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Innovation: the key to a successful transformation of the construction industry

By Pierre Pomerleau

Today, young people finishing their studies and looking for an innovative and dynamic environment will turn to web and technology giants, startups ... and yet, if they really want to innovate, it’s not at Google. It's in construction!

Indeed, our industry has changed a lot. Five years ago, a McKinsey study indicated that construction had not seen any improvement in productivity in nearly thirty years. But over the past five years, we have gone from dunces to role models: clients, architects, engineers and contractors have adopted technology at a spectacular speed. And for good reason. On the one hand, our clients want projects that are built faster, cheaper, with an increasingly conceptual design. On the other hand, we face significant obstacles created by the labour shortage and the implications of sustainable development.

Specfically, this means that to meet the challenges posed by our economy and sustainable development, our industry must be part of the solution. We can do it. It is essential that our business environment adapts quickly to allow for new, more innovative and collaborative ways of doing things for the benefit of communities and to create wealth.

This is where innovation becomes instrumental in meeting all of these challenges. Pomerleau has invested significantly in technology and innovation in recent years. Not only does it support our operations, but it is at the heart of our strategy and our values. What we want is to redefine construction together, from idea to completion, anywhere, anytime, without compromise.

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People often view the construction industry as merely part of the execution stage. But that's no longer the case. Compare it to a human body. Before we built a system of bones. Now we have to design and build a nervous system, a brain... Today we are talking about intelligent buildings and infrastrucutres: truly integrated systems.

The pandemic has, quite simply, forced us to accelerate the changes already underway in our industry. It has become for us, at Pomerleau, a springboard to try to innovate even better and even more.

For example, since March 2020, we have built with our partners five modular clinics and a vaccine production plant. We started the discussions at the start of the pandemic a year ago. Today, these clinics have been designed off-site, delivered and are now operational. At Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, these spaces are currently used for COVID-19, but will become an oncology centre when the time comes. These are highly complex spaces that today must contain germs and tomorrow remove them. Spaces designed, delivered and operational in nine months, instead of the usual seven years.

These modular clinics are only one example of a reinvented industry that is emerging. A more sustainable, flexible, industrialized, inclusive and diverse industry.

This is the future of construction, a future that will make our industry part of the solution to meet the challenges we will have to face collectively. Modular buildings to adapt to constantly changing needs. Prefabrication in a controlled environment to save time, reduce irritants, risks and waste of materials. From an environmental point of view alone, the construction industry generates between 35 and 40% of the planet’s waste. We have a huge responsibility to change that, by building differently. Let’s seize the opportunity that is being placed in front of us. Let’s not waste this pandemic crisis. We ourselves, at Pomerleau, are working hard to meet the highest environmental standards, and encourage governments to incorporate more stringent measures in their various projects.

This is a vision that Pomerleau's 4,000 employees, with our network of partners, are committed to every day. It is a vision I invite our entire industry to share, for the benefit of our communities.