There’s been considerable development of software platforms designed to co-ordinate construction activity so buildings get built efficiently.
Deficiency management? Not so much.
Enter Athena, a client management software platform developed by Toronto-based TIRA Software Inc. to improve workflow at multi-unit residential buildings and subdivisions prior to and following handover. TIRA co-founder Ryan Tse has worked in the construction industry for 14 years, including a stint with the province’s Tarion new home warranty corporation and as a director of post-construction, assisting developers to address deficiencies.
"Deficiency management was something that we felt was largely untouched by technology," says Tse.
"In the past, a deficiency would be reported but the communication following that report was inadequate. Our solution was to create a three-way communication tool that connected the homeowner, the trades and the people managing the service.
"As with traditional workflow, the developer can make it clear what the company will or won’t fix under warranty, the contractors are given instructions and they can report completion. However, Athena allows the homeowner to actually approve or disapprove of the work. They could report that the work wasn’t really completed or wasn’t completed properly, so this is more of an accountability tool for the developer."
Athena creates a personal link to an individual website for each house or unit covered by the software license. At any time, homeowners can access that list to see the status of any deficiencies they’ve reported. They can also use Athena to schedule service appointments.
"Even when builders are responsive to deficiencies, homeowners can be left in the dark about exactly what’s being done for them to address problems," says Tse. "Now everyone can be on the same page and that reduces unwieldy and unnecessary communication between the homeowner and the developer."
As the software provider, TIRA licenses the product to a client and sets up a project for them. The software becomes active prior to building completion as a tool for the developer to create a quality control list, schedule inspections and schedule work required of subtrades.
"You could put in a requirement for trades to finish corridor details in a certain way, or send out an instruction to count all of the refrigerators that have been delivered and installed in the units," says Tse.
Following completion of the project, TIRA integrates a graphic representation of the building and its units and registers the names of both property owners and the subtrades responsible for handling deficiencies.
Tse notes that the Athena software is being promoted to new homeowners as a benefit. That was part of the customer satisfaction strategy presented to owners of 575 units by the developers of the Emerald Park condominium project in Toronto’s Yonge and Sheppard area.
"When the service teams were doing their inspections of the units, they were telling the homeowners that they had implemented software that would help them communicate about any concerns," says Tse.
Athena licenses last for three years from occupancy — long enough to address all typical building deficiencies. Depending on the volume of building units, the license costs approximately $50 per suite and $125 per home. Licenses allow as many as 10 members of the developer’s staff to access the system.
The software was initially designed to dovetail with the activities of the Tarion warranty program, sharing homeowner deficiency reports submitted to the watchdog with developers in a single step. However, the Ontario government’s recent decision to strip Tarion of much of its responsibility to regulate homebuilders will see Athena recalibrated to reflect the new warranty landscape as it unfolds.
"We have a quick development team," says Tse. "We hope to be the first to market with any changes regarding standards, timelines and anything else related to homebuilders’ warranties."