April 1, 2012 by Corinne Lynds
Now that I have experienced the Canadian Construction Association’s annual conference for myself, I can confirm that this is indeed an industry that works hard, loves its families and knows how to have fun!
Embracing all of the southern charm and hospitality that Savannah, Ga. is well known for, this year’s conference theme, The Changing Face of Construction, was highly appropriate.
Somewhere between the pralines and wine-fuelled Gone With the Wind theme night, I learned a lot about the hazards of wearing a hoop skirt, and even more about the changes that are impacting our construction industry.
“One has to look no further than economic projections to anticipate some of the changes forthcoming for Canadian construction,” says Nadine (Dee) Miller, 2011 chair of the board, CCA. “The growing need for Canadian natural resources means the Canadian construction industry can anticipate increased infrastructure demands over the coming years.”
And Miller’s thoughts were echoed throughout the week by many of Canada’s leading contractors. Geoff Smith, CEO of Ontario-based EllisDon was part of a discussion panel entitled The Changing Face of Construction: How do we Adapt?
Definitely one of the industry’s more colourful characters, Smith identified several key issues that are currently “scaring the sh.. out of him!” One of the big topics that came up over and over during this session, and throughout the week, was that global competition is coming, and we will all need to work more collaboratively if we are to compete.
“If you want to stay in the game, you’ve got to pick up your game. The Europeans are here. And they have much broader capabilities than we do here in Canada,” says Smith. “They are huge. It’s a threat to me. It’s a threat to all of us in the way we do business. They do cradle-to-grave. They do project finance. They are very capable companies.”
Our own columnist David Bowcott, who specializes in risk management sat on a different CCA panel entitled Trends in Construction Delivery Processes. One of the key themes of this discussion was focused on the idea of consolidation.
“Some of these new delivery models seem to be creating greater collaboration, transparency and communication amongst project stakeholders,” explains Bowcott. Whether it’s paranoia forcing the collaboration, as is the case with P3s, or whether it’s an honest drive to create a partnership through some of the shared risk models… it appears to be creating greater value for money from the owner’s perspective.” (For more on this topic, check out Bowcott’s risk column on pg. 42)
There’s little doubt that Canada’s construction industry is changing. There will be new challenges and opportunities in the years ahead, but after having spent a few days watching, listening and learning from our industry’s best, I am confident that we will adapt and prosper.