Leading the charge
By Adam FreillCommercial Construction Industrial Infrastructure Institutional Residential
If you are looking for high points in Canada’s economy, our construction industry’s infrastructure sector is a great place to start.
If you are looking for high points in Canada’s economy, our construction industry’s infrastructure sector is a great place to start. Each year, when compiling information for our annual Top Contractors in Canada report (the latest of which happens to start on page 23) I pore over countless industry and economic reports looking for potential themes and trends. This year, infrastructure was front and centre.
Alongside the expected woes about inflation, heightened interest rates and labour shortages, several of the reports went out of their way to put a spotlight on the volume of infrastructure projects that are in the works or in the backlog pipeline in Canada.
“Strong infrastructure investment continues to fuel project pipelines, with Quebec and Ontario attracting investment in critical sectors,” touted Turner & Townsend as it presented the 2023 edition of its Canada Market Intelligence Report.
“Infrastructure continues to drive the wider construction sector,” stated the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in its Canadian Construction Monitor.
With companies still navigating return-to-work formulas and mortgage rates remaining higher than when pre-construction deposits were plunked down on new homes and condos, soft spots do exist in the construction sector, but the resiliency of several non-residential segments, including infrastructure work, is lending an air of optimism to Canada’s ability to weather the economic storm clouds that have been hovering for some time now.
Transportation plans are pushing forward as new roads and mass transit projects are being built; the warehouse and distribution segment remains a hot spot; development is in the works on Toronto’s waterfront Ontario Place property; and Calgary may finally get a new arena. There’s a lot of activity in our sector.
Of course, busy sites put additional strain on a tight labour market, so this level of busy is pushing contractors to put extra focus on how to best deploy their teams and schedule their subs. Along with supporting efforts to attract new entrants to Canada’s construction sector, such as the move by Professional Engineers Ontario to eliminate the Canadian experience requirement for a newcomer to become licensed via their organization, there’s a role in the labour puzzle that can be played by technology.
Reading some of the recent headlines about AI make it sound like society is on the verge of having James Cameron’s Terminator play out in real life, but the use of AI is already happening in the world of construction, helping to analyze large quantities of data, automate the takeoff process, generate estimates, and assist with scheduling. All of which allows us to become more efficient and stretch our capacity and work as efficiently as possible.
And AI technology is hitting in some unexpected places. The cover of our latest edition of On-Site features an image that has AI roots. If you look closely, you might spot a few things that are not quite perfect in the image, but at arms-length, it’s a compelling photo that draws you in. Come to think of it, that might be rather representative of the current state of AI. In some respects, the technology holds a lot of promise, and is even working well in some current applications, but it should not be viewed, nor relied upon, as infallible.
Until next time, stay safe and do good work.