Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ontario contractors say construction pace is shaking up relations in the industry

The rise of project management contracts and alternative delivery methods are changing relationships between architects, engineers and contractors. Finding a balance will require stakeholders to forego adversarial relationships and fine tune...

April 11, 2011   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The rise of project management contracts and alternative delivery methods are changing relationships between architects, engineers and contractors. Finding a balance will require stakeholders to forego adversarial relationships and fine tune the transfer of risk, according to a panel of industry experts at a symposium held by the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA). The symposium, entitled “Embracing Change” was held on March 31 in Collingwood.

“The industry is changing radically,” said Emilio Raimondo, president of Raimondo and Associates Architects. “Clients are coming to us with RFPs from hell and are pushing the bar in terms of execution, timelines and adherence to budget. The adversarial nature of the industry has to be reassessed so the team can work in unison to realize these complex contract requirements.”

The accelerated use of project management contracts stems from the lack of in-house engineering expertise during the recent rush of construction projects funded by government stimulus programs, noted Ron Dupuis of Ball Construction. He suggested that adversarial relationships between players don’t work for fast track projects.

Dupuis said the roles of project management firms must be formalized in relation to engineers, contractors and architects.

Franklin Holtforster, president and CEO of MHPM Project Managers, said that in the absence of engineers, some municipalities have downloaded project responsibility to purchasing departments: “They’re using the rules that apply to buying a box of pencils at Grand & Toy to building a community centre,” Holtforster said.  “They’re not really paying us as much for project management, as they’re paying us for leadership.”

For their part, purchasing departments must also ensure that contracts don’t adversely affect the balance of risk.

“We’re currently working with the OGCA to try to balance risk allocation in contracts,” said James Macintyre, director of purchasing with the Region of Peel.

Geoff Smith, president and CEO, EllisDon Corporation, said that contractors are “struggling mightily” with the changing roles of construction team players. Rather than point fingers, he suggested stakeholders show more leadership.

“Don’t blame the engineers, or tell me it’s the architect’s fault,” he said. “Put problems on the table and deal with them. Stop saying ‘I can’t accept more risk.’ Take it on, then find a way to get someone to pay for it. Show leadership and suck it up, or the client is not going to hire you next time.”

Peter Kenter is a freelance writer based in Toronto.


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