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As market grows, EllisDon welcomes new lineup of technology solutions

Don Wall
As market grows, EllisDon welcomes new lineup of technology solutions
ELLISDON FACEBOOK — EllisDon used BIM as part of its virtual design for Toronto’s Portland Commons.

EllisDon continues to advance its technology strategy this year amidst what is clearly growing awakening in the broader construction sector to the advantages of embracing tech.

Hammad Chaudhry, EllisDon’s vice-president of innovation and construction technology, recently described how the firm’s Construction Technology Accelerator program along with its construction tech pilot program support EllisDon’s in-house development.  

Chaudhry said EllisDon works to see where new business-changing opportunities may lie and ensure it is a leader in the sector’s growing innovation and startup ecosystem.

“We’ve noticed a significant difference in the trends ticking up, like that hockey stick kind of growth,” he said of the recent growth in the sector.

“There is definitely more than I’ve ever seen in terms of the number of options on the market. And then from the venture and capital market, the side-investment side of the industry, construction technology had its most bumper crop year in the past couple of years in terms of number of investments.”

The Technology Accelerator program was launched last May and EllisDon received over 100 applications from around the world. Head office in Mississauga did a Dragons’ Den-style series of interviews with eight or so of the finalists and in September, The Link, Sitelink and Provision were announced as winners.

A strategic partnership with Timescapes, which emerged from the tech pilot stream, was announced in December and last month EllisDon invited The Link and Provision to also become strategic partners.

“One of our methodologies to build up our technology offerings that supplement our core tools that we’re building in-house is to get these strategic partnerships in place,” said Chaudhry.

“We’re up to over 15, almost 20 startups, that we’ve worked through the pilot program.”


What did the EllisDon ‘dragons’ select?

Provision has developed an AI contract analysis platform, monitoring surface issues in project documents that would prevent a project from advancing to the next stage.

Risks are identified in the go/no go phase, during project review and also contract review.

The Link includes SpecGPT and offers improved analysis of a project spec book. Quality analysis teams, project managers and estimators are enabled to dig into specs quickly during critical times, such as during inspections.

“What’s exciting about that is it’s returning time that otherwise we would not be able to recover,” said Chaudhry of The Link. “You have sometimes a project manager or a project co-ordinator/field engineer equivalent going through the specifications, a PDF, sometimes a piece of paper, doing Control F trying to find key words, summarize it, create a table, and sometimes create a list of submittals, summary and analytics in a matrix to be able to know what is in that fat document.

“As you can imagine, that could take 30 minutes of somebody’s time, or it could take much longer if there’s a more complex issue.”

The Link is able to upload documents and automatically help create submittals logs and other summaries, allowing staff to focus on tasks that are more pressing.

“That’s a really, really exciting opportunity,” Chaudhry said.


Construction a prime tech opportunity

Construction tech was ripe for the recent influx of venture capitalists, he explained.

“The traditional venture capital and investment industry as well as the traditional Silicon Valley industry are now seeing construction as a prime opportunity because it hasn’t been as further advanced in some of the digital efforts that other industries may be,” said Chaudhry. “They see it as an opportunity as well.”

Chaudhry said construction originally got into tech through “point solutions,” which essentially meant adoption of one piece of software at a time. Then it became more of a marketplace approach, expanding solutions; and now seeking tech solutions has become part of a business-wide ecosystem, more focused than the marketplace approach.

“It’s a little bit more sophisticated, obviously, than just buying a bunch of off-the-shelf point solutions, and becoming intentional about how all these nodes and clusters actually work in relation to your business,” said Chaudhry.

Meanwhile, the advent of AI, he said, has given a boost to much that has come before it.

“AI has been coming onto the scene over the past year or two with large language models, and all that generative AI stuff being unlocked. Not only has it created an abundance of new tools coming in and new offerings and solutions, but giving existing service offerings a little bit more horsepower or area to add value in the market,” said Chaudhry.

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