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Fairley driven by cutting through construction’s complexities

Peter Caulfield
Fairley driven by cutting through construction’s complexities

Independent consultant Katy Fairley focuses on improving project delivery for public and private owners in British Columbia by defining strategies, best practices and risk mitigation for delivery models, contracts and procurement.

“Those three areas are at the heart of improving the building process for both owners and construction firms,” said the principal of Fairley Strategies.

Fairley lives and works in Vancouver today, but she went to university at the other end of the country, at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., where she earned a degree in international relations and political science.  After university she moved really far away, to Chengdu in southwestern China, where she taught English for a year.

On the road again, Fairley relocated to Ontario where she was an administrator in an international school at which most of the students were from China.

Following her stint back east, Fairley moved to Victoria, B.C. where she worked as a senior legislative assistant in the government caucus at the B.C. Legislature for three years.

“That was a very valuable experience, because it gave me some insight into how government really works,” said Fairley.

From politics she moved into construction, taking a position as executive co-ordinator focusing on estimating support at Kinetic Construction Ltd., a general contractor and construction manager in southern B.C.

“I was fortunate that Bill Gyles, the founder and president of Kinetic, was supportive of people like me who offered suggestions,” said Fairley. “He let me try new things and learn from them.”

Fairley’s ambition and curiosity led her to sales and marketing, where she became vice-president of business development.

“I was at Kinetic for a total of eight years,” said Fairley. “I was fortunate to have been involved in many interesting and sometimes challenging projects, but my fondest memories of my time there was pursuing the projects – the business development side of things. It still excites me. Nothing happens in business without a sale.”

Speaking as a project delivery consultant, Fairley says many owners face a serious challenge, because the construction industry might not see their project the same way they do, particularly through the lens of risk.

“Construction is unbelievably complex,” she said. “For that reason it’s too much to expect anyone in the construction community writ large to be an expert in all aspects of the construction process.”

All too often, said Fairley, the problems and challenges that crop up during construction can be traced back to a failure to adequately plan and prepare at the pre-construction stage.

Fairley says her clients, who include owners and consultants, come to her because they recognize they have a problem, they want a solution and they’re able to set their egos aside to ask for her assistance.

“Experts hire experts,” she said. “Together we develop a clear procurement strategy that reflects an owner’s requirements and protects their interests.”

Fairley’s consultancy provides a variety of services related to project delivery and procurement.

They include procurement strategies and advice; process analysis and improvement; drafting requests for proposal, including fee analysis; procurement templates and processes; and market research.

Fairley Strategies also offers training in such subjects as delivery methods; procurement; bidding as a trade contractor; and issuing and responding to requests for proposals.

Fairley says much of what she has learned about the construction industry has come from being a member of regional, provincial and national construction associations and taking part in their activities.

“Association activities were as good an education as an MBA program in construction,” said Fairley. “My advice to anyone who wants to advance in construction is to get involved in the associations and go to their meetings. You will learn a lot.”

She has sat on the boards of a number of associations and not-for-profit organizations and is currently secretary-treasurer of BC Construction Association. In 2014 Fairley was named Vancouver Regional Construction Association construction woman of the year.

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