March 13, 2013
Owners, architects, engineers and contractors meet in Calgary
In an industry where ineffective communication can run rampant, a conference in Calgary focused on opening up dialogue.
With a motto of “Success Through Collaboration,” the inaugural owners, architects, engineers and contractors (OAEC) conference was held Feb. 27, at the BMO Centre at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alta.
The event brought together owners, architects, engineers and contractors to look at enhancing effective communication between the four groups.
About 180 people attended the one-day event, which was hosted by the Calgary Construction Association.
Other stakeholders and interested parties, who took part, included lawyers, attendees from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Alberta Health Services.
From the beginning, the conference asked participants to open up and talk to each other.
During the early morning icebreaker, owners sat down with general contractors and consultants, and were asked to find things in common.
The idea for the conference came together about a year ago, said Dave Smith, president of the Calgary Construction Association (CCA).
“I hadn’t ever experienced it, where all the parties got together. It’s never happened, so what better way to start opening the lines of communication?” he asked.
Communication is the number one area where we fail in this industry, Smith said.
“That’s why we thought to bring the four parties together and open the dialogue,” he added.
A panel of experts discussing project delivery methods opened the conference.
Panelists shared their insights into design build, public-private partnerships, construction management and stipulated sum projects.
With a goal of enhancing communication across the board, the conference held roundtable sessions throughout the day, where delegates discussed assessing risk, increasing the quality of plans and documents, collaboratively resolving disputes and effectively managing the change order process.
“Throughout these breakout sessions, we hope they’ll learn from each other,” Smith said.
For Rob Copeland, buildings project manager with ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd., the discussions were a good way to interact and collaborate with parties he doesn’t often come into contact with.
“The reason I was interested in attending was because this conference was on stuff I have reasonably strong opinions on, and I wanted to hear other people’s perspectives,” he said. “The owner’s and the engineers’ perspective is often hard to come by.”
Communication is key, said Scott Grobel, general manager with MJS Mechanical.
In his experience, all parties need to work as a team.
As soon as they begin to work independently and don’t share the same vision or goals, problems arise.
“I see this as having a very positive impact on the industry. All the parties that are involved are here,” he said. “If everybody can start thinking in the same direction, I think a lot of the problems can be alleviated.”
That was one of the reasons why Richard Geleta, president of BSEI Municipal Consulting Engineers, wanted to attend the inaugural conference.
“Everyone has differences, but by talking together and seeing what those differences are, we can resolve that,” he said.
“The second reason I came today was for networking and getting to meet other people in the industry.”
Communication may be a lot faster in the information age, but Smith doesn’t think it’s getting any easier.
“While electronic technology is moving our industry forward, communication face to face is getting tougher and tougher,” he said.
“We’re actually going in the opposite direction. Email is only a way to communicate, but not effectively.”
Over the next year, the CCA will set up taskforces to address the four issues discussed in the roundtables, and the possibility of a second OAEC conference.
“We’ll see how far we’ve moved along on these issues of communication,” Smith said, adding that they’re hoping to enhance best practices with those results.
For more on the OAEC conference, keep reading the Journal of Commerce.
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