By Francis Pomerleau, Chief Executive - National Strategy
The past few months have been especially disruptive. However, I’m proud to say that despite the pandemic – which has dragged on for over 15 months now – Pomerleau is in an excellent position to face any upcoming challenges, having relied on our strong core values to navigate through this unprecedented landscape. As we see in our 2020 Annual Review, we quickly adapted to the chaos facing our industry, demonstrated true leadership, and persevered along our growth path.
Today, we’re unveiling our new brand image, which reflects our strengths and beliefs. We have the expertise and a solid underlying culture, and spent years investing in the best and most innovative practices. In short, I believe we have everything we need to face the daunting challenge posed by sustainability, alongside our fellow industry members and stakeholders. First, we must address the skilled labour shortage quickly and in an innovative way. Second, we would all benefit from combining our expertise through public-private partnerships or collaborations with other companies on highly-complex projects. Lastly, it’s more important than ever to better protect our environment. Below, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on these subjects.
The skilled worker shortage: part of the solution is right in front of us
Right now, we’re facing the most significant labour challenge of the century. However, innovation - and more specifically, automation – can help us alleviate the effects of the skilled labour gap, by automating certain repetitive or dull tasks while boosting the quality of the works.
In addition, several groups are unfortunately still underrepresented within the construction industry, notably women, diversity hires, and Indigenous peoples across the country. We must ensure we’re attracting, training and retaining these qualified workers, who can contribute to our projects and mitigate the effects of the talent shortage in Canada.
The infinite potential of next-generation prefab
The labour shortage can be alleviated by optimizing resources through the use of next-generation prefabrication. More sophisticated than earlier generations, these elements should take on new significance in an environment where institutional buildings and infrastructures are sorely needed.
The use of prefab can accelerate project delivery by 20-50%. It can reduce project costs by over 20% by optimizing materials, design, manufacturing, technology, logistics and assembly, decrease the noise, dust and spillage that inconvenience residents living near worksites, and lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with materials transportation.
Certain higher-complexity projects require numerous types of expertise. We can go even further by joining forces with partners to deliver these projects. There are many benefits to this approach: better planning, fewer wasted resources, and more.
In the spirit of this approach, Pomerleau is currently deploying a project of extraordinary magnitude in Western Canada: the construction of a new discharge pipe for the wastewater filtration plant on Annacis Island, in the Vancouver area. Here, we must build a one-kilometre tunnel at an underwater depth of 40 metres, which will terminate right in the middle of the Fraser River. This complex underwater work is made possible thanks to the collaboration of Bessac, our specialized and internationally recognized partner.
Public-private partnerships will also be on the rise across the country; in Ontario for example, these partnerships already account for half of all projects.
Enhancing environmental protection for a sustainable recovery
Our industry has a responsibility to build differently in order to minimize its projects’ environmental footprint. Currently, construction is believed to generate up to 40% of the planet’s waste, and our industry contributes 39% of the world's greenhouse gases.
Pomerleau’s commitment to the communities it serves is at the heart of what we do – practices that respect the environment, good governance, and a dedicated team. Pomerleau was one of the first construction firms to gain membership in the Canada Green Building Council, and we continue to strive to build a more sustainable future for all Canadian communities. Pomerleau’s workforce now includes nearly a dozen environment specialists. Day after day, these experts meticulously review our ways of working and recommend new pathways to mitigate the impact of our activities.
Construction. Commitment. Growth.
Although we will face numerous challenges in the coming years, I’m confident we’ll overcome them thanks to innovation as well as the collaboration of all stakeholders in our ecosystem. As the old saying goes, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” We applied this adage to the letter, and we’re very proud of our results.
As we look to the future, we’re building a vision of an innovative industry that is more sustainable, flexible, industrialized, inclusive and diverse. These changes are well under way, as our Annual Review can attest. Now, we’re eager to accelerate their pace and take an active role in the upcoming economic recovery