peoples, veterans, new immigrants, and individuals under 40 years of age via training and partnership opportunities.

Using simulator technologies that place prospective jobseekers in the driver’s seat of snow plows and other types of heavy equipment, the program will travel across the province and provide hands-on opportunities for participants. The roadshow will include:

  • A customized 34’ trailer featuring simulators and virtual reality technology.
  • Realistic and safe training environments on five different simulators that replicate different models of heavy equipment and attachments
  • A participation certificate that recognizes involvement and engagement in the program.

“Investments like these are vital for the strength of communities in BC,” said Matt Pitcairn, vice president, BCRB&HCA. “We look forward to how this program will raise the profile of these jobs, and how they can be an important catalyst for the economic health of the province.”

Implementation of the talent attraction program is targeted to begin in Spring 2024 and reach completion in Spring 2026.

Key Takeaways:

  • The companies believe the rapid nature of modular housing and high-tech materials will get housing to communities much faster than traditional methods.
  • The materials used are also designed for high thermal performance, meaning lower carbon footprints.
  • Production on the homes for the initiative is expected to start this year.

The Whole Story:

ROC Modular Inc., a provider of offsite construction solutions, is partnering with building technology company ZS2 Technologies Ltd. to launch a new initiative that aims to get Indigenous and northern communities badly needed housing fast. 

The initiative aims to take a modular approach to developping many housing units at a rapid rate. The team added that by using the latest proprietary material science from ZS2 Technologies, the homes will be more resistant to the elements, pests and mold.

Utilizing ZS2 Technologies proprietary TechBoard and TechPanels, the homes will also boast superior thermal performance, reducing the embodied carbon footprint of each home.  

“More than ever the need for rapid and accessible housing is a critical need for communities across Canada,” said Scott Jenkins, ZS2 CEO and co-founder. “Together with ROC Modular, a true industry leader, we are offering a thoughtfully designed approach that combines modular construction with leading-edge  materials based on low-carbon proprietary cement technology. This means not only highly resilient homes that can be rapidly deployed, but also houses that are highly efficient and healthier for the families that will call them home.” 

“I am delighted that we can work with ZS2 Technologies to expedite rapid modular residential housing production and provide improved fire resistance, especially in a time of increased wildfire activity,” said Joe Kiss, ROC Modular president and CEO. “Our collaborative offering is uniquely positioned to provide sustainable homes with rapid and cost-effective delivery of much needed housing solutions. This will enable us to deliver a great solution that will provide long-term value to our customers while advancing the sustainability and safety of the off-site construction segment which continues to grow rapidly.” 

The collaboration will begin with the construction of the new modular homes at ROC Modular Factory located in Bow Island, Alta., with production starting in 2023. 

Here are some facts about Indigenous housing conditions from Statistics Canada

  • In 2021, more than one in six Indigenous people (17.1%) lived in crowded housing that was considered not suitable for the number of people who lived there.
  • Indigenous people were almost twice as likely to live in crowded housing in 2021, compared with the non-Indigenous population (17.1% versus 9.4%). However, the gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population narrowed by 1.7 percentage points from 2016 to 2021.
  • Multigenerational households were the most common living arrangement among First Nations people living in crowded housing (34.5%), followed by couples living with children (21.7%). Among Métis and Inuit living in crowded housing, the most common living arrangement was couples living with children.
  • In 2021, 16.4% of Indigenous people lived in a dwelling that was in need of major repairs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Research shows the city’s average approval timeline for developments is 15.2 months.
  • The tools will help applicants determine if their applications are complete and compliant.
  • They also can identify potential costs, map out timelines, and determine project feasibility before submission.
  • The city is also implementing changes to make regulations simpler.

The Whole Story:

Vancouver is partnering with an Australian technology firm that specializes in artificial intelligence to help speed up building permitting. 

Officials announced that they are launching a Project Requirements Exploration Tool (PRET) and eComply. These two new digital tools are expected to reduce staff manual review time and provide residents and businesses with confidence that their application is compliant and complete. 

PRET will allow applicants to explore and understand regulations and requirements for locations throughout Vancouver. Applicants can identify potential costs, map out timelines, and determine project feasibility – all before they pursue a potential application. 

eComply is an online design compliance check tool, developed by Archistar. eComply will allow applicants to upload their designs and drawings, check if they meet city regulations, and receive a compliance report. 

According to the city, Vancouver is the first municipality in North America to partner with Archistar to improve its permitting process. The first iteration of PRET is slated to launch later this summer, while eComply’s initial component will be available early next year.

“Embracing technology for permitting will have a huge impact for Vancouver’s residents and businesses,” said Mayor Ken Sim. “Applicants will receive feedback on any items that are incomplete, missing or not permitted so they can resolve it before they submit their application.”  

The complexity of some applications can result in multiple rounds of manual review between staff and applicants. The interactive PRET and eComply will help to reduce this complexity. 

“Our partnership with the City of Vancouver will help Vancouver residents and businesses to assess land potential at the click of a button,” said Ben Coorey, Archistar chief executive. “Anyone will be able to instantly pre-check their plans for compliance, ultimately making the approval process faster, easier, and cheaper.”

Vancouver officials offer a sneak peek at new digital tools designed to speed up permitting. – City of Vancouver

In addition to the tools, Vancouver is also looking to make its regulations simpler.
“On average, more than 70% of the processing time for laneway and low-density homes remains outside of the city with applicants,” said Andrea Law, general manager, development, buildings and licensing. “To help applicants, we continue to simplify policies and guidelines so the application process is less complex.”
Here are some of the actions the city is taking:

  • Exploring options to simplify and align existing regulations across all low-density (RS) zones by removing 17 design and administrative requirements so housing can be built faster.
  • Streamlining engineering review requirements in all development permit (DP) applications, including removing 20 per cent of conditions and moving an additional 25 per cent to risk-based review.
    Proposing shifting rainwater management requirements from the DP application process to the plumbing permit for new complex buildings in Vancouver so that applicants begin work on their projects sooner.
  • Providing in-person permitting info sessions at the Development and Building Services Centre for applicants to meet with staff about their specific project.
  • Creating supports to help applicants quickly pay and resolve deficiencies so their application can be processed.

“Feedback from some members of late have noted improvements on permit processing with one member citing a turnaround for comments from city of Vancouver in less than 16 days,” said Ron Rapp, CEO of the Homebuilders Association Vancouver. “With the recent announcements
from the Province the need to develop effective and positive working relationships between the City and our members is more important than ever.”

While staff prepare to launch PRET and eComply, applicants are encouraged to book an appointment with the Services Centre to address any questions or concerns before submitting their application. Future info sessions for those interested in learning more about commercial and residential renovations, laneway homes, secondary suites, and multiplexes will be available in early fall.

Vancouver has been criticized for its long permitting process. According to the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA), the city’s average approval timeline for developments is 15.2 months.

A recent study showed Vancouver was roughly in the middle of the pack for its approvals process. – CHBA

Key Takeaways:

  • The project simulated large earthquakes on a 10-story mass timber building, the tallest ever tested on a shake table.
  • RJC’s role was testing the energy performance of the building envelope before and after an earthquake.
  • The firm said this information is critical for B.C. where a building energy performance requirements are getting higher.

The Whole Story:

What happens to a mass timber building’s energy performance when it is hit by an earthquake?

RJC Engineers, a Canadian-based building structure and enclosure engineering firm, aims to find out. 

The firm was recently in San Diego participating in the historic Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) TallWood research project. The project is a National Science Foundation-funded research effort that aims to investigate mass timber buildings’ earthquake resilience by simulating large earthquakes on a 10-story mass timber building, the tallest ever tested on a shake table. 

Terry Bergen, managing principal at RCJ, explained that part of the firm’s team bumped into the test’s organizer’s and asked if they could participate. 

The tests will provide information on how a compromised building envelope leads to decreased energy efficiency, and what can be done in the future to mitigate a loss of energy through new design decisions.

“Being a structural engineering firm, everybody was more than happy to have us but testing the envelope wasn’t initially part of the program,” said Bergen. “They were just kind enough to let us exercise our curiosity as well.”

Crews prep for the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) TallWood research project in San Diego. – LEVER Architecture

The building includes 3-stories of enclosure systems to assess their interaction with the structure to develop and validate seismic design methodology, while also researching the impact on building enclosure. This first-of-its-kind initiative is expected to transform sustainable building design, and reduce the carbon impact of the construction industry in Canada.

RJC’s team is studying the impact of the earthquake testing, ranging in magnitude from 4 to 8, on the integrity of windows, a critical component to the overall energy efficiency and safety of a building. 

“We want to learn how well the envelope will work afterwards and how it will affect performance,” said Bergen.” The energy performance might not decline, and things may or may not be visible. We want to determine if there is a degradation of performance and if we can see it insitu. If they don’t perform well post-event, we would really like to know.”

The firm noted that the Insights gleaned from the testing are particularly crucial in B.C., where new code changes require developers to commit to greenhouse gas intensity targets, with Canada as a whole currently targeting harmonized implementation by the 2030 code cycle. Following a seismic event, even if unbroken, windows can sustain damage causing air to escape through the seals, leading to unseen breaches that are expensive to repair. If state-of-the-art building energy performance schemes stop working as a result, this could drive up carbon emissions through fuel consumption and require repairs.

“When we consider that our carbon-reduced future will require high-performance buildings, none of those envelope systems used to manage our interior climate will work without enhanced air tightness and moisture control,” said Bergen. “If that fails, it isn’t optimized and operational carbon loads go up and it defeats the purpose of energy efficiency codes.”

Bergen said the team has returned from the tests and is currently working on writing up the results. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The survey included 275 construction companies
  • 73 per cent think that the construction industry in Canada lags other countries in digital technology adoption
  • Approximately 80 per cent of construction firms expressed excitement and support for new technologies

The Whole Story:

Canadian builders believe digital technology can help solve some of the industry’s largest challenges. 

A recent survey by KPMG found that Canadian construction companies are counting on digital technology to help address the backlog of Canadian housing and infrastructure projects bogged down by unprecedented demand and a chronic shortage of skilled labour.

The accounting firm’s survey of 275 companies shows that nearly nine in 10 say the lack of skilled labour or trades is impacting their ability to bid on projects and/or meet project deadlines and that digital technology can help make their labour force more effective to address these shortages. 

The survey respondents included general contractors (38 per cent), owners (28 per cent), suppliers (13 per cent), subcontractors (11 per cent) and consultants, such as engineers or architects (11 per cent).

“Technology can help the construction industry address Canada’s housing and infrastructure challenges,” says Tom Rothfischer, partner, and national industry leader, building, construction, and real Estate, KPMG in Canada. “Digital tools, if used smartly, save time and money, reduce waste, and improve worker safety and productivity. In short, they help get projects done on time or ahead of schedule and on budget.”

Rothfischer noted that many technologies employed in the manufacturing sector can be deployed by the construction industry to increase productivity and reduce costs. He cited several examples:

  •  3D printing has been adapted to lay concrete and build complex steel shapes. Robots can lay bricks and tie steel reinforcement bars. 
  • Drone-based surveying can help contractors quickly and accurately layout work, measure quantities, and monitor progress. 
  • Building information modelling (BIM) allows project teams to collaborate more effectively to develop innovative solutions to optimize project cost and schedule. 
  • Digital twin technologies build on BIM to integrate real-time data from a built asset with its exact 3D virtual replica to test ‘what-if’ scenarios, including the impact of design changes, construction sequencing, weather disruptions, and operational changes.

KPMG stated that, as in other countries, Canada’s construction industry has been slow to adopt new digital technologies. However, the firm noted that the pandemic, combined with the intensifying labour shortage, has proven to be the catalyst the industry needed to rethink how they go about their business.

“We’re seeing a definite recalibration taking place in the construction sector,” said Rothfischer. “While many are still just at the beginning of their digital build, leaders see the power of technology to reshape the way they work and plan to invest heavily in the coming years. But having the technology is only half the battle. The real advantage will come to those firms who effectively integrate it into their operations – from the back office to the construction site.”

KPMG’s key survey findings:

  • 73 per cent think that the construction industry in Canada lags other countries in digital technology adoption
  • 67 per cent say the impacts of the pandemic prompted them to invest in technology
  • 86 per cent agreed that disruptive technologies can generate savings and efficiency, of whom 50 per cent agreed strongly
  • 85 per cent believe disruptive technologies could make their companies more competitive
  • 81 per cent say their management and back-office teams and 80 per cent say their project teams and labour are excited about and supportive of new technologies and approaches
  • 46 per cent plan to spend more than 11 per cent of their corporate operating budget on tech and digital transformation, 33 per cent anticipate spending between 6-10 per cent, and 20 per cent plan to spend up to 5 per cent.

“Leading firms are already adopting technology to improve productivity and project management, safety on worksites, and decision-making,” said Mary Van Buren, president of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA). “There is a cost however to investing in digitization that isn’t necessarily shared among all parties in the procurement process. Margins are slim in construction, especially for the small- and medium-sized contractors, making it increasingly difficult for them to adopt these types of innovations in their business operations. This is why CCA continues to work with federal departments in an effort to modernize procurement processes that encourage innovation by supporting shared risk.”

“Leading firms are already adopting technology to improve productivity and project management, safety on worksites, and decision-making. There is a cost however to investing in digitization that isn’t necessarily shared among all parties in the procurement process.”

Mary Van Buren – Canadian Construction Association president

The KPMG survey found a Canadian construction industry grappling with a double whammy of unprecedented increased demand for housing and infrastructure projects, and a severe labour shortage that’s challenging the ability of companies to bid on projects and/or meet project deadlines.

To address this, almost all contractors are examining ways to alleviate current labour constraints to meet demands.

“The efficient allocation of trades is one of the industry’s most-pressing challenges and opportunities,” says Jordan Thomson, senior manager, infrastructure advisory, KPMG in Canada. “Many companies are deploying or planning to deploy digital tools to better improve efficiency on site and do more with less. The application of data analytics, wearables, and internet of thing sensors, and BIM can help to improve productivity, schedule efficiency, and quality, minimize waste, and improve worker safety.”

Thomson noted that as companies embrace technologies, the composition of the workforce will also need to undergo change to incorporate new roles, such as software engineers, BIM designers, data analysts, and drone operators into the project team. 

“With so many construction projects on the horizon, the only way companies will be able to compete, and finish the job on time and within budget is by digitizing and modernizing their operations and ensuring they fully harness the potential of digital technologies,” he says.  

Other survey findings:

  • 90 per cent of construction companies are currently experiencing a shortage of skilled labour or trades
  • 86 per cent say that the shortage of skilled labour or trades is impacting their ability to bid on projects and/or meet project deadlines
  • 86 per cent say that given current labour constraints, they may need to consider other alternatives, such as prefabrication and modularization and/or innovative new tools and machinery
  • 89 per cent agree that better project management tools, such as analytics, BIM, digital twins, helps to address labour shortages and improves employee productivity
  • 91 per cent believe the education system needs to be “much more flexible” to allow young people to pursue the trades
  • 77 per cent say that digital transformation will require hiring new talent within their organization to a “great” and “considerable” extent (44 per cent), and to a “moderate” extent (33 per cent)

The respondents included general contractors (38 per cent), owners (28 per cent), suppliers (13 per cent), subcontractors (11 per cent) and consultants, such as engineers or architects (11 per cent).

Key Takeaways:

  • Kelowna officials are partnering with Microsoft to develop AI tools that make building permitting faster.
  • The tools include a chatbot to answer bylaw questions and an AI tool that checks applications in real time.
  • The city says the tools could speed up the process by 20% to 30% right off the bat.

The Whole Story:

There’s a new project development ally at the city of Kelowna that wants to help get you building – and it’s not human.  

The city has partnered with Microsoft to be one of the first cities in the world to use artificial intelligence to speed up its project development process. The project includes two areas of focus. The first is an information bot and the other is AI assistance for applications. 

“Each municipality, including Kelowna, have their own bylaws that relate to building, their own nuances that can make it tough to understand what applies to your building,” explained Jazz Pabla, the city’s director of information services. 

The information bot can receive inquiries and, based on what is written, give answers comparable what a human would. Rather than having to pore over bylaw documents, users can simply ask the bot. 

“This first part of the project is purely informational,” he said. “It breaks down the barrier between information the government has and what information people want. It’s a more conversational approach to getting that data.”

The second phase of the project aims to put a dent in building permit wait times by trimming down the back and forth between the city and builders. This tool shadows applicants as they fill out their forms and tells them in real time if they are compliant or not. 

“If you can get the application close to 100% compliant and stop the back and forth, what happens is it goes through the system quicker.” 

Pabla said the city is hoping to have some product to show by the end of the year as right now the focus is on the information bot piece. 

The city is also modernizing its back-end system to include the ability to tag applications coming through with AI assistance. Pabla said the thinking is that since those applications are likely to be more complete than other ones, it could change in how the city handles them. 

Another time saver will be the fact that the AI tools can be available online, anytime. 

“24/7, 365, there could be an assistant with stuff to get you going,” he said.That is beneficial as not everyone is available between 8 a.m and 4 p.m.” 

Kelowna’s team is working directly with Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington headquarters on the project. The goal of the project, which  is to take the project

“They recognize that this could significantly increase the amount of housing available in communities if the black and forth were to stop and permits could get out quicker.” 

The city plans to share their solutions, which have been funded by grants, with other municipalities. The city also intends to look at doing automated plan checking which would check for initial application drawings for compliance to eliminate time spent going back and forth there as well. 

“For something as basic as a deck, why would you ever need to talk to someone at City Hall?” he said. “Especially if the drawing and application are done correctly. We should be able to issue that right away. That is the goal: to issue as fast as we can. We want to make developers’ lives easier and we see AI doing that significantly. We also want to make sure we are building well-constructed stuff so we want to balance that.” 

Pabla believes that the tools are likely to generate 20% to 30% time savings right off the bat and that is likely to improve as they get better. 

“We get confidence scores on answers it delivers and we are updating it daily where if it gets an answer wrong, we point it out,” he said. “There could be a world where the applications that come in are fully done properly in AI. It could be sped up and there is a really good use case to have that.”

SiteNews has announced the start of its search for the Top 25 Innovators in Construction.

The annual 25 Innovators in Construction awards will shine a spotlight on companies who are at the forefront of progress. The SiteNews team explained that the goal is to elevate companies who are taking risks, trying new things and blazing a trail for the rest of the industry. 

“Construction finds itself poised for massive change as groundbreaking advancements in various fields – from robotics and artificial intelligence to green technologies and innovative materials. These things are finding their way to the jobsite,” said Andrew Hansen, SiteNews co-founder. “In Canada, numerous trailblazers are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, shaping the construction landscape for generations to come. To celebrate these pioneers and their exceptional achievements, we are launching our search for the Top 25 Innovators.” 

If you think that your company or a company you know deserves to be included, you can nominate them by filling out this form. Applications will close July 14 and winners will be announced Sept. 7. 

Nominees will be judged by a group of industry experts whose deep experience spans the country. They include:

What exactly is a top innovator? Nominees will be judged on the following criteria: sustainability and environmental impact, technological innovation, trailblazing, collaboration and partnerships, and workforce development. The SiteNews team stated that they believe that these categories cover many important areas of innovation happening in the industry that are critical to moving it forward. 

In addition to claiming the title of Top Innovator, winners will be invited to a special awards dinner in Vancouver, and have their achievement broadcast to SiteNews’ thousands of readers and newsletter subscribers. 

The SiteNews team also thanked the competition’s presenting sponsor, Procore, for their generous support of innovation in the construction sector. 

To learn more about the award, the judges and the judging criteria visit the award page.

EllisDon wants to push construction forward.

The company announced the launch of the EllisDon Construction Technology Accelerator Program. The initiative, in partnership with Impulse Partners, aims to discover and accelerate the growth of pioneering construction technology start-ups. 

“Our industry is at a crossroads, and we need to embrace collaboration if we want to continue to expand our technology solutions,” said Brandon Milner, senior vice president, digital & data engineering, EllisDon. “We are proud to launch an accelerator program in partnership with Impulse Partners and hope it can act as a conduit to increase the development of cutting-edge innovation while driving growth and opportunities for promising start-ups.”

The accelerator program will provide a unique platform for selected start-ups, granting them access to pilot projects, industry experts, networking opportunities, and essential resources to cultivate and scale their businesses in Canada.

“Impulse Partners is thrilled to collaborate with EllisDon to accelerate the transformation of the construction industry. We believe that the program will create opportunities for startups from around the world to showcase their innovative solutions and work alongside industry leaders to bring them to market,” said Thomas Le Diouron, managing partner, Impulse Partners. 

The program will focus on three primary phases:

  • Identification of technology-driven solutions with high potential
  • Execution of pilot projects to evaluate new solutions on construction sites across Canada
  • Integration of the most promising start-ups into EllisDon’s various business units

EllisDon officials explained that as the construction sector confronts escalating challenges, including rising costs, labour shortages, and environmental concerns, embracing innovation is crucial for maintaining competitiveness and promoting growth. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Avison Young looked at 14 major North American cities for office buildings that might be suitable for conversion.
  • Two major factors were if the office was built before 1990 and if it had floor plates below 15,000 square feet.
  • In total, the firm found 8,996 offices that have potential.

The Whole Story:

More than 2,600 office buildings in key Canadian markets could be candidates for adaptive reuse, new research shows. 

Data from global commercial real estate advisor, Avison Young, found that up to 34% of office buildings in 14 major North American markets have the potential to be transformed into housing. The global real estate company’s research looked at more than 26,000 buildings and identified 8,996 candidates for adaptive reuse. 

The markets include four Canadian cities: Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver.

“Adaptive reuse is an important conversation we are having around the art of the possible, to demonstrate how this potential solution contributes to placemaking and to the revitalization and vibrancy of our neighbourhoods – particularly our downtown cores,” said Sheila Botting, principal and president, professional services, Americas at Avison Young. “We must reimagine how we want to live, work and play. Adaptive reuse is one of the key components of how we do that as a community.”

The company explained identifying adaptive reuse projects is something Avison Young has been exploring. Using a combination of its proprietary AVANT by Avison Young analytics and third-party analytics, the firm identified buildings built before 1990 and those with floor plates below 15,000 square feet – two anchoring criteria that tend to help isolate buildings that offer long-term potential for conversion. Avison Young applied this search to 10 U.S. markets and four Canadian markets, including those that have witnessed heightened interest in the possible solutions provided by office conversions, like Calgary, Manhattan, and San Francisco.

A chart shows how many potential office conversion projects were identified in key markets. – Avison Young

“Beyond age and floor plate, other criteria must be considered – such as specific building feasibility, costs, location, and surrounding amenities – to determine prime candidacy,” said Stephen Silverstein, principal and managing director, U.S. studio project and construction management at Avison Young. “That’s where conversations with our consultants, project & construction managers, asset managers and brokerage teams come into play, although this initial data set provides a clear snapshot as a starting point of what could be possible for these markets.”

Avison Young stated that across North America, office vacancies have highlighted a flight to quality, with tenants shifting up in the marketplace to choose higher-quality, highly-amenitized offerings with increasing vacancy in class B and C buildings. They believe this presents an opportunity for owners of older buildings to rethink their asset strategy and explore options, whether that is to stay as is, renovate/upgrade, repurpose or redevelop altogether.

“People are rethinking how they use office buildings and how they view the entire downtown,” added Botting. “Whereas most downtowns have mainly office buildings, a mix of uses provides much needed energy and vibrancy – and that’s where adaptive reuse provides a tremendous opportunity to reimagine great spaces for people to connect.”

Calgary-based industrialized construction company DIRTT has announced an American wall and ceiling manufacturer will co-own its ICE software platform.  

DIRTT has entered into a joint arrangement with Armstrong World Industries, Inc. (AWI) for co-ownership of certain intellectual property interest in DIRTT’s ICE software and enhanced commercial partnership opportunities for consideration of approximately USD$11 million.

DIRTT officials stated that the ICE software platform has been integral to its success from inception. They explained that the tool supports the construction process through its integration of the design, sale, pricing, and manufacturing process.

AWI stated that it recognizes the value of DIRTT’s ICE software as a critical enabler for their ProjectWorks design and pre-construction service, including continuing expansion of AWI’s product portfolio with the software.

“We believe AWI’s investment in ICE software is a strong validation of the software’s unique value in digital transformations for organizations creating built environments,” said Benjamin Urban, DIRTT CEO. “DIRTT is excited for this partnership as it will provide additional resources and investment to move ICE software forward, while leveraging the partnership to identify and capitalize on new commercial opportunities and possible revenue growth capabilities.”

Jill Crager, AWI senior vice president, sales operations, said she believes the software can help accelerate the design capabilities of ProjectWorks and significantly increase the speed with which Armstrong can integrate products from across its portfolio into ProjectWorks. 

“We believe this investment supports our digital strategy to serve customers efficiently and effectively with industry-leading design support and will continue to differentiate AWI in the commercial construction industry,” she said.

The joint arrangement will enable further investment in the ICE software platform for the shared interests of both DIRTT and AWI, as well as the potential for additional collaborative activities. DIRTT will also continue to advance the ICE software platform for use in its own business and corporate objectives.

Under the new arrangement, AWI will receive a 50% interest in certain intellectual property underlying DIRTT’s ICE software related to AWI’s product offering. In addition, AWI has also prepaid for certain development services to be provided by DIRTT. 

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.

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 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.