A city’s infrastructure is its bones. When one bone breaks, the body needs to compensate to manage the injury. If a city’s infrastructure — including public buildings — crumbles, the population needs to perform uncomfortable work-arounds to deal with the issue.

Brian Maksymetz is the Director of Project Development in the infrastructure division at Graham Construction, a leading Canadian construction company that's been around for over 90 years. “Traditional public infrastructure, like highways, water treatment plants, and transit, provide a physical backbone for society to function,” he says. “New or upgraded infrastructure improves people’s quality of life and the movement of people, goods and services necessary for the economy to prosper,” he says.

As Canada’s cities age, and our population grows, we need to employ innovative building methods, incorporate long-term planning into the construction process, and collaborate with communities in order to build infrastructure projects that meet current and future needs. 

“Construction productivity has been in decline for the past 40 years in North America,” says Art Winslow, Director of Lean Construction and Integrated Project Delivery at Graham. “The good news is that the industry can move the needle towards greater efficiency with innovative tools like lean construction.”

Go lean

Lean construction consists of a set of tools, processes, and values that enables better, safer, and more efficient design and construction. “It’s a collaborative approach that reduces waste and drives value into any project,” says Winslow. “Originating in the car manufacturing sector, the concept of ‘lean’ has been adapted to fit the needs of the construction industry. Graham practises the model throughout its offices and teaches best practices to the construction industry at large.” 

Get construction people involved earlier

Getting a construction company involved in a project as early as possible has its benefits. The builder has the time to understand and internalize their client’s and the community’s objectives. Those objectives then become shared with the builder and the rest of the project team, so everyone is working towards the same result. The team can then develop innovative solutions to ensure the best outcome is achieved. 

“Co-located, integrated teams of owner, design, and construction personnel soon identify themselves as the project team.”
– Brian Maksymetz, Graham Construction

“As part of the Trafalgar Park Revitalization project in Oakville, Ontario,” says Winslow. “We learned the arena was important to the local community and were able to preserve its heritage roof.”

Maksymetz believes this approach also unlocks opportunities to add value and improve a construction project’s cost and timeline. “Co-located, integrated teams of owner, design, and construction personnel soon identify themselves as the project team,” he says. “The team environment results in day-to-day innovation to solve project challenges while allowing a focus on transparent risk allocation and lower-cost project execution.” 

In 2018, Graham constructed Canada’s first diverging diamond traffic interchange for the City of Calgary. This interchange, located at Macleod Trail and 162nd Avenue South, enables a more efficient flow of traffic than a standard interchange. 

“The city knew what it wanted to accomplish and worked with its engineering design consultant to design the end-vision for the interchange,” says Maksymetz. “However, they wanted input on the design from a construction contractor’s perspective to help develop the staging and sequencing of the construction activities, and to minimize the impact on nearby residents, businesses, and the public. With the owner, designer, and contractor (Graham) collaborating on these aspects of the project development, the team was able to open free-flow north-south traffic for 80,000 vehicles per day at the interchange, free of traffic lights, one year earlier than planned.”

 “It's remarkable what can be achieved in a collaborative environment,” notes Winslow. 

Visit Graham to learn more about their lean and collaborative practices.