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The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building

RForm Case Study – Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building

Managing the Many Layers of Funding, Construction, and Documentation of the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building

When Coast Design Inc. began the design of the new Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building that would sit on the waterfront in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, there were several important considerations that guided the project. 

Owned, operated, and occupied by the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, this building was designed to house several organizations that serve the needs and economic development of the province’s First Nations — the L’nuey initiative, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy, and Epekwitk Development — and to perfectly align with Mi’kmaq beliefs in preserving the environment for future generations, and that buildings must be an extension of their community and culture. 

The red tones of the building and the circles and curves used throughout the design recall traditional Mi’kmaq depictions of their land, with a circular tower housing conference rooms as an homage to traditional Mi’kmaq “Talking Circles.” As sustainability was a core mandate of the project, Coast Design Inc. used the Green Globes Eco-Rating Program in the design and construction of the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils. The building attained an impressive Four Green Globe rating.

Epekwitk Soffit

Managing a complex mix of funding and stakeholders

The Epekwitk project was funded by various levels of government and administratively construction was essentially broken into five mini-projects. When projects have multiple stakeholders and funding sources, project management can be very challenging. 

RForm was especially helpful with organizing all the different funding and communicating with the building committee as well as the owners and contractors. There were many layers to this project, and many reports that needed to be easily accessed by many different people. 

Coast Design Inc. Intern Architect Marie-Eve Roy worked on the project and says that RForm was incredibly useful as an administration tool for this project for many reasons. “For example, it allowed us to select which consultant or consultants we wanted to send a document or drawing to, and request approval from a specific owner representative,” Roy explains, “It also let us control who can or cannot access certain project files, depending on the nature of that information and level of involvement from each team member.”

When invoices needed to be paid and reports sent out to the various government agencies funding the project, RForm was able to generate reports with a click of a button and share them with the people or groups that needed them, and not every single stakeholder on this extensive project. 

Moving through the shut-down

A further complication was added when Coast Design Inc embarked on the construction of the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building as Covid-19 restrictions went into full force as the construction phase was beginning. 

There were concerns that this might slow down project progress. However, under provincial regulations, this project was considered essential construction so work could continue. Using RForm enabled Coast Design Inc to minimize the friction caused by the restrictions that the pandemic caused with regard to meetings, but also helped overcome the issue of people not wanting to meet in person even if they were allowed. 

Coast Design Inc was able to achieve everything they needed without meetings through using the RForm platform.”We could send information to the general contractor, for them to share with the subcontractors. The general contractor could also send us their questions on RForm, while having the other team members, including the owner, follow those discussions,” says Roy. “The various consultants — structural, mechanical or electrical — were also able to answer questions or add comments as needed. So that was a very interactive tool.”

As with any project, changes were requested throughout the construction process, and Roy says that RForm proved to be very useful when these requests came in. “RForm was a great communication tool, but also an efficient way to refer back to the previous change orders when searching for specific information, or looking for a revised drawing for instance,” Roy says.

Both the owners and general contractor readily embraced using RForm. Once the owners started using RForm they wanted to be more involved and enjoyed being able to see where all the project information was and how easy it was to access reports just before meetings. The general contractor found using the platform invaluable for increasing efficiency, so much so that they went on to adopt RForm for future projects.

RForm was a great communication tool, but also an effective and efficient way to achieve everything we needed without meetings.

Marie-Eve Roy, Intern Architect, Coast Design Inc. 

Cash allowance or contingency?

You are designing a new condominium building, and you’re not a landscape architect, however the development company your client has requested that the the landscaping for the building be included in the construction contract. You are behind schedule, the tender deadline is nearing, and there is no time to hire a landscape architect. What do you do? Postpone the tender? This is a case where a Cash Allowance may come to your rescue. Read More…

With a Labour Shortage, Increased Productivity is Paramount

Project management in today’s climate is tough. We’re dealing with supply chain issues that result in ridiculous hold-ups. Record-high job vacancy levels are hitting our sector hard. Add the fact that there’s such high demand for construction projects that we could truly be making hay while the sun shines—if only we had the materials and skilled labour on hand to allow us to. Delays impact our bottom line and cause huge issues for the clients relying on us to get them into a new home, office, hospital building etc. Many of us are having to say no to new projects because we simply don’t have the resources to take them on.

Where did everybody go?

Putting supply chain issues aside, clients and laypeople people can’t help but wonder: where did all the skilled labourers go? Many of us in the construction industry have seen the current skilled worker labour shortage looming on the horizon for decades. We knew that plenty of skilled tradespeople were edging closer to retirement. We also saw that there weren’t enough young people stepping up to replace them. According to Employment and Social Development Canada, this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. By 2028 an estimated 700,000 skilled trades workers are set to retire. 

However, foresight doesn’t make dealing with this thorny issue any easier. When the construction industry bounced back with a vengeance after the initial pandemic slowdown, those people that were still wanting to work were snapped up fast. Ultimately we still need to get the job done, whether we have enough people on our teams or not. 

So what can we do to mitigate this? Streamline our systems to make every action count on each and every project. And, when we are lucky enough to make new hires, we need to get those team members up to speed fast. That’s where project management software becomes crucial. It’s time to ditch spreadsheets and inconsistent communications. You need to implement systems that make project management more effective and efficient. 

Better systems bring better outcomes

When you use a cloud-based project management software, you ensure that all stakeholders on a project have access to the same information, the second that decisions are made and any documents are updated. With RForm, onboarding new (and existing) team members is fast and simple. When you invite team members, the invite includes a quick start video that outlines the basics of the software in just five minutes. Employees learn just how easy RFrom is to use and buy-in is generated from the get-go. As team members use the software, helper videos throughout are on hand to go over each section (though we find many users are able to jump right in with very little support needed). 

In this superheated market, we no longer have time to just keep doing things in the same way that we always have and hope for the best. It’s time to move workflows onto systems that free up more time to actually do the work. Who has the time to deal with communication breakdowns and errors caused by someone using an old document? Or because somebody missed the email with the new one, or forgot to update the spreadsheet? Contract administration software can help with productivity and efficiencies.

Innovation as a new-employee attractor

Using a cloud-based system may actually help you attract more skilled workers to your company. Having a central repository for all project data gives better control over projects, and the ability to see how workflow can improve as you move forward. Automating and expediting some of the paperwork especially submittals on projects appeals to potential hires who would much rather be doing the jobs that they trained for than staying on top of documents. New hires are actively looking to work for companies that encourage innovation. It’s time for everyone in the construction industry to work more effectively using the tech tools available to them.

RForm is free for 30 days. Sign up now or schedule a 20 min webinar to learn more.

Bonding or insurance?

des office

An addition to an existing school valued at around $1M was out to tender. This was Robert’s first major project after starting his own firm, and as a newly registered architect he was still feeling his way around the world of tendering and contract administration. This was also the first time he had written specifications by himself.  

Everything was going pretty well with the tender, until Robert received a call from one of the bidders on the morning before the closing. The bidder asked if  instead of providing a bid bond and the other bonds listed, could he just include a copy of his builder’s risk insurance policy?

It was a pretty good policy, he was paying a lot of money for it, so what was the use of doubling up on the insurance with bonding? The contractor explained that the contract security (bid bonds, performance bonds and labour and material bonds) were just different forms of insurance and that he could save the owner a lot of money by not having to provide them. “Trust me,” he said, “insurance was all that was needed.” Robert started to question himself and the spec he had written. What should he do? Read More…