Helen Goodland of Brantwood Consulting was the moderator for the Vancouver Regional Construction Association's Construction Leadership Breakfast, held Feb 16 at Buildex Vancouver.
The session focused on innovation in the construction sector, and the participants were Tim Coldwell, the managing director of Edmonton-Based Chandos, Clint Undseth, the vice president of nnovation at Stuart Olson Inc, Chris Wiesinger, the vice president of business innovation and partnerships at GeoSim Systems and Vick Yau, the co-founder, of VanAir Design.
"Ideas are cheap, but the trick is 'can you get them adopted in the marketplace?'" Coldwell said. He pointed to Chandos workflow as one that eschews hierarchical organization and instead opts for a "flatarchy" approach, which stresses interconnectedness between project participants. Internally, Chandos embraces an open-house concept, and for team learning, the company uses training videos made by their own employees. Management issues are also "crowdsourced" by pushing them out to all stakeholders for collaboration. Chandos also embraces LEAN construction concepts.
Innovation consists of early adoption, a maturity point and a plateau. Chandos approach is to take advantage of both ends of the curve.
"We want to be known both for early adoption and for mastery, and give back to the industry when we innovate," Coldwell said.
Undseth said in terms of innovation, "what are we out to solve in the marketplace?"
He said he learned early on that there are smart people in construction, but more than anything else they are practical. The key words in construction, he said, are "prove it."
Vision and a sense of urgency are key to driving innovation, and then from there you need an "early win," Undseth said.
Humans spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, and it is incumbent on the industry to make the process of creating those buildings as creative and sustainable as possible.
He added rather than thinking in construction terms, one should think of what a building delivers to the customer. That not only includes the innovative features of the building but cost savings and a return on investment for the client.
Wiesinger explained how there are three big innovation waves that need to be paid attention to. He said people are moving into cities faster than ever before, which means a need for more buildings, infrastructure and services. At the same time, we are awash in big data, and there has been a big push in graphics and visualization.
Cities and urban developers need high resolution and detail, he said, and demonstrated a 3D replica called "virtual Vancouver" which allows visualization and planning in an environment that is developer and designer friendly.
The engagement process as it stands now, Wiesinger said, is a series of 2D documents which can be misinterpreted between stakeholders and can be confusing to those not familiar with the process.
Yau said ventilation is an area ripe for innovation, in particular with doors, so VanAir Design builds acoustic bafflers into the bottom of a door as well as "corridors" for air to be released. Yau also explained that laundry doors are a key area where heat is lost, and specially designed doors can reduce ventilation waste in that area as well.
"We have a big audience to educate from architects to builders, and people are stuck in the old ways, but we think we can push innovation through doors," Yau said.