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Consulting engineers discuss leveraging innovation

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by Warren Frey last update:Oct 8, 2014

Changing economic, political and technological conditions are creating new possibilities in procurement according to industry experts.


The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Leadership Summit 2014 held a panel on Leveraging Innovation through Project Delivery on June 20 in Winnipeg, Man.

The panelists were Randy McGee, vice-president of operations for Defense Construction Canada, Michael Schaefer, the executive vice-president of EllisDon Corporation, and John Dickinson, the president and consulting partner in Advanced BIM solutions Inc.

McGee began by showing procurement levels over the past five years.

Since the Canadian military’s mission to Afghanistan rose and then wound down over that time, procurement reflected these developments with a concurrent rise and decline.

Most consultant contracts are for smaller projects, McGee said, and the construction approaches include design-bid-build, design-build and modified design-build.

Construction management, FM contracts and public-private partnerships (P3) are also used to an extent.

E-procurement, Building Information Modeling (BIM) and integrity verification are three areas Defense Construction Canada is moving towards “quickly,” McGee said.

Schaefer said that EllisDon has seen design-build become the dominant model, though the P3 model is also making significant inroads.

Schaefer said P3 design build work is an important part of the business.

The RFQ stage becomes project sponsors looking for reasons to disqualify teams, he said.

Participating in a design build process means a shift in thinking for consulting engineers.

They are the “protector of the client,” but in design-build projects, the focus of their efforts is not protecting the client but generating the most aggressive solution that meets the client’s needs.

Design-build means pushing boundaries and more creativity, Schaefer said.

“To be successful, one has to not only accept design-build but embrace it,” he said.

The attributes of a good design-build partner were discussed.

“We are looking for true partners, we’re not interested in hierarchy,” Schaefer said.

What makes a good design build consulting engineer partner is being a team player, aggressive, creative design, and the right people in place. A partner is fast, fluid and flexible, presents innovative design and has pricing knowledge.

At the execution stage, EllisDon needs partners with a high standard of delivery, one unified team that supports each other, simplified design requirements and trade contractor input.

Dickinson said that as a BIM consultancy, they specialize in process, practice and policy.

When talking about BIM, Dickinson said, he thinks of the model, not the process of modeling.

The trends in Canada are that projects are getting bigger, more sophisticated, are using integrated systems and are working on compressed schedules on constrained worksites.

Collaboration is a trend, with design-bid-build losing ground to design-build and P3s.

Lean construction, integrated product delivery and prefab/modular are also emerging trends.

There is a huge need for teams and partners, Dickinson said.

“The right people at the right time,” he said.

Information is paramount in achieving these things.

It must be accurate, re-usable, timely and reliable, Dickinson said.

BIM is an enabler, and lends itself to collaborative construction, which is the future of the industry, he added.

“The trends in Canada are that projects are getting bigger, more sophisticated, are using integrated systems and are working on compressed schedules on constrained worksites,” Dickinson said.

last update:Oct 8, 2014

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