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Q&A with PCL Construction Enterprises

Mark Josten, P.E., LEED AP - Senior Construction Manager, PCL Construction Enterprises, Inc., explains how diversity in expertise, employee pride and risk mitigation make for successful project completion in difficult economic times

 

What services does your company offer to the industry?
PCL offers a full range of construction contracting, preconstruction and management services to a wide variety of markets. We work in general building, industrial, and civil infrastructure markets throughout North America, using a variety of delivery methods such as traditional bid, negotiated, design-build, design-assist, CM at risk, and PPP. In the buildings markets we construct many project types, including sports and entertainment, educational, office, retail, parking, residential, hospitality, life sciences, laboratory, medical and tenant improvements. Our clients in the sports and entertainment business frequently have projects that go beyond the stadia venues, and they value our wide-ranging expertise.

Could you tell us an interesting fact about your company?
PCL is over 105 years old, and we are still a 100% employee-owned company. Our ownership group extends across all salaried employees, not just the top management. So, we have over 3000 employee-owners that include receptionists and accountants as well as project managers and superintendants. Our culture has resulted in long career durations with PCL for many of our construction professionals. Employees really feel a sense of pride in their work and commitment to customer satisfaction, as they understand the direct connection between our clients’ success and their own personal success.

What trends do you see emerging in your particular sector of the stadium industry?
Arenas, stadia and theatres have always been used for multiple purposes, but there is increasing emphasis in building in even more flexibility than ever before. This includes not only architectural arrangements of spaces, spectators, and shows, but designing more versatility in building systems to economically serve these varied uses, and creating more opportunities for secondary revenue sources. PCL has also been involved in an increasing number of renovations of older stadium and entertainment venues recently. These tend to be particularly challenging projects, but it is enjoyable to help give new life to old facilities that have unique historical stories.


Can you tell us about a recent success story for your company? PCL recently completed the BC Place stadium renovation in Vancouver. This project was initially planned as a replacement of an air-supported fabric dome with a modern, soaring, retractable fabric roof, the largest of its kind in the world. The roof structure is a striking architectural design and complex engineering feat, and the technical expertise needed to construct this safely on such a congested site was daunting. As we proceeded with the new roof, the overall project scope increased significantly to include seismic upgrades and substantial architectural improvements throughout the facility. Our team turned in a great schedule performance under challenging circumstances, and all of us at PCL are very proud of our team’s success.

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in your particular sector of the industry – and how are you overcoming them?
The current economy has taken a toll on the capabilities of many of our business partners, and we have had to deal with more subcontractor failures than ever before. We use several strategies to mitigate this risk, including improved financial and technical pre-screening of subcontractors, direct global procurement of materials, expansion of self-perform work capabilities, better mentoring of subcontractors, and use of Subguard bonding program. Most of these methods create more tasks for our project teams. Another challenge is in generating consistency in management of electronic project documents from one designer to another, and from project to project, as use of 3D design, modelling, and other digital technology becomes more prevalent.

What new technologies or strategies have you used in any recent projects?
The new BC Place roof required a complex combination of fabrics, cables and specialty materials. Many materials, such as massive slide bearings and the machines and fabric for the retractable section, were custom-developed for this project, so we had an R&D challenge. We used many mock-ups of different systems to get everything right. In order to safely install the high roof elements, all of the crews went through extensive aerial high-wire training.

At the UCLA Pauley Pavilion renovation project, we borrowed a technique from our civil infrastructure world and used tunnel jacking inside the building to create new underground concrete corridors at the base of the arena bowl. This was a high-risk, high precision operation that worked out very well.


What’s your favourite stadium/sports venue and why?
I really like the old Big Ten stadia and arenas, especially Mackey Arena (great game atmosphere!), as I spent a lot of my younger years visiting these venues. However, I have to favour the two stadia where I have invested the most of my own personal sweat equity: STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. I was fortunate to be one of many contributors to the success of each venue. I always feel a sense of pride when I have the opportunity to visit these stadia. The Home Depot Center is not as well known as STAPLES, but I really enjoy the casual, open, outdoor atmosphere, and the almost-always perfect weather. It is a great place to watch many different events.

Where do you see the stadium market in 10 years’ time?
Renovations of older venues will continue to be an important part of the market. These projects carry higher risks to both the owners and the contractors. New facilities are more likely to be located in crowded urban areas where they can attract more usage, rather than planted in an open suburban parking lot. Both trends mean that the logistics of construction and the flexibility of contractors to manage more areas of risk will become increasingly important. Inside the stadiums we will see layouts and technology that increase fan’s interactions with athletes and entertainers in more unique ways. 

PCL Construction Enterprises Inc. will be exhibiting at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012, 8-10 May 2012. Visit the company at Booth 1018

 

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